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Grand Mesa Moab

19th June 2010

Spectacular Colorado National Monument, a Taster for the Grand Canyon

Panoramic View of Ute Canyon      (please use scroll bar)

Panorama from Artist's Point      (please use scroll bar)

Panorama from Monument Canyon View      (please use scroll bar)

Panorama from Grand View      (please use scroll bar)

Breakfast by Island Lake
    It was a glorious morning, as I sat by Island Lake eating my breakfast. In the water below my feet, I watched five Rainbow Trout scour the shore water looking for food. In the background there was the constant sound of fish breaching the surface for insects.
Palisade Vineyard
    Retrieving the water bottles from the nearby snow, I set off to descend to the Colorado valley. It took a good half hour to drop the 6000'. Rather than stick to the I70, I drove through the Palisade district. This area was close to the river and well irrigated. Palisade has established a foothold in the Colorado wine producing business.
    I continued through Palisade to Grand Junction, in order to get WiFi connectivity. The suburbs of Grand Junction were very lush; sprinkler systems were working overtime. Main Street, which I drove down, was very tasteful, an obvious tourist attraction. Once I'd done with WiFi, I headed up to the Colorado National Monument, where at the entrance the Ranger told me it was 92 degrees F. Phew, it felt it!
Devil's Kitchen
Juniper Tree
Pinion Pine
Wild Sage
    The Monument wasn't just scenery, it was a 23,000 acre, awe-inspiring testimonial to the sandstone artistry of Mother Nature. There was a 23 mile Rim Rock Drive, with over 50 miles of hiking trails. It preserved one of the grand landscapes of the American West. Bold, big and brilliantly coloured, this plateau-and-canyon country, with its towering masses of naturally sculpted rock, embraced 32 squared miles of rugged up-and-down terrain. This was a special place, where you could contemplate glorious views that stretched to distant horizons; where you could discover solitude in a deep remote canyon; where you could delight in country where desert bighorns roamed and golden eagles soared.
Red Canyon - note the Canyon within a Canyon
    The Colorado National Monument high-country rose over 2,000' above the Grand Valley of the Colorado River. Situated at the edge of the Uncompahgre Uplift, the park was also part of the greater Colorado Plateau, which also embraced geologic wonders like the Grand Canyon, Bryce Canyon, and Arches National Parks. It was a semi-desert land of pinion pines and Utah junipers, ravens and jays. Magnificent views from the highland trails and the Rim Rock Drive stretched from the colourful sheer-walled canyons and fascinating rock sculptures to the distant Colorado River valley, purple-gray Book Cliffs, and huge flat-topped Grand Mesa.
Coke Ovens
    In the park's deep canyons, where vertical cliff walls and great natural rock sculptures tower overhead, the grand scale of the scenery was overpowering. Nowhere was this more true than in Monument and Wedding Canyons, where the giant rock forms of Independence Monument, Pipe Organ, Kissing Couple, Sentinel Spire, and Praying Hands rose from the canyon floor like skyscrapers-in-stone.
Independence Monument
    "I came here last year and found these canyons, and they felt like the heart of the world to me", John Otto wrote in 1907. "I'm going to stay and promote this place, because it should be a national park". Some folks though John Otto was crazy. He lived alone out in the wild and desolate canyon country south-west of Grand Junction, and he loved the land so much that he campaigned tirelessly for it to be set aside as a national park. Urged by Otto, the citizens of Grand Junction deluged politicians in Washington, D.C., with letters and petitions in support of the proposal. Meanwhile, Otto built miles of tortuous trails through the proposed park area so others could appreciate its beauty. And he did it all without hope of any personal gain. But in 1911 Otto's dream came true; Colorado National Monument was established. Otto was rewarded by being named the park's caretaker, a job he gladly did until 1927 for $1 a month. Otto was the first person to scale Independence Monument, and place the American flag on top every Independence Day. It was in the shadow of this monument where he got married. However, that was a short lived affair, his wife stated how could anybody live with someone who thinks a cabin is an encumbrance? Otto left the area in 1933 for California, and never returned. He died in 1952.
    The Monument comprised six canyons: Columbus, Red, Ute (after an Indian Tribe who lived in the area), Monument, Wedding, and No Thoroughfare. At Cold Shivers Point, an accessible paved path lead to an impressive view into Columbus Canyon. Artist Point offered views of the Coke Ovens and other rock formations. At Grand View a trail led to an impressive view of Independence Monument, a spectacular free standing rock formation. Red Canyon was really two canyons. The most obvious was a broad U-shaped canyon with tall sandstone walls. Inside it a smaller V-shaped canyon was cut into the middle of the canyon floor. Water had begun to carve into the hard metamorphic bedrock, but his old, pressure-tested and tempered rock was wearing away much more slowly than the fragile sedimentary canyon walls. By the time the small canyon reached the depth of the larger one, all the sedimentary layers above it would probably have gone.
    After taking in all the marvelous sights, hiking some of the shorter trails, and bumping into the same family from Florida time and time again, I dropped into the Visitors Centre to find a campsite that had showers; I didn't want a third day unclean. Once established in a campsite, I showered, walked to an eating establishment nearby, ate, drank and returned a contented man.
    I heard a train passing by the campsite (for some reason a lot of campsites are near train tracks. The train sounded off that beautiful deep hoot characteristic of American trains, and the hooting carried on into the distance. However, the rumble of the wagons seemed to last for an eternity, and lulled me to sleep.
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Grand Mesa Moab

Uploaded from Starbucks, City Market, 1st Street, Grand Junction CO on 20/06/10 at 10:50

Last updated 20.6.2010