A relatively easy, short and fun hike in the Island in The Sky section of the park is Whale Rock.
An older gentleman took a picture of this sign; and remarked to me that he always does this so that later he and his hiking partner know where they had hiked.
From the trailhead just off the paved road, we walk over level ground through sand.
The surface of Whale Rock is the ubiquitous “slick rock” of the Southwest, or hardened sandstone. When dry, this is not very difficult to hike over. In steep places, it is often possible to cut back and forth diagonally to get up the grade. Whale Rock did not require any down on all fours scrambling as we had to do on other hikes at other locations. When wet, it is not advisable to hike over such rock. Allow morning dew to evaporate and dry before hiking.
Lucy enjoys the outdoors. Sunscreen is needed as we are over 5,000 feet (1,550 + metres) in elevation. As well, the sun is much higher in the sky and more intense during the late Spring and Summer months. We were there in the second half of May, 2016.
A plant or baby tree is growing up through the crack in the rock surface.
These manmade rock piles are called cairns (not related to the city in northern Queensland, Australia, as far as we know). These are used to indicate the path when walking over a rock surface. It is easy to follow a well-worn trail through dirt, sand, clay or grass, but a hiker may need guidance when crossing a large area of smooth rock surface.
Now, advancing up the spine of Whale Rock to the summit, we look to our right, generally in a westerly direction, and see this scenery.
Zooming in now on the same scene.
Looking in a different direction, we see this scene with the paved park road lying below us.
Turning back, we look generally to the north by northeast and have this view. In the foreground, we see the texture of the slick rock and a pot hole at our feet.
The hike is easy and is not very long. For older folks, a walking stick may be helpful. With the thinner air, walking at a leisurely pace works best. This next image shows us some of the landscape to the east of the rock.
Another look back to the north by northeast, this time using the zoom function of the camera.
Other hikers appear further along the rock. We are looking more to the southeast now.
Further along the hike, we see the same scenery as before to the west. We were pretty much at the summit of Whale Rock when we took this picture.
This is an example of a pot hole. These are found in various areas of the national park. We also saw these in parts of the Needles Section many miles to the south of Whale Rock.
Depressions in the rock surface, these “pot holes’ naturally collect rain water and remain wet until all the water evaporates. It had rained a couple of days previously. This miniature pond or large puddle may be the accumulated rain from a few recent passing Spring showers.
Heading back down, we see other hikers ahead of us. The rock is fairly wide in most places making the hike less intimidating.
A final look at Whale Rock with perhaps 2 tiny figures (hikers) visible upon it. Thanks for tagging along with us on this hike. Information on all the hikes in this section of the national park is available at the visitor center near the park entrance. There are several other hikes visiting hikers can take and these range in length and difficulty from short and easy to all day long and difficult. But, use common sense and carry adequate drinking water, wear appropriate clothing and good hiking shoes or boots, and reapply sunscreen regularly. If you leave your group or family to go off solo, tell someone where you will be hiking.
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