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Published: October 2nd 2008
Tuesday September 30, 2008
Every student of geology needs to drive Utah route 261 - the ‘Trail of the Ancients’ And for the un-geologist this route offers spectacular scenery in rock mesa and river carved canyons. “No more rocks” you say? Yes, more rocks!
Goose Neck State Preserve northwest of Mexican Hat, Utah (pop: 40) has an overlook of the canyon carved by the San Juan River. This view appears in many geology textbooks. The river has cut a 300 metres (1,000 feet) canyon through many strata and curves in tight loops like a ribbon. Even in dry September green coloured water flows through this canyon from the San Juan mountains, 200 km (150 miles) away, on its way to the Colorado River.
Next on the class schedule is the 300 metre (1,000 foot) climb up the face of Cedar Mesa on a gravel road with tight switchbacks and one car at a time passing. Approaching this face there is no indication of how the road gets up. Utah Highway signs warn of how serious this road is, and Richard had concern. But by comparison to some gravel mountain hugging routes in BC it was a piece of
cake. Every switchback is a photo op of red and pink sandstone cliffs rising to the flat mesa top above and dropping to the desert below.
Next on the class schedule is Natural Bridges National Park, a canyon cut in Permian sandstone by the White River on its way to the Colorado River. There are three rock faces with river cut “holes”. Not just peek a boo holes, these are BIG holes arching over the trickle of a river. We declined to try the hiking trails 100 metres (350 feet) down to the river as the temperature was too hot.
Next on the class schedule is the Colorado River crossing above Lake Powell and Route 95 through canyons north towards Hanksville. The smooth pavement of Utah highways and virtually no traffic let us enjoy the red and pink walls and cliffs and motorhome sized boulders eroded from the cliffs lying right next to the pavement.
Next on the class schedule is the Red Rock campground in Hanksville, Utah (pop: 200). Tomorrow? More rocks.
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