Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Lake Powell from the Skies

Lake Powell from the Skies

Lake Powell, named after explorer John Wesley Powell (one armed American Civil War veteran), straddles the border of Utah and Arizona. It formed after the Colorado River (with the Escalante, Dirty Devil, and San Juan River tributaries) was dammed by the Glen Canyon Dam, starting with construction in 1956-1963. It is the younger sister to Lake Mead, stored behind the Hoover Dam. Lake Powell reached it's peak capacity in 1983, but has not been quite that full since. The Dam is over 700 feet tall, and generates hydroelectricity primarily for Southern California. The lake and surroundings are now known as the Glen Canyon National Recreational Area, and includes over 90 side canyons and parts of Cataract Canyon on the Green River. Over 2 million people visit and use the lake for recreation annually.

For those of you newly added to this blog, please look back to earlier entries on this Bluff, UT area trip for context. Most earlier blog photos were taken with a Samsung cell phone, though these were captured with a DSLR Nikon or Fujifilm.

We flew in Paul's Aeros brand ultralight, with a 4 stroke Rotax engine under a chevron-shaped (hang-glider type) wing, seated in a 3-wheeled carriage. It's officially called an "experimental" weight shift aircraft, meaning that the carriage hangs from a single pendulum point (the "Jesus bolt") and the pilot shifts the triangular control bar from side to side, backward and forward, to direct the aircraft. The safety backup is a rocket-propelled parachute that could float the whole craft down to the ground, should the need arise. My terror abated when the awesome took over!

On a tranquil, sunny day in late May, Paul and I took off from the Bluff, UT airstrip in his ultralight to fly northwest through the skies over Lake Powell.

 A bright, clear, calm morning test take off from Bluff, shortly after sunrise.

 Remnants of mist linger over the San Juan River.

 The Mule Ears landmark along Comb Ridge.

 As we head north and east, the buttes of Monument Valley peek above the morning mist.

 Clouds creep over the edge of the Colorado Plateau into the lower canyons.

 The San Juan straightens out briefly as it cuts through the Wingate Sandstone.

 Navajo Mtn. in the distance. The lake used to form this far up the San Juan, creating a verdant little valley.

 Current upper reaches of Lake Powell revealing shallow areas and sand bars.

Deeper water and lazy bends of the San Juan, exposing the visible "bathtub ring", marking the previous high water line. 

 Closer view of the sacred Navajo Mountain, just inside Utah border north of AZ.

Interesting shapes form from the water-etched channels.

 Boaters explore the Lake Powell twists and turns.

 More curves and channels.

 Meandering toward the main body of the Lake.

 Deep blue waters and towering red rock cliffs of the main lake.

 Lots of unusual sandstone formations. I see alligator forms on the mid-right.

 Crevice in shadow is the famous Hole-in-the-Rock passage, utilized by Mormon settlers descending to the canyon floor...before the lake formed.

 Houseboat beached in a solitary side canyon.

 Rocky convolutions looking downstream.

 Broader reach of the main Lake Powell.

Blue skies and blue waters.

 Approaching Bullfrog Bay, with still water reflections.

 Hall's Crossing and marina, with the Charles Hall Ferry (mid-channel)  linking the north/south sides of Hwy 276.

 Sedimentary remains of the ancient inland seas that once covered the area.

 Heading back to the southeast, viewing Monument Valley with lifting clouds.

 Promontory of plateau, looking like a giant's Lego game, near Muley Point overlook.

 Edge of plateau near the Moki Dugway roadway descent and Muley Point overlook, with wingtip of ultralight.

 View from the south side of Valley of the Gods.

 Seven Sailors formation in Valley of the Gods.

 Tiny oasis of emerald green nestled in the desert.

 Uplifted serrations just west of Comb Ridge, lining top of photo.

 Escarpment of Comb Ridge, looking north and west.

 Back "home" to Bluff airstrip with RV & car parked near hangar.

My shadow and me - cast by ultralight sailing over the desert floor. 

Thanks for joining us on this armchair adventure in, around and over Bluff, UT. Be well and be safe until next time. 

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

The Wolfman and Butler Wash

The Wolfman and Butler Wash

On several days of our trip to SE Utah, we were "blown out" of our efforts to flight-see by gusty winds of up to 40 mph. Trying to keep aloft and under control in a 500lb. aircraft with heavy winds, is not fun nor safe.

Therefore, we decided to explore the many canyons and creeks in the area, many of them appointed with Anasazi (Puebloan predecessors) dwelling remains and petroglyphs, by automobile and on foot. Our search was rewarding and aerobic. 

Just north of the Bluff airstrip is a drainage called Butler Wash. The dirt road, populated primarily by cattle and jackrabbits, extends about 20 miles between US 163 and UT95, SE of Blanding. In places it's shallow and sandy, in others, it is 300 feet deep and quite rugged. 

At the southern end, after a little scramble down crumbly sandstone, we found what is known as "The Wolfman Panel"

 Pecked petroglyphs interpreted as an owl mask and corn plant.

 Doodles of uncertain significance. What do you see?

 Many sources describe this figure with large hands and claws as the "Wolfman".

 Paul tries to interpret a series of figures, some appearing to be alien, one resembles a sandhill crane, another humanoid with large hands, and a pair of balloon- or pregnant uterus-shaped petroglyphs.

 On up the wash a bit where delicate blossoms offer a little color contrast.

 Visitors follow a half-mile trail over the slick rock, admiring the etched stone bowls created by mini-cascades of water over centuries.

 Sand "Paintings" form in the basins hollowed out by flowing rainwater.

Following a series of rock cairns, one comes to an overlook. Ahead is Butler Wash Ruin. It is a cliff dwelling that was presumably constructed and occupied by the Ancestral Puebloans, (Anasazi), around about 1200 AD. Areas of the site have been stabilized and reconstructed, but most of it remains as discovered in the 1800s. There are habitation, storage and ceremonial structures, including four kivas among the rooms.

 Within an alcove beneath the canyon rim, the remains are somewhat protected from the wind and rain. There are several structures, including houses, kivas, grain storage rooms and four kivas. Above the alcove, one can still see the "Moqui" hand and footholds carved by the ancient inhabitants to access the site from the plateau.

 Tiny rivulets follow the crevices after a recent rain.

 Over the centuries the rivulets have worn through the rock to form an arch. The water drops over the precipice onto the canyon floor. Paul taking a closer look.

 Paul standing atop the arch, unconcerned about the 100ft drop just behind him.

 The clouds reflected in the slow moving rivulet.

Technically speaking, the Butler Wash Ruin is thought to be a Pueblo III ruin. It appears to be mostly Mesa Verde style in its construction and the pottery found in the site was Mesa Verde style. The inhabitants likely farmed below and further down the wash. The area was likely chosen because it was difficult to approach unseen and could be easily defended.

More abstract "sand paintings" in stone basins, collecting the precious little water from rain or winter snow melt.

Thanks for sharing these fun discoveries.
Next up, we are airborne again over the Goosenecks and Lake Powell!