21 August 2009

Off to see the Tall Trees!

I've got a little time off, so I'm headed further west to enjoy some of the beauty and wonder of our National Parks for a few days!

Colorado River bend
Since I don't have any new stitching to share, I thought I'd share more pictures from my previous trips between Colorado and Arizona. In the past, I had taken the interstate from Flagstaff through Albuquerque, NM and north to Denver. It's about 800 miles. But the past couple trips, I've gone the back way, north through Kayenta, AZ; Moab, UT; Grand Junction, CO over the mountains into Denver & Boulder. This way is only about 650 miles, but it takes longer. In part because of the many distractions along the way! Coming home both times, I've cut south at Cisco and come into Moab from the east along the Colorado River. In June, it was easy to see why it is called the "Red" River! Both the water and the rock cliffs on each side are red!

Colorado River
In June, the tamarisk trees along the river were brilliantly green and just beginning to bloom. The tamarisk is a non-native tree brought in from elsewhere decades ago in order to help stop erosion. They are terribly invasive and have taken over all the river bottoms of the southwestern states and crowd out the native willows to the point that they are now hard to find in many areas. I've heard that they use tremendous amounts of water and that it is thought they contribute to the Colorado River never making it fully to the ocean. In Utah they have introduced a natural biologic element that kills off the tamarisk and then dies (hopefully!) without damaging any of the native fauna. By early August, the tamarisk all along this stretch of the river were looking rather anemic and many were already dying. Soon, the native willows will hopefully begin to make a return to the area!

Colorado River
The cliffs along the river can be quite dramatic. The black staining is called varnish and is formed of manganese leaching out to the surface over hundreds of years.

Arches Ntl Park
In June, I took a brief side trip into Arches National Park. One of these days, I need to make a trip specifically to enjoy the park. It's quite hot during the summer, so I'm thinking this would be a perfect early spring or mid to late fall trip! Throughout Arches, there are many variations in the landscape, from this stunning vista known as Wall Street,

Arches Elephant rock
To rock elements such as Elephant Rock!

Arches
In other places the red rocks shape themselves over the ages into magnificent arches, a double arch in this location. Sometimes it's hard to capture the scale of the landscape, so I waited for people to show in the foreground to help.

Arches Balanced Rock
Further along the road, Balanced Rock stands sentinal. Can you see the teensy people on the trail around the base? Off to the right of this picture, there are miles of "petrified" sand dunes. This was the furthest I made it into Arches... only about halfway. Definitely worth another trip!

Mexican Hat Rock
150 miles south of Moab, this rock stands by itself and gives the town of Mexican Hat its name!

Coming into Monument Valley
Nearing the Arizona Utah border, one enters Monument Valley. From a distance, the monoliths rise straight up off the desert floor. It is truly one of the wonders of the world.

Monument Valley Mitten
On this last trip, my sister and I drove a short ways down the senic road to see them from the base. The day we were there the road was crowded, dusty and choked with visitors from all over. The road itself is a terrible road, challenging to drive on even for my trusty tough little Subaru, but we saw cars of all types and sizes! The views from the valley bottom were just as stunning to see. Once again, this is a trip that warrents more time and is probably better suited to early spring or mid autumn when the temperatures are cooler, there are fewer people and we aren't so anxious to get home!

Monument Valley
Looking at the entrance to Monument Valley from the south is stunning as well as from the north.

Home in sight
From Monument Valley, the road home travels across the northern part of the Navaho Reservation. Black Mesa blocks the view south for nearly 100 miles. Near Tuba City, the vista opens up and the San Francisco Peaks can be seen on the horizon. Mt Humphries, the tallest of the San Francisco Peaks, is also the highest point in Arizona at 12,633 feet! Flagstaff sits at the base on the far side of the peaks. From here, it is 75 miles and an hour and a half drive to home.

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