Wednesday, September 25, 2013


After leaving Zion National Park I surely thought I wouldn’t be taking any more pictures of Utah’s rocks on this trip. Then we visited Goblin Valley State Park.


The official theory is that these sandstone structures are a result of many years of erosion. Maybe they look like hoodoos millions of years ago. But I have my own theory.


Here’s a picture of some real goblins. I think, just maybe, real goblins were turned to stone many years ago. I have no proof for my theory, but it seems obvious. And Wikipedia was no help on this one.


Anyway, Goblin Valley State Park has three valleys full of these formations. The park is about 50 miles from the nearest town in the middle of the San Rafael Desert.



I’m pretty sure this group of goblins was assigned to guard the entrance to a view point parking lot, maybe to keep the hobbits out, but again, that’s just a theory.




The stone goblins are a lot smaller than hoodoos (that’s neither a goblin nor a hoodoo in the blue shirt) but some geologists use the terms interchangeably.  I’m guessing those archeologists don’t adhere to my theory.




You may be able to see blowing dust in the distance in this picture. While we were at the park a cold front moved through a started up a small dust storm. The sand in this area is very fine, so it really coats everything including skin and hair and camera lenses. I understand now why Bedouins dress the way they do.

And now its time for a shower.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

The Other Zion

Have you ever wondered if the people who supported the establishment of Zion National Park in the early 1900s were known as Zionists? Sorry. That’s a thought that entered my mind when we drove into the park.

Oh, in a previous post I spelled Navajo as Navaho and my spell checker didn’t flag it. Maybe its an alternate spelling.

Anyway, driving through Zion National Park was interesting. As we entered the road that led to the park, we thought we saw a sign instructing drivers of large vehicles and RVs to stop and read some instructions. We noticed the instructions as we passed them, but I decided not to turn around to read the rules. When we got to the park entrance, the Ranger looked at our trailer and said we needed to pay a $15 fee to be escorted through the tunnel. So we paid.DSC_0173

The tunnel wasn’t too bad, especially since the Rangers have traffic alternating in a single direction through the tunnel so I was able to go right down the middle. Since the sides of the tunnel are about 12 inches below the top of the trailer, that was a good thing. This image is of a bus on the main road through the park. Our trailer is about the same width as the bus. While we drove this road I purposely refused to look in the right side view mirror to see how close to the rock wall we came. Later we saw that there were no scratches or dents on the trailer.


Zion National Park is another one of those places in Utah with breathtaking scenery. Huge peaks of sedimentary rocks in various shades running from almost pure white to dark red.


As in some of the other places we’ve visited in Utah, the rock formations were originally sand at the bottom of an inland sea and then shaped  by millions of years of erosion – in this park, erosion by the Virgin River.


And as in the other places we’ve visited in Utah, these photographs cannot impart the incredible scale and grandeur of these massive peaks and cliffs.













Monday, September 23, 2013

The Weather

I just thought I should write something about the weather we’ve experienced so far on this trip, and how lucky we’ve been, weather-wise. We’ve had a few showers, but they’ve been rare. We left eastern Colorado a few days before that area was flooded. We’ve had sunny, warm days in western Colorado and in Utah. We saw on the news last night that there were flash floods in Moab, Utah, and we’re about 80 miles from Moab. All we got out of that storm was a brief sprinkle.

Hopefully, the good luck will continue. We’re heading north and east tomorrow and a storm is predicted in the area we’re heading to for Wednesday, including some snow in the higher elevations.

We explored Zion National Park yesterday and we’re returning for a ranger-led tour tonight in parts not available to private vehicles. Look for more pictures of rocks.


Kodachrome, they give us those nice bright colors
Gives those greens of summers
They make you think that all the world's a sunny day

Well I've got a, a Nikon camera
I love to take photographs
So Mama don't take my Kodachrome away.

Sorry Paul Simon, but they did take your Kodachrome away. At least the film version. But there’s another Kodachrome. This one is a Utah state park. Well I’ve got a Nikon camera, and I love to take photographs, so I did.


Kodachrome Basin State Park is another one of those spectacular places in a state that has more beautiful landscapes than the Metropolitan Museum of Art. And by the way, when we were there, the sky was really this blue.


In 1949 a National Geographic team “discovered” the basin and named it for it’s spectacular colors. I’m sure the basin was discovered long before that, but I guess discoveries didn’t count back then unless they were made by white men.


The park has lots of neat geology, including this keyhole shaped arch that’s difficult to see because of the matching stone behind it.




Geologists think the landscape was once similar to Yellowstone National Park with hot springs and geysers, which eventually filled in with sediment and solidified.  Over millions of years sandstone surrounding the solidified geysers eroded, leaving 67 large sand pipes.



While walking a trail we came across this guy who tried to sell me car insurance. I told him that we’re quite happy with Allstate.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Hoodoo You Think You Are?

Well, I’ve run out of adjectives. We visited Bryce Canyon National Park today, and found it to be completely indescribable. The main features are the pink, salmon, cream, and orange hoodoos. I’ll paste in the definition and description from the National Park Service and stick in a bunch of my pictures.DSC_0082

“Hoodoos are tall skinny spires of rock that protrude from the bottom of arid basins and ‘broken’ lands. Hoodoos are most commonly found in the High Plateaus region of the Colorado Plateau and in DSC_0088the Badlands regions of the Northern Great Plains. While hoodoos are scattered throughout these areas, nowhere in the world are they as abundant as in the northern section of Bryce Canyon National Park. In common usage, the difference between Hoodoos and pinnacles or spires is that hoodoos have a variable thickness often described as having a "totem pole-shaped body." A spire, on the other hand, has a smoother profile or uniform thickness that tapers from the ground upward.

At Bryce Canyon, hoodoos range in size from that of an averageDSC_0103 human to heights exceeding a 10-story building. Formed in sedimentary rock, hoodoo shapes are affected by the erosional patterns of alternating hard and softer rock layers. The name given to the rock layer that forms hoodoos at Bryce Canyon is the Claron Formation. DSC_0104This layer has several rock types including siltstones and mudstones but is predominantly limestone. Thirty to 40 million years ago this rock was "born" in an ancient lake that covered much of Western Utah. Minerals deposited within different rock types cause hoodoos to have different colors throughout their height.”


Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Between Here and There

One of the big surprises we’ve experienced on this trip has been the incredible scenery BETWEEN our planned destinations, particularly in Utah.


State Highway 12 runs between Capitol Reef National Park and Bryce Canyon National Park, and according the the Utah travel website, it’s one of the most scenic highways in the country and was designated (I’m not sure by whom) America’s Highway in 2002.


Highway 12 (if you can call a two lane, narrow, winding road a highway) runs through Grand Staircase/Escalante National Monument, and here’s what Utah thinks about it.

“The Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, at 1.7 million acres, dominates any map of southern Utah. It is unique in that it is the first monument to be administered by the Bureau of Land Management, rather than the National Park Service.

DSC_0070The monument is a geologic sampler, with a huge variety of formations, features, and world-class paleontological sites. The Grand Staircase is a geological formation spanning eons of time and is a territory of multicolored cliffs, plateaus, mesas, buttes, pinnacles, and canyons.”


We generally don’t stop to take pictures when we’re pulling the trailer, but the BLM was kind enough to provide large parking areas at designated View Points, so we were able to stop.

As I’ve mentioned before, the landscape here is impossible to appreciate in a photograph. But this is another place where each time we went around a curve Penny and I each said “WOW.”

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

What Rocks!

Before setting out on this trip, Penny and I agreed that Utah has the most incredible rock formations in the country. That’s based on our first trip through southern Utah and Arches National Park and Canyonlands National Park.

Then driving through the southern Rockies in Colorado we thought that maybe Colorado’s rocks are pretty neat also. But now  returning to Utah—no contest.

DSC_0011 Our GPS wanted to take us to Capitol Reef National Park via the northern route, up to I-70, then west, then south again. I thought the southern route looked more interesting. This route took us through Glenwood Canyon National Recreation Area. This image is a portion of the Colorado River that winds through this section of the huge recreation area.

Then we entered Capitol Reef.


Awesome, magnificent, spectacular, amazing; none of these superlatives suffice. Created by an upthrust 65 million years ago, Capitol Reef is a 100 mile stretch of rock originally sand at the bottom of an inland sea.


Geologists call this formation a Waterpocket Fold. It consists of many layers of sedimentary rock formed over hundreds of millions of years from ancient seas, tidal flats and deserts.


The official Park brochure describes the geology as an “eroded jumble of colorful cliffs, massive domes, soaring spires, stark monoliths, twisting canyons and graceful arches.”


Although the Reef looks like an arid, desert landscape, the Fremont River has supported life here for thousands of years. Native Americans left petroglyphs as almost the only evidence of their habitation between 700 and 1250 AD, but little is known about these people of the Fremont Culture. Mormon pioneers and others populated the valley in the early 1800s.


The name Capitol Reef came about because early explorers thought the upthrust walls of rock resembled coral reefs, and some of the domes look like the dome of the US Capitol Building.

The immense beauty of this place is almost unphotographable, to quote an old song. But I tried, so I’ll end this entry with a few more images of this almost indescribable place.

















Sunday, September 15, 2013

Mesa Verde

Talk about a misconception! I’ve always thought Mesa Verde was misnamed. After all, cliff dwellings are in the desert and the desert isn’t green. Now that I’ve actually seen Mesa Verde National Park, I understand the name.


There’s a lot of green among the cliff dwellings, and I don’t mean the greenbacks Aramark rakes in from their overpriced concessions in the park (although the Navaho taco was quite tasty).

I should have realized that since the Anasazi were farmers,  they set up their villages near water.


The cliff dwellings are akin to modern-day apartment complexes, with multiple levels and lots of families living under one roof, er ledge. This is Cliff Palace, the park’s biggest cliff dwelling.



The park comprises 80 square miles and there are more than a dozen dwellings available to visitors. This one, called Spruce Tree House, is accessible from a steep 1/2 mile paved trail. Most of the other sites can be seen only with a guided tour and a fair amount of strenuous climbing. Needless to say Spruce Tree House is the only site we got close to.


Between 1150 and 1300, it is believed that thousands of people lived on Mesa Verde. The farming at Spruce Tree house was done on the plateau above the cliff, that’s known because examples of the ancient corn commonly farmed by these folks have been found there.


If you’re wondering how they got the harvested crops down to their homes, check out the sculpture in front of the visitor’s center. This depicts an Anasazi man descending the cliff with a big basket of corn on his back. I don’t think I would have lasted very long as an Anasazi farmer.

From here we’re on to Utah to see several national parks and maybe some state parks as well.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Wet Rocks

Just in case anyone is wondering if we’ve been affected by the rain and floods in Colorado, it is raining here in Durango…lots of rain in fact, but the floods and mudslides being reported on TV are on the eastern slope of the Rockies and Durango is on the western slope. A lot of the flooding and mudslides are right in the area where we were camped last week.  The locals here are saying they haven’t seen rain like this in a long time, but so far there has been no flooding.


Yesterday the sun was out, so we went back over the mountains on the scary road we took to Durango earlier this week. This two lane highway (US 550) goes over two 11,000 foot mountain passes, and has innumerable steep switchbacks in its 70 mile run from Ouray to Durango. The road was built in 1881 and was originally called the million dollar highway because it cost one-million dollars per mile to build.DSC_0479

The “highway was built when it became apparent that moving ore down the mountains on the backs of mules wasn’t very efficient.


About midway between Ouray and Durango is the tiny town of Silverton, nestled among the mountain peaks. Back in the late 1800s and early 1900s this town was an important mining community, especially after the railroad between it and Durango was constructed.


The town’s main street is the only paved street among the 6 or 7 streets I counted and it looks like nothing in the town was built after 1910 or so. Get rid of the modern cars and you could be in the 19th century. There isn’t a McDonalds or a Holiday Inn in sight.

DSC_0508This stretch of mountains is the heart of what used to be Colorado’s mining district and the highway runs right along an area where several mines used to exist. The last active mine here closed down in 1948 and there is currently a major reclamation project underway which is supposed to return the mountain to the way it looked before the mining began.


There are still remnants of the boom towns that grew among the mines. This one was probably associated with the mine that closed in 1948 because the building look more modern than something built in the late 1800s.


This is probably considered a ghost town, but there are others in these mountains that fit the stereotype a bit better.




The area is known as Red Mountain, probably because of the color of some of the stones that top the local peak.




Descending the mountains and coming into Durango we spotted this hot spring at the side of the road. We’re hundreds of miles from Yellowstone, but this serves as a reminder of how much volcanic activity is going on under the mountain west.

Earlier today, before the rain started we drove to Chimney Rocks National Monument, which is near the town of Pagosa Springs.


You can see in the picture why its called Chimney Rocks. Interestingly, although it’s a National Monument, they wouldn’t accept our Interagency Senior Pass (no problem at other National Monuments) and wanted $15 each to permit us to take a self guided tour of some archeological sections. We declined.

Tomorrow, weather permitting, we’re planning to visit Mesa Verde, which is the biggest Anasazi pueblo of them all. But the way it’s raining right now I wouldn’t be surprised if the dwellings were reduced to piles of mud.