Monday, March 27, 2006

Canyonlands National Park

Green River Overlook, Canyonlands National Park. An overcast day produces an almost monochromatic image, emphasizing form over color. The "White Rim Sandstone" that caps the mesa below is harder and more resistant to erosion than both the sandstones above and below.

Monday, March 27, 2006

Checked out of the Silver Sage Motel at 11:00, talking with Ben and Brad (who works for Ben) about activities in the area. They both said I should visit the local wineries, and gave me directions to one nearby.

On the agenda today was a ride out to Canyonlands National Park, then I planned to work south toward Monument Valley. Filled up on gas and checked tire pressures. The front was about 7 pounds low.

Not much quieter in town now that the weekend was over. Went to The Jailhouse for breakfast. (The building actually did serve as the jail for a period of time.) The staff's t-shirts proclaim food "good enough for a last meal!" and the restaurant serves "the best Eggs Benedict" around.

Waited on a patio outside for a table to become available. Overhead, contrails created a hazy web, the air saturated with moisture.

Laughed when someone's cellphone rang. It sounded just like a telephone from the 50s or 60s (which actually had bells inside that were struck by a hammer, as opposed to an electronic ringer.)

Of course, I had to order the Eggs Benedict. And fresh orange juice! Over breakfast, I thought about how this has become an even more solitary journey in my own country. It's strange. I've had so little contact with other people of late.

Moab is a "young town" now, not what I'd call a "party town", but clearly youth-oriented. And it only serves to emphasize for me how sports- and competition-driven our society is. We work so hard in our leisure!

I can't help but think all this energy could be better used, doing something constructive for the nation, which needs help so desperately! (And I often examine and judge my own use of energy from this perspective.) How could we make such a proposition "fun" and attractive?

Then I realize it is far better they are doing this than sitting in front of a TV! It's great that so many people are pursuing healthy lifestyles.


Long ago, when I traveled this country on motorcycle, the thirty-mile ride out to the Green River Overlook in Canyonlands was quite an adventure. The roads were unpaved, and I was riding a street bike. Today, the main roads are paved and in perfect condition, which makes these amazing vistas accessible to all. Not a bad thing. It certainly doesn't detract from the experience.

At the Mesa Arch, Canyonlands National Park, Utah. (The artist is Marie Jenkins.)

View through the Mesa Arch

The dark patches in this photo are "crytogamic soil" (also called "cryptobiotic crust") , a very "delicate living community of lichens and cyanobacteria that plays a vital ecological role" according to the Canyonlands literature. Apparently, seeds that fall into this soil have a much better chance of germinating.

Despite efforts to educate visitors about the delicate nature of the landscape, some tourists feel the need to leave established trails. The cryptobiotic crust they destroy can take decades to recover.

It is useless to try to describe the views from Green River Overlook, or Grand View Point (or the Grand Canyon). Pictures may help convey the magnificence. But anyone who has stood at the edge of these cliffs and looked out at the panoramas has probably experienced the same thought: it looks artificial. Like a painted backdrop or diarama. You want to reach out and touch it, to see if it's real.

Underneath the "White Rim Sandstone", the "Organ Rock Sandstone" erodes more rapidly

View eastward from Grand View Point, Canyonlands National Park.

Something that's easier to relate to are the informational signs at various overlooks and at the Visitor's Center. The schematics of rock formations, landmark identification charts. Some signs teach us about the delicate "cryptobiotic crusts" (or "crytogamic soils") which are vital to preserving ecosystems on these mesas.

Another explains remarkable adaptations living organisms have made in order to survive here. (The Kangaroo rat never drinks and its kidneys are so effective, it urinates dry crystals!) Very slowly we are being re-educated to respect and cherish nature.

Far below the "Island in the Sky" mesa overlooks, I became aware of The White Rim Road, a 100-mile long "jeep road" open to park visitors. The highways are so tame now, I yearned for some challenge, but felt there wasn't enough time to make that journey. There was, however, an alternative route back to Moab via what's called the Shafer Trail (also used to access the White Rim Road.)

Shafer Trail descends the canyon face to the White Rim Mesa 1,000 below. I was initially apprehensive about "going over the edge", but as is often the case, telling myself that "many people have done this before" continues to be a reassuring argument.

Starting down the rocky trail, I was too busy avoiding the obstacles to pay much attention to the sheer drop off to my side. And thus preoccupied, in a fairly short time I was half way down, and much more at ease. In the shadows, melting snow banks created some muddy areas, but nothing very challenging. It could have been a different story, and impassable, a few weeks earlier.

On Shafer Trail Road

Shafer Trail Road. Moab is beyond the distant cliffs.

The thrill of being off-road again was energizing. There was nothing technical about this ride, but it reminded me that it's still possible to experience "adventure riding" in the United States.

Overlooking the "Gooseneck" on the Colorado River

Descending from the cliffs in the background, this is taken on the "White Rim Sandstone" mesa

Shafer Trail connects to Potash Road, which leads to the mining camp of Potash. From there, the road is paved as it runs along the banks of the Colorado River. This stretch of the river appears much less popular, yet just as beautiful as the "Scenic Byway" east of Moab. I even had the opportunity to see dinosaur footprints! I was very tempted to camp along the river tonight. (There were plenty of sites available in campgrounds out here.)

Percolating ponds for the recovery of potassium salts (potash)

Dinosaur footprints! They're about half again as large as my hand. (Who finds these things?)


Instead, I decided to go back to the Silver Sage Motel and spend another night in town. Went out to another popular restaurant this evening: Zax Pizza. Checking another item off the list, I tried the local Castle Creek 2005 Cabernet Sauvignon, which is actually produced by the Red Cliffs Lodge. Very good - surprisingly so!

Once again this evening, people were lined up at the restaurants! It must be wild here in summer.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...


Dicky Neely said...

Pretty! I think I saw this in a John Wayne movie.
3:45 PM
timtraveler said...

Funny you should mention it. There are many John Wayne photos and prints and paintings in shops and restaurants throughout this area.

Genevieve said...

There'd be no such urge for me, I assure you. I would never have got close enough to the edge to even take the photograph.