In the fall of 1995 I embarked with my companions on a road trip that was to include parts of the states of Colorado, Utah, and Arizona. Since we ended up going much faster than we originally thought (sometimes due to bad weather), we also included New Mexico, Texas, Kentucky, Tennessee, and Virginia before it was done!

Here is a list of the places we visited:

  • Colorado National Monument
  • Arches National Park
  • Mesa Verde National Park
  • Natural Bridges National Monument
  • Capitol Reef National Park
  • Bryce Canyon National Park
  • Zion National Park
  • Cedar Breaks National Monument
  • Grand Canyon (North Rim, South Rim)

  • Sunset Crater and Wupatki National Monument
  • Petrified Forest National Park
  • White Sands, Stallion Missile Range
  • Carlsbad Caverns National Park
  • Big Bend National Park
  • Mamoth Cave National Park
  • Great Smokey Mountains National Park
  • Shenandoal National Park

 

Trip Maps

In preparing for our trips we use DeLorme's AAA Map'n'Go. If you travel like we do -- go buy it! It is worth its weight in gold. You can use it to plan your travel complete with hotels, campsites, attractions etc. etc. [See http://www.delorme.com]. All of the maps shown to illustrate our travel were produced with this product. Here is a map showing the overview of our trip:

 

 Geology

The Colorado plateau is a spectacular place to see GEOLOGY! The National Parks Visitor Centres have many fine books on the subject. I recommend the series "Pages of Stone", books 3 and 4 are both written by Halka Chronic and cover the 'Desert Southwest' and the 'Grand Canyon and Plateau Country' respectively. An excellent reference always makes for a better trip!

Colorado National Monument

We were planning on staying at Rocky Mountain National Park, but the weather (snow closed the mountain pass) had other plans. Thus, we ended up staying in Grand Junction -- no camping here since we got there pretty late after a heck of a ride on I70 from Big Springs and some fine mountain scenery.

 

While in Grand Junction we stayed at the local HoJo. While we were there, we had a peek at the Colorado National Monument.

The Colorado Monument is a set of interesting rock formation created by the erosion (canyon building) of the north east edge of the Uncompahgre Plateau. Canyons are carved into the plateau by rainfall (etc.) and as they grow and widen, the ridges between them become thin enough to erode into some very interesting features. The rocks in the plateau are horizontally layered sedimentary rocks. The differential erosion of the various rock layers creates many of the structures. Typically the Kayenta formation (sandstone conglomerate alternating with red and purple mudstone) provides a hard cap rock for the softer, more easily eroded Wingate sandstone beneath. Here are a couple of examples:

Here (Coke Ovens), two canyons have nearly merged. The remaining dividing wall has been eroded into "oven" shaped domes.

 Here (Independence), the very thin fin separating two merging canyons has been eroded completely away in two places leaving a "free standing" fin behind.