Course Update: Down the River

As we continue moving down the Colorado River watershed, we take moments to think back to our time in Grand Lake. It seems like an entirely different trip. Likewise, setting up camp in Cortez, CO this evening, it seems like a week ago that we took out of the Green River. In fact, it has been two days. Much to catch up on.

After we loaded up our boats and bid our guides farewell we rode “the infamous Mineral Bottom Road” (no pictures available as all hands were on steering wheels, door handles, or covering our eyes) up to the rimrock and out of Canyonlands NP just a few miles north of Moab. We checked in to our hotel and did a quick turn-around to do some laundry and get some dinner. We decided to defer our evening in Arches NP until the next morning so as to give the kids some time to rest. So, the evening stargazing trip became a pre-breakfast journaling/sketching trip. We spent about two hours among Arches’ dreamlike Entrada Sandstone formations–time well short of what the park deserves–then headed down the road toward Page, AZ.

The drive from Moab to Page is one of inexplicable complexity. Intermittent periods of uplift, erosion, volcanic intrusion, and faulting make the landscape a bent, burnt, burnished, burled, and ultimately beautiful collection of cliffs, mesas, buttes, towers, pinnacles, hoo-doos, anticlines, monoclines, hogbacks, entrenched meanders, volcanic necks, and most other geographic features one can conjure. Geologic time presents itself in plain view, as if written in code on a chalkboard for anyone with curiosity enough to read and comprehend it. We spent the long drive reminiscing about the canoe trip, asking questions about the chalkboard diagrams outside our window. The kids are asking so many more questions than before the canoe trip. Not only have they sparked their curiosity, but their curiosity is better informed than before. They’re able to ask questions because they are beginning to know what they want to know.

What came next was “one dam thing after another.” Our arrival in Page was a bit later than we had hoped, but we did manage to squeeze in a visit with Paul Ostapuk, President of Friends of Lake Powell, an advocacy group committed to the preservation of Lake Powell for commercial, agricultural, and recreational purposes. Having already heard about Glen Canyon Institute’s “Fill Mead First” proposal (basically a call to decommission Glen Canyon Dam), our students found it quote stimulating to hear an opposing viewpoint. We are deeply impressed by the kids’ ability to ask thoughtful, provocative questions in a respectful way. On multiple occasions Mr. Ostapuk applauded the kids for their depth of interest and for the evident knowledge that lay behind their questions.

The next morning (this morning) we took a morning kayak tour on Lake Powell, exploring side canyons and doing a bit of swimming and “cliff-jumping.” We followed our kayak/swim with a private tour of the Glen Canyon Dam. Again, the kids impressed our Bureau of Reclamation tour guide with the level of thinking and understanding that went into their questions.

Still a bit soggy from kayaking, we hopped back in the vans and headed for Cortez, CO in the afternoon. We managed to make it to Four Corners with about seven minutes to spare before they closed. Given the time allotted, we had to be creative with our “Four Corners souvenir photo.”

We are in Cortez for the next two nights and will therefore be able to enjoy a slightly more leisurely pace.

Postscript . . . given that we are finally are finally editing and posting this a day late, we obviously have not hit any sort of leisurely pace 🙂

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