Friday, December 20, 2013

January 2013 Remembered – Chinle Trail, Zion National Park

I’ve always wanted to do this. The time is now! 

This means posting at least one image each day for the rest of the year of people, places, and rocks I have gotten to know better in 2013. Twelve months in thirteen days – there is no telling what will post on that thirteenth day!

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The Chinle Trail can be found in the southwest corner of Zion National Park

In January, fellow Yellowstone park ranger and hiking buddy Sacha came over to Zion from her winter volunteer gig at Bryce Canyon. We had a lovely afternoon hiking the lower elevations of the Chinle trail. Expansive views and logs of petrified wood give this southwestern Zion trail its unique character. 

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Multicolored layers of the Chinle can be traced for hundreds of square miles

Distinctive, multicolored layers of gray, purple, and white shale characterize the Petrified Forest Member of the Chinle Formation for which the trail is named. Lighter colored sandstones and limestones, around 210 million years old, are sandwiched between the loose, crumbly shales. The Chinle weathers into an extensive “badlands” topography that can be followed across southern Utah into Arizona and New Mexico. 

The clay is mainly bentonite, decomposed from volcanic ash. Bentonite has a penchant for swelling significantly when wet and shrinking when dry. This Chinle landscape tends to slump easily, presenting a notoriously unstable foundation to anyone who chooses (unwisely) to build on it. 

After all this geologic immersion we definitely needed to adjourn for some serious refreshment! 

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Sacha, not doing a selfie.

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