Saturday, October 27, 2007

The Colorado Plateau

I considered for awhile being very academic and and organized about this tour of this mystical land that I love. But that is not working for me and blogging is really about me. It is suppose to be an online journal that we share with friends. My friend list has gotten bigger than I even figured I wanted and judging from the jumps in visitor numbers with no comments placed bigger than even I imagine.

Given that the temptation is to write for the reader. There is tons out there about the Colorado Plateau that is written for the reader. Wikipedia does a fairly good job on the geology of the Colorado Plateau for those that wish to read in greater depth about the subject. The novice version is this: There was this huge inland sea that filled with sediment, dried up and formed sandstone, became a huge sea again, filled with sediment, dried up and formed sandstone, etc. Then when plate tectonics forced the Rocky Mountains up into the air the sandstone sea rose into the air as much as 7000 feet above sea level. Then wind and rain worked their magic.

Okay, the water seeps down through cracks, freeze and thaw action in the winter increases the cracks, springs work slowly through the summer. But when you look at the shapes it is almost as if some design was behind it all. I think it is magic. How do you get Double Arch at Arches National park just with random winds ad freezes and cracks. The green area on the right of the picture is an area of moss where water and shade have combined to create a mini Oasis for some insects and lizards. Erosion continues. Shapes shift but oh so slowly in the natural turn of events.

The Colorado Plateau is a high desert. It gets less than eight inches of rain a year. And because of the density of the sandstone, which is called slick rock, most of that runs of very quickly and forms the Colorado River. This mighty river by western standards cuts its way down through the sandstone layers as it winds south and west. It forms Glen Canyon now filled with the water of Lake Powell, then the Grand Canyon (which they tried to fill but only got part with Lake Mead). Phoenix, Arizona kills this river by taking all of it that is left in huge canals to turn the desert (Phoenix only gets 3 inches of rain a year) into green landscaping and 150 golf courses.

The plateau or table land (mesa in local lingo) to the left is part of Canyonlands National Park. So is Corona Arch below.

My sister, seen at the base of this arch, pushed me along the trail that clung to the edge of the canyon behind her. She charges on in life. I constantly look behind for escape routes. Getting down is often not as easy as getting up. And this arch and Bowtie below are in an undeveloped area of Canyonlands. Slip and fall and you could be here for weeks before someone notices the car down at the roadside pull off. But the views and the arches were well worth the risk and the hike in 90F degree heat.

The view of Mesa Arch below is included because it shows in the background the endless plateaus that stretch across this area of the Colorado Plateau.

All these photos are of locations in the Northern part of the Colorado Plateau near Moab, Utah. In fact we camped in a Moab RV park and toured from there for more than a week. A guide book had said we could see Arches in three hours and Canyonlands in two days. We left it without having seen it all.

The pictures cannot tell you of the magic you feel standing in the silence and beauty of this area. I, like the ancient peoples lived here and the Navajo, believe it is inhabited by spirits. Very friendly spirits but not fond of carelessness.

Several of these scenes you will recognize from paintings I have done and posted. They enchant me.

For those that might want to visit and get your own photos and experiences I suggest National Geographic's site.