Saturday, 26 February 2011

The American West Finale: The Grand Canyon

It is difficult to describe how such an awe inspiring landscape overwhelms one's senses when one reaches the canyon rim for the first time. Geologic and geomorphologic processes have created a dazzling erosional landscape, the components of which vary in size, colour and shape.  Deep in the recesses, hidden far below, is the Colorado River architect of much of what is to be seen. From the Park's East Entrance we arrived at Desert View, one of the foremost viewpoints of the canyon.

Fom the same viewpoint, far below and away to the right we could see the river glistening in the sunlight.

The view across the Canyon from the Bright Angle Trailhead.

Bright Angel Trailhead

We did not have very much time that afternoon but we determined to venture part way down the Bright Angel Trail as far as time would allow. Although we made fair progress, even the initial descent was very steep and we could see the trail snaking away far below on its way to Indian Garden.

Once below the rim the immensity of the landforms is absolutely staggering.

The pull to venture futher was tempting but we were aware that out quick descent would necessitate a rather longer ascent so we had to return to the rim, purchase an ice cream and sit awhile admiring the view.

Many of the landforms have their own names. In spite of having a map it was difficult to identify specific towers, buttes and mesas. Here is Isis Temple at over 7,000 ft towering over Phantom Creek just as the sun was setting.

Long dark shadows begin to fill the canyon and the rocks glow shades of red, orange and yellow as the sun sinks slowly in the west.

It would not be long before our fantastic trip to the American West would also have its final shadow fall upon it.

Sunday, 20 February 2011

The American West Part 12: Monument Valley

The area is part of the Colorado Plateau. The floor is largely siltstone or its sand deposited by the meandering rivers that carved the valley. The vivid red colour comes from iron oxide exposed in the weathered siltstone. The darker, blue-grey rocks in the valley get their colour from manganese oxide. Approaching from the north many of the famous landscape features reveal themselves.

West and East Mitten and Merrick Buttes at the start of the
Valley Drive.

Mitchell Mesa overlooks the Visitors Centre.

We arrived at the valley just before sunset.

Sentinel Mesa, Bear and Rabbit, King on his Throne and West Mitten Butte.

The view from John Ford’s Point at sunset.

Camel Butte with the shadows of the Three Sisters

The Three Sisters at sunset.

Where Forrest Gump stopped running.

After an overnight stop at Kayenta in Navajo country we continued south through the western edge of the Painted Desert.

As an avid reader of the Tony Hillerman series of books featuring the detectives Leaphorn and Chee I could not resist looking upon this as a scene from one of the stories.