Saturday 15 February 2014


Early morning on Colorado River near Moab
This is the last post in the Colorado Plateau sequence. It is only fitting that it starts with a view of the Colorado itself, in one of its more peaceful moods, winding its way in a broad and shallow valley towards Moab. 

Looking upwards to the cliffs bordering the stream you may get the impression that this Lord of the Plateau is timeless, that he always has flowed and shaped the great landscape around it. This would be wrong, of course, since he has been running along only the past 100 million years or so of Earth' existence. Still, this appears a heck of a time for a river, even a great, long and deep-cut as this one. 

Geologists believe that the Colorado has streamed across the plains already at a time when this land was still at sea-level. Signs of this can yet be glanced in the many meanders, quasi fossiled into the plateau, and stemming from a time when the land was almost level. As the plateau started to rise gradually, around 60 million years ago, and began to tilt, the river just continued to dig itself down into the meanders, even if an increasing gradient would have dictated a more direct course. 

Colarado River Meander in Canyonlands National Park
Ever since I first visited the Colorado Plateau, back in 1976, I have been fascinated by the grand formations in stone carved by that river. But not only that, as we drove our car through the colorful landscape, I gradually got to grasp the immensity of Earth' history that lies behind the manifold of "scriptures", carved in stone, embellishing the wide ranges around us, be it within river valleys or without.

As a youngster, my main interest centered firmly – you should not be surprised – on challenging adventures, like climbing red walls, descending deep gorges and generally having nature close to my skin. As I have grown older, my imagination has become more far ranging, and I have begun to understand and appreciate the Great Story of Earth written in stone in the Colorado Geologic "Schoolbook".

Pondering this "book", it gradually dawns on you that geologic progress on Earth – barely noticeable while it is on-going, observable only through its effects – is governed by two grand principles only: the principle of upheaval and the principal of restoring. Over the eons, as the great shelves – which constitute Earth' crust – are moving and grinding at each other, their collision causes great uprises, forming mountains and high plateaus, as well as forming deep abysses – where the shelves move apart. As soon as these upheavals appear, the ever-lasting power of erosion sets in, grinding down mountains and high plateaus and filling in the voids. It is as if a strict mother were perpetually flattening a bed sheet's creases created continuously by her eager children. On the Colorado Plateau, we can observe just about the mid-point of that grinding down process. 

Midday view of Colorado Valley, seen from the Fisher Towers. Arches N P on the Plateau
This everlasting process of creation and destruction may lead some of us to the question "What is the meaning of all this?". As far as I am concerned, the only meaning I can grasp is that there is none. Or, if you prefer, that the process provides its own meaning. Does this sound far fetched to you? Well, don't we like to say that the journey is its own meaning, irrespective of purpose and goal?

To my mind, our life is a mirror image – although in infinitesimal miniature – of that great process of upheaval and leveling. We are born, which is a great act of uprising, creating new life. But even in our growing-up stage, we are already subject to the powers of degradation, which come more and more to the foreground, the older we get. Eventually we have to succumb to those powers, which leads to our ultimate end and decay. On a geologic scale, this is nothing, but for us as individuals, our life is everything. 

Hence, I believe that our own life has meaning only insofar, as we ourselves take charge and make the most of it. There is no higher power looking out for us. When we were young, we did this without thinking. Our instincts were guiding us to lead an active and fulfilling life. At the more mature stages of our stay on Earth we have to be more deliberate in seeking fulfillment. I myself tend nowadays to look at my life – which is mostly gone – as a story I have to bring to a good end, with deeds that speak for me whilst I am still alive and, if possible, a while thereafter. Hence, the importance for me of having an internet presence. 

Hoodoo in Arches National Park
It saddens me to say that the present blog post marks not only the end of the Utah Sequence, but also the end of the overall blog "Déjà vu …". It forms thus the Epilogue to a larger adventure. The most hardy readers among you may have noticed that this is not the first epilogue in the series. I had planned to finish the blog already twice before (Epilogue; and Magic in the Unexpected). But, as we say in Sweden, "Tredje gången gillt" (Third time around is final).

By now, and within the past four years, I have written fully 64 Chapters within the blog, containing almost 800 pictures. In retrospect, I am compelled to consider this as one of the major tasks completed in my life. When I started this work, little did I suspect that such a wide ranging story would leave my fingers; so I am glad that the story grew on me as time went on.

Permit me to extend a sincere "Thank You" to all you faithful readers that have been following me along the journey. For some time now, each new post has been opened by around 150 viewers within two days of its appearance. Within a week, this usually rises above 250 visits. The most popular Chapters have attracted more than a thousand visitors. To my great pleasure, around 50 visitors have been following the blog faithfully throughout these four years. It is especially pleasing to me that many among those have written numerous comments on my humble posts. All in all, I have received some 300 Comments.

Salt Wash near Delicate Arch Trailhead, Arches National Park
I am especially thankful to those commentators that have encouraged me to turn (the first half of) the blog into a book. Without their moral support, I would never have managed to spend two years of my life to finalize the publication "Fiat Lux! Down Memory Lane in California". For that reason, permit me to single out these heroes of persuasion: Professors Lars Werin and Per Wijkman, as well as my good friends H C Cars, Klaus Bröning, Heidi Harman, Kari Lantto and Richard Murray.

Still, there remains the task to pay a final tribute to a great institution and a great landscape:

The first is due to the most endearing academic institution known to man. UC Berkeley, you welcomed me with warm generosity; not only once, when I approached you as a timid youngster, but even a second time, when I dared to come back as an old man to savor the fullness of your splendor. This blog is for you! Fiat Lux!

Last but not least, I will always keep the wonderful nature in the Four Corners region in fond memory. You invited me to your mountain tops and deep valleys, for me to explore as a young man, and you opened up your grand book of Earth' history for me, when I returned, too weak and fumbling to repeat the adventures of my youth. Colorado Plateau, let me praise you, you are a treasure to mankind!

The great explorer
It is only fitting to end this blog with some words of Colorado's great explorer, who in a sentence or two captured more of the Plateau's essence than I was able to do in more than ten blog posts.

"The landscape everywhere, away from the river, is of rock – cliffs of rock, tables of rock, plateaus of rock, terraces of rock, crags of rock – ten thousand strangely carved forms; rocks everywhere, and no vegetation, no soil, no sand. . . . When thinking of these rocks one must not conceive of piles of boulders or heaps of fragments, but of a whole land of naked rock, with giant forms carved on it: cathedral-shaped buttes, towering hundreds of thousands of feet, cliffs that cannot be scaled, and canyon walls that shrink the river into insignificance, with vast, hollow domes and tall pinnacles and shafts set on the verge overhead; and all highly colored – buff, gray, red, brown, and chocolate – never lichened, never moss covered, but bare, and often polished."

Castle Towers seen from Fisher Towers Trail


Eva Meyersson Milgrom said...

otroligt fina bilder som vanligt

Rudi Schmid said...

Dear Emil,
Thanks so much for all your efforts: your superb photography, your elegant prose, your perceptive observations, your inspiring thoughts. You are a natural-history treasure. We look forward to more of your gifts from the trove. The best of wishes.
-- Rudi Schmid, botanist, UC Berkeley, 15-II-2014

Anonymous said...

Lieber Emil,
wir haben deine tollen Bilder und Berichte begeistert angesehen. Herzlichen Dank dafür!
Jetzt erwarten wir von Dir natürlich mit Spannung eine ähnlich gelungene Erinnerung an unsere gemeinsame Reise nach St. Petersburg.
Heike und Jörg

Anonymous said...

Lieber Emil,
wir haben deine tollen Bilder und Berichte begeistert angesehen. Herzlichen Dank dafür!
Jetzt erwarten wir von Dir natürlich mit Spannung eine ähnlich gelungene Erinnerung an unsere gemeinsame Reise nach St. Petersburg.
Heike und Jörg

Klaus Leiendecker said...

Dear Emil,

thousand thanks for this great and inspiring trip through California and the West. We enjoyed all the wonderful pictures and your enlightening comments. It gave us the kick for a 6-weeks-trip by motor home in 2015, knowing, that we are far away from being such a genius photographer.
Once more thanks.
Klaus und Ursula Leiendecker.

Anonymous said...

Lieber Emil,
Ganz herzlichen Dank fürs virtuelle Mitreisen in diese unglaublich schönen Gegenden! Wir haben jeden Deiner Einträge mit grötem Genuss gelesen und bestaunt, umsomehr, als wir vorigen Sommer mit den Kindern 3,5 Wochen in der gleichen Gegend verbracht haben und uns der unglaublichen Faszination dieser Landschaften ebenfalls nicht entziehen konnten (wir haben viele Bilder gemacht, so großartig wie Deine sind sie natürlich nicht geworden!!!).
Wir freuen uns schon jetzt auf Dein nächstes Projekt!!
Nochmals vielen lieben Dank und herzliche Grüße aus Brüssel,
Iris und Hugo

Ehrensvärd said...

Hej Emil,

Bara så du vet så har vi också följt din fantastiska blogg - härifrån Saltsjö-Boo... :)

Vi har tänkt knacka på din dörr ett antal gånger, men det har helt enkelt inte blivit av. Det får bli ändring på det a.s.a.p.

Bästa hälsningar,
dina f.d. grannar Ehrensvärds

Anonymous said...

Tack Emil!

Du har varit beundransvärt uthållig och idérik. Tack för många vackra bilder och trevliga vinklingar. Försök nu njuta av att bara vara!


Anonymous said...

Thank you for bringing your readers on such a marvelous journey. Your splendid photographs, marvelous wit and wise insights are a treasure. Looking forward to reading more of your writing -- perhaps on another adventure!

best wishes,

Anonymous said...

Dear Emil,
Thank you very much for the long series of highly entertaining and inspirational blogs.
I am very sorry that it ends, but of course wish you more peace and less work.
I hope you are alright.
Kind regards
Peter G.

Anonymous said...

Hi Emil
What i fantastic end! Thank you so much! I hope you will not feel that you have lost something - if so, just return to your own blog or book or all the pictures. They will comfort you again and again!
All the best and hope to see you in Gotland or in China or both!

Anonymous said...

Lieber Emil!
Herzlichen Dank für die herrlichen Bilder und Deine wie immer sehr lebendige Beschreibung! Wie schön, diese Pracht mit Dir beinahe miterleben zu können. Ich freue mich, dass Du das alles so gesehen hast und einfangen konntest und natürlich dass Du uns daran teilhaben lässt.

Liebe Grüße aus dem fast schon frühlingshaften Wien,

Diamond Head said...

Tomorrow I am going for a walk in Tilden Park after couple years with my 12 year old daughter. One thing (or link) led to another and I discovered your blog on your travels through southern Utah ...funny ... the family is taking a road trip from Nor Cal to this part of the world - also to show the vistas you describe to our 12 year curious one..over American holiday of Thanksgiving..wife and I have seen them a decade ago so the eyes can feast again...cheers and thanks for the inspiration nonetheless.

Emil Ems said...

Dear Diamond Head,

I was delighted to read that you are able to put the information in this blog about Utah to good use.

In case you are still interested in Tilden views, why not have a look at the chapter about it in my book "Fiat Lux!". You can find the chapter on

Yours sincerely

Unknown said...

Otroligt vackra bilder och väldigt mycket intressant information! Jag får återvända till din blogg och studera den igen när det börjar närma sig avresedatum till USA så att jag har allt i färskt minne! Stort tack för läsningen och även det trevliga sällskapet i Costa Brava!