Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Bryce Canyon - Still Magnificent

After Capitol Reef NP, we headed over here to Bryce Canyon NP. We'd been here before, in October of 2011, but knew we had to see it again.

Rather than bore you all over again with the details....Bryce is so unique, the photos tell the story themselves. Oh, these spires are called Hoo-Doos. For all of you geology buffs...we've put the explanation of their formation at the very bottom.

This is the highest viewpoint in the park. We were gasping for air!

Early one day, I took off on the Queen's Gate hike down to the bottom of the valley to be among the Hoo-Doos. These are from the bottom looking up.

So many contrails daily shooting across the sky. I remember so well looking out the window wondering, "What's down there?" ...and now we're "there". What a hoot.

Taken with my HTC 8X Windows phone. 

One of our days, we went on this Mossy Cave hike....somewhat easy...about 200 feet elevation gain but there was a great waterfall at the end.

While Kim took a breather, I climbed up and above the waterfall and posed for her.

In the 1890s, the settlers dug this channel to get water out of the mountains down to Tropic valley where they had crops. 14 miles long! Took them 2 years.

Kim's Sherpa getting water to put on our face and arms for cooling.

Shhhhhh.....The Master Photographer caught in action!

The view from underneath the waterfall.

Bryce is unlike any other place you've visited. It should be on your Must-See list.

Kim and Steve

Formational Process:
Hoodoos are formed by two weathering processes that continuously work together in eroding the edges of the Paunsaugunt Plateau. The primary weathering force at Bryce Canyon is frost wedging. Here we experience over 200 freeze/thaw cycles each year. In the winter, melting snow, in the form of water, seeps into the cracks and freezes at night. When water freezes it expands by almost 10%, bit by bit prying open cracks, making them ever wider in the same way a pothole forms in a paved road.
Four step formation process (Plateau-Fin-Window-Hoodoo)
In addition to frost wedging, what little rain we get here also sculpts the hoodoos. Even the crystal clear air of Bryce Canyon creates slightly acidic rainwater. This weak carbonic acid can slowly dissolve limestone grain by grain. It is this process that rounds the edges of hoodoos and gives them their lumpy and bulging profiles. Where internal mudstone and siltstone layers interrupt the limestone, you can expect the rock to be more resistant to the chemical weathering because of the comparative lack of limestone. Many of the more durable hoodoos are capped with a special kind of magnesium-rich limestone called dolomite. Dolomite, being fortified by the mineral magnesium, dissolves at a much slower rate, and consequently protects the weaker limestone underneath it in the same way a construction worker is protected by his/her hardhat.
Rain is also the chief source of erosion (the actual removal of the debris). In the summer, monsoon type rainstorms travel through the Bryce Canyon region bringing short duration high intensity rain.



Sunday, April 28, 2013

Battle of Vicksburg

Vicksburg Battlefield was not that appealing to me before we got there because I thought it was one big siege...not much to see here. Boy was I wrong.

BOTH Presidents, Lincoln and Jefferson Davis said the same thing: "Vicksburg is the nail head that holds the South's two halves together...Vicksburg is the key"

So, one day, I went off by myself to scope it out by just going to the Visitor's Center and looking around. After a 30 minute discussion with one of the rangers, I was hooked. The next day I grabbed Kim and off we went to tour the battlefield.

This is the park map. The green is the battlefield area. Vicksburg is the the far right along the Mississippi river.

Battle lines surrounding the city of Vicksburg. Blue is Union, Red line is the Confederate line of defense. Most of the tour takes place in this area.
As we travelled around we noticed many trees blocking our view of the Confederate positions. Turns out the park has a restoration project underwear to restore the park to it's 1863 appearance.

This is the view before restoration. Part I is the photo to the left and Part II is the photo on the right. The Union is to the left and the Confederates are to the right in both photos.

This is the view, after present day restoration, to show how it was during the battle/siege in 1863. Part III is to the left and Part IV is the photo to the right. Notice how very close they were to each other, right across this valley...for over 45 days.

It took some time to understand the different battle lines because all of the Confederate "forts" and fortifications and the trenches that were dug by the Union forces have been eroded flat.

These are the fortifications the Union forces faces when trying to capture them.

The blue marker is how far the Union troops got to the Confederate lines (where I'm standing taking the photo). They started waaaay down to the far right where that white speck is. Then, they tunneled up the slope on the left until they got to this spot.
You are standing at the location of one of the Confederate "forts" looking across the valley at the Union forces. The blue markers in front of you are how close the Union men came to taking this fort. Down that valley, then up into gun fire and cannon. After a few more of these assaults, Grant decided to starve them out.

Some of the cannons used by both sides. Notice how large they are compared to the vehicles.

A trench that has not completely eroded. The walls would've been totally vertical to avoid getting shot by snipers.

Confederates to the left on top of that rise and Union to the right. Again, down and up before engaging the South troops.

This is what the trenches looked like in 1863. These had to be dug by the troops.
View from the Confederate position. The Union got to where those two people are walking to the left before getting repulsed.

Vicksburg National Cemetery encompasses 117.85 acres and includes over 18,000 interments. Graves of Civil War soldiers total 17,077, of which 12,909 are unknown

Vicksburg National Cemetery is the largest internment of Civil War dead in the nation. It is the burial place for nearly 17,000 Union soldiers.

The Confederate troops are buried in the local cemetery which we also visited.

Approximately 5,000 Confederates have been re-interred here, of which 1,600 are identified.
The troops were buried according to the state they were from, Arkansas, Alabama, Mississippi, etc.

Of course there were over 1,300 monuments throughout the park....some small, some very large.

General Grant Monument

General Grant monument - close up.

Monument to the Union Navy who came to land to help man the cannons that shelled the Confederates and the city of Vicksburg.

The Missouri monument is unique as the only state memorial on the battlefield dedicated to soldiers of both armies. The height is symbolic of the forty-two Missouri units, 27 Union, 15 Confederate. It stands where two opposing Missouri regiments clashed in battle.

One thing that has not been mentioned are the trials the citizens of Vicksburg had to endure during the constant bombardment from the Union land troops and the naval vessels off shore on the Mississippi River. They usually lived in caves during the night and tried to go about their lives during the day.

A life-size model in the Visitor's Center of cave life for the citizens of Vicksburg.

The siege/Battle of Vicksburg finally ended on July 4th, 1863 when Confederate General Pemberton surrendered to General Grant because Pemberton's troops were either starving or diseased.

When President Lincoln heard of the victory he said, "The Father of Waters again goes unvexed to the sea."

Some great overview of the Vicksburg Campaign, its importance and Vicksburg history can be found here:

This was, as most battlefields are, very humbling. Amazing what both sides went through. Let's hope we never have another Civil War in this country.

A great stop....we recommend it.

Kim and Steve.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Capitol Reef National Park

 Capitol Reef NP is sometimes overlooked because Zion, Bryce and Arches get all the attention but it's the most unique of all of them for it has Waterpocket Fold geology.

The fold is difficult to describe but....instead of the earth shifting, like normal, the Pacific Plate from the west "folded" the earth so that the layers folded above the surface. Very unusual. See illustration below.

Capitol Reef encompasses the Waterpocket Fold, a warp in the earth's crust that is 65 million years old. It is the largest exposed monocline in North America. In this fold, newer and older layers of earth folded over each other in an S-shape. This warp, probably caused by the same colliding continental plates that created the Rocky Mountains, has weathered and eroded over millennia to expose layers of rock and fossils. The park is filled with brilliantly colored sandstone cliffs, gleaming white domes, and contrasting layers of stone and earth.
The area was named for a line of white domes and cliffs of Navajo Sandstone, each of which looks somewhat like the United States Capitol building, that run from the Fremont River to Pleasant Creek on the Waterpocket Fold.
The fold forms a north-to-south barrier that even today has barely been breached by roads. Early settlers referred to parallel, impassable ridges as "reefs", from which the park gets the second half of its name. The first paved road was constructed through the area in 1962. Today, State Route 24 cuts through the park traveling east and west between Canyonlands National Park and Bryce Canyon National Park, but few other paved roads invade the rugged landscape.

Terrific three-dimensional map of the entire 100+ Waterpocket Fold of the park in the Visitor's Center, which is right about where those ladies are looking. You are looking from the south.
The park is filled with canyons, cliffs, towers, domes, and arches. The Fremont River has cut canyons through parts of the Waterpocket Fold, but most of the park is arid desert country. A scenic drive shows park visitors some of the highlights, but it runs only a few miles from the main highway. Hundreds of miles of trails and unpaved roads lead the more adventurous into the equally scenic backcountry.

The Castle

View looking north from the Visitor's Center. You can see five geologic layers.

Here are the five layers most predominant in the park...from the bottom starting with Moenkopi, then Shinarump, Chinle (this is the greenish layer), Wingate Sandstone (this is the tall shiny walls), and Navajo Sandstone.

Moenkopi on the very bottom, then Chinle above it (the gray-green layer), then the dark brown Shinarump layer, then Wingate Sandstone at the very top. 
These whitish peaks are Navajo Sandstone. This is the layer above the Wingate Sandstone.

Check out this rock...what interesting patterns....never seen this before. The Ranger told us what caused it but I did not understand her explanation so I cannot pass it on.

You can see the tilt of the fold real well here...we're looking north along the fold.

Just some more fantastic rocks.

This "spider-like" web is gypsum.

Some marvelous colors on these rocks right next to the road. We had to stop and take pictures.

The holes are created by water that has seeped down from top, hit a non-permeable layer and went horizontal creating the holes.

Many, many hikes and drives in order to see the vastness of this park. If you have a jeep or 4-wheel drive you can see even more. One to two weeks would be great. 
We've posted lots more photos here if you are interested:

Thanks for viewing. 
Kim and Steve