|Soaking in Diamond Fork Hot Springs
It was easy to let us be seduced by this inner voice. Soon all of us, but me – I had to take the picture, did I not? –, succumbed to the temptation to soak their tired feet in water alternately hot or warm, depending on the exact position of their soaking.
Just three hours before, we had left our hotel in Ogden and started the car trip South to reach our hunting grounds for the next couple of days around Moab. Our guide Ingemar found it opportune to take a nice mid-day break, so that the voyage would not be felt too long. After all, we would be spending more than five hours on the trip.
As many other places in the US, the mountain region around and south of Salt Lake City is still not quite settled, geologically speaking. Even if volcanoes are long gone and only strata of old lava can be observed here and there, the movement of the tectonic plates has left faults, fractions and fissures, where the magma sphere from deep down can influence the upper strata.
|The Wasatch Fault Source:
Of course, hot springs, having their origin in a spiderweb of minor cracks and fissures of the Earthen crust, are essentially harmless and pleasurable. They occur here mostly in a region, called Uintah, with a mountain range extending perpendicularly to the East from the Wasatch Range at about the latitude of the town Provo. There, water is percolating down the cracks and fissures, meeting rising magma halfway down in the Earth crust. Mightily heated by the meeting, the water, enriched by minerals, rushes up back to the surface and appears as a series of hot springs adorning the region.
|Boulder Conglomerate along former sea shore – Diamond Fork Hot Springs Trail Head
Soon we were on our way, crossing a bridge where the Sixth Water Creek was joining the Fifth Water Creek (Don't they have any imagination for naming in Utah?). From then on it was just a question of climbing a ravine steadily uphill, with the Fifth gurgling contentedly below our feet.
|Bridge at Fifth and Sixth Water Creek junction
Interestingly, those huge boulders did not consist of solid, contiguous stone. Rather, they looked like a collection of minor boulders, some of them as big as my head, cemented together as if a giant had formed meatballs with his paws out of stone junks, instead of junky pieces of meat. Unfortunately, I do not have a close-up to demonstrate this, but you can get the idea by looking at the earlier picture of the trail head, with what looks like a giant termite roost, in which the smaller boulders are also embedded and clearly visible.
How to explain such geologic abnormity? Well, the region must once, millions of years ago, have been a shoreline, on which stormy waves deposited boulder after boulder and, furthermore, hollowed out the cliffs forming the shore and loosening the boulders embedded therein. Eventually, sand and lime bonded, like concrete, those stones together and preserved the structures over year millions, for us to admire and puzzle out their provenance. This type of stone structure is called Boulder Conglomerate and it exists, in the Uinta Region, in a geologic stratum called North Horn Formation.
But enough of those geologic details. There is a hike to report on! As said in the introduction, it took us only one hour and a half to arrive at the goal for our promenade, the Diamond Fork Hot Springs. We had nursed the hope of being the first visitors of the day, since the nicest part of this area is the lower basins, where some kind forerunners had in the past fabricated crudely made but eminently usable basins to soak in. But, we weren't so lucky, this is a popular hiking spot, and those basins were already occupied by a relaxed family.
|Lower section of Diamond Fork Hot Springs
I think the title picture says it all; a happy-go-lucky group of contended travelers, enjoying the pleasures provided by nature! But what about the waterfall you say? Can't you show us any pictures of it? Well, your wish is my command!
|Diamond Fork Hot Springs Waterfall
When seeing it, I immediately felt the urge to climb up there and exhibit myself glancing through the hole. But caution got the better of me, thinking about the slickness of wet stone and the risk of falling off the cliff. But the rashest among our group showed no such concerns and did the deed I only dared dream about. Here you can see him returning, his task accomplished!
What else is there to tell from this hike? At our return, the sun's angle had changed and a section of the path, hitherto in shadow, was now illuminated beautifully, shining in bright red that induced some "Ohh!"s and "Ahh!"s from the group. Little did we know that this would be only the first of numerous such views, to be experienced down South on our continued journey. Soon, such admiring sounds would be sounding ridiculous in view of a region that was completely clothed in stones shining in various shades of red.
|Red sandstone along Fifth Water Creek
|Back at Diamond Fork Hot Springs Trail Head
|Cowboys driving herd in Spanish Ford Canyon
As we continued our drive South on Utah Road 6 we were still, at the outset, traveling in mountain terrain, a bit similar to Austria's middle ranges. But soon we drove over the last passes and began a several hours' long descent, after having left the two coal mining towns of Halpern and Price behind us. And now I have to call myself lucky for having been granted the luxury of sitting as passenger beside the driver.
Before my eyes wide open, a seemingly limitless scenery spread its wings. The road went on without the slightest curve apparent for miles and miles (and I am using Swedish miles here!), until it converged to a tiny line in the far distance. The land slanted slightly downhill, almost unnoticeable, but the car had no difficulties ambling along. In the far distance you could just barely glance a dark band of a wall, covering all of the horizon, from far left to far right. as if circumcising a city of unlimited size. To my left and right, a steppe reached as far again as the eye could see. All in all, this was Big Sky Country if I ever saw one. And you did not even have to go to Montana to experience it.
As we drove on, and after an hour or so, I could begin to see contours in the far wall and started to understand that I must be experiencing the grandmother of all table lands. And how right I was; this was one of the larger plateau lands existing in the US and I had the supreme luck of seeing it spread out right before my eyes! We are talking her of the TAVAPUTS PLATEAU (it deserves to be written in capitals). This remarkable table land has an escarpment (the wall I was perceiving earlier) that runs unbroken for some 170 kilometers and is at places more than 1 kilometer high. The land on the table is one of the last unbroken wildernesses of continental US (not counting Alaska). There are no paved roads through it, warranting relative calm for the rich wildlife roaming on the top. Only 20 years ago, the completely roadless area comprised some 10 000 square kilometers! Unfortunately, mineral exploitation has brought that area down by half since then, and this development will not stop in future!
|The immense escarpment of an immense tableland
Large as it is, the Tavaputs is only the first of several plateaus that we would experience in the following days. But it was an impressive beacon for me, or road sign if you would prefer, to make me aware that we had entered the fabulous fairyland of the Colorado Plateau. This region, as large again as the Great Basin, consists of a multitude of many-colored tablelands, like Tavaputs (even if the latter is mostly grey in color). About one third of it is placed in Utah; the remainder of our hikes would lead us to many exciting places therein!
|The Utah Part of the Colorado Plateau – Tavaputs on upper right