Friday, July 1, 2011

Day 9: Grand Tetons National Park

Today we drove along Logan River in Utah toward Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming. The desert is long behind us now as we drive through rolling green hills, roaring springs and rapids, and towering conifers. Our first stop was Ricks Spring, which we were strongly advised not to touch because of the spring's high concentration of giardia, a protozoan parasite. This spring is a "reappearing river" because it flows from a river farther north, is then engulfed by rocks for a while, and then reappears here.

Next we took a scenic stop at Bear Lake to take pictures of a landscape complete with snow at high elevations and witness humming birds at their feeders. And one of the participants seemed to have found his doppelgänger.

We entered Wyoming and then our next stop was to view the scenery at Salt River Pass before enjoying a picnic at Star Valley.

We stopped at the Palisades where there is an osprey nest, but unfortunately there was no osprey today. We did see these little black birds that have red and yellow stripes on their shoulders--anyone know what they might be? Despite the lack of osprey, the view was breathtaking. Snow capped mountains in the distance, sage and golden rod in the foreground--just gorgeous!

Finally, we arrived at Grand Teton. Our first sight--a resting moose near a stream. He looked so peaceful and still under his shady tree, yet he kept a skeptic's distance from the crowd that had formed to observe him.

First, we stopped at Windy Point Turnout to discuss the geology of the landscape. As I learn about these majestic places, I decided that understanding the science behind their formation doesn't take away any of the magic, but rather that understanding adds to my awe and reverence. The forces of nature at work in these places are monumental. Let's just say I'm very grateful to the ancient glaciers that carved the peaks of these monoliths. A quick walk at Jenny Lake satisfied my wanderlust for the day.

Our last geological stop was at the Gros Ventre Landslide, where on June 23, 1925 at 4:30pm a man named Gill Huff witnessed, and barely escaped on horseback, 5 million cubic yards of rock falling from a high relief in just 3 minutes as a result of an earthquake and weeks of recent rainfall. The rate of the fall could have closed the panama canal in just 54 minutes. The landslide dammed the river below with material 2,000 feet wide, 1 mile long, and 225-250 feet high across, forming a lake. Two years later, that dam gave way and water raced over it drowning 6 people in a nearby town and destroying 40 houses. If there is anything I've gained from learning geology it's a greater appreciation for the domino effect.

And what day would be complete without some roadside buffalo sightings?

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