The Zion Narrows

Thu, Oct 13, 2016

Today was a day to explore Zion’s most famous feature:  the Narrows.

At the top of the canyon, the road ends at what appears to be a box canyon as the huge walls block any outlet.  In yesterday’s post, I lamented my lack of a good picture of the beautiful walls.  But here’s a great example.  And the canyon is full of them.


So just around the corner is a small canyon from which the Virgin River exits.  And adjacent is the Riverside Walk trail that leads to the Narrows.  So up the trail I went.

On the shuttle ride up to the hike, the recording said to wear full coverage shoes, dress warm and carry water.  Of course, I had none of those.  You see, the Riverside Walk is exactly that until it ends.  Then it’s into the water as the hike is up the creek.  Now we know where that expression comes from…

We were hiking up the trail on the right side when it ended.  If you want to continue, you cross here.


That sand bank on the left soon ended and then it was into the stream.  Had I done my research, I would have known not to carry my iPhone and wallet.  Never mind my Nikon and 14-24 lens.  Duh…

See that fellow with the hiking stick?  People with sticks and hiking poles were everywhere.  And I was making fun of them.  “Carol.  Did you see those goobers with the backpacks, extra shoes, poles, enough water to satiate the cavalry?”.  Dummy me didn’t know I’d be hiking up the creek.


Further up, the walls closed in and eventually down to just a few feet.  I didn’t make it that far but it’s pretty clear that flash floods are a real issue.  Here’s the canyon when I turned back.  No escape.


Zion Canyon

Wed, Oct 12, 2016

Zion is about two hours down the road from Bryce Canyon.  The latter isn’t a canyon at all but instead a beautiful mesa that cascades down the countryside.  But Zion, now there’s a canyon.

When we entered the park, I pulled over at the first overlook expecting to see the canyon.  But the attraction was a buttress with this beautiful texture.  I thought it was gorgeous but Carol wasn’t impressed 😦




Then into the park where we drove past sandstone hillsides with trees and plants growing where no plant should be. But there they were.  Everywhere.





Then through the tunnel and into the park.  And wow!  Walls like I’ve never seen outside of Yosemite.  Most didn’t shoot well as the sun was down so the walls were half sun and half shade.  They look great to your naked eye as your brain can adjust but they look crappy in a picture.  But here’s a not-so-great example with the sun at my back.


We settled into our camp and then I went out to see the local mesa.  I know this has become a pattern, but everywhere we camp there seems to be a tall mesa in our backyard.



Bryce Canyon

Tue, Oct 12, 2016

If you’ve ever been here before, then you know what a treat it is.  Hoodoos, spires, arches, it’s all here.

During the uplift of the Colorado Plateau, vertical cracks were created in the sandstone.  Subsequent erosion via ‘frost wedging’ removed the softer sandstone leaving the beautiful shapes you see here.  This particular shot was from the lookout at Bryce Point and is only a small part of the park.


Here’s a 100% crop to give you an idea of the size of the spires as many are taller than the trees.


Here’s another section showing the trails.  Too bad dogs aren’t allowed so Carol and I didn’t venture down into the amphitheater.  Looks ideal for a trail run, no?


Finally one of the big arches.


Hoodoos of Escalante

Sun, Oct 9, 2016

One of the interesting features of Grand Staircase – Escalante Nat’l Monument are the hoodoos in Devil’s Garden.

How are hoodoos formed?  Here, let me plagiarize from Wikipedia.

Hoodoos typically form in areas where a thick layer of a relatively soft rock, such as mudstone, poorly cemented sandstone or tuff (consolidated volcanic ash), is covered by a thin layer of hard rock, such as well-cemented sandstone, limestone or basalt. Over time, cracks in the resistant layer allow the much softer rock beneath to be eroded and washed away. Hoodoos form where a small cap of the resistant layer remains, and protects a cone of the underlying softer layer from erosion.

Here are the four famous hoodoos in Devil’s Garden.  Don’t they look like Hobbits?  Or perhaps some Brits heading to the pub (the fourth guy has already lost his way).


The area is full of hoodoos but they don’t always resemble beings.


Grand Staircase – Escalante

Sat, Oct 8, 2016

Carol and I are on our tenth day in Utah and visiting our fifth park: Grand Staircase – Escalante.  It’s a big one at nearly 1.9 million acres so there’s no way to see the whole thing.  But we had a good taste on the way in – maybe too much as Carol didn’t like the curves and sheer drop-offs so she rode in the back seat 🙂  And I was driving below the posted limit.

A quick word on the park’s name.  The ‘Grand Staircase’ is the cascading structure that’s mainly in the south.  We weren’t there so I can say for sure but the word is that the staircase is so big and gradual that it can’t be seen from a car or the trails.

Escalante, on the other hand, is a historic city that dates to the late 1700’s.

Here’s a shot from one of the lookouts along Utah Scenic Byway 12 and no, Carol didn’t get out of the car when I took this picture.


And here’s another from a lookout as we were working our way down into the desert.  Too bad it was such a hazy day.



Capitol Reef National Park

Fri, Oct 7, 2016

Next up on our national park quest  is Capitol Reef. If you haven’t heard of it, you’re not alone.

The park’s name reflects two of its features.   The first is a dome called Capitol Dome for it’s resemblance of US Capitol in Washington, DC.


The second word ‘reef’ refers to the long mesa that blocked travel similar to the way that a reef would block a mariner. So Capitol Reef it is.  But how’d that mesa get there?


Most people have seen good examples of sedimentation from, for example, hiking in a canyon or along a stream.  The beauty depends on the variety of the sedimentation as well as the depth that has been exposed.

The Capitol Reef area was once oceans, deserts and swamps that created 10,000 feet of sedimentary rock.  The area also has a fault line that passes through and an uplift event occurred some 50-70 million years ago.  The result was that the area to the west of the fault was lifted 7,000 ft higher than the east.  But the beauty is that the rock layers folded over the fault line instead of cracking.  Subsequent erosion exposed the sedimentary layer and the area is known as the Waterpocket Fold.  It’s 100 miles long and blocked travel for the Native Americans, pioneers and ranchers.

How many sedimentary layers do you see in this picture?


Here’s another and the feature on top is known as The Castle.


Utah Hwy 95 Scenic Byway

Thu, Oct 6, 2016

Carol and I drove from Blanding in southeast Utah to Torrey.  We weren’t expecting much but boy were we in for a surprise.

The route has been declared a Scenic Byway and curves its way through one sandstone formation after another.  Quite simply, it was one beautiful scene after another and made for the shortest four hour drive of the trip.


About half way, we crossed the Colorado River at a point where it flows into the beginning of Lake Powell.  Beauty of this magnitude really makes a road trip.


Natural Bridges National Monument

Wed, Oct 5, 2016

Is it an arch or a bridge?

Natural bridges are created when a meandering stream forms a big looping curve that all but circles back on itself, leaving a thin wall separating the flow.  The water erodes both sides of the wall and eventually punches through creating a bridge.

So there’s the answer.  Natural bridges are formed by erosion from moving water while arches are formed by other erosive forces such as the water – ice freeze cycle.

The Natural Bridges park encompasses White Canyon that is deep with near vertical walls. The stream meanders its way through the canyon and has created three large bridges.

One of them, Sipapu Bridge, is the second largest natural bridge in the world behind only Rainbow Bridge in Glen Canyon.  In the photo below, you can see the original loop of the stream and the wall that eroded away to create the bridge.


Mini Mesa Verde

Tue, Oct 4, 2016

Carol and I are camping in a quiet town in SE Utah and didn’t expect to see any local sites of interest. But it turns out there are cliff dwellings just a few minutes away. So TiVo and I went over for a look – and to give Carol some quiet time. There’s no hiding when you live in an Airstream 🙂

Little Westwater Ruin, aka Five Kiva Ruin, is an undeveloped ruin that is located in the Westwater Creek Canyon. Because it is easily accessed and wasn’t preserved, it became party town for the local kids and really shows the abuse.  Nonetheless, it was worth the trip.

The ruins were built by the Anasazi, ancestral Puebloan that were an ancient native american culture in the southwest US.  They are best known for the stone and earth dwellings they built along cliff walls, particularly during the Pueblo II and Pueblo III eras, from about 900 to 1350.  Mesa Verde National Park is perhaps the best known example.