Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Indescribable.. but I'll try

Yesterday we drove along a portion of the Colorado River that's north of Moab and also made a quick visit to Castle Creek Winery along the way.  But the biggest portion of the day was devoted to Arches National Park, just five miles north of Moab, UT.  We’ve been here before (Jim twice and me three times) and it’s an amazing place worth many trips.  The park's arches, spires, balanced rocks and what park literature calls “sandstone fins and eroded monoliths" were caused by an underground salt bed that moved “like toothpaste” as a park ranger put it (albeit very slow-moving toothpaste). The prehistoric Colgate pushed rock layers upward and causing them to buckle.  Then surface erosion stripped away some of the layers, leaving the geologic features.

Words -- and actually photos -- don't do them justice.
On the left is the aptly-named Balanced Rock.   You can (barely, but hopefully better if you double click to enlarge) see a woman standing on a lower rock near the center of the photo.
A scenery shot with eastern Utah's La Sal Mountains in the background.
An arch near the park’s campground.  You can see a man sitting below the left side of the arch. Arches National Park has over 2,000 arches ranging from three feet across (the minimum size to be considered an arch) to 306 feet across.  
Today it was Canyonlands National Park -- just 25 miles from Arches -- and a place neither one of us had been.  (Pathetic on Bev's part, since I've lived in Utah 38 years.)  Canyonlands is huge --- 527 square miles --- and made up of three distinct sections:  Island in the Sky, The Needles, and The Maze; no roads within the park link the three. Island in the Sky is the park's northern-most section and is the part we explored.  It’s wedged between the Green and Colorado Rivers; their confluence is at the southern tip and it's those two rivers that carved the park's canyons. The Needles makes up the park's east/southeast section.   The Maze is the west/southwest section of the park and has NO improved road leading to it. 
Jim in front of a canyon where you can see one of the unimproved roads on the canyon floor.  All sections of the park have similar roads accessible by a “regular four wheel drive” we were told (no souped-up, big-rubber-tire vehicles needed, but I think I'd rent a Jeep before I drove our Honda CRV on them). The roads were built during a search for uranium that was pretty much a bust -- otherwise the area might never have been made a national park.
Jim on yet another ledge with yet another canyon and road in the distance.  A man standing near me while I was taking  the photo said he'd drive me down the canyon to retrieve the car keys if Jim fell. (Actually, it was a safe walk to where Jim is standing, and I walked out there later myself.)
 We listened to a ranger presentation made at Island in the Sky's "Grand View Point Overlook," the furthest point out on a developed road. 

The Green River, still carving the canyon.


  1. Since Jim is not taking my very reasonable advise to stay away from the edge of the cliffs, the corollary set of advise for you, Bev, would be to “way up” his life insurance. You get it high enough and you won’t have to retrieve the keys from the canyon floor, just have them deliver your Porsche to the parking lot.

    Since pre-history ended about 5,000 years ago, wouldn’t all rocks be pre-historic? (Lava Flows excluded) Didn’t you pay any attention in Geology 101. I wouldn’t bring this up but you have to remember you are representing the educational acumen of the entire Big Ten

    I know, I don’t get any credit for this, but I did resist, (actually I wrote it and then deleted) posting a little essay on the Paleozoic Era and the Great Inland Sea. It isn’t like I’m not trying to reform.

  2. I think the answer to your first question is "yes" and to the second question it's yes "yes, until the test was over." Every time I have a rock question, Jim says "you should ask Carl."