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Canyonlands National Park Mesa Verde

24th June 2010

A Chill out in Moab, plus a Trip back in Time at Dead Horse Point

Panorama From Dead Horse Point overlooking the Colorado River      (please use scroll bar)

    Chill out was the order of the day today. I strolled into town to the bank, which was not the normal efficient Wells Fargo bank I had been used to, but eventually I got served. Then it was off to a deli for some delicious soup. It was chicken with dumplings, with some vegetables included too, but it had a tangy taste, as if there were a lot of mustard and black pepper. Whatever the ingredients, it was truly delicious.
    After soup, I popped into Norm's, the barber, a huge guy who you wouldn't want to argue with. He was cutting the hair of an elderly gent, and they were talking about gauges, which I thought was wire gauges. After a while I twigged that it was something to do with guns, but I never worked it out. Both seemed avid hunters, and were talking about all the intracacies of guns, and a good place for purchasing was up in Crescent Junction. I heard you could buy a Winchester rifle up there for a mere $45,000. Norm seemed to favour hunting and shooting blue quail over pheasant. Perhaps he enjoyed eating them too. It was soon my turn, and Norm asked if I wanted it down to the skin. "No, just a number one, and straight across the back", I replied. He needed no further instruction, a No. 1 was universal. Norm quickly asked if I was retired. I am not sure how he deduced that, maybe only retired Brits visit Moab, or perhaps it was the colour of my hair. We got onto my trip, and then the heat. He smiled when he told me it was just 103 degrees today, just the start of the warm season as he called it. He said a lot of people from Florida came over to Moab, and in Florida they measured the heat by the amount of liquid accumulated in their clothes. In Utah it was dry heat, and if you found some shadow, it could be bearable. After the snip, I thanked Norm and wandered out a shade cooler. However, once outside on the street it was if I was standing behind a Jumbo engine while it was idling before take-off.
    A trip to the museum was a must. Here were palaeontological findings from the area, including some impressive dinosaur footprints. A geological display tried its best to cover the wealth of geology exposed in the region, quite well I thought. This went on to the uranium mining activities around Moab. A piano that played out tunes as the foot pedals were pumped was getting tough treatment from an annoying kid, who fortunately kept breaking it, which gave everyone respite from his untuneful pumping. Agricultural and Indian themes were displayed too, as well as a kitchen from the turn of the 19th century. What was also interesting was a video showing exerts from the many, many films made in the area; not just cowboys, but modern Indiana Jones epics too.
    I couldn't resist popping into an art gallery. There were varied styles of painting there. The owner, who I had a chat with, had done some beautiful collages based on petroglyphs in the area. I asked him when the peak season was, the fall was his answer, when a lot of Germans flood the area.
    The next part of my chill out was buying some more summer wear. I had brought mainly winter wear in anticipation of the cold north when I came over, knowing I would have to buy warm weather clothes later on. A few T-shirts kept me happy.
    Boredom was setting in, so I headed off to Dead Horse Point State Park, which was on the way out to Island in the Sky. At Dead Horse Point State Park hundreds of square miles of rock formations are visible representing nearly 300 million years of the earth's history. Deposition, uplift and erosion have worked together over the ages to shape this panoramic backdrop of canyon, river and mountains.
    Many of the rocks visible from Dead Horse Point were sedimentarily deposited in layers, one on top of another. These sediments were laid down in ancient oceans, wind-blown sand dunes, and in freshwater lakes, streams and floodplains. Some rocks were of igneous origin, formed from hot molten rock deep in the earth. Other rocks were metamorphic, having been changed from their original form by heat and pressure with the earth.
    As each layer of the sediment was buried and compressed under the weight of succeeding layers, it slowly turned into stone. Over the aeons deposition continued to accumulate into thousands of feet of solid rock.
    Eventually deposition ceased and erosion began revealing the story of an Earth long since past. Erosion could be viewed on a grand scale from Dead Horse Point. Here the Colorado River had gouged a gorgeous gorge out of thousands of feet of solid rock.
    Erosion is a continuous process of destruction and rebirth. Given several more million years, Dead Horse Point will wash, grain by grain, into the ocean, to be deposited again on some distant shoreline.
    From the source of the Colorado River, high up in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado, to its final destination is a journey of 14,000 vertical feet down in elevation, and 1,450 miles in length. Imagine how much sediment it must carry along on its way.
    Back to Dead Horse Point. Around the turn of the last century, wild mustangs roamed the mesa top around Dead Horse Point. Cowboys were always looking for ways to catch these sturdy, fleet-footed equines. One of the best ways they found to capture the clever beasts was to herd them into a trap such as a box canyon.
    Dead Horse Point was a custom made horse trap, like a box canyon only in reverse. With sheer cliffs straight down on all sides and only a narrow strip of land for access, it made a perfect place to keep horses. All the cowboys had to do was herd the horses across the neck and out onto the "point". They would then build a fence of pinyon and juniper branches across the neck and they had a natural corral. Here the cowboys could sort through the horse, choose the ones they wanted, and let the culls or "broomtails" go free.
    Legend tells that at one time a band of broomtails was accidentally left corralled on the waterless point. There the horses died of thirst within a view of the Colorado River. The 2000' to the river must have seemed like 2000 miles.
Potash Lagoons
    Leaving the overlook, I spotted on the layer 1000' feet down, huge blue lagoons. These were full of potash. There was a lot of potash buried below the surrounding mesa, and the technique for extracting it was to drill down to the potash layer, inject water under pressure, which would dissolve the potash salt, and then pump it out into lagoons for evaporation. When pumped out a blue dye was added which reacted with the sun's ultraviolet rays to speed up the drying process. Once dried, the potash would be scooped up 20 tons at a time by huge scrapers, and shipped for fertiliser manufacturing.
    Following a shower and laundry, I headed off across to the Moab Microbrewery. This was a popular place, whether if it was for the food or range of ales brewed on site, I don't know. The inside of the building had lovely murals on the walls depicting scenes from the locality: Arches, Canyonlands, pictographs and petroglyphs. Hanging from the walls and ceiling were items associated with activity based holidays around Moab: mountain bikes, canoes, raft etc etc. The Scorpion Pale Ale was scrumptious, as was the food. A nice ending to my stay in Moab.
    On reflection, I enjoyed all there was to offer around Moab, and I'd be leaving it with fond memories. I would have liked to explore the Maze area west of the Green River, but I knew before I crossed the Atlantic that this would probably not be possible. The area was very remote, and the only mode of access would be by a 4x4 drive vehicle. Maybe another time.
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Canyonlands National Park Mesa Verde

Uploaded from Canyonlands Campground, 555 South Main Street, Moab UT 84532 on 25/06/10 at 07:10

Last updated 25.6.2010