Friday, April 24, 2009

Varnish on Capitol Reef

Armed (or "footed") with a new pair of hiking shoes each, we set out to see and walk through more of Capitol Reef National Park.

A "just looking" stop at Capitol Reef Back Country Outfitters in Torrey, UT, was very productive. The one-person staff in the small store in an even smaller town was preparing for the rush of the summer crowd, and from among the array of boxes spread around the floor, we each found a pair of good hiking shoes.

Traveling down the lower portion of the 10-mile Scenic Drive in the Park, we found a few places to pull over to photograph scenes. Since there was very little traffic, we found it more to our liking to just stop on the two-lane paved road and shoot.

And there were many, many places in a short distance that caught our attention.

In the formation below, we were struck (figuratively) by the size of the pieces of rock that broke off when a giant slab broke away.

I believe this is Wingate Sandstone, which is better cemented causing it to erode as cliffs as compared to other layers in the Park that erode very gradually.

The black stripes on this eye-catching wall below is called desert varnish. Groundwater containing magnesium and iron oxide seeps out of the rocks and evaporates as it runs down the rock face. As the water evaporates, the magnesium and iron oxide are left behind, staining the rock.

As we walked around the floor of Capitol Reef, we saw cliffs towering over us and unusual formations around us. The sheer size of the formations was often the subject of the photos.

Other times the attraction was caused by sunlight highlighting one section of a larger panoramic view.

A hike down Capitol Gorge led us to several petroglyphs made by farmers of the Fremont culture before 1300 A.D. This was one example of the images appearing in the group.

Sometimes it was the trees, sometimes the grasses that played a feature role by adding a little texture to the flat surface of the massive rock formations.

Captiol Reef is a beautiful Park.

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