“I found the easiest route to be a slightly exposed climb up and over the nose of rock”, says our reference source. Yeah right, I tell myself as I try and psych myself up for our climb to the top of the Paria Plateau.
We are headed out the Bush Head Route, another typical Hayduke route that will find the only way through through the cracks and crevices of massive cliffs. I feel like I am crawling through the wrinkles in the earth’s skin, cracked and weathered like a farmers hand, reaching out to lend me a hand.
The cliffs are made up of the Glen Canyon Group with the Owl Rock Member of the Chinle at the river’s edge. The Owl Rock Member of the Chinle in this area is pinkish-orange mudstones and hard thin layers of limestone from inland lakes and soils dated at 205 million years old. As we crawl up the cliffs (and I do mean crawl) we go through up through the Dinosaur Canyon Member of the Moenave Formation first, a reddish slope-forming rock layer with thin bands of mudstone. Then we wind our way through the cliff bands of the more pinkish-red Springdale Sandstone. One of the layers in the Springdale Sandstone appears difficult to get over. But luckily there is a crack to the right of the nose and we happily climb through it. Above the Springdale Sandstone is a massive cliff-forming sandstone of the Kayenta Formation. This is the unit our reference source mentions as the “slightly exposed climb up and over the nose”.
The reference we are using is a pdf created by Clayton Feider-Sullivan for the Buckskin/Paria alternative. His maps and descriptions do a great job explaining the Bush Head Route up to the top of the Plateau. I really enjoy finding these routes but am always a little apprehensive at first. It has gotten easier over time with electronic beta, I remind myself. But, of course, the route itself doesn’t change, just easier to find it.
Once we are up on top we make our way to Bush Head tank. It is the only water source for miles on the top of the Plateau and we only imagine how important this tank is to wildlife. We watch for a while and notice a small wading bird on the far shore. Ray using the Merlin app determines that it is a Solitary Sandpiper, a rare occurrence for this area.
Solitary Sandpipers are only seen here during migration and are usually seen alone, hence the name “solitary”. This one is by itself which fits. I ponder why they are solitary. How is this helpful to the survival of their species?
I hope they take note of this siting. It is a little spooky being out in the middle of nowhere knowing that someone has a video of you and may be looking at it later. Guess that is just the world we live in today.
After another nine miles we come to another tank, Joe’s tank. Another oasis in the desert, this spring and tank is cupped and held gently by the Navajo Sandstone.
The Navajo Sandstone is the rock star of formations in the southwest. It occurs as spectacular cliffs, domes, and bluffs with gigantic cross beds that tell us about ancient winds and deserts like the Sahara.
It is a white sandstone but wears many colors sometimes pink, and shades of yellow, brown and red, depending on the iron bearing fluids that flushed through it after it was formed. It is the beehives of Zion National Park, the “Wave”- so popular to photograph it requires a lottery, and the rooster comb of Cockscomb ridge in Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument.
Up here on Paria Plateau, you don’t see the crowds of people but the Navajo Sandstone still speaks loudly of it’s past here at Joe’s tank. What a place.
I got a little nostalgic for a 1991 eolian conference I was lucky to attend. We crawled all over many of those outcrops. Did you find my sunglasses by chance?
Hmm…I thought someone had just left a retro pair out there. Those are lovely outcrops to examine.