It was about 9.00 am by the time we were ready to leave Torrey this morning, fill up with fuel, and get on the road to Moab, about 160 kms away in Western Utah.
We left Torrey by driving along the Fremont River and through the valley where the original Mormon Settlers had planted orchards in the location that is now called Frutopa. Along the road, we found their original school building – a tiny little building of one room. We also found a similar sized home where a married couple lived before they moved up the road to to Frutopa. They had thirteen children, so it is clear that this little one room cabin would not have been sufficient for their enormous family.
In the cliffs along the river were some petroglyphs (rock drawings). These ancient carvings were made in the rocks by Pueblo Indians thousands of years go.
The scenery along our route was very interesting, although the environment was essentially desert with large open range cattle ranches. We were intrigued by the buttes and mesas along the way. I always remember them as ‘little buttes’ and ‘big mesas’.
At one time, we decided we would deviate from the main highway to an attractive sounding little town named ‘Green River’. We planned to stop for a coffee. We soon decided that this was not a good idea when we saw that half the buildings in the town were derelict or boarded up. Previous large motels were in ruins, the government liquor store was boarded up and the only buildings doing well were the truck stops at the end of the town. I think, unfortunately, there are a lot of towns in America in a similar condition.
We reached the town of Moab for lunch and then headed back a few kilometres to the entrance of the Arches National Park. After going through the entrance gate, we drove up a high escarpment on a switchback road to a plateau full of amazing rock features. (Google Earth shows this area in amazing 3D and if you want to see where we were this afternoon, just log on to Google Earth and check out the views).
We spent all afternoon pottering along the road in the national park looking at the many features and rock outcrops. Like other parks we have visited in America, this one also has a superb road network and very informative signs at each point of interest.
At first, I thought that the features in the park were caused by erosion. In fact, the national park lies above an enormous underground evaporite layer or salt bed, which is the main cause of the formation of the arches, spires, balanced rocks, sandstone fins, and eroded monoliths in the area. This salt bed is thousands of feet thick in places and was deposited some 300 million years ago when a sea flowed into the region and eventually evaporated. Over millions of years, the salt bed was covered with debris and vast layers of sandstone were deposited. The weight of this cover caused the salt bed below it to liquefy and thrust up layers of rock into salt domes. Over time, water seeped into the surface cracks,and folds of these layers. Ice formed in the fissures, expanding and putting pressure on surrounding rock, breaking off bits and pieces. Winds later cleaned out the loose particles. A series of free-standing fins remained. Wind and water attacked these fins until, in some, the cementing material gave way and chunks of rock tumbled out. Many damaged fins collapsed. Others, with the right degree of hardness and balance, survived despite their missing sections. These became the famous arches. There are over 2000 of them in this National Park.
These are some of the views we saw this afternoon.
Our hotel doesn’t have a restaurant so we headed into town to the Moab Grill for dinner. The food was good and the staff were very friendly – especially because I had a nose bleed from the very dry area in this part of the world. They looked after me very well. We also had another new experience when we noticed a man at the adjoining table carrying a gun. I didn’t notice him at first until the restaurant owner pointed him out to me saying ‘I think this guy is trying to look cool’. I have no idea why one would wear a gun int a restaurant although Utah is an ‘Open Carry’ State and tit shouldn’t be unexpected.