<< Day 7: Salt Lake City To Moab | Day 9: Moab to Silverton >>
Our RV spot overlooks a large field in the back of a school. I was awakened at 6:13 this morning to a woman’s voice yelling, “Go, go, go, go, go!” She was up early for baseball practice with several youngsters. The loud encouraging noises persisted, so more sleep was not an option. We had to get up early this morning anyway, as we were to be picked up at 8:00 for a tour of Arches National Park.
Right on time, Matthew Driskell of Canyon View Tours arrived with our van.
I could not imagine a more perfect guide than Matthew—he was extremely knowledgeable, very patient, highly professional, and an all-around wonderful person.
On the way to Arches National Park (which was just a few miles down the road), we passed a restaurant on the hill.
The building was the former home of a prospector, Charlie Steen, who discovered uranium in Moab in 1952.
The Colorado River flows through a portal that bisects the Moab Rim. The Moab valley floor has a long faultline that runs through it, so one side of the rim is 1800 feet higher than the other.
The weather was sunny today, and not too hot. The rain is welcomed in Moab, which only gets about 9 inches of precipitation each year (most of that is snow).
Up on the hill, we could see some pilings from the uranium mines. The pilings are highly toxic and are currently being removed by train to a place 30 miles east, where the rock is supposedly impervious to seeping contaminants.
Each layer of rock that we could see revealed a different geographical time. The oldest strata of rock sits across from the visitor’s center at the Park. The layers show the ancient sea deposits.
The slick rock, which we loved so much on last night’s Hummer tour, represented an ancient desert.
The red in the rocks comes from iron oxide. The black substance on the rocks is manganese.
This is what I remember about how the Moab valley was formed: The land around Moab used to be covered by ocean seas. As the arctic glaciers melted and froze over thousands and thousands of years, this area was covered over by oceans 29 separate times. There eventually was a build-up of ocean salt that was one mile thick. As the surrounding mountains eroded, deposits of minerals, rocks and soil built up on top of the salt. The weight of these deposits squeezed the salt west until it reached a faultline. The salt, with the deposits on top, was then pushed upward into a long peak. Acidic water then entered through cracks in the deposits, eroding away the underlying salts. The long peak eventually collapsed into a valley.
Salt Valley, shown below, was formed in the same way—you can see the rock formation known as “Devil’s Garden” in the far distance:
The park provided a pictorial explanation of the process:
During the erosion process, over thousands of years, giant fins of rock were left standing.
Because of the salt, these fins would sometimes erode from the bottom, creating numerous arches throughout this area of land.
Driving up from the visitor’s center, we saw the rock formation known as “Three Penguins”.
This rock looked precariously balanced (and resembled the Egyptian queen Nefertiti):
We stopped for a short walk at “Park Avenue,” which was named because someone thought the view looked like the buildings along Park Avenue in New York. The “buildings” behind Genevieve’s head are giant fins.
Other rock formations also had “call it like you see it” names:
The Three Gossips:
The Organ (which was one of the Courthouse Towers and was very thin):
The Sheep Rock:
Balanced Rock (which seemed to morph into different shapes as we hiked around it and gained different perspectives):
Hand (or Glove) Rock:
The Mitten, on the left, with the tiny Hambone on the top right:
A better view of the Hambone:
The white rock mounds that we could see were formerly part of the largest desert ever known, four times the size of the Sahara Desert, which existed 200 million year ago.
The cross-stratification shown in the rocks was the result of winds blowing the sand in different direction over time.
Sebastian liked to point out the stripes in the rocks:
He was also excellent at spotting lizards. This one was camouflaged beautifully and blended into the rocks:
We took a short hike to the high overlook point for Delicate Arch.
This arch is the state symbol in Utah and is found on Utah license plates:
Genevieve and I hiked out ahead of the others. As we walked along, she held my hand (big sigh). She said, “I hike 10% to burn off calories, 30% to see the sights, and 60% to be with my mommy.” My heart did a little song and dance, and I held her hand tighter.
Just to give perspective, here is a photo of the rise upon which Delicate Arch sits. Looking at the small group of “pokies” sticking out of the rise, the Delicate Arch is the sixth protrusion from the right, dropped slightly lower than the others.
The green soil is volcanic ash from eruptions of the Sierra Nevada volcanoes in California thousands of years ago.
Matthew knew the name of every plant we saw. Here are some photos of the abundant plant life in the desert:
The evening primrose, which has white flowers that turn pink when pollinated:
Cheat grass, an invasive grass from China that fills in the spaces between desert plants and causes wildfires to spread:
Single leaf ash:
Loco weed, which detrimentally affects horses that eat it:
Pepperweed, which tastes like horseradish (Ben, Genevieve and Sebastian tested this out and found it to be true):
Dock (an unusual desert plant, with its broad leaves):
Piñon pine (which gave off a wonderful scent):
Mormon tea (a medicinal plant that has a bitter taste):
Yucca plant (the petals and leaves are edible, the tall spiky growth can be used to start a fire, other parts can make a needle and thread, the leaf fibers can make sandals and other things, and the roots make shampoo):
Whew! I never knew that the desert was so full of life! (And those were just SOME of the plants that we saw.)
We visited Wolfe Ranch, which was settled by John Wolfe and his son in the late 1800’s. Genevieve scoured the informational plaque for answers to the Jr. Ranger crossword puzzle.
John Wolfe’s daughter Flora, along with her husband and children, came to live with him in 1906. Flora was so appalled by the primitive living conditions that she insisted he build this cabin with wood floors. In 1910, they all moved back to Ohio.
Another handy tip that we got from Matthew: If you are ever lost in the wilderness and need water, look for animal tracks that come together to form one single track. If you are following a track and it breaks off into two or more tracks, then you are most likely heading away from the water.
More views of the beauty that surrounded us:
Here is the North Window:
We hiked up to the Double Arch. One of the arches is 112 feet high, the tallest arch in the Park. Here is the Double Arch from a distance:
And up close:
Genevieve and Sebastian searched for nooks and crannies to crawl into.
Another rock grouping nearby:
Sebastian showed us a flipping dance move:
One of the most important things that the children learned at the park was to stay on the marked trails; the catchy phrase for this was “Don’t bust the crust.” On top of the fragile desert soil is a layer of cryptobiotic crust that actually holds the soil in place and protects the plants.
When people walk on the surface of the crust, it breaks down, and the soil eventually blows away. Huge hummocks (hills of soil) have completely disappeared because people have walked on the crust and destroyed it.
Genevieve and Sebastian were fascinated by this ant that was carrying a large grass blade:
On the way out of the park, we passed by the Garden of Eden:
One last photo of the red rocks:
Genevieve and Sebastian worked very hard to find the answers to questions in their Jr. Ranger booklets. Back at the visitor’s center, Sebastian filled in the last bit of required information.
Ranger Stephanie checked their answers and quizzed them on various parts. She then swore the children in as official junior rangers, and presented them with their new badges. We were very proud.
Later in the afternoon, the children and Ben went to the pool, while I had some quiet time in the laundry room.
We had dinner at the Moab Brewery.
After dinner, we rode our bicycles along some terrific bike paths by a peaceful creek. The path had tunnels that went under a couple of streets:
At the end of the bike trail was a great park with a special area that had percussion instruments for children to play.
Ben helped Sebastian learn how to slide along on the hanging slider:
Then Sebastian practiced and practiced until he could jump up, grab the bar, and slide without any help:
We all had enjoyed a fantastic time in Moab. We will definitely return to this little piece of paradise.
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