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Monday, May 17, 2010

Day 36 Richfield, UT (Leg: 0, Trip: 2,417)

Today we visited Capitol Reef National Park. This area became a national park in 1971. We visited 6 other NPs already on this trip, so I thought we had seen every kind of rock formation relating to sandstone that there is. NOT! Seems God saved a few more for this park!

The rocks above are called the double rocks. They are huge and apparently just rolled there from above.

Capitol reef is not a reef like you would expect to see in the ocean. Instead, it was caused by the Pacific tectonic plate pushing up against the North American plate. If you enlarge the picture above, you can see how the land has been pushed up at an angle. This wall of rock that has been altered like this goes on for about 90 miles, the longest such "fold" in North America. These folds, or monoclines to use the technical term, are usually found at the boundary of the plates or also where faults are.

We took three hikes today. We started with a short 2/10 of a mile hike then did a 2/3 of a mile hike. Then after lunch did a grueling 2 mile hike in the heat.

For the first hike to the Goosnecks, we had to drive on a dirt road for about 3/4 of a mile. Then hike to an overlook of a deep canyon containing Sulphur Creek.

I tried to get a good picture showing the depth of the canyon, but my others didn't turn out and the one above is the best I have.

Our hike to Sunset Point was 2/3 of a mile and was really enjoyable. The rocks along the way look real pitted.

This pitting is caused by rain! A hard rain can over time weaken the surface minerals cementing the sand into sandstone and the result is this pitting. We also saw more weird formations.

The above formation looks like there was some kind of rock structure that collapsed. Actually these rocks just collapsed as the underlying rock eroded away.

This formation is called Castle Rock. There are three distinct layers to the formation, each of a different kind of rock. After the hike, we went to the visitor center and watched a movie on the park. While there isn't much water in the park, most of the activity here is caused by the water from flash floods eroding the stone over time (lots of time). Then we had a nice picnic lunch in an area called Fruita.

Fruita was settled by early Mormons and they planted orchards of apples, pears, peaches, and several varieties of nuts. These orchards are still producing and when in season, you can pick the fruit.

We continued on the 10 mile scenic drive down into the park.

We saw this interesting formation along the road. I have no idea what could have caused rock to form like this.

This formation looks like 4 heads stuck in the sand.

At the end of the scenic drive, you can continue on a dirt road for another few miles. At the end of that, there is the Capitol Gorge hiking trail which, of course, we took. It was now about 2:15 in the afternoon, right in the middle of the hottest part of the day. Fortunately we had plenty of liquids with us to drink as needed.

This hike went a total of 2.5 miles, but we didn't do the last 2/10 as it was climbing up rocks almost straight up. But the part we did do (about 2.1 miles) followed a deep narrow canyon.
The first stop on the hike is near some petroglyphs.

The second stop, about 7/10 of a mile in, is in a narrow part of the canyon (say maybe 15 feet across) where these pioneers had etched their names and dates onto the rock. The earliest I recall seeing was 1883.

As you continue walking, you come to rocks with deep holes in them. Erosion causes these holes too by attacking the weaker minerals in the sandstone.

When we finished this hike, we were both really bushed. We visited a few more overlooks and took pictures but were too tired to do any hikes.

It was 82 miles each way to & from the park and we arrived back in Richfield just after 7pm. Tomorrow we officially begin our journey home which will probably take 4 days.

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