on the Road: Spring has Sprung
Spring sprung over the weekend and as my column indicates "On the Road" means that I am off again enjoying the wonderful adventures.
One of my goals in 2004 is to travel to 10 national parks, of which I have targeted five new ones. The national parks have intrigued me for a long time but when I moved to Utah a couple years ago and discovered there were five here in my own back yard I decided to pursue my interests. I can now say that I have hiked through all five parks in Utah, venturing off to Bryce Canyon and Capital Reef over the weekend.
I have upcoming trips planned to Arizona and New Mexico the next couple months to further explore the beauty of the southwest.
This past weekend I feel I received a double bonus because a friend, Shawn Duffy, who serves as a ranger for the Mesa Verde National Park near Cortez but lives here in Carbon County accompanied me to these two national parks. Not every day does someone have the good fortune of his own personal ranger to hike through the splendor of areas like Bryce and Capital Reef. I have to admit that I know more about geology and archeology than I ever imagined. It was like being in a college geology class hour after hour. Although I retained some of what Shawn explained I am glad there wasn't a test at the end of the weekend.
Having explored Canyonlands, the San Rafael Swell, and Arches many times, I just assumed that Bryce Canyon was going to be much of the same. I had no idea the beauty and mystery the park offered.
As a photographer, the contrast between the green of the Douglas Fir trees, the white snow, the red and yellow rocks and the striking blue sky made for some of the most beautiful photographs I ever remember taking in a single day. It also helped that we were able to hike through the snow to the bottom of the canyon. Most of the folks on the trail were snow shoeing but we were able to walk safely through the hoodoos on the packed trail, although a couple times when I had to step off the trail to let other people pass by I found myself in waist-deep snow.
They refer to the columns as hoodoos, which are massive pillars of rock, most of which are fantastic shapes, left by erosion. As a hoodoo indicates, casting a spell, Bryce Canyon erosion forms an array of fantastic shapes they in deed cast spells on the visitors.
I am impressed that I remembered this, but my ranger friend told me that geologists say that 10 million years ago forces within the earth created the massive blocks known as the table cliffs, which now tower 2,000 feet above the layers. Ancient rivers carved the tops and exposed the edges of these blocks, removing some layers and sculpting formations in others, The Paria Valley was created and later widened between the plateaus. Looking directly to the east one can see the massive Grand Staircase in the Escalante National Monument.
Traveling home we drove over the Scenic Byway through some of the most diverse and ruggedly beautiful landscapes in all of Utah. I think the contrast from desert to mountains made the route more unique and interesting.
Capital Reef does resemble areas in the San Rafael Swell that I have hiked through, but as my friend describes its shape is the result of a giant, sinuous wrinkle in the earth's crust that stretches for more than 100 miles across southcentral Utah. This impressive buckling of rock was created by the same tremendous forces that later uplifted the Colorado Plateau.
He also explained that part of the incredible country is because its the coming together of the Great Basin, Rocky Mountains and Colorado Plateau.
It's a country of colorful cliffs, massive domes, soaring spires, stark monoliths, twisting canyons and graceful arches. But, it's more than the landscape, it's the home of the cactus, jays, lizards, jackrabbits, junipers, columbine and deer. It is a place where Indians hunted and farmed for more than a thousand years and later, where Mormon pioneers settled to raise their families. It is the inspiration for poets, artists and photographers who seek to create themselves in the solitude and splendor of its vastness.
Once again I have found another world that took me away from the job, the day-to-day obligations, commitments and stresses and brought me closer to the quietness and solitude that is important in my life.