Part 41:  Anticline Overlook, UT to Flagstaff, AZ


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The Trip

The night was cool and rainy on the mesas south of Moab, UT.  We woke to the patter of constant rain on the roof.  The resulting slick mud made breaking camp messy and the rain soaked our pants and coats.  We headed south toward Monticello, UT and from there across the Indian reservations toward Flagstaff, AZ.

The photos below are what we saw.

The low clouds had socked us in; we were in and out of the clouds as we made our way south off the Anticline Overlook mesa toward US-191.

Despite the overcast and rain, we decided to take the short detour to Newspaper Rock.  Newspaper Rock is one of the more richly decorated petroglyph areas in the west.

A number of the icons here are recent as evidenced by the sharp boundaries.  One of my favorite icons is in the upper left of the photo above; the fellow with the snakes coming out of his head.

The figures in the upper left are either shaman or extra-terrestrials depending on your personal belief system.

We slogged on through the rain until we got off the high portions of US-191 and descended the cliffs into Bluff, UT.  Bluff is situated on the San Juan river at the foot of a large set of sandstone cliffs.

On the west side of Bluff we encountered the first evidence of flash floods in the area.  Unbeknownst to us, a big portion of the west had suffered heavy rains and associated flooding.  In the slickrock country, flash floods are common.

The wall of cliffs near Bluff, UT were tall and impressive.

The road passed over an awesome hogback structure.  Our reference map for the area, AAA's "Indian Country", is the definitive source for information and showed that this hogback is flanked by 2 dirt trails, one east side, one west side.  Next time we are in this area we will travel both roads.

Continuing south we came to the northern border of Monument Valley.  The cloudy skies made lighting difficult for the cameras, but even at a long distance the monuments were imposing.

Houston, we have a problem.  Kathleen spotted this fellow from the highway and we took the dirt trail to check things out.  The license plate on the car says California, but we were guessing the fellow was a European tourist from his accent.  He was smart to not attempt to cross the wash, but did ask us to tow him across with Thor.  The water was swift and the mud on the edges of the water was thick, gooey and slippery as snot.  Thor would have likely been able to cross without incident, but towing him across would have flooded his vehicle with silt-laden mud.  We declined his  request and told him that he should just wait until the waters subside.

This photo gives a better perspective on the size of the creek.  Note the tire tracks in the lower right of the photo.  Towing him across would be a really, really bad idea.

While assessing the stranded motorist situation, I noted some small sand dunes near the wash.  When the sandstone in the area weathers, it turn back into sand resulting in dunes.  The pink colors were a nice compliment to the deeper colors of the rock still standing.

A bit further south toward Mexican Hat, we spotted a hoodoo that had recently failed.  We were in this area within the past 5 years and this structure was still intact.  The less weather-resistant underlying layers finally eroded and allowed the cap rock to fall.

Near Mexican Hat, there was a colorful monocline that clearly showed the effects of differential weathering of the rock strata.  The post-uplift weathering and erosion revealed a warped, multi-colored layer cake beneath.

Mexican Hat is the signature hoodoo in this area.  And, like the hoodoo shown several photos prior, it will collapse as well.  But, for now, it remains remarkable due to its small neck.

The highway had to cross the San Juan river and required a substantial bridge.

The San Juan river is the largest watercourse in the area and it has cut deep canyons into the multicolored sandstone.

In the Monument Valley area, most of the structures are sandstone.  But, there were several that were volcanic plugs.

Back-lit by the afternoon sun, the northern approach to Monument Valley was impressive.

Note the thin monuments in the far ridge.

Each of the larger monuments was flanked by smaller ones that had been spawned by cracks in the rock followed by weathering.

The monuments came in all sizes and shapes.

The harder cap rock underlayed by softer strata produce this type of structure.

Getting to the sun side of the valley produced truer colors in our photographs.

We stopped at Goulding's Trading post for a bio-break and got a nice panorama of the valley.

Next to the trading post was a demonstration hogan.  A hogan is the native word for an earthen dwelling made out of local clay-based mud and wood.  A dwelling is a requirement for this area; at 6,000 feet it gets PLENTY cold in the winter and the flat areas support high winds too.

A large portion of the reservation areas are "economically depressed".  The wooden structure in the foreground gives a hint as to the conditions here.

Even the minor monuments were a pleasure to see.

Further south, just north of Kayenta, we came upon this large volcanic plug visible from the road.

On the opposite side of the road was a "normal" sandstone hoodoo.

South of Kayenta and almost to Tuba City, we came upon this pair of hoodoos created out of white sandstone.

The rain continued off and on all afternoon.  Our route took us to US-89 and then south into Flagstaff, AZ.  Crossing the pass on the eastern flanks of the San Francisco Peaks, we got a nice view of a rainbow.

This was a long travel day by our standards.  The consistent rain and slick roads made driving a challenge.  The Monument Valley area is unique in terms of scenery and our schedule did not allow an extended stay.  But, we did get some classic views of the monuments from our passage on the highway.

We arrived into Flagstaff around sundown and were able to secure a spot in a local camping area.  We were able to eat in a restaurant since we were "in the big city".

Tomorrow, we continue south toward Tucson, AZ.

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