The northern part of Canyonlands National Park is cut off from the southern part by the deeply gorged of Colorado River. Land above the two-thousand-foot, vertical-walled chasm, is almost flat and quite fertile.
I showed the gorge on Wednesday from Dead Horse Point. Today I walked out on the mesa above the river they call Island in the Sky, like a floating platform for life and meandering. I walked several miles to the edge-of-the-world where another step would take me almost straight down to the muddy river.
Soil is fairly deep up here at six thousand feet. It retains enough of the meager rainfall to grow a healthy crop of grass. I walked through waist-high grass today, but it was not always so. Cattlemen used to graze their herds here where fences are not needed, the drop-off being sufficient to keep the animals “in.” Now that it’s a national park the grass grows high, and among the tough clumps are many wildflowers. I wish I knew all their names.
I walked on the flat mesa enjoying the flowers before finding a string of rock cairns that pointed a way over the edge. I might have gone all the way down to the river, but saw no point. Just enough hiking to get tired, not enough to make tomorrow hard. Just enough to find a few unique places, not so much that they become mundane.