26 July 2014

Paria Canyon (White House)

Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument

Locate the trailhead.

It is a moody morning sky over the desert although the radio is only claiming a 20% chance of rain, and that for the afternoon. It is hard to resist the temptation to explore just a little bit in the area, even if it is down a canyon known for getting better and better as one travels down it. I have enough water tucked away in the car for a few miles of desert hiking. From this trailhead, there is a day use fee of $6 per person and dog. The trail, such as it is, simply follows the river bed down. Before getting down into the canyon, another sign reminds travelers that flash floods are extremely dangerous in the area.

cliffs on the other side of the highway
Eroded cliffs on the other side of the highway from a BLM information sign at the start of the road into White House.

flash flood warning sign when entering the canyon
Warning sign when entering the canyon that flash floods can occur any time of the year and emergency response is never rapid.

The sign warning about flash floods says the canyon is narrow with sheer walls. The trail drops down only a few feet into the canyon that is just starting at this point. It is still somewhat wide. At first, the drying mud is what draws my attention the most. It changes quickly from large pieces drying into big rolls to sandy areas with gradations in between.

striped lumps at the side of the canyon
Around and below the campground there are some fun looking mounds.

drying pieces of mud curling up at the edges
The mud seems to be a very fine grit at the top and get ever more course as it goes down showing distinct layers as it dries and curls up.

mud curling into tubes
The mud can get quite carried away with curling.

tree roots questing for water in the rocks
Tree roots come through looking for water in the canyon. There is something interesting happening with the layers.

thick breaks in the mud fade to sand
From layers of mud pealing up to sand in a smooth transition.

Gradually, as the canyon deepens, the walls become more interesting. The taller walls allow for more variation in texture and the lower sections are smoothed in nice ways. The canyon is getting narrower as it goes and sometimes there is some small undercut of this harder, lower stone.

lone composite blooming in the river bed
A lone flower stands blooming on the flat of the river bed.

deeper red dripping down tan rocks
Red seems to drip down these rocks and paint a horse and rider in the middle.

large, smooth section as the canyon narrows
The canyon is narrowing up ahead and there is a short tunnel.

many small holes in the wall
A spot where water enters seems to have many small holes.

I decide to go down to a small cave at a bend and turn. There seems to be something funny about the layers at the side. Most of them are flat, which seems unnatural to me because I am used to seeing buckling uplift that curves every direction, rarely staying the same for very long. But there is something other than the challenging of my provincial expectations that is odd. Mixed in with the flat layers, I also notice layers that are not flat, but these seem to cut across the flat layers rather than being bent from the flat.

tilted layers that seem to cut across the others
The flat layers ahead are cut by some very tilted layers at the right.

more tilted layers that cut the lower, flat layers
On the other side of the canyon, the rock layers repeat the phenomenon.

The hole turns out to be along a fissure in the rock. The rock is broken by fissures in quite a few places. A small pool of water remains from the last rain in the mud near it. Turning, I cannot help but continue down even though I was going to turn around here.

small pool at the base of the cliffs
A little bit of water remains from the last rain here near a short tunnel in the cliffs. Yes, that does look like tamarisk.

a large and eroded fissure
One of the more apparent fissures in the rock walls.

tight turn in the canyon
A tight turn in the narrowing and deepening canyon ahead.

It takes a few raindrops falling to get me to turn around. Weather is a fickle thing and the canyon is becoming what the sign at the start warned about. It is already time to turn around and hurry back out of the canyon although there is likely nothing much to come from the thick sky above.

turn around and it looks different
The canyon looks a fair bit different looking at it from the other direction.

undercut along the side of the canyon
A section where the water is undercutting the wall.

tiny slot entering the canyon
A tiny slot enters the canyon.

back at the trailhead with parking and biffies
Back at White House. The rocks around White House are quite white, but the claim is it is named for the spring with water "as good as any that could be had at the White House" according to the signs. It is on maps, but no location can be found for that spring on the signs.

The drops did not have many friends in the end. There is a little more variation to the slant of the rock layers than at first glance, as well.

©2014 Valerie Norton
Posted 11 August 2014

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