Monday, December 1, 2014

"Not all those who wander are lost."

-- J.R.R. Tolkien

Stopped in Flagstaff, Arizona, this evening, several hours short of my planned destination -- why? Short response: I missed at least one turn and found myself following GPS navigator instructions along dirt roads winding through the oil rigs in Apache County.

Tomorrow, Coolidge.

Early morning photo taken from the B&B porch in Grand Junction before one last excellent breakfast prepared by co-proprietors Lee and Young-Ja Garrett.

Traveling west on I-70, I watched the titanic sandstone cliffs and snow-crested hills of the Grand Valley fade gently into -- the titanic sandstone cliffs and snow-crested mountains of Moab County in Utah.

This may be the La Sal Mountain Range.
 More wind- and water-carved sandstone
 Clearly different mineral colors -- though the hues in the photo do not match what I recall.

The shapes in the stone are also very different from Grand Valley, flowing and rounded almost like Gaudi's architecture -- or perhaps the other way around?

The impression that each of these outcrops gives is of a triumphant masterwork done in stone. Looks like the Artist spent a few millenia filling in all the details.

Another discovery unique to the Moab region prompted me to pull quickly off to the side of the road -- a fifty-plus foot high dune of red sand, its fate enthusiastically accelerated by a dozen or so gleeful young vacationers under the watchful eyes of their parents -- at least, of the parents who were not up on the dune themselves! 

Continuing south on US 191 after lunch at a small outpost of John Lennon's Revolution -- the Peace Tree Juice Cafe in Monticello -- I noticed a few businesses named "Four Corners", and decided on a short detour in the direction of that rectangular meeting of state jurisdictions overlaid on top of two Native American Nations. It seemed like an easy choice, and worth doing just to see the place again after half a century ....

Since the monument did not come up on the GPS list, I followed the road signs -- and felt certain that I had missed one when the road abruptly changed from pavement to dirt. Oops.

Ignoring the wisdom about retreating from a good hike that Laurie and I had shown on Saturday, I chose to continue southward using GPS directions to head towards Coolidge. Faithfully following those robotic orders and winding around oil derricks on one-lane dirt tracks cut in the desert sand (but ignoring turn directions onto tracks that had not been refreshed recently), I eventually found a paved road leading out of the oil field to US 160 -- with a sign pointing to Four Corners. Serendipity works!

Which left only the small concern of crossing half of the State of Arizona (see map) to get back on course toward Coolidge, with the sun setting in the West. Again, serendipity gave benediction to my wanderings, even though the General Prudential Rule (aka "Don't be stupid!") led me to take shelter in a Flagstaff motel for the evening after the most difficult driving I have done so far this trip.  The unexpected rewards were many more astonishing vistas, two of which I was able to photograph.

Strange as they appear, they are not "fx" -- only corrected for contrast.

 Though these mesas looked like mine tailings at first, the stone layers are more like the uplifted and eroded seabed that dominates the area -- so why the bright hue?  Beautiful and eerie in any case.

This Orthanc-like spire sent me into the second fast exit from traffic flow for the day. The center  appeared to be over thirty feet high -- possibly more, difficult to judge for lack of perspective.

All of the slabs were turned to near vertical positions.  What happened to disturb the ancient sea bed so dramatically?
 Even more strange -- the stone tower near the road had kin further in the distance, including one white giant barely visible in the photograph reminiscent in shape and color to the Matterhorn. I do not recall anything like these structures from my high school earth sciences class.

Experienced Arizona drivers will see in the photograph below not only an example of the magnificent sunsets still seen here on the high desert, but also highway driving conditions that made the two hundred-plus mile drive to Flagstaff both hard on the eyes and somewhat hazardous.

Beauty is like that sometimes -- and often pays small attention to the best-laid of plans.

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