A Landscape of Down

Canyonlands National Park is the opposite of Arches. Where Arches formations stick up like the fingertips and spines (and other parts) of giants, in Canyonlands the earth falls away, defying expectations. Where there ought to be ground, there is, instead, nothing. For dozens of miles the deep, carved expanses and valleys remind you that the world that used to be here — simply is not.

Our perspective on the Grand View Drive was similar to driving a canyon rim, but because of the flat land beside the road on the Islands in the Sky quadrant we drove, it felt much safer.

Until we got to the hike at the end of the drive.

Conquer Your Fears with This One Weird Trick

The rim walk from Grand View Point was an exercise in discomfort. There were deadly cliffs right there, just waiting for an errant footstep or an especially strong wind gust. Nowhere along the mile trail was that yawning maw of hypnotic doom ever more than 50 feet away, and usually much, much closer. Certainly close enough that you needed to make sure your shoelaces were tied and your attention didn’t wander.

As an experiment in reducing my anxiety I filmed the walk, glancing down at the phone’s viewfinder from time to time, just enough to get myself out of the moment before vertigo and panic could set in.

It helped. At the end we even climbed to the top of an especially precarious rock cluster that let us overlook vistas that extended for about a hundred miles to the south and west. For kicks, here’s the timelapse of that walk.

It’s not so scary when it looks like the Keystone Cops or a Benny Hill video.

Never More

One set of creatures who have no problem with the “up” of Arches or the “down” of Canyonlands are the Ravens. In fact, these clever corvids didn’t seem to have much a problem with anything, lording over the terrain as singletons and pairs, never more.


It’s devilishly tricky to convey the immense scale of these features with pictures. Imagine putting the landscape pics into your old 3D ViewMaster to generate the awe-striking depth of scale these vistas deserve.

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