A few days ago a Dodge van was cruising along a highway in Southern Utah, headed towards a long gravel road which eventually enters Capitol Reef National Park. Bev, two collies, and I were wending our circuitous way towards the east.
We knew little of the minor state black-top, just that it appeared to be a fairly direct route — but this being Utah, right near the Four Corners, who could predict what geological wonders might be revealed as the road unspooled before us?
The road entered a deep canyon which was identified on the map only as “Long Canyon”. This is a name which could only have been bestowed by a sun-dazed settler weary of rocky spectacle. The canyon walls progressively became weirder and weirder as we drove, looking like somnolent fantasies of a Victorian writer deep in an opium stupor.
A typical roadside scene, followed by a detail which made me question the basic underpinnings of our consensus reality:
The scenes were all a bit much to take in while driving along, so we pulled over and let the dogs out. I rambled across the road and happened across an intriguing shadowy cleft in the high sandstone cliff, evidently a box canyon of some sort:
What a marvelous spot! The light seeped into the canyon from a narrow crack far overhead, and the sandstone was stained with black streaks of “desert varnish”, a mineral deposit which probably took millions of years to form:
After a while Bev wandered into the cave and regarded the windless enclosure with wonder. Perhaps she will post some of her photos once she has returned to Canada!
Looking back at the entrance and an overexposed view of the cliff on the other side of the canyon:
We walked back out into the open again. This cliff was quite striking, I thought, the vertical black stains cross-hatching the horizontal strata of the sandstone:
One last shot of two plants representative of the site. The sprig on the left is from a shrub with holly-like leaves; I never did identify it. The plant on the left is a gall-infected branch from a sagebrush plant; how many trillions of sage shrubs eke out their meager living in the West? The sage galls were peculiar growths, soft as an over-ripe blueberry and coated with soft fuzz. I imagine the galls contain the larvae of some sort of wasp.
The road through Long Canyon was as impressive as many of the sites given National Park or National Monument status, but had the advantage and privilege of having few tourist visitors. I hate to sound elitist, but sites such as Arches National Park and the Grand Canyon are difficult for me to fully appreciate when swarms of people are gawking and clambering, sometimes even rudely or heedlessly stepping right in front of me just as I am about to shoot a photo!