Way back in April 2011, my long lost undergrad friend Judy and her boyfriend Brian stayed with us in Salt Lake on their tour West. That was when she put the bug in my bonnet to go on what you will see over the next bunch of posts was one of the most amazing trips of my life.
From June 4 through June 10, 2012, Kata McCarville, Judy's friend and fellow geologist, was going to be leading a trip for the Association for Women Geoscientists plus students, alumni, and friends of Upper Iowa University down the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon. You better believe I signed up for that! (I tried to get Drew to go, but the prospect of a week of women espousing the glories of geology scared him, and he was likely not to be able to get a week off in June).
So on June 3, I set out to drive to the Lee's Ferry meeting location.
On the way, I had an extra hour, so I stopped at a place I have wanted to visit for at least 10 years: Utah's Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park.
The dunes are active, but their source rock is the coral-pink-colored sandstone bedrock of the Navajo Formation.
The main attraction of the park is to drive off-highway vehicles over the dunes, but I found an area OHVs are not allowed to tear up and just hiked around. I saw some cool tracks of some kind
And large clumps of yucca
But it was really fun to just goof around and stretch the legs on my 6.5 hour drive.
Back on the road, I headed past Kanab, Utah, and Fredonia, Arizona, where I turned east on Arizona State Highway 89A. For 40 miles on the northern side of the Arizona Strip, Hwy 89A parallels the Vermillion Cliffs, the second "step" in the Grand Staircase of the Colorado Plateau.
In the picture above, the Vermillion Cliffs are seen from the highway where it zig zags down the slope made by the East Kaibab Monocline. An impressive view!
Geo note: Geologic formations making up the cliffs are, from top to bottom, Jurassic Navajo Formation, Triassic Kayenta, Moenave, Wingate, Chinle, Shinarump Cong., and Moenkopi Fm.
I finally arrived at the designated meeting place at Cliff Dwellers Lodge near Marble Canyon around 6:30 p.m. in time to meet up with Judy and Brian and meet the rest of the trip participants. To my surprise, there were only two other geologists besides Judy and me. The rest of the gang was an interesting hodgepodge of friends of trip leader Kata, alumni or faculty of Upper Iowa University, and friends or relatives any of those. We had a few beers with our introductions and prepared for our adventure.