On the Road is a weekday feature spotlighting reader photo submissions.
From the exotic to the familiar, whether you’re traveling or in your own backyard, we would love to see the world through your eyes.
Up on top of The Colorado National Monument is an area known as Glade Park. One of the popular hang-outs up there is called The Potholes by locals but formally referred to as Little Delores Falls. On this particular trip, my brother-in-law drove us up to The Potholes with the intent of stopping at Miracle Rock on the way back for a short hike. However, nature had other plans.
The rock in this area is Precambrian basement granite. Unlike the younger red and tan sandstones, shales and limestones which typically weather into sharp, angular blocks, the hard, dense granite here is worn smooth, rounded and polished by ages of flowing water. Down in the gully below here are the namesake Potholes. Water flows pretty much year round and this is the place to jump off the granite cliffs into the cold water in the potholes.
This spot upstream of the potholes proved to be a good place to find and skip rocks across the water. The cold water felt good on the tootsies as well.
In thirty three years of living in Florida, I learned to appreciate what nature offers here. Enormous fresh water springs, unique wildlife, multitudes of birds, barrier islands and clean empty beaches. However, being with a half hour drive of places like this is going to be an even stronger tonic for my soul.
This is an unspectacular view of Miracle Rock, the boulder on the left skyline. Up close, it reveals itself to be a twelve thousand ton boulder perched on a pedestal that narrows to as little as four inches though that drama isn’t apparent from this view. The plan to hike the half mile trail to it was nixed when a summer thunderstorm popped up right over us as soon as we parked at the trail head so we decided to head down.
By the time we got down to the foot of The Monument, water was flowing and falling down the slickrock cliffs and ledges. One small waterfall is at the lowest point on the horizon, another in the cleft to its right. Weathering and erosion in this environment happens in punctuated events, long periods of nothing followed by short periods of dramatic change.
My sisters both live high on a bluff looking out on Grand Valley but the road we travelled back passed across the bottom of a major drainage coming off The Monument. We were able to get across the flooded road but twenty minutes later, we wouldn’t have been. Here, a whirlpool has formed at the upstream end of a culvert under the road. The private road on the right up to the million dollar house at the top was already unusable at this point.
A couple of deer were flushed out of their cover down by the river and took refuge along the driveway to my sister’s house. Some of my brother-in-law’s stone-stacking art nestles in the crotch of the foreground tree.
This is the view from the front yard of my sister’s house as the flood waters kept rising. In the forty or so years my sister has lived here, these flooding events have happened about every seven or eight years.
Looking the other direction, the storm that ran us off Glade Park and flooded out the neighbors can be seen moving down Grand Valley and off toward the Bookcliffs and the Utah border. We watched the water rise and rise and rise on this property below.
The water in the area below hung around for a couple of days before finally receding. The evening of the storm, it made for a scenic if unsettling sunset. My brother-in-law, retired from doing GIS for the city of Grand Junction, spent the afternoon and evening helping out his neighbors below and passing on updates to his friends still working for the city. Flash floods like this are often very localized affairs and often don’t get much attention. This one didn’t even get coverage on the local TV evening news.
Part VI will cap our visit out west with a float trip on the Colorado River.
Thanks for the photos!
Amazing photos. I’d love to see Miracle Rock up close. Thanks for sharing
I am a master rock skipper but I am too humble to brag about it. Actually only a so so skipper but I get lots of practice on our Ozark creeks and rivers.
Nice pics cope and a good story.
Flash floods are no joke. We can get them in the wastelands of eastern Washington during the summer and it seems like at least one perso ends up dying in them.
Looks like you’re going to a great place cope!
BIL looks like a cool cat. Who’s the guy on his phone next to BIL?
(Seriously, what a place to live!)
@OzarkHillbilly: I have taught rock skipping to 8 of my 9 grandchildren. The youngest is will be 6 this summer so he’ll want to learn soon. Seems like about 8 is when they really get it working.
Steve in the ATL
Like Hemingway’s description in The Sun Also Rises: “How did you go bankrupt?” Bill asked.
“Two ways,” Mike said. “Gradually and then suddenly.”
Flash flooding in that part of the valley floor has happened often, and yet never dissuaded people from building in and too near that particular drainage.
Some of my best hikes on the Monument have let me watch those very ephemeral waterfalls; thanks for the memories! Watching the full moon rise over the Grand Mesa from up on Glade Park on a clear winter’s night is sure worth the effort to get out in the cold too.
@StringOnAStick: I took a picture from our patio of the full Moon plus one day setting over the sunlit monument Monday morning . When Halley’s Comet visited in 1986, we happened to be in GJ and I woke my wife and young daughter to drive up on Glade Park at four in the morning to get a glimpse. I don’t think they were impressed. The first picture is from yesterday’s OTR so I must have had a FUBAR moment when sending them. Oooops.
@OzarkHillbilly: Thanks for the compliments. What was your professional judgement of the cave bacon in yesterday’s post if you don’t mind me asking?
Thanks for the pictures and interesting narrative!
In the Midwest flash flooding is happening more often at levels that cause concern for (among other things) stream conservation projects. And in the valleys below my cabin in Wyoming fast spring runoffs are getting to be a concern with climate change as well. (The Lamar and Gardiner River floods in Yellowstone were the result of this kind of rapid spring snowmelt as well, iirc.) Is it changing where you are at?
@mvr: We have only been living back here since last month after 33 years in Florida so I can’t say from experience but my relatives who were smart enough to stay put say that these events are becoming more frequent.