Painted Desert

Painted Desert

Friday, June 10, 2011

Fat cacti

This is one of the birds that likes to sit and sing to itself in my side view mirrors. These birds--I think they are western kingbirds--also like to poop down the driver and passenger doors. Here, one, looking a bit smug, takes a break to perch on top of the mirror.

A picture of the housing area, where I share a two-bedroom apartment with one of my paleo teammates:
I came across this on one of my bike rides through the park...
The Green River appears to have reached such a high stage that it has flooded the campfire circle at which rangers give evening programs.

Last weekend I climbed Split Mountain, the prominent feature on the west end of the park where I am staying. This is a truly remarkable feature that must be seen in person, but it is approximately what it sounds like. The mountain has been cut down the center by a tremendous river gorge. Here is a satellite image from Google maps:

There are no trails up Split Mountain, but I chose to take a day to climb up the north side, 2000 steep feet to the summit. My hike was approximately three hours of agony followed by two hours of blissfully enjoying the amazing views and meadows of wildflowers at the top, followed by three hours of agony. (If you've never spent several hours hiking down a slope so steep it looks like the ground is simply dropping away beneath your feet, well, it's almost as difficult as spending several hours hiking up a slope that looks like it forms a vertical wall above you.)

Here is a view to the northwest from 1/3 the way up, the Uinta mountains in the far distance:
And a view into the Green River gorge from the summit:
A view to the south, where the river makes a bend before exiting the mountan/canyon:
And a lone rounded rock on a mountain of jagged rocks.
This cobble is probably a remnant of the sediment that allowed the mountain to be split in the first place. Split Mountain formed, intact, long ago and was buried beneath sediment shed by nearby mountains. Rivers crossed this sediment, one of them flowing over the buried mountain. As the river eroded the sediment away, it eventually ate down to the level of the mountain--but now it was trapped in its own ravine and had no choice but to keep course, beginning to cut through the much harder rock beneath it. Thus we end up with a river that cut through a mountain, when it looks much more efficient for the river to have simply flowed around it.

Wildflowers on Split Mountain:
A live hawk!
This is my hunting picture. I'm holding an elk antler, which was surprisingly heavy. These, like any other artifact or piece of nature, cannot be removed from the park--however, I have heard that people will enter national parks and poach antlers, which are sold to the aphrodisiac trade in the east.
More hiking around the park, this time as part of my job, revealed evidence of the very wet spring we're having:
The Green River has flooded its nearby fields. In the post office this morning two women were talking about how one wouldn't be going on vacation if the water keeps rising--her house is in danger.

Fat cacti!
Yesterday one of my teammates and I had our first day alone out in the field, ten hours of searching for trace fossils in sandstone. We didn't find anything we could confirm as a fossil. We did find traces of humans, like flakes of chert and petrified wood shaped by prehistoric tool makers...

And, up in a difficult-to-access area, a slot in the rock that had initials carved into it.
To finish, I have some pictures I took yesterday that are representative of how pretty the park is, such as the deep box canyons in the distance of this picture--dead ends that an early settler once used to store livestock in, simply erecting a fence across the entrance.
See you next week!


Mom said...

What a beautiful Park and fat cacti!

Great pictur of you, too. Nice smile.


MoM said...

I mean picture.

More Love,