Monday, December 22, 2008

Desert Rat or Mountain Climber

This has been a gray snowy week. The pass has over 5 feet of snow now sitting on the ground and the avalanche danger is high. So...I am posting an image from my most recent trip into the Canyonlands. I have had a number of friends over the years leave the mountains to become full time desert rats. I am moving that way myself. My youth was spent climbing all over Colorado, a little higher than John Denver campsite. The alpine tundra was the place to be. My graduate work was studying the glacial history of The Colorado Rockies.

Now, I crave the desert. I am enjoying my transition from mountaineer to desert rat.

The image above is looking east from deep in the canyons. The rock is the Cedar Mesa Sandstone...Permian in age. The red layers come from sediment sloughing off the Uncompaghre Uplift in Western Colorado, the white layers come from Sahara like sand dunes to the north. The mountains in the distance are the La Sal Mountains, a laccolith just outside of Moab and in the foreground is one of the six shooter peaks, a column of Wingate favorite formation in the canyons.

It's dumping up on the pass. I really need to go skiing

Hope everyone has a great Christmas.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

It's gone

Last weekend I was in Moab Utah and took a fun hike along the "primitive" trail in Arches NP. The trail passes by some of the worlds greatest rock spans. Landscape Arch, the longest span in the world looks like it could collapse at any moment, but it was Wall Arch that actually fell last summer. I walked up to a pile of rubble and looked around to see where it had fallen from...well...the arch is gone!

And as everyone knows: Geology Happens.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Green River field work

For this month's Accretionary Wedge: favorite places to do field work:
I will be the first to admit I don't do real field work. I usually even leave my Brunton at home (but I usually have my GPS) I have been involved in K-12 education as well as introductory college level teaching for almost 25 years. I love the teaching...I can do with out the administrivia. My favorite class I have been teaching is the Geology of the Green River by Canoe through the Colorado School of Mines. Its nothing more than a "teacher enhancement" course meaning that the credit is only good for re-certification of the state teacher license. That said...we do some fun science on the river. The first image shows the river coming around BowKnot Bend. This entrenched meander takes 7 river miles to go less than 1/2 mile of a straight line. For Earth Science teachers who have taught river meanders, oxbow lakes and simple river mechanics in a classroom, the real thing helps them immensely in the next school year.

This image is Anvil or Inkwell or Dellenbaugh Butte. The natives called it the first two names but Major Powell changed all that. What a fantastic example of advance and retreat of seas through out the Summerville Formation. It is an especially great teaching tool when you can see how silty the river is and then examine the grain size of the easily climbed strata. last year I had a student climb to the top for a sample. he was disappointed when I explained the top most sandstone cap is actually a member of the Morrison. Oh well, you can't fault his effort.

As anyone who has read any of my posts knows that my favorite Canyonlands formation is the Wingate with it's cap, the Kayenta. It is a great example of windblown to marine-ish environments. The desert varnish is awesome and the cross bedding is plain to see. Again, many classroom teachers have taught the principle, but this gets it in their face.

This view come near the end of the class. You can clearly see how the Wingate creates pillars when the cap rock is taken away. Underneath the Wingate is the Chinle formation and we have fun exploring some of the Uranium mines in the area. The BLM has just recently closed most of them so we really just loiter outside looking for petrified wood and seeing how the miners did their thing back in the 1950's.

This is the entrance to the Hey Joe Uranium mine. The entrance is closed now, but a few years ago it was open for all river rats to explore a cool (literally) mine with walls littered with petrified wood.

It is a great experience to be able to take teachers down through this stretch of the Green River and explore the walls of the canyons as we float along in the August heat!

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

2 months in

We are 2 months into the new water year and things are looking OK on Red Mountain Pass, the closest snotel site to my favorite play areas. We are just a little below average right now but the best is yet to come. That storm last weekend really helped put moisture on the ground.

I'll keep you posted.