Mesa Verde National Park – Colorado

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Tuesday , July 4, 2017

Mesa Verde, offers a spectacular look into the lives of the Ancestral Pueblo people who made it their home for over 700 years, from AD 600 to 1300.  Today the park protects nearly 5,000 archeological sites, including 600 cliff dwellings.  These sites are some of the most notable and best preserved in the United States.  Spruce Tree House is the third largest cliff dwelling at the park.  In a community such as this you would find one hundred or so people calling this dwelling home.

After visiting the Visitor Center we drove for an hour climbing a mountain to see the remains of these dwellings from afar.  It was like riding your own personal roller coaster going around many turns.  You definitely need good tire tread and brakes for a trip like this.  At the top of this mountain was the Mesa Verde National Park Museum telling more of these communities, their hunting and basketmaker culture.  They also had a video explaining in more depth.  Then down the mountain we go for another hour.

We passed into Colorado early afternoon and shortly we began seeing irrigated farm fields and trees.  East of Mesa Verde National Park on Hwy. 160 I felt a comfort in the familiarity of greenery on hills and in valleys while a cloud in the sky is a normal part of scenery here.

 

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Canyonlands National Park – Island in the Sky

Sunday, July 2, 2017 (part 3)

Today we drove on top of a massive stone mountain to view the canyons below.  It was amazing being so high, similar to standing on the rim of the Grand Canyon and looking down, only down is where most people are living.

Monday, July 3, 2017

Deane and I have come to the conclusion that we have reach our saturation point on taking in national parks.  I guess it happens to everyone at some point.

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Arches National Park

Saturday, July 1, 2017 (part 2)

Arches National Park preserves over two thousand natural sandstone arches.  In some areas, faulting has exposed millions of years of geological history,  The extraordinary features of the park including balanced, rocks, fins and pinnacles, create a landscape of contrasting colors, landforms and textures.

Although this is a living park since these arches change over time through erosion. Most of the arches required walking trails.  I believe we saw three or four from the road.  Most trails were longer than we could handle in the high 90° heat.  The video “The Window” shown in the Visitor Center was interesting as it shared how these arches change over time.

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But the arch I enjoyed the most today (shown above) was one along Highway 191 east of Moab, Utah known as “Wilson Arch”.

Wilson Arch was named after Joe Wilson, a local pioneer who had a cabin nearby in Dry Valley.  This formation is known as Estrada sandstone.  Over time the superficial cracks, joints, and folds of these layers were saturated with water.  Ice formed in the fissures, melted under extreme desert heat, and winds cleaned out the loose particles.  A series of free standing fins remained.  Wind and water attacked these fins until, in some, the cementing material gave way and chunks of rock tumbled out.  Many damaged fins collapsed.  Others, with the right degree of hardness survived despite their missing middles like Wilson Arch. 

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Canyonlands National Park – Chesler Park, Needles

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Saturday, July 1, 2017 (part 1)

Canyonlands National Park was established in 1964 and preserves over 337,000 acres of a colorful landscape of sedimentary sandstones eroded into countless canyons, mesas and buttes by the Colorado River and its tributaries.  The Colorado and Green rivers divide the park into four districts:  The Island in the Sky, the Needles, the Maze and the rivers themselves.

This is a park is where you come to appreciate the multi-color mixtures in the rock.  It comes from the ocean water covering this area some thirty times over millions of years.  When the ocean flowed in it left sediment of sand to settle.  While the land was dry the mountains would settle the rust color sediment on the land.  This process left us with these results.  The park is full of walls and walls of this evidence, along with unusual shapes they call “Needles”.  They differ from hoodoos in that they are more narrow and pointed.

One rock is called “Wooden Shoe Arch” which has an window where the shoe base meets the heel on the bottom of a shoes.

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Capitol Reef National Park

IMG_2100.JPGCapitol Reef National Park

Friday, June 30, 2017

First Stop: Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument

This Visitor Center shared ways of life over generations and who and how they managed to survive in this difficult land with minimum water.  Nearly two million acres of southern Utah were designated Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument.  The Monument was named for its unique geological feature: The Chocolate, Vermilion, White, Gray, and Pink Cliffs, spanning five different life zones from Sonoran desert to coniferous forests; as well as the Escalante River and its canyons named for the Escalante Expedition of 1776, which passed through the area in search of an overland route from Santa Fe to California.

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Upon leaving our first stop of today we had two hours driving through the above land for scenic views and the wonder of this earth’s formation.  This land, managed by the Bureau of Land Management, is used  by cattleman for free range grazing.  I assumed fences were still in place until we went around a corner and a cow was trotting down the side of the road as though he was just off to run an errand.  I’ve never seen a cow trot before.  Not too long after that, a mother and her calf were crossing the middle of the road.  They were slow and she looked tired.  And in another ten miles or so we had a dozen or so cows walking in a single line by the side of the road I guess heading to another field.  They were so happy looking but I wasn’t about to get out of the car and introduce myself.

The beautifully colored mountains continued on in the park. It’s geologic feature is a wrinkle in the Earth’s crust, extending nearly 100 miles from Thousand Lake Mountain to Lake Powell.  It was created over time by three gradual, yet powerful processes—deposition, uplift, and erosion.  The result is a classic example of monocline, or one-sided fold, in the otherwise horizontal rock layers.

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Front Porch

Thursday, June 29, 2017

We spent the day enjoying our cabin’s front porch and the early day shade it provides to read.  Then off to dinner at a steak restaurant near Bryce Canyon’s entrance and picked up a few staples in groceries since the next few parks are rather remote and restaurants may be at a minimum.

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I was checking out at a restaurant and I happened to see this display:

The Book of Mormon in several languages available for the asking.

I think I must be in Utah.

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Bryce Canyon National Park – Day 3

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Hoodoos in Fairyland Canyon

Wednesday – June 28, 2017

Bryce Canyon’s magic is found in its colorful hoodoos.  These stone columns are carved by ice and rain.  For about 200 days a year, snow and ice will melt in the afternoon and freeze at night.  When the water freezes, it expands and pushes the rocks apart creating the different hoodoos and windows that can be found in the amphitheaters of the park.

Hoodoos are found all over the world.  Some large, some small, some short, some tall.  Each has a unique combination of rock and erosion that results in usual, otherworldly formation.

The above photo is just a sample of the many hoodoos in Bryce Canyon NP.  There are easily thousands and thousands if not more.  They stand as tall as many buildings found in New York City.

 

 

 

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