Thursday, May 23, 2013

Blue Mesa

Ask just about any volunteer who does roving what his or her favorite part of the park is, and they'll tell you Blue Mesa. The Painted Desert, at the north end of the park, is colored in warm colors of reds and oranges. Blue Mesa, about halfway down the 27-mile length of the park, is mostly on the other side of the color wheel, in blue, purple, gray, and some green. Why the difference in color? Oh, and what's roving?

Roving means putting on a uniform, checking out a car, and heading out to the field to interact with visitors. Rovers answer questions and are a presence, a face representing the park. I've done it officially once and it's fun. No one I've met so far expected me to know everything, and what they really like is personal attention from someone who looks official. I've also done it unofficially many times when I've been out for my daily walks, when I stop to take pictures so whole families can be in the same shot, to chat up bikers, or to offer information about a place, as I did a few days ago at the Painted Desert Inn. 

The Painted Desert Inn, at the rim of the Painted Desert.

Of course I'm not in uniform when I'm off duty and out walking, but I always identify myself as a volunteer. A little PR for the park can't hurt, plus I learned today that I should keep track of that time because it affects funding.

The red of the Painted Desert is due to a high amount of iron oxide in the soil. At Blue Mesa, blue, purple, black, and gray come from magnesium oxide and decayed plant and animal remains, green from chromium and unoxidized iron, and white from gypsum.

People on the Blue Mesa trail.

The trail is only about a mile long. There a few steep sections but it's mostly very walkable for anyone who's reasonably fit.

John Muir first named the area Blue Forest for the blue-gray tint of the landscape. He did some exploring and excavating, but published very little about the park.

 Blue Mesa is 3 1/2 miles off the main road. I always tell people that they're going to see that sign, go "uhhh, no," not willing to make the 7-mile round trip, but they really need to make the drive. It's such a beautiful place and nothing like you would see anywhere else in the park.

The wide blue sky is even better with cloud accents.
A big hello from the overlook.
You can see what a gorgeous day it was. I went here the second or third day I was at the park.