M.I.A.

It’s been some time since we’ve been heard from.I suppose one goes to southern Utah or northern Arizona in order to not be found, so why bother with things like WiFi and cell phone.I can dig that.So, as the title indicates, we have been M.I.A. for some days.That is, Motorhoming In Arizona.

Some thoughts from the last few days:

Take an overripe tomato out of your fridge.Step on it.Set it on fire.Once the heat has sucked all the moisture out of the crispy pulp and flake of the tomato, stomp on it again.Congratulations.You’ve just recreated a scale model of southern Utah.

We’ve had quite a time making our way around the Grand Staircase/Escalante National Monument.It took us about two days and 50,000 feet of vertical displacement, but we made it to Mexican Hat, UT near the border with Arizona.On the 4th we left Bryce Canyon bound for Torrey, near the northern end of the Escalante. The ups and downs of this terrain, a jumble of sandstones and shales with the occasional volcanic remnant, rival the eastern Washington whatever-the-hell-that-was in terms of the topography.(Actually, you would do yourself a service by reading Jean’s comment from several days ago.She corrects my false assumption about how the landscape was formed.She even footnotes her stuff, whereas I just make mine up.Thanks for the info, Jean.)We enjoyed stunning scenery of a new breed of sandstone.Wait, wait.Don’t “X” out yet, this geology lecture will be S-H-O-R-T.

The sandstones we traveled through in these areas showed evidence of cross-bedding, a curious trait you will find if you were to cut a vertical slice out of a sand dune on the beach.Indicative of shifting winds and their effects on sand deposits, cross-bedding looks similar to a series of random brush strokes, perhaps that faux paint effect you tried out in your guest bathroom.Yes, we were driving through miles upon miles of petrified sand dunes, some of which were (when they were still sand rather than sandstone) up to 3000 ft tall.In comparison, the tallest sand dunes of the day are between 150 and 300 ft tall, some character said on one of the movies or tour buses, or something or other.Not sure if it’s true.Throughout the drive I pushed back the urge to sing “Kokomo” by the Beach Boys.It would have been embarrassingly anachronistic.After all, those guys are way older than these sand dunes.

End of geo-spat.See, that wasn’t too painful, was it?

So, we twisted and turned and became well-acquainted with our two lower gears until we arrived at the town of Torrey.We found a delightful oasis in which to park the RV, and the next morning had our brakes checked because we heard a curious sound toward the end of the day of driving.The RV park had a service center attached to it, so a gentleman by the name of “Biggie” checked out our brakes, and gave us a clean bill of health.Yes, I said that his name was “Biggie.”It’s not a typo.

On to Capitol Reef NP, where Barbara and I asked a ranger a series of questions (freshly confident from our recent geology lessons on DVD).By our questions, she realized we had no idea what we were talking about, and she sort of gave up on us.She walked us toward the raised relief model, then ran off to help someone else.We just don’t get it.The park is here mainly because of a formation called the Waterpocket Fold, a 100 mile “wrinkle” in the Earth’s crust.We tried to get our heads around it, but we couldn’t, and the questions we were asking didn’t seem to make much sense to the lady.So we greedily stamped our National Parks Service passports and ran away, counting coup on yet another national park.

The next few hours of driving were decent and swift, but about 30 miles south of Hanksville, UT on US-95, we began to hear scraping again.But it wasn’t our brakes.It was our jaws dragging along the ground as we looked out at an indescribable combination of landscapes that left us all agog.First more red sandstone cliffs, but more a vermillion color than before-some sections reminiscent of Zion, others of Arches.This terrain led us down to Lake Powell and the Colorado River, and upon climbing out of the canyon, we entered into another formation of petrified sand dunes called White Canyon.More cross-bedded sandstones, these rock had been effectively scoured by what we assume to be the White River, and in the process created canyons, gulleys, ravines, and washes that tickle the imagination (what you’re imagining, of course is you intrepidly exploring these things for days and days…with a helicopter resupply crew following your every move so you don’t die of heat exhaustion, dehydration, desert mania, scorpion stings, rattlesnake bites, javelina attacks, or simply, starvation).

So, we plodded through the Colorado River Valley and all of its subsequent canyons, and some hours later came to a sign: “CAUTION!10% Grade, Gravel with Switchbacks.”We had come upon some monstrosity called the “Moki Dugway.”I assume that this road, if I can call it that, was originally constructed, if I can call it that, for horses.However, between then and the invention of the combustion engine, no one thought to update it for vehicle traffic.I exaggerate, it was plenty wide for our coach to make the switchback turns, but not wide enough for two-way traffic.Fortunately, there was little two-way traffic at this time in the Utah desert.Surprise, surprise.I happened to be on shift for this leg of the journey, so I got to wiggle the Ranchette down the road while Earl and Barbara informed me when it was safe to traverse the next switchback.

After completing the climb down some 1000 feet of sheer, vertical cliff, Barbara exhaled, and we continued on to Mexican Hat, UT, so named because of the hoodoo bearing the appearance of a sombrero that is located nearby.Before we arrived in town for the evening, however, we made a stop to Goosenecks State Park.Earl has fond memories of flying over these formations in his Prescott days, and wanted to see them from the ground.The San Juan River once meandered through this countryside much like the Mississippi does in her own valley back East.When the Colorado Plateau uplifted, the San Juan began digging toward sea level, as rivers do, and so the river is now “entrenched” in its same course from 60 million some years ago.Logically, this kind of feature is called an “entrenched meander.”

While in Mexican Hat (population 40 or 42, they’re not sure) we indulged in three geology lectures and talked for about an hour about the mountain ridge that stood outside our west-facing window.It’s a stunning, vexing piece of rock that we’re all dying to find out about. (Christmas gift idea!!: Roadside Geology of Utah).

The next day we packed up and headed for Arizona, whose only destination on the itinerary is Canyon de Chelly in Chinle, AZ.Unlike several of the previous days, the drive itself was only about two hours.So, we explored the north and south rims of the canyon, and of course the Visitor Center to stamp our passports, then headed next door for the National Park Service’s campsite.The campsite itself was a charming jumble of boulders (delineating sites and roads) with huge cottonwood trees providing shade to almost every site.As dusk fell, wild dogs began to populate the campground.The monument and this campground, like anything within 50-100 miles, is on the Navajo Reservation.The Navajo Nation does not allow the penning of animals, so cows and sheep wander along roadways downtown, and in the case of this campground, dogs come to lay in the sun and chase one another through the tall grasses.After taking a walk, I heard barking and howling, followed by a higher pitched bark coming from our motorhome.Upon returning to the RV, it was confirmed that Earl was “communicating with nature” from the dinette table.It made for interesting after-dinner conversation.Then the intermittent rains came, and the campground became dreamlike.It’s great when your day ends on a note like that.

That brings us to today, Thursday, July 7.I’m exhausted, so I’ll leave that for tomorrow.

You may be wondering where all the recent pictures are.The last few internet connections were bunk.I barely got the blog posted.So, when I get home (3:00 tomorrow afternoon), I’ll re-introduce my trusty little laptop to a DSL connection.

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3 Responses to M.I.A.

  1. Jean says:

    Ted –We’re glad — and relieved — that you’re back on the air again. We hoped that it was Wi-Fi scarcity and not equipment failure that was keeping you from the blog.We’re anticipating further musings after you get home. Safe travel.

  2. Clark says:

    I’ve got an awesome geological cross section of Southern Utah in my classroom . . . will help Capitol Reef make more sense. I take it you drove Utah 12 from Escalante to Torrey? That would take you smack through the center of my old rangering territory.

  3. tsadtler says:

    Yes, Clark. We took 12 and 24 from Bryce to Hanksville, then I think we went south toward Chinle from there.

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