It was a nice afternoon for a December day on the Paria Plateau, another more official name for the Sand Hills in extreme Northern Arizona near the Utah border. In this area is a very eclectic conglomeration of sandstone pillars, hoodoos, teepees, and domes with sometimes grotesque formations in the very colorful rock that is actually “world famous” and is a photographers dream.
Remote is one word that accurately describes it. If you ain’t got a high clearance 4×4, you better hire a guide to get you there. When you see signs stating “deep sand,” they mean it here.
This is an area where Anasazi eeked out a living a 1000+ years ago, then the more recent Navajos and Piutes, then Mormon pioneers/ranchers, and now modern day ranchers. Pottery shards abound, and a few broken arrowheads along with a couple corn cobs from long ago.
But the main attraction is the rock, and what an attraction it is. A veritable cornucopia of wild formations, colors, and swirls of rock .
First afternoon was spent at an area known as White Pockets. This is a very unusual area even to geologists and they still are not 100% sure how it all formed. Sugary white sandstone covers and intermingles with golds, reds, and some yellows that can be described as being formed by Dr. Suess who was chooming at the time. A short hike in deep sand puts you on the slickrock and from there you just wander around as much as you like for as long as you like. For the moment, there is no special fee or permit needed to visit, unlike other nearby areas. As I wrote earlier, you need a high clearance 4×4 and some knowledge/experience in driving on DEEP SAND. Fortunately, the Gloater has both, and is a bit crazy in the head. One Gloater rule of 4×4-ing” If at first you don’t succeed, back up and go faster.” It’s hard to get stuck in the sand when you are bouncing over it. New shocks are easier to do than digging out a truck.
The rock here was once like the Sahara desert, stretching from Wyoming into California, but there were seasonal ponds, oasis, and even a small lake or two here and there, that dinosaurs visited while moving through the erg. Somehow, the sand slid (earthquake or bolide strike) into a lake/pond, ripping up some sand that had already lithified and rolled it over and mixed with it, and bulldozed it out of the way, then being buried under water(or, it might have happened when everything was under water!). The overlying pressures then caused the wet sand to “flow” and mix even more, then eventually covered by more sediment then solidified into the rock we see now.
After a 200 yard trudge through deep, red sand, the slickrock was very welcome under the feet. Everywhere one looked was a sight to behold and demanded a picture to be taken.
There is no path to take, just walk around and enjoy the solitude and silence. No horns honking, no TV, no radio, no screaming kids. Just……..peaceful. And I had it all to myself, well, a friend too who decided to join me.
The scenery made one stop and appreciate it, not just photograph it. Not many eyes see this in person. Sure, you can find photos on the ‘Net, but it isn’t the same. The rock would make Dali proud.
The red sand, white rock, blue sky, and swirled colors was beautiful to behold. The dogs scared up a wabbit, but it got away.
Small, steep ridges were everywhere. You simply could not take a wrong direction. You had to just keep looking because something new was always around the corner. Even moving a few yards changed the view of something.
In the picture above, the lithified rock was turned over into a recumbent fold, while non-lithified rock filled in. To the left in the shade, the red rock was ripped from its location and forced up into a ridge.
There were signs of small earthquakes sprinkled throughout. These were easily seen in the rock because the layers were offset. No 6.5 quakes on the Richter Scale, but neat anyway.
In one area, there were very fragile fins of sand just sticking out. It didn’t take much to break them.
After a few hours, I realized I would have to make a pilgrimage back to this area as I didn’t have enough time to see it all. There’s just too much to see in an afternoon, and I didn’t want to drive back through the deep sand and various trails in the dark. The Gloater can be dumb, but not this dumb.
People are tied to the tube or computer, not seeing what the earth has to offer. Get away from that stuff for a bit. It’s good for you. Not only for the eyes, but the soul. Get out there and experience it. There’s a whole new world of refreshing scenery out there if you can force yourself to see it. You’ll be glad you did.
“I’ve never been lost. But I’ve been mighty confused for a few days.” Daniel Boone.
Part Two of the weekend jaunt will come later. Meanwhile, have a kiss…