The Colorado River has been a major feature in my life. For over half a century I have lived within the watershed of this river, worked and played along its banks and marveled at the many faces it reveals along the miles of its route.
In the course of adventures over the past two weeks I have been able to stand beside the Colorado River and see it at different stages of its life. In the high meadows of Rocky Mountain National Park, a youthful river splashed and gurgled as I stepped across it… while the torrent of water that roared beneath the bridge at the bottom of the Grand Canyon was powerful and determined.
It strikes me that gazing at an infant stream is much like staring at a star through a telescope… across light years of time. I know that the image is from the past… that the more aged version exists beyond my view… And time seems an arbitrary notion in this simultaneous reality.
Heady contemplation on the day I become officially old enough to retire.
Renowned for extraordinary geologic displays, the Colorado Plateau is an uplifted region of the southwest that contains some of my favorite places in the world to explore…. including Sedona, here on the southern edge.
Looking at the towering red sandstone cliffs I can’t help but wonder how these geologic layers compare to those I am familiar with at the Grand Canyon, Zion, or Colorado National Monument.
It wasn’t as easy as I expected to find displays of the geologic column here in Sedona. The best mini-geology-lesson I found for this area was the description in this Earthcache associated with a popular sunset vantage point on airport mesa.
As it turns out, most of the red walls here are composed of a locally significant iron-rich layer of rock called Schnebly Hill Sandstone which is topped with the cream-colored Coconino Sandstone and sits above the more easily eroded, quartz embedded, Hermit Shale.
To the north, the Mogollon Rim is the edge of the erosion-resistant top of the Colorado Plateau. The upper layer here consists of the same Kaibab Limestone formation that forms the capstone of monoliths at the Colorado National Monument. So, I discovered, it is the breaking off of the Kaibab capstone that allows the softer sandstones below to be carved into the elaborate sculptured rock formations and canyons that I find so captivating both here and at home.
I really don’t know much about geology…. but I did enjoy learning about the beauty of Sedona rocks!
Our first splurge of the trip was still a “less than half price” adventure. We could have taken the 15 minute helicopter flight over the major rock formations around Sedona for free, but decided to upgrade to the half hour tour of the canyons, mesas, and ancient dwellings along the rock walls in the backcountry nearby…. Soooo worth it.
We rose above the valley to gaze across the rock formations and see the snow-covered San Francisco Peaks in the distance…. carved our way through a maze of canyons, hovered alongside amazingly intact rock wall ruins inside alcoves high above the canyon floor, and even squeezed thru a “gun sight” notch between two canyon pour-offs. Breathtaking views on a clear, crisp Sedona morning.