Please note: I have had a few emails asking about the Acoma Pueblo diary's posting. It was posted on Thursday, as promised, but there was a lot of other stuff going on that day, something about March to Madness tournaments. Anyway the Acoma diary slipped through the Recent Diary list. No worries. That, and all the other myriad diaries I've posted are preserved in the main list. So, for those of you who think I forgot about Acoma (and who really can forget about this exceptional Puebloan village high atop the mesa?). . .I may repost it next week, if the oracles of the site so allow, or you can read it at this URL: http://www.dailykos.com/...
Prologue: Today, and throughout the weekend, the virtual tour presentations will lead off with a special 3-pack Utah State Park series, starting with this diary's title on a very unique landscape of singular goblin-shaped formations. Kodachrome Basin will be presented tomorrow, Saturday, and Coral Pink Sand Dunes will cap the trinity, on Sunday. The ideal thing about visiting State Parks is they are generally not as crowded as national parks or monuments. Besides, visitor entry fees add money to the state's coffers that is used for genuinely good purposes, starting with the preservation of nature and natural features. I trust those who follow along on today's tours aren't afraid of goblins and such. I mean, the imagination can sometimes do funny things to one's mind, especially here in this locale with some of the strangest honed rock features anywhere on the planet. Welcome to the tour, folks! Trust me when I say here is one outing where it's impossible to get lost. You'll soon see why.
Location/Geography: In south-central Utah, Emery County, in the Wild Horse Butte between Green River and Hanksville. Desert terrain. Lowest point (elevation) 5,098 feet. Area: about 5 square miles.
Spotlight: Spooky looking landscape. Goblin-shaped sandstone hoodoos and pedestals.
Snapshot: Goblin Valley SP lies at the edge of the San Rafael Desert, with no town of any significance anywhere nearby. Its dimensions are about 1 mile across and 2-miles-long. The setting is confined to a valley formed by a seasonal, and usually shallow, wash (Red Canyon). This indeed is a bizarre and captivating landscape of continual change; an outback setting where imaginations are encouraged to run free. The valley is also a virtual playground decorated by an array of hoodoos. Here is also a strange and wondrous locale where water, wind and time have worked in concert to create a fascinating landscape that haunts and delights. In this predominantly arid and desert terrain a variety of goblin-shaped sandstone figures stand ready to delight visitors. To help protect the setting from vandalism, the State of Utah designated Goblin Valley a state park in 1964.
Guided Tour Essentials: Combined, there are thousands of hoodoos, balanced rocks, spires and pedestals scattered throughout Goblin Valley. The isolation of the setting brings more than its fair share of solitude. On average, these 3-foot high (.9 m) mushroom-shaped rock pinnacles are caused by an erosion-resistant layer of rock on top of an erosional sandstone formation. As a unique backdrop, some movie producers find this whimsical state of goblins an ideal outdoor set for filming. For instance, a sci-fi sort of Star Trek comedy movie was partially made here mainly due to the unearthly scenery. Can you guess what the name was? See below for the answer.
Geology: The unusual shapes in Goblin Valley result from a weathering process of Entrada Sandstone (a principal formation in the San Rafael Group). The formations have large orange-brown boulders of rock placed on top of weaker sandy layers, which have thus eroded more quickly (the process of differential erosion). The Entrada sediment was deposited during the Jurassic period of the Mesozoic Era (180 to 140 million years ago). The main environments accounting for this sandstone include tidal mudflats, beaches and sand dunes. The shapely hoodoos consist of debris eroded from former highlands and redeposited on a former tidal flat of alternating layers of sandstone, siltstone and shale.
FYI: A hoodoo, also known as a tent rock, fairy chimney, and earth pyramid, is a tall, thin spire of rock that protrudes from the bottom of an arid drainage basin or badland. Hoodoos can range from 5-150 feet tall and typically consist of relatively soft rock topped by harder, less easily eroded stone that protects each column from the elements (i.e., a process called "differential erosion"). They generally form within sedimentary rock and volcanic rock formations.
The rock structures here in the park show evidence that the site was near an ancient sea with a regular tidal ebb and flow. Resulting tidal channels directed these currents back to the sea and helped create the coastal sand dunes. Later, joint or fracture patterns created initial zones of weakness in the Entrada Sandstone beds. The unweathered joints then intersected to form sharp edges and corners with greater surface-area-to-volume ratios compared to the rock faces. As a result, the edges weathered more quickly, producing the spherical-shaped goblins.
Human History: As depicted from scores of pictograph and petroglyph panels, evidence of Native American cultures, including the Fremont, Southern Paiute and Ute tribes, is common. Goblin Valley was later discovered by cowboys searching for lost cattle. Apparently, the cattle enjoyed playing hide and seek here. Doubtless, the cowboys just wanted to gather the strays and get back to the main herd. It’s usually quite hot here.
Flora And Fauna: Vegetation is limited to supporting hardy desert species capable of enduring the blowing sand and hot, dry surface conditions. Plants have adapted by reducing the size of their leaves to limit evaporation, while others coat their leaves with a waxy substance, helping reduce water loss. Mormon/Navajo tea (from the genus joint fir), Russian thistle (also known as tumbleweeds when dried and wind-blown across the terrain), Indian ricegrass and various cacti abound. Juniper and piñon pine stands grow at slightly higher elevations. Wildlife in search of water must travel many miles to find such rare standing sources. During the hotter months, most mammals and reptiles are nocturnal. Coyotes, jackrabbits, pronghorn antelope and kit foxes represent the majority of wildlife. The presence of crawling insects, snakes and reptiles are almost a given. Each finds plenty to sustain its existence. It’s a desert, remember?
For those who aren't afraid of the dark. . .seeing the figures at night should be even more telling! Then again, it's much cooler hiking at night in desert terrain.
Hiking: From the parking area, follow any of the obvious routes down into the swarm of waiting goblins. From there, you can get lost on your own since it will be easy to find your way back to where you started. That’s a promise. There is also a bonus hike worth taking, which is located 7 miles from the state park. This is Little Wild Horse Canyon which combines with Bell Canyon (both close to the San Rafael Swell territory). Arguably, this 8-mile loop trail combination is considered one of the most scenic hikes in the region. Guaranteed! Hikers can enjoy one or both canyon hikes, depending on how much time they have, by following the sign near Goblin Valley, pointing the other way to Wild Horse Mesa and Muddy Creek. From here, turn right on the dirt road and follow it for 5.3 miles, then hike and enjoy two of the prettiest and easiest slot canyons in Utah.
Can you view or 'fit' yourself in this picture, do you think?
Directions: From Green River, travel west on I-70 for 12 miles to Exit 147 (Hanksville), then head south. After about 30 miles turn right at the Temple Mountain/Goblin Valley Junction. Head west for about 5 miles, then left (south) and continue to the park entrance.
Incidentally, do you recognize the backdrop for this movie, Galaxy Quest?
Contact Information: Goblin Valley State Park, P. O. Box 637, Green River UT 84525-0637. Phone: 435-275.4584. No Fax. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
And so, DKos community, we come to the end of another trail, another armchair tour. There will be other scenic places to tour and more supplemental topics to read and think about, so stay tuned for a continuation in this series. See you then and there!
As always, your thoughtful commentaries are welcomed.
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