Sunset in the Coconino National Forest, looking northeast toward Sedona, AZ, 4/17/15

Monday, May 31, 2010

Grand Staircase - Escalante National Monument, May 21-31

First, Happy Birthday to hubby John back in Washington State.  You are my number one!  I love you and miss you.

Between my travels to Bryce Canyon and Capitol Reef National Parks, I got to spend time exploring the area with brother Gary and his wife Mary as they are camp hosts at Kodachrome Basin State Park.  Kodachrome is surrounded by the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument (GSENM) which is huge at 1.9 million acres. 

As described in my last blog, GSENM is on the Colorado Plateau and gets its name from a staircase of rock cliffs of various colors.  The oldest is chocolate, then vermilion, white, gray, and the youngest is pink.  On one of Gary and Mary's days off we went exploring the pink cliffs out beyond the Tropic Reservoir.   The views were spectacular (pic 1).
Gary walked out on the edge of a rock fin to take some video of the views (pic 2) ... I think he's crazy!  I walked out just a little ways and had to turn around.

On another day we visited the Red Canyon in the Dixie National Forest (pic 3).  The cliff walls were vermilion red and they boast to have one of the hideouts of Butch Cassidy.  They have a great bike trail that Gary and Mary took into the canyon, all down hill, then I picked them up at the visitor's center.

We also visited Devils Garden off of Hole-In-The-Rock Rd (pic 4).  It had all kinds of fantastic rock formations -- hoodoos, arches, small slot canyons -- a great climbing, hiding, looking, finding playground (pic 5).

Gary, of course, was trying to climb all of the coolest places (pics 6 and 7).

On the same day we visited Devils Garden, we did some 4-wheeling on Hells Backbone around Death Hallow ... what a devilish day that was!
All of these places were off of Utah's Scenic Highway 12 ... a destination of beautiful scenery and great views in and of itself.

After visiting Capitol Reef, I spent another couple of days at Kodachrome Basin State Park with Gary and Mary.  It's a great place with some cool rock formations (pics ).  It was good to spend time with them, as usual. 

Chimney Rock with some cattle at it's base.  It's on Forest Service land, just outside of Kodachrome.

A cool rock formation in Kodachrome.

Grosvenor Arch in Kodachrome.

Moon rise over the cliffs as seen from Gary and Mary's campsite at Kodachrome.

And, as always, Gary maintained campfire bragging rights!

Friday, May 28, 2010

Colorado Plateau National Parks, May 12-28

The National Parks on the Colorado Plateau include Arches and Canyonlands, which I've already blogged about.  The other national parks on the plateau are the Petrified Forest, Grand Canyon, Zion, Bryce Canyon, and Capitol Reef.  The reason so many parks are in this single area is because of an amazing series of geological events.  Many layers of rock have been formed over millions and millions of years from a variety of climates and events.  Huge inland seas left buried sediment, time passed then expansive deserts with huge sand dunes were covered, more time passed to bury a tropical landscape with volcanic ash and lava ... coral reefs ... river sediment ... glaciers ... etc ... layer upon layer was buried and turned to stone by the weight of subsequent layers and the mineral laden waters that filtered down.  It kind of reminds me of a layered rock cake. 
Then, the 140,000 square mile area that is the Colorado Plateau uplifted due to one tectonic plate going under another, forcing up the land ... this area of the "layered rock cake" was now higher, angled and askew in many places.  With lots of rain, the softer soil "frosting" on top of the "layered rock cake" eroded away, exposing the bare rock layers. 
Some layers of rock are softer than others so that rain can slowly make holes in them called "windows," "arches," "bridges" or "grottos."  This softer rock is usually a sandstone which use to be sand dunes millions of years ago.  Arches NP has lots of examples of these odd rock shapes created by water dissolving the sandstone.  Similarly rain water (think flash floods) eroded the cliff faces of Canyonlands NP, creating the labyrinth of canyons for as far as you can see.
The next park I visited was the Petrified Forest and Painted Desert.  Here the minerals present in the rock layers made for beautiful colors in the hills and rocks (1st pic) of the Painted Desert Bad Lands.  Just as colorful was the petrified wood, turned to stone through time and pressure (2nd pic).  Inside the fossilized wood sometimes showed a beautiful rainbow of semi-precious gems (3rd pic).   As mineral laden water seeped down through volcanic ash, it provided the ingredients to turn the wood to quartz, milky quartz, purple amethyst, yellow citrine, and jasper.

I love seeing the big picture.  So, when I was told that the next 3 parks I was to visit formed a "staircase," I paid attention.  The Grand Canyon is the lowest step in this staircase, having the oldest rock layer exposed at the bottom of the canyon.  It's Precambrian, 3,800 million years old!  The top rock layer of the Grand Canyon is the bottom layer of rock exposed at Zion ... but, I'm getting ahead of myself.
The views at Grand Canyon NP are beyond words ... and definitely beyond my photographic ability ... absolutely stunning.  The breadth and depth of this hole in the ground is extraordinary ... GRAND indeed!  I explored the south rim (5th & 6th pics), and then did some lounging and people watching on the veranda of the El Tovar (7th pic). 

The next day I visited the north rim which had just opened for the season.  In fact, there was still snow on the ground in many places (8th pic).  The Grand Canyon is no less stunning from the north side.  It's less developed and you must drive to the view points.  The highest point on the canyon is almost 9000 feet (9th pic).

The next park I visited was Zion NP.  As I said earlier, its bottom layer of rock is the top layer of exposed rock at the Grand Canyon.  So, Zion was the second step up on the staircase of the Colorado Plateau National Parks.

I arrived at Zion via the east entrance at sunset.  Checker Board Mesa was an amazing site (10th pic).  The rock of the mesa has horizontal lines of an alternating type of rock, and vertical lines etched by water run off ... making a checker board appearance ... wow!
I must have been hungry coming into the park that evening because I kept thinking that the color and texture of the rock looked just like a huge cooked salmon! (11th pic)

Whereas I looked down into the Grand Canyon, in Zion I looked up at the huge sandstone cliffs.  Many of the monoliths had bible-inspired names.  Here (12th pic), the flat top on the left is the West Temple (7810 ft.), next to it is the almost white Sundial (7590 ft.), and further to the right the red stained peak is the Alter of Sacrifice (7505 ft.).  Zion means "place of refuge;" and it definitely fit as I enjoyed my peaceful camping spot (13th pic). 

Zion has several "life zones," including a small marsh on the hike to the Narrows (14th pic).  The Narrows is a place along the Virgin River where the rock faces are very high, and you can hike in the water, up-river, in the late summer and fall when the water level is low and going slow.  I'd love to go back to hike the Narrows some day.

The next step up on the rock-layer staircase is Bryce Canyon NP.  As you might have guessed, Zions' top rock layer is Bryce's bottom layer of exposed rock.

In Bryce, the operative word is "hoodoo" ... canyons and canyons of hoodoos! (15th pic)  A hoodoo is a pinnacle or spire rock formation from 5 ft to 150 ft tall.

Hoodoos are made from fins of layered rock.  Water seeps down into the cracks of the rock then freezes over night, expanding and breaking the stone.  Because Bryce gets over 200 days per year where it freezes at night and thaws during the day, the stone gets broken and washed away at a fairly rapid rate.  The edge of the canyon recedes 1 to 4 feet every 50 years.  This tree, nick named "tickle toes," demonstrates that loss.  (16th pic)

Because some of the layers of rock are harder than others, the hoodoos can develop some familiar shapes (17th pic).
Some of the names of the hoodoos in the park include -- poodle, lion, hunter and the rabbit, horses head, the queen, the sentinel ...

So, there's my staircase of national parks, Grand Canyon up to Zion up to Bryce ... from oldest exposed rock layer to youngest exposed rock layer. 

One of the facts that puzzled me, however, was that the highest point at the Grand Canyon was just about level with the highest point at Bryce, both about 9000 feet.  The reason?  When the Colorado Plateau was uplifted, the Grand Canyon area was forced to a higher elevation than either Zion or Bryce ... mystery solved!

The other national park on the Colorado Plateau is Capitol Reef NP.  So named for a rock formation that someone thought looked like a capitol dome (18th pic, formation on left).

When the Colorado Plateau was uplifted some folds in the earth's crust were created (monocline).  Capitol Reef's fold is over 100 miles long and is called the Water Pocket Fold ... a sight to behold.  Capitol Reef NP also has hoodoos, arches, and colorful rock.  But, but my favorite geological views were from the bottoms of Grand Wash and Capitol Gorge, looking up between shear cliff walls (19th pic).
Capitol Reef NP has also preserved the orchards, pastures and some buildings from a small Mormon pioneer community, Fuita.  The campground was set among the orchards.  The pastoral setting of Historical Fuita and the Fremont River juxtaposed with the harshness of the rock cliffs and desert was wonderful (20th pic).

That's it for my tour of the Colorado Plateau National Parks, but it's not the last about a staircase on the plateau ... more to come ...

originally posted 5/29/10

Sunday, May 23, 2010

New Friends, New Places

Before going on this trip, I did a lot of research and in doing so, joined some online groups.  I've had the pleasure of meeting several folks from these groups, as well as some of their friends and family.  I've already blogged about the VanDwellers in Pahrump, and Karen and her kids in Colorado.  A few weeks later I also met up with VJ at her friend's home near Albuquerque.  VJ is on a van traveling adventure and I was fortunate that our paths crossed.  VJ and I were treated to a beautiful place to overnight and a yummy pasta dinner ... thank you Theresa and Laurie!

One of the groups that I joined is Sisters On The Fly (think fly fishing), a nationwide group of women who have outdoor adventures.  They have Cowgirl Caravans and tow small vintage trailers to various events.  It's a fun and friendly group.  After I joined late last year, I went to a Christmas Party locally and it kind of reminded me of a slumber party!

So, I'm meeting up with a couple of SOTF events on my cross-country trip.  Last weekend in Arizona I camped out at a sister's ranchette outside of Seligman with about 15 other women.  She and her family have built a beautiful cabin out of straw bales (see first picture).  It was a relaxed time of good food and interesting conversation, beautiful views and new friends.  On Saturday we explored the historic/tourist town of Seligman (see second picture), which boasts the beginnings of the revival of Historic Route 66.   Then we were treated to a visit to a working ranch.

Fort Rock Ranch is the largest in Arizona and includes the location of a vintage fort, still used as a family home (see third picture).  I can't remember how many head of beef and horses they had ... but, it was a lot.  After lunch, we toured some of the property, taking pictures of the fouls and their mamas (see forth picture), and then watched as the larger herd of horses ran across the meadows and distant hills ... what a beautiful sight!  Later in the afternoon we got front row seats as the cowboys roped and branded some yearling cows that escaped last year's roundup (see fifth picture w/Faye of the ranchette).  Then, it was our turn if we wanted to help brand and castrate this year's calves.  I abstained, but thoroughly enjoyed watching some of the other women go for it.   If all works out, I'll be attending another SOTF event during September in New Jersey.

I've also enjoyed staying at a couple more Harvest Host wineries along the way.  Wines of the San Juan is next to the San Juan River in New Mexico (a renowned fly fishing spot).  I loved the set up they had outside with the sinks (see sixth picture).  I had a wonderful visit with David and Marcia over coffee, and was even invited to share some pancakes with them!  Their "Pale Morning Dun" wine was a hit at the Sisters On The Fly event because it's named for a fishing fly.  And their "Girls Are Meaner" Gew├╝rztraminer was great to bring for my stay with VJ, Theresa and Laurie.

I also stayed over at Javelina Leap Vineyard and Winery just outside of Sedona, another Harvest Host location.  The grounds were beautiful with vineyards, orchards, picnic tables, and a wine tasting room (see seventh picture).   Here I enjoyed a bit of wine tasting at 11 in the morning!

This weekend, I'm with brother Gary and wife Mary.  They are full-time RV'ers and camp hosts at Kodachrome State Park (named after the Kodak film because the rocks are so colorful).  It's a very well kept state park with cool rock formations.   It's great to be able to meet up with Gary and Mary every now and again, share stories, meals, and a campsite.

I'm glad to be making new friends, as well as seeing new places ... more to come!

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Ancestral Puebloans, May 9-11

Since the Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument has been one of my favorites, I shouldn't have been surprised that I would also enjoy experiencing similar sites.  I visited Hovenweep National Monument, a set of ancient villages within neighboring canyons.  Then I went to Mesa Verde National Park, with some of the best preserved cliff dwellings.  Then I visited, somewhat on the spur of the moment, the Chaco Culture National Historic Park, the cultural and spiritual center for Ancestral Puebloans.  The first picture is of one of the villages built into the canyon rocks at Hovenweep. 

Each of these sites were vital centers of activity during the 900-1200's for the Ancestral Puebloans (Anasazi).  I could imagine and feel the life that existed there -- the bringing together of families, farming, building shelters, food preparation, building villages, spiritual rituals, the building of places of ceremony, developing trade, creating art.   I could almost hear children playing, men building, and the activities of home life.   The second picture is of Spruce Tree House at Mesa Verde; notice how the adobe "plaster" is still on the sides of the walls.  This picture shows only a small part of a larger set of rooms built into a natural cave.

While visiting Chaco Canyon, I took a tour of Pueblo Bonito with a Ranger.  The group was fortunate to be joined by several young men from the Acoma Pueblo, the longest continually inhabited community in the United States, and direct descendants of the Ancestral Puebloans of Chaco Canyon.  They were there to do trail maintenance.  I loved hearing the respect these men had for Chaco Canyon, the emphasis they placed on prayer, and the foundation of their spirituality being Mother Earth.  I'm so glad that they shared what they did.  The third picture is looking through the doors of a series of rooms at Pueblo Bonito.  Notice the excellent stonework.  A bit of the adobe "plaster" still clings to the wall at the right.

Because Chaco Canyon was the cultural and spiritual center for the Ancestral Puebloans, great emphasis was placed on excellent craftsmanship.  The stonework was exceptional.

My favorite part of Mesa Verde was learning about the pithouses on the top of the mesas, before they invented the stone and adobe structures.  They were very clever in heating and venting the pithomes. The forth picture is of an excavated pithouse, walls and a roof of wood and adobe would have covered the dug out pit.  The fifth picture is an illustration.

For Hovenweep, I enjoyed imagining the villages in their prime ... "watching" villagers travel from place to place, climbing in and out of the canyons, grinding corn, and the ins and outs of daily life.

originally posted 5/21/10

Sunday, May 9, 2010

A few Utah Parks, May 7-9

Heading west to Utah, I wanted to check out Arches and Canyonlands National Parks before the weather got too hot.  Unfortunately, I forgot that it was the start of a nice weekend, so my introduction to Arches was among the crowds.   Despite the crowds and the innate starkness of the land, the rock formations were fantastic ... the arches and other forms.  I especially enjoyed seeing them in the light of sunset and day break.  The pictures are of a distant look at Delicate Arch (opening is 33' wide x 45' tall), Three Sisters taken at sundown, and Balancing Rock.

Canyonlands National Park is close to Arches.  It has Mesa Arch, when looking through it I got a spectacular view into a canyon.  There are canyons as far as the eye can see. Canyonlands is also where the Green River converges with the Colorado River.
Within Canyonlands, you could see 4x4's taking some hairy roads.  If you look closely, you can see a white truck taking the road on the canyon wall.
I also took the opportunity to visit Natural Bridges National Monument while in the area.  It was a nice hike to view several sandstone bridges below the mesa.  Here is a picture of the Owachomo Bridge.

What amazing work wind and water does to rock!
originally posted 5/13/10