THE HEAT IS ON!
We finally got out of Colorado and stopped by Moab, Utah for a little national park action. Besides being the mountain bike capitol of the world, Moab is the home of 2 national parks-Arches and Canyonlands.
We could not get enough of Arches as we visited the park on 3 separate days and still had things we never got to. Arches is full of fantastic shapes carved in sandstone. Red is the primary color of the day, but the rocks can also be purple, blue, green, yellow, turquoise, brown, and white. There are almost 2,000 documented arches in the park and surrounding area with several accessible from the seat of a car or a short walk. The only problem was that during our visit the daytime temperatures ranged between 96 and 103 degrees.
Arches are created by the erosion of rain water as it passes through the rock as opposed to a bridge which is created from a stream eroding a hole in the rock to allow the water to flow through. Arches can either be free standing structures or spans of up to almost 200 hundred feet connecting a sandstone wall. This natural phenomena creates one of the most unique desert environments in the world.
I took advantage of almost every hike offered by the park. Walking in the desert with temperatures around 100 degrees can be a little challenging, but the trails in Arches are easy so, after loading up with several bottles of water, off I went. My favorite hike was to Delicate Arch, the iconic symbol of Utah. It is only a 1.6 mile hike, one way, but it was a little hot on the afternoon of my hike so the rangers were out in force trying to discourage hikers. As I was passing the rangers to start my hike I overheard a lady, in a slight state of panic, asking for help as her 67 year old husband, with a heart condition, wearing dark clothes and dress shoes, and having no water, had been gone for over 1 hour. The rangers did not seem anxious to venture out into the heat so I volunteered to look for the gentleman along the trail. I found the guy about 10 minutes from the trailhead, happily snapping photos of the desert landscape. He did not need my help, so I advised him to hustle back to his wife and I continued on my hike as the trail was now empty of tourists. Nancy told my that to discourage hikers, the rangers were shooting the rocks with a heat gun and getting readings over 130 degrees. One guy, wearing sandals, was forced cut his hike short as the soles of his sandals had melted off.
My favorite hike outside of the park was a short, fairly easy walk on the Fisher Tower Trail. Although the hike is only 2.2 miles, one-way, it is chock full of exceptional scenery with every step and the final reward being the view of Fisher Tower. The trail passes through desert canyons and along steep ridges making this a must-do trail. On the day of my hike temperatures soared to 100 and the afternoon reflection of the sun off of the towering sandstone walls gave the trail an oven-like characteristic. Also, as long as I can stay on rock and not step on the cryptobiotic crust of the soil, I have a tendency to wander around a lot. Therefore, when I reached the end of the one-way trail I continued on and found myself lost on top of a mesa. The disadvantage was that I wandered around for an extra hour or two in the desert heat. The advantage was I discovered a small arch which provided shade as well as a good location to get my bearings in order to retrace my footsteps.
Since I was in one of the best mountain biking areas on the planet, I decided to give it a shot. It only took one ride and I was addicted. I spent the next 5 days on the bike trails looking for "moderate ability" trails and trying not to kill myself. I earned a few bumps and bruises but riding the Moab "slickrock" is an opportunity of a lifetime. ("Slickrock" is sandstone which creates a sandpaper-like surface when dry but, when wet, becomes as slippery as ice.) My big problem was that my mountain bike did not have rear suspension and "slickrock" is very bumpy, so my butt was sore for almost 2 weeks after.
WHAT GOES AROUND COMES AROUND: After leaving Moab we traveled to southeast Utah to the town of Bluff. We found a beautiful Bureau of Land Management (BLM) campground directly on the San Juan River. If you recall my last post, we were in Silverton, Colorado on the day of the giant toxic spill by the EPA. It turned out that the toxic plume after leaving Silverton and traveling through Durango, made it to the San Juan River and passed right in front of our campsite. By the time we arrived, the contaminated water was supposed to have passed and the river was supposed to be back to normal. Therefore, Nancy decided to take a stroll in the river looking for rocks. This is a very muddy river and Nancy almost had her rubber shoes sucked off. When she returned from her river walk Nancy rinsed off her shoes and left them out to dry. We don't know if it was the sun or the river, but when her shoes dried they had contorted into such weird shapes that she could no longer wear them. I don't care what the EPA says about the water quality of that river, I am staying away!
Our campsite in Bluff was the perfect jumping off point to visit Valley of the Gods, Goosenecks State Park and Monument Valley. Monument Valley is loaded with heaps of massive sandstone buttes and mesas with a road snaking around the base of these fantastic structures. Valley of the Gods, is an isolated area of Utah which resembles a miniature Monument Valley. The only problem was that the dirt road in Valley of the Gods almost required a high clearance vehicle to negotiate through the hundreds of washes which crossed this rugged road.
Since we find that we can not seem to leave Colorado, off we go back to Cortez to visit Mesa Verde National Park and other highlights of the 4-corners region of the country. However, before we were off Nancy presented me with the below:
|Canyonland National Park.|
Island in the Sky District.
|A salt dome uplifting through the floor of|
Canyonlands National Park in the
Island of the Sky District.
|The sandstone walls in Arches National Park.|
|An arch just a short walk from the car.|
This is one of the most popular arches within a short stroll of the road.
|North and South Windows|
as seen from the primitive trail behind the arches.
|A unique arch discovered on the Fiery Furnace hike.|
This is probably the most famous geologic feature in Utah.
It was so nice having the place to myself in the middle of the day.
|My private arch discovered during my wanderings above the|
Fisher Tower Trail.
|An interesting geologic pattern discovered outside of the town of|
Mexican Hat, Utah. It reminded me of one of Charlie Brown's sweaters.
Sorry, I grew up a big "Peanuts" fan.
|This is called Mexican Hat Rock. Apparently, the town of Mexican|
Hat, Utah is named after this formation. I really don't see the "Mexican" hat.
|Goosenecks State Park in Utah features|
the San Juan River on its way to Glen Canyon.
|Monument Valley, Arizona|