Friday, February 28, 2014

Out of the Valley of Death: Dreams of the Water Times at Fossil Falls

The lands east of the Sierra Nevada are dry. The massive mountain wall of granitic rock captures the Pacific storms that reach California and wrings the moisture out, leaving barren deserts and culminating in the hottest spot in the world and the driest locality in North America: Death Valley. Rocks of course are superbly exposed in this landscape, but the overwhelming impression for most visitors is the dryness.

It wasn't always this way. Climate change happens on different scales. There is the very rapid climate change that we are enduring in the present day, where major changes are taking decades rather than centuries or millennia. And then there is the kind of change that happens on a time scale of tens of thousands of years. That has been happening in the eastern Sierra Nevada over the last two million years as the northern hemisphere alternated between cold wet periods and warmer stretches. These were the Pleistocene ice ages. Evidence for at least six glacial advances can be discerned in the rocks and sediments of the Sierra Nevada, but independent analysis of ocean core sediments suggests that at least a dozen glacial advances took place (larger events tended to erase the evidence of earlier but smaller events in land deposits).

And yet the rocks retain the memory of water. Or in non-anthropomorphic language, the rocks contain clear evidence of earlier periods of wetter climate. A popular stop for geology field trips in the eastern Sierra Nevada is Fossil Falls in the Coso volcanic field between Ridgecrest and Lone Pine. The attraction of the site isn't a fossil, but the evidence of a large flowing river in the desert.
The valleys east of the Sierra Nevada are there not there because of river erosion. They exist because the crust itself has been stretched to the breaking point, and faults have formed. Some blocks sank to form deep graben valleys, while other blocks remained elevated to form the high mountains (horsts). Previously existing river systems were disrupted and vast regions no longer drained to the sea. This area of interior drainage is called the Great Basin, and it extends from the Sierra Nevada to the Wasatch Front in the state of Utah.

During the wet and cold periods the glaciers didn't reach far down into the valleys east of the Sierra Crest. But they did melt, and the meltwaters collected in lakes in the bottom of the deep graben valleys. When the cold periods lasted long enough, the lakes would fill to overflowing and spill over into the next basin. Fossil Falls are situated between Owens Lake and China Lake, with the cinder cones, plug domes, and basaltic lava flows of the Coso volcanic field in between. Lava flows from cones like Red Hill (above) occasionally blocked the river that would sometimes flow between the two currently dry lakes (Owens Lake contained a thirty foot deep lake as recently as the 1920s, but water diversions to Los Angeles caused it to dry up; it would need to be several hundred feet deep before it could spill over again at Fossil Falls).

The strangely shaped rocks then originated as the Owens River flowed and spilled over the edge of the lava flow that stood in its path. The smallest irregularities in the basalt would cause swirls and eddies in the flow, and sand, gravel and pebbles would grind at the edges of the shallow basins, eroding and deepening them. Eventually they would become potholes, and some of the potholes at Fossil Falls are immense. At least one of them tunneled ten or twelve feet down and broke through the canyon wall (below), forming a climbing challenge for canyon explorers (I proved I could shimmy up the thing a decade or two ago, so I don't need to prove it anymore...).

There is life in the potholes. When rain fills some of them, eggs of fairy shrimp hatch and for a few short weeks the small arthropods live, grow, mate, and die, leaving their eggs to wait for the next wet year.

It is strange to stand at this ancient river bed and hear only the gusts of wind. One can travel in one's mind though, and start to hear the crashing waters, the verdant cottonwood trees rustling, and the sounds of animals coming to the river for a drink. There were mammoths at the time, and horses, and camels, along with the more familiar deer and pronghorn antelope. One might have spied a Sabertooth Cat, a Dire Wolf, or an American Lion lying in wait in the hope for a meal. In the latest times, humans hunted for game in this more equitable environment. Chips of obsidian and housing rings are still present.

2005 was an extraordinarily wet year, and storms were actively dumping water into the drainage upstream of Fossil Falls. That year was the one and only time I've ever seen water flow through the gorge. The little stream could never be mistaken for the torrent that once flowed through and carved the canyon, but it was beautiful to see an echo of the water times of the Owens River system.

Fossil Falls is on Bureau of Land Management lands, and has been "developed" as a recreation site, with a small parking lot, campsite, and restrooms. The trail to the fall is not long, about a quarter mile, but it has a few rough spots. Climbing around the potholes can be a little intimidating, but the views are great from the rim as well.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Out of the Valley of Death: Explorations in Red Rock Canyon

The next stop on our way to Death Valley National Park was one of the most ideal locations for learning the basics of stratigraphy to be found anywhere: Red Rock Canyon State Park in the El Paso Mountains along the Garlock Fault. The park protects exposures of the Miocene deposits of the Dove Springs formation (formerly the Ricardo formation), aged at about 8-12 million years. The formation of conglomerate, sandstone and claystone was laid down in alluvial fans, floodplains, and lakes in a semi-arid savanna environment. The region was home to a vast array of grazing mammals and predators, including extinct elephants, rhinos, three-toed horses, giraffe-like camels, saber-toothed cats, and bone-crushing dogs as well as smaller animals like ancestral skunks, martens, alligator lizards, rodents, and shrews. (follow the links to descriptions of each type of animal on the Los Angeles Natural History Museum website).
The park has stunning exposures of the sedimentary and volcanic rocks that illustrate many of the basic principles of stratigraphy (superposition, original horizontality, lateral continuity, and cross-cutting relationships). I worked with the students to observe and identify the rocks, and to work out a sequence of events that led to the formation of the exposures. And then I turned them loose to produce a rudimentary map of the geology of the area around the beautiful red cliffs.
It was February, and the sun was blazing! The temperature topped out at about 90 degrees. In a sense it was quite pleasant, especially compared to the frigid conditions back in the eastern United States, but it was also a reminder that we never had winter this year. There has been so little rain that there are parts of the Central Valley that have received less precipitation than Death Valley. It was a bit disturbing to realize how dry conditions are across the state.
Red Rock Canyon State Park has been the setting for numerous movies over the years, including old-time westerns, but my favorite movie scene was the opening sequence of Jurassic Park, where the protagonists were excavating velociraptors from Snakewater Creek or some such place in Montana. I sometimes find myself thinking "your cute little velociraptors wouldn't stand a chance against our bone-crushing dogs and sabertooth cats!".

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

A bit of Geo-Graffiti

It's not the usual subject matter of the fence art in my local neighborhood. But I'll take the positive over the obscene any time...

And no, I didn't do it.

Out of the Valley of Death: Cutting our (shark) teeth as new geologists

Ropy lenticular cloud, southern Sierra Nevada on the Kern River. Photo by Mrs. Geotripper.
Our recent adventure in Death Valley National Park had some preliminaries. One doesn't just go headlong into the Valley of Death without a bit of preparation. I'm not really talking about survival gear as we face some harsh savage desert, but more preparation of the mind to be able to comprehend the incomprehensible idea of nearly two billion years of geological history. The rock exposures at Death Valley can make geologists from more humid climates cry with awe at the barren naked rock.
Photo by Mrs. Geotripper.
But what if you are a beginning geology student with maybe five weeks of an introductory course under your belt? Approaching Death Valley without some background and context is just begging for absolute information overload. So it was that we quietly introduced our students to the world of geology in a gentle landscape.

We left the previous evening, driving for four hours through the southern San Joaquin Valley. I talk a lot about how interesting the geology is in my home turf, and it is, but frankly, it's as interesting to drive through it at night as it is in the daytime! Maybe even more interesting...

We set up camp late at night at Ming Lake in Kern River County Park. We awoke to a strange ropy looking lenticular cloud off to the east (top of the post), and held our first class in the field, discussing the geography of our journey. We would be passing through a sort of structural nexus of California, with six provinces within view this day: the Great Valley, the Sierra Nevada, the Coast Ranges, the Transverse Ranges, the Mojave Desert and the Basin and Range. We talked about how geologists view a new landscape, establishing the types of rocks, and organizing the layers into formations, members and groups. We discussed the rock we could see from our campsite, and what we might find as we looked at it more closely. We reviewed the fossils that might be discovered. And we talked about Valley Fever.
We had been camping at the base of Sharktooth Hill, and we would have a chance to search for fossils in a formation called the Round Mountain Silt. The silt was deposited in a shallow sea that had existed here for many tens of millions of years in Mesozoic and Cenozoic time. Though the seas were shallow, the sediments were deep in this region, exceeding 50,000 feet. About 20 million years ago, large numbers of sharks and sea-going mammals had died in the region, and their teeth and bones were widely distributed. The number of teeth discovered thus far on Sharktooth Hill proper number in the millions, but the land is privately held (occasional digs are offered through the Buena Vista Museum of Natural History in Bakersfield). We would instead check out some more limited exposures on public land nearby. Some diligent searching usually ends in a few exciting discoveries.

The search was tempered somewhat by the knowledge that the fungal spores that cause Valley Fever have detected in these soils. The students were very cautious about raising any dust, and some wore face masks.

After an hour, a number of students had made some exciting discoveries. For most of them, it was the first time that they had discovered a fossil in place. There are around two dozen species of shark teeth known from these beds, as well as the fragments of bone from marine mammals like dolphins, whales, seals, and large extinct manatee relatives. Upwards of 140 species have been recovered from these layers, making it one of the most significant paleontology localities in the state of California.
My discoveries were modest, a few shark teeth and the tooth of a ray or skate. I spent most of my time helping the others develop the "eye". This usually involves finding a tooth in place, and letting them know it is in an area of a couple of square yards. With the confidence of knowing the tooth is actually there, they usually find it in short order.
With our introduction to geological interpretation complete, we headed across the oil fields of Bakersfield towards Highway 58, Tehachapi Pass, and the Mojave Desert. We were headed towards one of California's greatest state parks, Red Rock Canyon. Our trip had begun in earnest.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Is Science Dead? In my town, a resounding "NO"!

Science is in trouble, they say. Kids just aren't interested in science careers, and schools hardly teach it anyway. And in the poorer parts of the country, the problems are even worse. No one cares anymore.

I beg to differ. I teach in one of the poorer parts of California, a town and county that has suffered depression-level unemployment levels even during the "good times" prior to the 2008 economic burp. Our schools suffered cut after cut, and the whole region pretty much went to hell with the highest foreclosure rates in the country, and some of the worst crime (at least it was of the property-stealing type instead of violence). And yet we are still here...

I couldn't be prouder of the people in my county and city. The state may have deserted us when times got tough, but we decided to take steps on our own to make life better for our children. One of them was a bond issue that resulted in the transformation of our community college campus.

Modesto Junior College is the second oldest community college in the state, established in 1922. And her age was showing. The Science Building in which I taught classes for 24 years was constructed in the 1950s with a partial renovation in the early 1990s to keep it from collapsing in a moderate earthquake (I felt so much better after that). The gas and power lines barely operated, and the teaching facilities and equipment were ancient as well. The climate-control was an ongoing joke. The technology environment was laughable. How bad was it? When we tossed out the old equipment, a fair amount was purchased by a Hollywood film organization that needed real-looking props for movies set in the fifties and sixties.

So it was when times were still relatively good (meaning unemployment dropped down to maybe 12% instead of 18%), the people in our region decided to invest in the future of education for our children. We don't have a California State University or University of California campus in our town, so MJC is the sole college choice, and we decided to transform it into one of the best community colleges in the state. Especially in the area of science education.

We've been teaching in the Science Community Center for not quite a year, and some parts of the building complex are still under construction. We have a new high-tech observatory, an advanced planetarium facility (the only newest-generation star projector in North America) and state of the art labs for teaching biology, astronomy, physics, chemistry, and the earth sciences. What's still to come? An incredible museum of natural history (the Great Valley Museum), and an Outdoor Education Laboratory that will include native plants and environments including a stream, a pond, and a "native" rock garden displaying samples from the surrounding mountains. I've felt a transformation in my teaching experience, and I'm beginning to sense a change in our community too. The events of the last two days were the catalyst for my thoughts and musings for today.
We used to have telescope viewing nights in our old digs. But we only had a lawn in a tree-filled quad full of security lights to set up the scopes. Mind you, I have nothing against trees; we fought hard to keep those grand old trees when a proposal arose tear them down for unrelated construction. But you couldn't see much in the sky.

Our Science center is three stories tall, but we made sure to include stair and elevator access to the roof along with a viewing platform and high walls to protect people from falling off. The walls also serve as a barrier to light pollution. We now have horizon-to-horizon viewing ability. And our community responded to the new opportunity; where we once had dozens show up for a viewing, we now have hundreds! Although our planetarium is not yet fully staffed, the shows we've offered thus far have been filled to capacity. I'm excited to be training to become one of the "planetarium pilots" for the presentations.

There was an additional twist. At the telescope viewing last night, we laid out some of our paleontology samples for the kids to see while they waited for a chance to look through the scopes. The skulls are new and valued additions to our collection. Few people know that the very first dinosaur ever discovered in California was found in our own county. The region has also been a rich locality for other ancient creatures including mosasaurs and ichthyosaurs of the Mesozoic, and in more recent time, sabertooth cats, mammoths, sloths and short-faced bears lived on the valley floor. The kids were fascinated to find out the heritage of the land they lived on.
I've been impressed how community-oriented the building is. There are common areas where students and teachers can mingle and work together. Exhibits are in place on all the floors, and there is a beautiful spiral staircase that encircles a four-story high DNA molecule. There is a beautiful plaza in the front of the building with benches inscribed with the names of the greatest pioneering scientists, and a beautiful fountain complex that illustrates mathematics acting in the physical world.

The astronomy-related events are just one aspect of the rejuvenation of science education in our region. Our monthly Modesto Area Partners in Science presentations are usually filled to capacity. The Science Olympiad that we sponsor for local high and junior high schools continues to grow and expand (more on that next week; it's happening next weekend). It is an exciting time to be a teacher in our region.

All of this happened because our community invested in their own future with the construction of the Science Community Center. Modesto now has an incredible facility for the teaching and promotion of science in our city, one of the best such complexes in the state. Our community has a lot of incredible potential, and the people here are just starting to unleash it. They can be proud of what they have done.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Out of the Valley of Death: A bit of life hangs on

Desert Gold near Ashford Mill
A visit to Death Valley generally comes with an expectation that conditions are going to be dry. The valley floor may average no more than 2 inches of rain in a normal year, and this year is far from normal. California is in the grip of an unprecedented drought, and few storms have broken through the unusually persistent high pressure belt this year. There have been exceptions, but my experience has been that February wildflower shows in Death Valley are rare, and this year I expected to see exactly zero flowers during our exploration of the valley.
Golden Poppy near Exclamation Point
So call this the most pleasant surprise of our trip. In the same way that a thirsty person appreciates even a drop or two of water, we were excited to see a scattering of just a few flowers in just one location within the largest national park outside of Alaska. The spot is below Jubilee Pass in the south part of the park, and just up the hill from Ashford Mill. The road here is paved, but the majority of visitors to Death Valley do not go this far south.
I don't know this diminutive flower
There have been years when the entire slope of the alluvial fan above Ashford Mill was covered with Desert Gold and other flower species, notably during El Nino years. It is a memorable sight to see the flowers growing in such profusion, but there is something about the flowers that manage to bloom when the conditions are so marginal that the continued existence of life is in question. These flowers stand alone in stark contrast to the barren soil and rock where other seeds hide beneath the surface. Those other seeds have somehow decided to wait for some future wet year instead of gambling on the pitiful amount of water in the ground this year.
Sand Verbena
 These hardy individuals are beautiful in their rarity.
Sand Verbena
As we walked across the alluvial fan surface looking for the outcrops of the Pahrump Group, it became clear why some of these flowers were able to bloom. They tended to congregate along the paved roads (runoff from the pavement gives a bit of a boost), and in low hollows where water could accumulate, and where the plants would be protected a bit from the drying hot winds.
It's a bad water year. I don't foresee a big bloom unless the meteorological conditions change radically in the next few weeks, and that doesn't seem likely. So please enjoy the brief gift of a bit of color from these few hardy survivors!

Out of the Valley of Death: Home from the road

Dantes View at Death Valley National Park
It's geology in the starkest terms. Death Valley is a place where the crust has been torn asunder, with valley floors lying below sea level next to peaks that reach 11,000 feet. Rocks here are rarely hidden by vegetation or soil. It's a land alien enough that George Lucas filmed parts of Star Wars here. It's a land that crushed the dreams of many people, and provided sanctuary for others.

The rocks of Death Valley record an unusually complete history extending from the early Proterozoic eon as much as two billion years ago to rocks that formed only a few centuries ago. It's hard to imagine a better place for teaching geology, and that's what I was doing over the last couple of days.
I bet no one has ever thought of taking a picture from this particular spot before!
The students were enthusiastic and curious, the weather was outstanding, and the scenery was on a grand scale. We'll explore some of the fascinating corners of this incredible landscape in the next few posts.
Some of the oldest rocks in the American west, metamorphosed around 1.7 billion years ago.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

So What Do You Gain From Teaching Anyway?

Black tourmaline (schorl) crystals in a muscovite pegmatite
It's been six years and 1,307 blog entries since I began Geotripper as sort of a lark. I had a lot of digital images of geological subjects, and lots of stories from twenty years of teaching, so I figured I had a few months of material to write about before I ran out of steam. I guess that didn't happen, and here I am, still excited to be telling the story of the Earth through my experiences as a community college professor. It's been a great life and career, and I couldn't be happier about my life choices.

When I started the blog, I had just finished my stint as the president of the Far Western Section of the National Association of Geoscience Teachers, and some of my first entries were abridged versions of my president's letters that appeared in the section's twice-yearly bulletin. These notes described some of the reasons it was important to teach geology, using the Burgess Shale of British Columbia, Kartchner Caverns in Arizona, and Mt. St. Helens as a springboard. The gist of my thesis was that geology was a fascinating science, but it was also critical to produce informed citizens who could vote intelligently on issues of science such as fossil-fuel dependence, global climate change, and land-use decisions.
A garnet crystal in quartz
Today brought me a different perspective. What does one get from teaching? It's taken me six years to get around to discussing the particular issue, and here is a clue: it's not the money. It's a good job and relatively secure, but it won't make you rich. It is a career that includes necessary dealings with complex bureaucracies that can be frustrating at times. And sometimes one must deal with students who don't seem to care about their education, and others just don't have the skills or tenacity to stick with it. Sometimes we lose them.

But sometimes it works and there are success stories. One is given the privilege of changing lives for the better. There is nothing quite like seeing people who seem hopeless find something deep within themselves and assisting them in their efforts to overcome economic disaster, mental illness, or cultural limitations to succeed and make their lives better. I've been buoyed up by watching people who were illiterate as adults fight their way through reading courses and eventually earn a degree.
These thoughts occurred to me because I had a bit of a surprise today. A big surprise, really. I was rushing to my office after teaching three hours of classes after getting home from our field studies trip late last night feeling tired and frazzled, when I hear my name. I turn, and there is a former student who has dropped in for a visit. He has a gift for me, he says, and hands me five or six very small pebbles. You were probably wondering why I was showing you pictures of rock samples in an article about teaching. On the face of it, they aren't overly remarkable: a nice little piece of tourmaline crystals in pegmatite, a garnet crystal in quartz, a couple of pieces of schist, and a rounded sphere of granitic rock. What's remarkable is where he picked them up...they were on the flanks of Mt. Everest. My student was part of an attempt to climb the world's highest mountain. Despite all the privations and exhaustion he must have felt, he thought to pick up a few stones for me, the person who taught him about rocks so many years ago.

To say I was touched is a huge understatement.
So, what do you gain from teaching?

Sometimes they come back to say thank you.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

On the Road Again: Into the Valley of Death (and check out a new geology blog)

It's finally dawning on me: I'm hitting the road again. With students! I often imagine while in a classroom of having the walls and doors fading away into an open landscape where the principles I am discussing appear in front of us and around us in perfect clarity. Such is the experience of teaching in the the most geological national park in the world: Death Valley National Park.
We will have four days working our way through two billion years of Earth history, with an opportunity of experiencing a sometimes deadly landscape during the part of the year when it is pleasantly warm instead of killer hot.
There are so many sights in this incredible national park. The Earth's crust has been stretched and broken, exposing much of the upper crust of the western United States.
I've no idea whether I'll be able to post while on the road. Stovepipe Wells has a notoriously undependable web connection, but if I get the chance, I'll drop in and send a few updates
In the meantime, have a delightful holiday weekend. We'll catch you later on! If you want to read some good geology writing while we are gone, may I recommend "Diary of a Geology Student"? My former student Becca has been putting up some excellent material in the last few weeks, especially this post about being a student these days.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Out in America's Never Never: Valley of the Gods, where pareidolia runs rampant

Pareidolia is a very human tendency to perceive faces and significant forms in unlikely places, like on oddly shaped potatoes and burnt tortillas. It is what allows us to see the "Man in the Moon", and what gives rise to names like Owl Rock (in our last post). It's hardwired into our brains, and I wouldn't be surprised if it arose out of a need to recognize the eyes and faces of creatures that in a past era would have eaten us.

Our journey through America's Never Never was in its sixth day, and we were headed into one of the more isolated corners of the Colorado Plateau. After traveling through Monument Valley, we turned north into Mexican Hat, Utah, and headed up a gravel road into Valley of the Gods. This was new for me; in a quarter of a century, I somehow had never found the time to explore the 17 mile loop through a series of amphitheaters along the eastern margin of Cedar Mesa. It was a magical place.

The Sitting Hen at Valley of the Gods, from the back

I find myself speculating about the connections between magic and science when I am in a place like Valley of the Gods. Science has given us a "creation myth" about how these rock pedestals formed.  The cliff-forming unit is the Cedar Mesa Sandstone, which formed in coastal dunes and beaches in Permian time perhaps 270 million years ago. The underlying ledge-forming rock is the Halgaito Shale, which formed in coastal deltas and shallow marine conditions somewhat earlier in the Permian Period. The spires formed from cliff retreat as the softer Halgaito rock undercut the sandstone cliffs (I described the process in the previous post). Tricks and variations in the erosional process formed the hollows and shadows that give the pedestals their eyes and faces.
The Sitting Hen, or as I like to call it, the Rubber Ducky at Valley of the Gods.
So, who is to say that science has a better explanation for the origin of these features than others who see the shapes and ascribe their origin to gods or aliens or whatever? In ages past there was no technology to truly study the origin of these rocks, and no cultural experience with deltas, or river floodplains, or beaches. The people who observed these towers thousands of years ago were just as intelligent (if not more so) than people today, but they had no experience or written history that could record the appearance of rocks forming today in the environments listed above. So they described the rocks in a way that best explained what they saw within the limits of their technology. They saw people, animals, and monsters, and produced stories and adventures that explained how they could be turned to stone.
The Battleship, right out of Monopoly!

Does science deny the possibility of aliens carving these exquisite sculptures, or that gods turned miscreant humans into stone? Actually, science doesn't. It does in fact state that these other explanations could be true but that the probability is extremely low, based on the absolute paucity of supporting evidence. The scientific explanation is supported by extensive and overwhelming evidence. Scientists would acknowledge that the presently accepted explanation could be supplanted were new evidence were to emerge. Indeed they expect such changes in the fullness of time.

Compare this attitude to that of someone who has decided on an explanation, truly believes it, and chooses to ignore any contrary evidence. There is no growth, no increase in knowledge in such an person. Belief doesn't make it real, but evidence makes an explanation more likely.

Some might say that science removes the excitement and mystery of a good creation story. I would respectfully disagree. I would say that an understanding of geologic processes leads to more mystery and wonder. Consider the rocks; once one realizes that these rocks were part of a coastal complex, the question arises: where was the ocean and why was it in this place? Today the oceans are a thousand miles away. These rocks were eroded from a mountain range somewhere. Could we find where that mountain range was? Why did those mountains rise? What forces were acting on the crust to cause them to develop? What kinds of creatures lived on these floodplains and deltas? Where did they come from? What happened to them? As it turns out, the world was only a few million years from the worst extinction event ever to take place on planet Earth. Some 95% of all species on the planet vanished 252 million years ago. All these questions invite further study and further growth. Each effort to answer these questions adds to the body of human knowledge. It is a creation story that grows and changes with the addition of new data.

On the other hand, it's fun to play games with these fascinating forms of nature. What do you think they are?

I know this: they are beautiful to gaze upon, even if beauty is a subjective judgement. Did the humans who first saw these desert monuments see them as beautiful? Or were they simply part of a rugged harsh landscape that may or may not be hiding a resource that could extend human life in this tough land?
I definitely see a huge mechanical hand rising out of the ground.

We passed the base of Lady in a Bathtub (picture below) and drove back down to Mexican Hat for one last stop in civilization. We were headed onto Cedar Mesa, one of my favorite places, and perhaps the spiritual center of my personal Universe. More as this blog series continues.
The Lady in the Bathtub.

The loop road through Valley of the Gods is accessed from US 163 out of Mexican Hat, Utah, while the west entrance is on US 261 near the base of the Moki Dugway. There are no facilities along the loop, which is managed and maintained by the Bureau of Land Management. There is a small campsite at nearby Goosenecks of the San Juan State Park, but no water is available. But bring a camera or sketchpad!