Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Painted Desert Trail

Our first stop yesterday was at the Imperial Date Gardens. I just wanted to see an orchard of date palms. Unfortunately the dates have just been harvested, all we saw were a few dried ones on the ground. The orchard is pictured below, a field of lettuce is in the foreground. We also visited the Imperial Date store to purchase some fresh dates and try a date shake. That was not bad, but their date bread was even better!
Before we headed out on the Painted Desert Trail in the wildlife refuge we stopped at the visitor's center first and spoke with the ranger there. She warned us to watch out for "donkey do-do" as there are a  large number of burros in the refuge. Miners who came to the area in the 1800s brought donkeys to carry their gear. When a miner died his burro often wandered into the desert and adapted to its harsh conditions. Unfortunately we did not see any burros, but did see many of their trails and droppings. Looking at those many clues of their presence we were quite surprised that we did not even see one burro.
We were pleasantly surprised with the Painted Dessert Trail. It certainly was not the flat dessert terrain we had expected. It took us through dried riverbeds and around large rocky mounds. We even found a large hoodoo. At its base we could see how it was created by water eroding around it from several directions. Many years ago volcanic eruptions created the landscape we saw in the refuge. The mounds are multicolored due to the presence of minerals. Iron creates a rusty color while copper appears green. John thought that perhaps the white mounds were piles of volcanic ash. I just know that it was beautiful to see.
After hiking the Painted Desert Trail we drove our car to several other scenic areas in the park which overlook the Colorado River. We drove over rocky roads, which probably only a four- wheel drive should travel on, to get to those areas. However, the view was worth it. It was like a palette of paint  had been splashed over the land. There was the bright blue sky and the river with its yellow- leaved cottonwood trees. Off in the distance were the purple and dark blue mountains. Filling out the scene were the multicolored rocky mounds. Some of the mounds at the river's overlook had streaks of red. In the distance we also saw hills colored with the bluish-green hues of copper. Unfortunately the picture below does not even come close to depicting the landscape and sky as we saw them.

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