Monday, October 24, 2011

Fall Trip to Southeast Utah

I've been out of computer range for the past two weeks but am now back up and running. This past weekend I traveled to a remote place in Southeast Utah where the fall colors were in full glory and we poked around a few great and familiar places.

From our camp, we had a view to the south down into Comb Wash, named after the obvious geologic feature on the left, Comb Ridge. This feature is one of the Colorado Plateau's famous monoclines, a flexure in previously flat-lying strata. This structure was formed during the Laramide Orogeny about 60 million years ago but when the rocks in this view were folded, they were still many thousands of feet in the subsurface. More recent erosion has exposed this view. The cliff-former on the left is the Wingate Sandstone and the valley trailing aware from the camera is cut into soft formations like the Chinle, Moenkopi, and Organ Rock. If the geology doesn't interest you, note the colorful cottonwood trees in the valley floor.

Turning 180 degrees from the photo above reveals a view of the Comb Ridge monocline towards the north. Here you can easily see the flex of the strata, which from left to right are the Cedar Mesa Sandstone (light colored sandstone in upper left), the Organ Rock and Moenkopi formations (directly above and far behind the flat sandstone slab in the center), a very thin ledge of the Shinarump Conglomerate (barely visible), and the Chinle Formation in the upper right.

This is Tower House ruin located near Comb Wash. We hiked to here from camp on our first day in the field. It is a well-preserved ruin that was built atop some interesting deposits. Look just below the obvious window and you'll note a slightly cemented conglomerate. We saw this deposit filling other alcoves nearby. My interpretation was that this wash was dammed by a landslide and that rocky debris accumulated within the alcoves behind a natural reservoir. When the landslide was breached, the streams in this area began to scour out the deposit but remnants were left in the alcoves.

A granary near Tower House ruin. The many ruins that date from the Pueblo II and Pueblo III periods (about 950 to 1300 AD) utilize alcoves for shelter and sun aspect. Passive solar heating (winter) and shade (summer) was well-known to these people.

A petroglyph on the wall at Tower House Ruin. By chipping off the slightly darkened and varnished surface on the outside of the rock, a lighter image can be seen.

On day two we drove to the north and explored an area known as Whiskers Draw, where aspens were growing on the valley floor.

Hiking on slickrock is a favorite past time of mine and here we are angling up to view  more surprises.

A view of an old dwelling that dates from about 1250 AD.

Here is an iside view of the old dwelling with roof beams and latillas.

Hand prints were also evident, both positive (above) and negative (below)

A small ruin perched on ledge near famous Cave 7

A view from the other side of the same house

This is the Cave 7 site. It was here in 1893 that Richard Weatherill came to the understanding that a previous group (before the Puebloans) had lived in these caves. The name of these earlier peoples would become the Basketmakers.

Group shot taken near Comb Ridge with the Abajo Mountains in the background. Left to right Bill Leibfried, John Shortridge, Don Webster, Chuck LaRue, John Grahame, George Abbott, and Wayne Ranney. There are not many things better than having friends like these to go exploring with. And that deserves an exclamation point!