Exploring CNM- Monument Canyon

We are so fortunate to have a place like the Colorado National Monument in our own backyard!

Taking advantage of the rare 70 degree weather in March today … we grabbed the kids and hit the trail.

Parking at the bottom trailhead and shuttling to the top, we opted to hike one way from top to bottom – which, judging from the shuffle of little feet at the end, was a good choice.

From the upper trailhead, Monument Canyon trail descends over 1000 vertical ft in the first mile than meanders down the length of the canyon past sheer cliffs and sculptured monoliths.

At the bottom of the canyon we crunched across some of the oldest exposed rock on earth – precambrian gneiss and schist with ribbons of granite and crystals that sparkle in the sunshine.

While we didn’t see any wildlife beyond the occasional lizard and a variety of birds, we did see frequent animal signs such as scat and tracks left by deer, coyote and bighorn sheep.

A section of the rock face that is frequently used by climbers is currently closed to protect a nesting pair of golden eagles.  We thought we saw one circling overhead briefly.

We were on the trail about 4 hours including a break for lunch… another half hour to shuttle back up to the vehicle parked at the top.  Great way to spend the day!

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Sedona ROCKS ….

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.

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I really don’t know much about geology…. but I  did enjoy learning about the beauty of Sedona rocks!