Archive for the ‘geology’ Category
In my last post, I wrote about how we came to be camped at Dead Horse Point State Park near (and above) the town of Moab, Utah. After visiting the rock art site at Thompson Springs, my plan was to find a campground with electric hook-ups so that we could more easily weather snow and colder weather that was moving into the region. After parking the van, I made a quick dinner and climbed into the van for the night. The windows of the van were soon covered with snow. However, we were relatively comfortable with a small electric heater warming the van. I read for a short while then called it a day.
By morning, the campground was covered with a mix of snow and ice. It wasn’t deep, but frozen well to everything. However, with the sun attempting to break through the clouds, it didn’t take too long for its warmth to begin melting everything away. That’s one thing about the southwest. Snow melts quickly once the sun comes out from behind the clouds.
I made breakfast at the picnic table under the ramada. A raven watched from atop the wall and from the branch of a nearby tree. It commented occasionally, making the odd “klonk” or “crrrrick”.
By the time I’d cleaned up after breakfast and taken care of a few other odd jobs, most of the snow had melted off. Sage, Sabrina and I took a walk on one of the hiking trails leading out from the campground. I think it is called the “Big Horn” trail. The above photo was taken on our way back to the van. As you can see, there is now very little snow to be seen.
The above photo was taken along the Big Horn trail. SIgn boards around the park warn hikers and cyclists not to go too near to the edges of the cliffs as there is about a 2,000 foot drop. One of the rangers told me that there are often strong winds that rush up the cliffs and will lift anything that is close to the edge. Frankly, I didn’t need much warning as I’m uncomfortable standing close to the edge of any precipice.
These last three photos were taken at other points around the park. I think all were taken while out on Dead Horse Point, which is the geological feature which gives this park its name. The roadway through the park ends at a high mesa which is separated from the main plateau, but a tiny bridge of rock. You must drive across that spot to get out onto the mesa to see the incredible views of the Colorado River and Canyonlands National Monument lands which lie below. Apparently, cowboys used to drive wild horses out onto this mesa and could contain them with a short fence across the land bridge. The horses couldn’t get down of the mesa, so they were kept corralled until such time as they were released. The story goes that, at some point, a group of horses were contained out there and then left to die from lack of food and water. Not too nice a story, but that’s how that geological feature got its name – as well as the park.
Well, this will probably be my last post to the blog for awhile. This morning, I leave Bisbee to begin the long trip back to Canada. Over the past couple of years, my route has always gone up or down the west, and then across the Canadian prairie provinces, along the north shore of Lake Superior, and down the Ottawa River valley to eastern Ontario — and then on out east to Nova Scotia for summer. This year, spring is taking so long to come to the western states and across Canada, that I have had to revise my route as I don’t think we could deal with the cold, and more importantly, with the mix of rain and snow that seems to keep falling over those regions. I’m going to try going east across the U.S. and then cut north to cross into Ontario. I have to say that I’m not all that happy about having to make that route change as I’ll be going through at least a half dozen (or more) states that I’ve never visited. As I’ve mentioned to a couple of people, when Don and I traveled together, new places were always kind of fun and seemed like adventure. Traveling into new places alone isn’t quite so much fun as it takes so much more of my energy to figure out my route, find places to camp or motels to stay, and so on. After four crossing of the continent, I could almost do my usual route with my eyes closed. This crossing will be very different, but hopefully, I will see many interesting things along the way. I will be sure to take plenty of photos and write about my travels when I get back to Ontario. I still have a couple of places to write about from last autumn’s trip – Newspaper Rocks, and last but certainly not least, my visit to Chaco Canyon in New Mexico. However, those will have to wait until I have a good net connection once more. So for now, hasta luego.
In my last post, I wrote about our first night at Big Bend campground on the Colorado River a few miles above Moab. The following morning, the dogs and I departed for a day of touring through Arches National Park. Arriving shortly after opening time, there were few other visitors on the main roadway that meanders through the park. I believe that the weather may have been keeping people away – there was a severe weather warning for rain and snow in the forecast. Fortunately, in addition to scaring away the visitors, the approaching storm front also made for some wonderful cloud formations in an area where clear blue skies are common. For a photographer, drifting clouds can create some dramatic light conditions over such vast landscapes.
I had some difficulty choosing just a handful of photos to represent our day at Arches, but I believe that this selection will provide some idea of the type and scale of the rock formations. Also, I wanted to show how theatrical these landscapes can become when the sunlight and clouds work their magic under certain conditions. I took great delight in standing awhile at each spot, watching as the formations could be transformed within seconds. In the past, I’ve enjoyed this effect over rock formations in other vast landscapes in places such as John Day Fossil Beds. Some of you may even remember me writing about such light effects back on my old “Burning Silo” blog back in November 2006.
Another interesting aspect of these formations is how much the appearance can change as you move around the periphery. What at first looks to be an irregular wall of rock may, within seconds, reveal a massive arch. Likewise, spires and boulders balanced atop rock towers often morph into the heads of howling wolves, a dragon, a group of people, or whatever else one might imagine.
Soon after arriving at Arches, I noticed that my way of looking at the place seemed to differ from that of the other visitors on that day. Very few would stop at the turn-outs where you would have a view of the landscape and the rock formations at a distance. Most would bypass these spots, rarely even slowing down, but instead driving on to park before an arch or other formation to snap a few photos. For myself, I loved the distant views where I could watch the storm front passed over the landscape. It was amazing to see a formation from a couple of miles off, and then drive toward it, marveling over how it would change as I drew increasingly near.
The only problem with Arches is the same I have encountered in the past. After four or five hours of being immersed in red rock, I begin to experience a sense of overload. There’s just so much that your eyes and mind can handle before it begins to feel like a little too much — at least, for this easterner who is more accustomed to lakes and forests. By the turnaround loop at the end of the road, I had seen enough red rock landscapes for one day and was ready to return to my campsite on the Colorado.
The weather forecast proved to be correct. That evening, shortly after cleaning up after preparing our meal, the rain began to fall – gentle at first, but then increasing until it was pounding on the van roof. When the deluge continued for a couple of hours, I began to consider how such a downpour might change the flow of the river alongside our campsite. When you have camped in red rock country enough times, you learn to have some respect for the effect that heavy rains can have on creeks and rivers. A dry creek bed can soon fill and become a raging torrent, tearing and transfiguring its sandy banks. After a time, I opened the window near my head and listened to the river. The gentle sound of waves lapping on the shore had now become a growling rumble in the utter darkness. During a lull in the rain, I decided to get up, pull on my jacket and take a good look at the river with my largest flashlight. I was quite sure we were in no danger of flash flooding on this section of river – the campground being located quite a few feet up from the water’s edge. Also, there was little evidence of previous flood damage – always a pretty good indication that it’s a safe spot. Still, in my travels, I have seen the remains of long-established campgrounds that were torn apart by raging rivers – so much so that they were never repaired or re-established. I’ve also met camp hosts who are out checking river levels during the night, deciding whether to tell people to move to higher ground (the Smith River in northern California being one place where this has happened). That thought was enough to get me up shining a beam along the shore. However, after checking out the river, I found it was a little higher than earlier in the day, but not enough to be concerned. Now I would be able to go back to bed and go to sleep, knowing that there probably was little chance that we would need to relocate to higher ground.
The heavy rains continued on through much of the night. By morning, the air temperature in the canyon was much different than on the previous couple of days. Gone was the slight warmth that seemed to radiate from the great masses of stone about us. In its place, there was a frigid walk-in freezer feel to the air. I’d been thinking of staying on another couple of nights, but knew we would probably feel cold and miserable. I decided to break camp after breakfast and go exploring elsewhere. I wasn’t quite sure where we would go, but knew that just about any site would be warmer than the one we were leaving.
I’d been thinking of going up to see the petroglyphs and pictographs up at Sego Canyon near Thompson Springs, so that became our morning destination. After that — well, surely we would come upon a good place to camp a night or two. That’s the way I try to think when traveling — to remain optimistic that something interesting will present itself. Most times, that’s just how it goes.
I’m going to end this post with something a little different. A friend in New Mexico sent me a link today, saying that this song made him think of me. I watched the video and soon discovered why. The song is entitled Lighthouse, performed by Antje Duvekot, written by Antje Duvekot & Kate Klim. Here is a link to the lyrics for those who are interested. Thanks to Dusty for sending this along. I very much enjoyed hearing this song.