|Standing at the Abyss
Upheaval Dome is located in Canyonlands National Park, and is accessible through a road starting from Moab Valley opposite the entrance to Arches National Park. As in the latter, your car has to climb a steep ascent, but on the Southwestern wall bordering the huge Salt Valley of Moab (see A City Built on Salt) in order to arrive at this new section of the high plateaus. I will have more to tell about the plateau itself in the next blog, so let's concentrate for now on our visit to the Dome.
|Hiking towards Upheaval Dome
Still, when you the least expect it, wide panoramas open up along the trail. Have a look at the picture above: deep down below lies, towards the West, a basin that is bordered on the far side by another plateau, quite like the one we are standing on. Looking more closely down at the lowlands (you have to click twice on the picture to enlarge it!), you can just about glance some brown declines, that have been burrowed by the Green River on its way to meet the Colorado, some kilometers farther South. In fact, this whole basin must be the result of erosion following that river's burrowing, with rain, wind and ice keeping on the good work once started by the river.
|Standing on a giant footstep
Only gradually it dawns on you that the ants crawling on the gravel down yonder are actually fellow hikers ambling around huge boulders! Your brain is catching up with your eyes and your mind is rejoicing at the experience. How to convey this sense of wonder to you readers in a picture? I was standing there in the middle of the day – not the best time for portraying landscapes – and the camera could, even with the widest angle of the zoom lens, only capture about 1/6 of the expanse. Well, a wonder of nature deserves some consideration. So I took 8 pictures and pieced them together in a humble panorama. Even so, I was able to catch only about half the diameter of this underground bowl for you to look at.
|Panorama of Upheaval Dome – about half of its expanse!
This hypothesis, romantic as it is, has – to our regret – succumbed to a more prosaic explanation. Geologists now believe the crater to have been caused by a meteorite, a "boulder" with about 500 meters in diameter that had crashed onto the plateau about 60 million years ago. This conclusion originally arose through a comparison of this crater with similar ones known to have been caused by meteorite collision, on Earth as well as on the moon.
One feature in particular singles out such a crater – if it is large –, namely that its very bottom is not level. Rather, there is a central uplift: the stone layers at this bottom of the initial impact suddenly find themselves bereaved of the huge wedge of stone on top of them that has weighed them down before the impact, but has now suddenly evaporated. This causes them to rise. If you have difficulties understanding this process, just think at the time when you had broken a bone in your arm and had to keep it in plaster for a month or so. Immediately after the plaster is removed, the arm will rise of its own, relieved from a weight it had to support for so long.
|Complex crater after meteorite impact Source: Center for Lunar Science and Exploration
You can also see the staircase formation – which our group was descending whilst following the trail to the crater – as three semi-eroded ejection layers stemming from the original impact. In fact, if you double click on the picture below, to get it larger, you will actually see the hiking path we used to access the crater rim. It looks like a thin white ribbon on the upper left.
|Upheaval Dome seen from Space Station Courtesy: NASA
Of course, when our group was standing at the rim, admiring the view, we had scant inkling of this decades-long scientific discourse. We were off to a nice hiking trip, after all! Soon it was time to retrace our steps, since we had another, longer hike ahead of us that afternoon!
|Retracing our steps on the Upheaval Dome Trail
From discussing the wonders we had just witnessed, the discussion rambled on to our great luck of getting access to that wonder despite all. Just a few days before our arrival from Sweden in Utah, President Obama had reopened the National Parks and Monuments, after a month's hiatus due to his budget conflict with Congress. After congratulating ourselves for the good timing of our visits, the lady, to my great surprise, went on by putting all the blame for this shut-down squarely on the President.
Somewhat astounded by this rash conclusion, I asked her whether the Congress did not have to share part of the blame, too. "No!", was her firm answer, the President was the origin, not only of the recently resolved budget conflict, but of all the problems that had pestered US politics ever since his assuming office.
|The descent to the trailhead just beyond the horizon
In Palme's case, these feelings of – let's face it – hatred had been caused by a sense of betrayal. Was Palme not born into nobility and had he not disavowed his birthright by pretending to be a radical socialist, like a simple agitator from the working classes?
In the US, similar feelings could be at play, but caused by another form of perceived betrayal. Was Obama not, due to his colored skin, predestined to be of the class of servants to, and entertainers of, their "betters"? How dare he be better educated, and more eloquent, than even the best among the upper classes? And, insult upon injury, how dare he become Master of his masters?
Better stop here, lest I get accused of being a busybody, ignorant in US issues at large or, more importantly, to curb the megalomaniac tendencies in my personality. It would take years of solid sociologic research, like the one having been carried out by Myrdal, to judge class sentiments in a society other than our own. My thoughts are just simple musings, based on a short conversation along a pleasant hike.