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Geometry Has Consequences

Although the percentage is small, some visitors to southwestern Utah must get a kick out of the shapes, lines, and geometry of this part of North America. As I do. In fact my eyeballs and brain positively feed on the geometry.  My favorite picnic table at a trailhead.  It should be offered by Merriam-Webster as a visual definition of 'autochthonous.'  I hope whatever ranger is responsible for this makes District Ranger someday.   For instance, your eye can extend the line of a sedimentary layer from one mesa to a nearby mesa, and visualize the land in between the two mesas as eroding away over the eons. But when you do this, it doesn't quite seem as though the tops of the two mesas have the same altitude. But why should they? Sedimentary layers are uplifted -- tilted -- out of their original horizontal condition at the bottom of a sea. It becomes a game to visualize the formation of this topography as being formed from differential erosion of rock layers that might appear t

Finally...Something Got Better!

Last episode I wrote about revisiting a place that used to be a good place. Although disappointment and anger are to be expected in situations like this, a person has to be careful about complaining to newbies. Otherwise a guy will sound like a grumpy old man. And besides, it is depressing to newbies to be told how crappy things are today. So -- without any facetiousness -- I am going to shock the reader. We had a nice mountain bike descent down an ATV trail, into a hard-bottomed and wide canyon. The surface was packed by the machine traffic -- in olden times the surface was so loose I could barely ride it. We had the canyon to ourselves -- there was nobody else there. The geology was as interesting as ever. When it dawned on me that I was actually benefiting from the heavy traffic -- and of the worst kind -- I felt so relieved that I wanted to sigh out loud. It is so nice not to be on the losing end of societal changes. Sometimes I remind myself not to let changes get me down. But t

Cross Another Place 'Off the List'

In the America of the past, old people probably envied the young, and for good reasons. Look at the advantages of the young:  More years to live.  Likely to have a higher standard of living.  Healthy and good looking. As a post-World War II baby boomer, my generation might be the first generation of Americans not to envy the young. But as I travel around southwestern Utah, another angle pops up: the young simply don't know what they have lost. Just look at this place! The hectic traffic, the price of housing, the difficulty of parking, the crowdedness of recreation on public lands, and fees and rules on everything. I actually remember when it wasn't like that! I am not saying the young should slash their wrists. There are still plenty of chances to enjoy a good life, after making the right decisions. But one more wonderful place is no longer wonderful. I was so lucky to experience it while it was still good. As for the young, they should be grateful they have no real basis of

Near Disaster from Traction Control?

Mother Nature almost played a trick on me on a steep, gravel, mountain road. Actually it was my own fault. Anybody who has bought a newer car after owning an ancient car needs to learn where the button is that will turn off the Traction Control System.  I knew where the magic button was, but it is easy to forget about such things when a sudden situation develops on the road, and it has never been a habit to hit that button. My van is new enough that it still has the wimpy mommie-mobile tires from the factory. So I was worried about slipping as the mountain road became much steeper.  Then my mighty 6.0 liter Vortec V8 seemed to lose half its power. Was the van (and trailer) going to just stop on that hill?! How would I ever get it started again after it came to a stop? The good news is that the slippage wasn't too bad. In a way, the Traction Control System was doing its job well: it was backing off the throttle in order to reduce the wheel slippage. And perhaps it was applying the

Developing Latent Pleasure

The third weekend of October presents a challenge to a Utah camper who dislikes bullets flying over his head, crowds, generators, and motor-sports yahoos.) And yet, we made it work by arriving early, and avoiding campsites that were right on the edge of the canyon. The mountain bike can be used to great advantage in crowded camping situations. (I always write about biking on dirt roads and two-tracks, not single-tracks.) In fact it is the ultimate secret weapon. A mountain biker does not need or want to camp right at the "greatest" scenery; to do so would steal the thunder from the mountain bike ride. Besides, when a scenery tourist says "greatest scenery," they simply mean the biggest and reddest verticality. Mountain bikers benefit from gentler terrain a few miles away from these overcrowded vertical spots. Long-suffering readers are sick of my criticism of scenery-obsession; but with public lands becoming more and more crowded, I am suggesting an escape route fr