Wednesday, May 15, 2013

My 2013 Canyonlands River Trip - Part II

On the 3rd day of our river trip in Stillwater Canyon, Canyonlands National Park, we traveled seven short miles and made an early camp at the foot of the Stovepipe Trail. This is a rough climb up to the top of the Cedar Mesa Sandstone, which only 12 miles upstream was not yet even exposed above the river. It turned out to be an exquisite hike!

At the foot of trail heading up about 10:30 AM. These lower limestones belong to the Elephant Canyon Formation.

After a very short but steep climb, we began to get a view of Stillwater Canyon. The slope and lower part of the cliff are in the Elephant Canyon Formation, with a cap rock of Cedar Mesa Sandstone.

Finally topping out on the lip of the Cedar Mesa Sandstone and into sandstone bliss! The river is not visible from here but the outer terraces of the Canyonlands are in their prime.

This was a great time of the year to see wildflowers. Here a claret cup cactus shows its vibrant colors.

For the first time in days, we were ambling on flat terrain. The goal was a window in the sandstone we were told about.

Turning a corner, there it was! A sandstone alcove with two perfect windows in its top.

Close-up of one wondow

The second window. As water drips into this hole, it trails down the under surface and leaves a streak of desert varnish on the ceiling.

Shadows cast from the windows above make it look like there are four windows in the recess. The alcove here was formed because the underlying shale (bottom sunlit strata) retarded the downward flow of groundwater, dissolving some of the cement in the sandstone above it. When this sandstone became exposed, the grains were weathered rapidly and formed an alcove. Meanwhile, an ephemeral stream above was chiseling down from the top and abraded two holes through the thin ceiling rocks. The result is a sandstone symphony!

A group shot. We spent the better part of an hour here just listening to the stillness and grandeur of a place seldom seen.

A final look

On the way back down, we spied an old cowboy camp on the ledge of Cedar Mesa Sandstone. Nearby, an old road was carved into the site. That is likely how these old beds got in here.

This is the view from the cowboy camp, with Ekker Butte in the distance

A view straight down 800 feet to our camp. The Green River and Stillwater Canyon are beautiful.

Happy daredevils in repose on the lip of the canyon

The afternoon light was wonderful. This was an unforgettable day.

To be continued.....

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