Update from Escalante, UT

Greetings from Escalante, UT!!! The weather is beautiful, wish you were here!

Since my last update I traveled with the FHSU field camp to Dead Horse Point, UT and Arches, NP. Unfortunately the sky was pretty cloudy for those two stops, so the pictures were not as spectacular as I had hoped, and I opted out of the hike up to Delicate Arch. On Friday (I had to think about that – it’s pleasently hard to keep track of what day it is) we went to the potash mines just outside Moab. UT – wild salt stalactites and stalagmites just below the evaporation ponds – the operation is using solution mining and natural solar evaporation to derive salt and potash from the Paradox Formation. They didn’t get much evaporation done while we were there, though, as the skies opened up as we headed back to the vans – the western drought appears to be definitely broken. After the mines I parted ways with field camp. As they headed on to Cortez, CO and their next mapping project in Durango, CO I went back up the road to Dead Horse Point, but continued on to the Island in the Sky section of Canyonlands NP and, lo and behold, the weather began to clear up! Got some nice pictures of Upheaval Dome and Grand View (and of course, lots of others along the road on the way to these points – aah the joys of digital photography!). In the evening I drove back down to Arches NP just in time to get a spectaular evening light on the arches and rock pillars on the way to the Windows section. Finally I rounded out the evening with dinner at the Moab Brewpub down in town. A spectacular day.

Saturday morning I hoped to catch good light on the eastern exposures in Arches, but unfortunately it had clouded up overnight. I got just a few pictures then opted to head south toward Monument Valley. I found a hole in the clouds for picutes of the Goosenecks of the San Juan and the monocline near Mexican Hat, UT. By the time I got to Monument Valley, though, the weather had turned to rather dramatic thunderstorms. Some nice pictures with the clouds, but I’m not sure how good the classic Mittens pictures will look. Drove on to Canyon de Chelly NM and camped there. I made the mistake of trying to sleep “under the stars” without a tent and got drenched for my laziness.

Sunday awoke to clearing skies and nice views from both the north and south canyon rim drives at Canyon de Chelly. Departed about mid-afternoon for the north. Sadly disappointing to be happy to be off the Navajo reservation – lovely place and some nice people, but I was twice approached by panhandlers (“Kemosabe, can you spare a dollar?”) – a sad comment on the poverty that affects the area. Just north of Mexican Hat, UT (again) I mad a brief call home to say all was well. (Hope that message got through, as the connection was very weak.) Proceeded west up Cedar Mesa – now that’s some drive!!! Got a spectacular set of photos that I hope to stitch together (at a later date) into a spherical panorama from one of the hairpin turns! Had to hold the tripod and brace myself to keep from blowing over the edge during the occasional 30 mph gusts! Finally I camped at Hall’s Crossing on the east shore of Lake Powell.

Monday morning I was up early (and happy to shower again) in order to catch the 8:00am ferry to Bullfrog. Got there 15 minutes earlier than I needed to figuring I’d beat the rush and make sure I didn’t get bumped to the 10 am ferry. No worries – I ended up being the first in line and only two other vehicles made my ferry (one of them an NPS vehicle). Drove north into the Henry Mts. – nice pictures and two samples for petrology of the famed laccoliths. Drove onward to Hanksville, UT and thence westward toward Capitol Reef NP. Very disappointed that the Luna Mesa Cantina was not opened when I passed though Caineville. Don’t know if it was just too early in the day (about 11:30am) or whether they’ve gone out of business – the place was still there, but there was no sign of life. The afternoon was consumed with photos in and around Capitol Reef NP. Spectacular weather – not a cloud in the sky but still not overly hot. Lots of photos including a number that will later be stitched into spherical panoramas. Hard to leave, but I pried myself away. Drove over Boulder Mountain headed toward Escalante – had my dinner with a spectacular view of the Henry’s and Capitol Reef to the east. On reaching the summit area on Hwy 12 I pulled over to snap a few pictures and noticed a couple of “hikers” approaching the road up one of the dirt trails. Turns out they were no mere hikers, but geologists from the Utah Geological Survey – the elder of the two none other than Hellmut Doelling (author of the Geologic Map of Arches NP!). Their vehicle got stuck in one of the mudholes on the “roads” between the mountain and the Waterpocket Fold. Although I don’t really have any passenger room the way I’ve packed the Jeep, I made some room in the front seat and was able to enjoy a delightful and educational ride back down the mountain to Torrey, UT where Dr. Doelling got their other vehicle and continued the “rescue” mission. I “camped” at one of the viewpoints on Boulder Mtn. – spectacular solitude and a heaven full of stars!

And what a sunrise! More pictures on the way through Calf Creek/Escalante Canyon through the Navajo sandstone sea – now a centerpiece of Grand Staircase-Escalante NM. Had lunch (and internet) at Escalante Outfitters – headed for Bryce NP tonight and Zion NP tomorrow.

No time or connectioin speed to upload lots of photos (I downloaded over 1000 yesterday – about two days worth, with good weather), but I’ll try to add a few to supplement this post.

Hasta luego,
Ron

P.S. No luck uploading photos – connection here is just too slow. I’ll try again with my next posting.

P.P.S. Pictures (a few) added in Beaver, UT on Thursday (6/16) morning.

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