Monitor & Merrimack Trail

Good morning, my friends. What a fabulous day of riding we had yesterday! I have lots of pictures for you, and so there's no time to waste. Let's just get right to it. First of all, some pictures from our campsite. We're finding more wildflowers here in Utah than we did in Colorado.

I noticed these growing along the road, and they produce a purple flower. I've tried to identify them, but no luck. Maybe one of you knows.

It has long pods that look like green beans. Some are green, and some are purple.

When we left yesterday morning, I noticed a few had opened.

Also, there are plenty of red anthills. This one is about 4 inches in diameter with tiny red ants, and they dot the area outside our rig.

Also, a previous camper was kind enough to paint this rock. It's about the size of a large watermelon.

Smitty has a nice window seat.

Sadie prefers to be stealth, looking out the window from our dark bedroom.

So, it was a day to ride. We took our favorite Moab trail: The Monitor & Merrimack Trail which leads out to Determination Towers and Tusher Tunnel. Along the way, we passed this abandoned schoolhouse.

This sign was posted at the staging area where we loaded up and began our ride.

I've cropped out the text to make it easier to read.

We didn't actually walk out to the dinosaur tracks. It's a hike, and we were there to ride ATV's. Today we'll be visiting Dead Horse Point State Park, and we may return to take the short hike out to see them. Looking at this diagram (also from the sign), it's just a short round-trip walk.

However, we did ride past this spot.

We'll get to that in a minute, but first, some more wildflowers. Again, I don't know the name of these. Maybe one of you will know it.

Riding on, we could see Courthouse Rock just ahead. If you look to the left of center on the rock, you can see a small arch.

Here's the stagecoach "Halfway Station."

And here's the sign explaining it. It's a small structure, given its purpose.

Okay, and then off we went. We paused here to take in the view. That's a small cinder cone below us. I tried to find some information about it, but The Google let me down.

Riding on, I was just taking pictures of these monoliths and admiring the colors of the landscape.

These two monuments are Monitor and Merrimack. That's Mike on the left for scale.

The trail yesterday was rocky and challenging. In some places, we were riding on soft red sand. I liked this picture for the notch in the cliffs that allowed us to see into the valley beyond.

This is one of our favorite spots. These are the Determination Towers. You can see our ATV's in the lower right-hand corner for scale.

On the right, two small arches can be seen. Recall that arches are created by wind, while a natural bridge is created by water.

Riding on, I looked back for this profile of Determination Towers.

A little farther along, I saw this balanced rock.

Here, the colors and the shapes of the landscape were fascinating. This is the sort of thing you'll see at Capitol Reef National Park with the white caps over the red bases.

Here, you can see the stripes of red and tan.

What intrigued me most about this place were the parallel lines spaced so close together. We were heading into a wet area on the trail, and so I can only assume this is caused by the rush of water during rainy weather. We rode along in a wash for a short distance.

But this was the object of our desire for yesterday's ride. This is our third time riding this trail. We missed Tusher Tunnel on our last ride, and so we were happy to turn off and find it for another look. There is a small area for parking, and then one must hike a short distance to see the tunnel. We signed the log book, just for grins, and then continued on a short distance.

It's a short climb up...nothing too difficult, and then the opening to the tunnel is to the left of where Mike is standing.

The tunnel is created here from water coming down through a crack that forced laterally on encountering an underlying impermeable layer, so that the lateral flow eroded the basal part of the crack into the flared cross-section. 

Once inside, you can look up and see the crack.

The tunnel is about 83 feet in length. Here, Mike reached the opposite end.

Coming out the other end, this is what we saw.

Looking to the left, we could see this:

Heading back, I used my flash so you could see the colors of the rock.

My shadow self was nervous in here. Shadows have a way of disappearing in dark spaces.

Back outside, we climbed back to where our ATV's were parked, and I turned to show you the short climb. The opening is that triangular area in the center of the photo.

We were nearly finished with our ride by then. From there, we rode back, mostly on soft sand, to where we'd left the camper.

Along the way, we saw a herd of American Pronghorn Antelope.

The only other wildlife we saw along the trail were these White-Tailed Antelope Squirrels. They were way to quick for me to capture with my camera. Mainly, I saw the white streak on their tails. I found this picture on Creative Commons.

(Photo credit: White-tailed antelope squirrel side" by Monkeystyle3000 is licensed under CC BY 2.0.)

We loaded our ATV's back on our flatbed trailer, and then returned to the campground. Along the way, we passed this site.

Well, you know something like that has me consulting The Google. The UMTRA project is a toxic clean-up project resulting from the mining of uranium ore (also known as "yellowcake"). You can read more about it at that link I've given you. It's an interesting story. In a nutshell:

The scope of the Moab Uranium Mill Tailings Remedial Action (UMTRA) Project is to relocate mill tailings and other contaminated materials from a former uranium-ore processing facility (millsite) and from off-site properties known as vicinity properties in Moab, Utah, to an engineered disposal cell constructed near Crescent Junction, Utah. 

We were tired by the time we were back at our campsite. We had a late lunch, took naps, showered and cleaned-up, and then it seemed like a good day for margaritas. Smitty joined us on the veranda.

Later, we enjoyed a pretty sunset.

In the other direction...a crescent moon. It's my favorite moon phase.

And that was the end of our day. 

Today we're going to have breakfast at the Jailhouse Cafe. It's something of a tradition for us. After that, we'll head north to Dead Horse Point State Park. Mainly, we want to see the scenery. I don't expect it will take all day. After that, we'll do our grocery shopping and prepare to head south tomorrow morning. I'll say more about that in tomorrow's post. 


Barbara said...

Man is a distance runner as a consequence of hundreds of thousands of years of chasing antelopes, horses, elephants, wild cattle, and deer. ~ Paul Shepard

Kate said...

The cave was definitely worth a revisit. Enjoy your errand day and rest up for the drive tomorrow.

Vicki W said...

What incredible scenery!

Cathy Smith said...

Your first unknown flower is a Desert Willow. Not only do they grow wild, but there are also hybridized varieties with more intense colors available. I can't quite identify the red one. Either a chuparosa or one of the wild honeysuckles.

What a great trip!

Anonymous said...

We haven’t been to Utah for quite a few years. Thanks for reminding me how beautiful that red rock is! Just a warning about those ants ... if you have any hoses or cables on the ground, those little bast.... will find a way to climb up them and into your camper! I’m really enjoying the trip with you! Candy

Alison said...

Thank you so much for those wonderful photos and explanations. We live in New Zealand and although we have lovely scenery, it is not as dramatically spectacular as Utah. We watch postings from Matt who has a vehicle recovery business out of Hurricane in Utah mainly for the outdoor videos.

Christine said...

A M A Z I N G!!!
How absolutely mind blowing. The scale and the colours must've taken your breath away. Thank you so much...

Anonymous said...

Your photos are so beautiful, thank you for sharing this place with us. Hope you continue to enjoy your trip.

Jenny said...

Such magnificent rock formations, and I always find looking at the various layers of rocks so interesting.

kc said...

Wowsa! We've never ever seen such formations! Thanks for sharing and taking us along for the ride. Not sure I would be able to walk through the tunnel, so I'm glad Mike showed the way. I probably would hang back, with the idea of keeping my shadow safe. Fascinating history behind the mill and station house!

Safe travels 🥾

karen said...

This is the best day of the trip yet! The rocks, the tunnel (couldn't help saying to myself..looking up someone's butt crack... sick, I know). Tapped on the Jail house Cafe and other eatery places. Yup, eat and feast your eyes on the view.
After dark, did you visit the skies again for lights or UFO's?
Beautiful sunset.
Thank you so much for todays wonderful world.