Saturday, June 5, 2010

Moab Utah the supermodel of landscapes?

Have you ever known "that person" that couldn't take a bad picture? Someone so photogenic that they could fall into a trash dump in the dark, get covered in mud, and still end up looking good? Well, when it comes to landscapes, Moab is "that place". I'm sure that there are loads of places that you could be blind with a finger over part of the camera lens and still fire off good looking pictures. I took so many pictures of the place while we were there, and aside from me being in some of the photos, many turned out really well. I mean it was really difficult to sort through and actually decide which shots were better than others. From a photography perspective, that's a pretty good problem to have.

From Moab Mountain Biking Trip

Postcard country anyone? The collection of professional and amateur photographers were lined up as the sun set on these amazing natural structures, and all were respectful to allow a quick shot and to get out of the way in order for the next guy to have a clear view. These arches, more than 2000 in the Arches National Park, are so striking and unusual that you simply must see it to believe it. Delicate Arch is probably the most photographed arch in the place, and even after seeing it on a zillion postcards, when we climbed up to the sandstone overlook, it was simply awe inspiring when it came to view. It is monstrously large, and we were able to shuffle down the steep sandstone bowl to get to it's base. The next shot is of me laying down under the arch to shoot upwards, and then there is one with Brenna and myself at it's base to give some perspective of size.

From Moab Mountain Biking Trip

From Moab Mountain Biking Trip

We look like ants under it. Strangely, Nathan (taking the picture) kept telling Brenna to stay put and for me to "back up another step". I wonder why when there was this big cliff back there? I'll ask him sometime... just kidding

The geology of the area is quite amazing. What produced all these arches, the massive sandstone cliffs, all the different types of sandstone, and why are these features where they are in relation to town? Well, it wasn't what I had expected. Initially, I assumed that all the area had been ocean floor at some point to create the sandstone (which it had, twice actually over the past 300 million years), and I thought that the Colorado river and the Green River had carved out the landscapes. Naturally the rivers did do some of the carving, but the really strange features were created more by what was left behind by the ancient oceans. Salt. Loads of salt. There was, and is, a massive quantity of salt under the whole area. Potash salt is a product mined from the area, and there are vast evaporation ponds out on one of the rides that cast a strange conflict of blue water against the desert cliffs surrounding the ponds.

When you put huge amounts of salt under tremendous pressure, it takes on a strange property. It behaves something like a semi-solid goo. It is able to squeeze around and shift. This shifting salt is what produced the Moab that we see in the movies today. Millions of years ago, the weight of the rock above a large deposit of salt eventually collapsed downward creating a depression in the middle, this in turn, squeezed the salt out to the sides and forced the sandstone cliffs upward nearly a thousand feet up on either side of the town. The rivers cut through the rising sandstone and the rain and wind eroded the soft rock over time leaving these amazing structures of arches and thin fins of rock that stand alone in the desert.

This is one of the potash evaporation ponds. They dye the water blue to speed the evaporation process and it looks really cool against the background.

From Moab Mountain Biking Trip

To show you an example of how much salt is in the area, look at the top of the rocks in the picture below.

From Moab Mountain Biking Trip

I noticed these rocks in a stream crossing out on the Amasa Back trail that I rode on my last ride in the area. That is salt dried on the tops of the rocks. I'm glad that I didn't run out of water because the creeks would have afforded me no relief apparently.

Thanks for humoring me on my poor attempt at a geology lesson. I only left out about a million things that happened over a couple hundred million years. Deserts like the Sahara producing sand dunes and other nifty geologic happenings that forced up the La Sal Mountain range you see behind the arch in the first picture. All that stuff fascinates me, but probably not everyone. I really will get around to writing about the bike rides and other adventures. This was just a piece of natural history that I thought was worthy of passing along to my throngs of avid readers... Now that I think about it, I hope I didn't lose too many readers by doing this post. It would stink not to be recognized as I walk down the streets anymore by my adoring fans.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Beautiful. You could sell your arch picture with the moon behind. Absolutely beautiful and professionally done, to boot.