Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Post Mesa Verde race travel log

So the day after the 12 Hours of Mesa Verde, we did a little sight seeing. 

We drove past field and fields of alfalfa and pinto beans* plus a big Tertiary intrusive mountain range called Sleeping Ute Mountain that you can see in the distance in this photo.

*Nearby Dove Creek, Colorado is the self-proclaimed pinto bean capital of the world.

Our destination was Hovenweep National Monument.

Hovenweep was occupied by a Puebloan farming community of an estimated 150 people strong about 700 years ago.  A small spring provided water for the community, which build secure and weatherproof storage caches for their harvests to store for lean years.  They may have left due to extended drought, conflict, or depletion of resources.  The Zuni, Pueblo, and Hopi people are the descendants of the people who built and lived here.  Pretty awesome to walk around in this history.

This was one of my favorite structures.  I like the twist of the tower.  Archaeologists don't know why the builders built it this way.

As a bonus, there were some really nice outcrops of a very coarse sandstone and conglomerate unit. 

After a nice hike we headed toward Moab, pulling into town at about 4:30 PM.  The wind was picking up, so we decided rather than fight the wind on the drive north, we would pitch the tent and enjoy one more day away.  We pitched camp along the Colorado River, since our place was rented out.

But the wind was unrelenting.  It kicked the tent around so badly all night as to bend the tent poles!  Not much sleep for either of us that night.

Always the warriors, we packed it up the next day and headed to Price to check out some new singletrack Drew had heard about from Fuzzy, owner of Bicycle Works in Price.  Fuzzy pretty much built these trails with local help, and he did a very fine job.

Here is our approximate GPS track.  The town of Price is south of our track and Helper is northwest.  The network of lines and dots you can see are roads connecting the drill pads for the gas wells producing out of the Navajo or Ferron Sandstones.

Here is the link to the actual Google Map.

The singletrack was narrow, curvy, and moderately easy with options for fun go-arounds every now and then.  Pretty fun for an unexpected find and well worth the stop if you are traveling Highway 6.  But what I liked even more than riding the trails was the geology scene. Take a look at this awesome exposure of poorly sorted gravel.

It is always fun to try to figure out how the rocks or sediment formed, what age they are, and how they fit into the geologic history of the area.  It is even more fun when you get it right, and this time I did, mostly. ;-)  Most of the trail system is on the sandy gravel you see in the picture above.  This, it turns out, is a pediment surface formed from coalescing alluvial fans made of material shed off the nearby Book Cliffs. I was right about that part.  In the picture below, you can clearly see the contact between the younger gravel unit (QTpm = Quaternary- to Tertiary-aged pediment mantle) and the older shale (Kmbg = Cretaceous-aged Blue Gate Member of the Mancos Shale), which is a bluish gray shale and shaly siltstone deposited in the late Cretaceous seaway that stretched across the middle of the continent. (At first I thought it was Green River Formation, so I got that part wrong.)

The Book Cliffs are visible in the background of this picture. The Book Cliffs expose mostly younger Cretaceous rocks. This exposure was made possible by uplift of the San Rafael Swell to the south during the late Cretaceous or early Tertiary, which domed the crust up and allowed erosion to cut a sweet dendritic pattern into the soft sediments.  You can see the dendritic pattern on this clip of the Price 30'x60' geologic map.  The purple star marked TH is the parking area for the trails, and our approximate route on the trails is in red.  The gravel we rode on is the bright yellow polygons which are draped on top of the Blue Gate member represented by the medium green color. 

Here is another shot showing the contact but looking south.

And you can see how the singletrack weaves in and out of the junipers growing on the gravel here.

But there was also a nice stand of what I think were Colorado Pinon pine trees. Maybe one of you botanists out there can confirm that?

It was a good ride, but even though we were tired and had put in an honest effort, it wasn't...

... we still had to get home.  Got a coffee at a joint in downtown Price (nice little revitalization going downtown with an original JC Penneys that just turned 100 )

and pointed the weary Honda home.  It was good to sleep in our own bed after this adventure!


  1. Looks like fun. I will have to hit the trails near Price one of these days. I think Susan would like to hike around the Hovenweep ruins.

  2. Wow! Singletrack, archeology, geology, botany, camping, inclement weather- now this was an awesome post! As I read it, I thought (for about the umpteenth time), “I have got to stop in Price…” We visited Hovenweep last Spring BTW and loved it- what a great place.

    Yes, your tree is Colordao Pinon, P. edulis. I’m pretty certain it’s the only pinon anywhere near Price, and the consistent 2-needles-per fascicle is the identifier.

  3. Watcher, Thanks for the plant ID. This post only had half the science your posts usually do, but it took me a long time to do it. I seriously don't know how you do it!