The Mitten Fault (Shallow Thoughts)

Akkana's Musings on Open Source, Science, and Nature.

Sat, 11 Sep 2004

The Mitten Fault

Vernal, UT to Golden, CO

The eastern end of Dinosaur National Monument seemed a bit of a let-down, at first. The road stretches about 30 miles from highway 50, and along most of that length there's very little to see, as the road winds along the scrubby mesa top. Only the last six miles are in the park, and those include a sparse handful of viewpoint pullouts, none of which give much of a chance to see the rivers. So our hopes rested on North's Rule of National Parks: The end of the road is where the Good Stuff is.

We got to the end of the road, parked ... and still couldn't see much. The parking lot is surrounded by trees and doesn't come very close to the edge of the mesa on either side. You really have to walk the one mile trail to the end of the mesa in order to see anything.

And at first, it seems like the trail isn't any better, and the trail guide (25 cents at the trailhead) is full of the usual mind-numbing Park Service platitudes (Look around you ... even though there's a river down at the bottom of the canyon, it's dry up here. So the trees have to survive on not much water). But hang in there, for a fairly spectacular view at trail's end of the tilted, twisted Mitten fault, as well as the joining of the Yampa and Green rivers (the confluence itself isn't visible, hidden by a formation known as Steamboat Rock). The fault cuts across the river (or, rather, the river sliced through the already-formed fault when the Uinta uplift raised this area above its surroundings) and you can trace it back along the terrain to the cliff on which you stand. Downstream, Whirlpool Canyon (so named by John Wesley Powell) cuts through sediment of a very different nature from the sandstone cliffs upstream of the fault. The park's trail map offers a diagram showing this, making up for the smarmy nature-trail points earlier in the hike.

After leaving the park, we headed east, across Rabbit Ears Pass. Dave had been there once as a young child, and said I'd understand the name when I got there ... and indeed I did. But which two of the three projections are the rabbit's ears? We passed lovely high meadow scenery most of the way, with the aspens just beginning to turn, and eventually arrived in Golden to meet Dave's family.

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[ 08:31 Sep 11, 2004    More travel/southpark | permalink to this entry ]