Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Tribute to a Wounded Warrior: John Wesley Powell

August 9

Six miles, no cars, and little scenery of note meant a dull start to the hike.  Mom had all the action, trying to coax the Mitsubishi along over no-name dirt road.  Crossing a deep canyon she was almost defeated, the tires squealing on the wet mud.
Fortunately she snuck through.  Colin and I had little problem on foot and by eight thirty we returned to Old Route 6, an old strip of blacktop we had used until Thompson Springs, when it mysteriously disappears.  The ancient highway took travelers west from Grand Junction until I-70 was completed in 1970.  Old Route 6 has been abandoned to the elements, but was still in good enough shape to lead us the last twelve miles into town.
Once in Green River we spent the afternoon exploring the two main attractions, Crystal Geyser and the John Wesley Powell Museum.  The geyser is located directly on the river, a few miles outside of town.  We had low expectations since the eruptions occur randomly every twelve to fifteen hours. 
Nonetheless, we were impressed by the terraced features of the rock, set like great steps falling to the river bank.  The surface reminded me of coral, the minerals in the water having etched their indelible marks.  Their work is colorful as well, green, blue, and red puddles are left in the water's wake and the terraces are a pale yellow or rust colored.
The ground around the geyser, which reminded me of coral

As Colin and I completed our examination of the geyser's drainage we heard mom shout "its getting bigger."  We headed over to investigate and sure enough the geyser was beginning to bubble like a jacuzzi.  The water continued to rise as if someone was preparing to cook spaghetti and had left the burner on took long.  Like a liter of cola shaken, not stirred, the pressure became too much and the fountain shot up into the air a good three feet.
We later learned Crystal Geyser is known to shoot between thirty and sixty feet high.  For whatever reason the smaller eruption we witnessed has been the norm of late.  Still, we honored to have the opportunity to see such a rare event.
Next we drove to the John Wesley Powell Museum.  You may know Powell as the leader of the first expedition to row the length of the Colorado River, the last unknown region in the You may not know that they started on the Green River, an equally rough piece of whitewater.  In those days the upstream portion of the Colorado was known as the Grand and only at the confluence with the Green did the Grand become the Colorado.
You may also be unaware that Major Powell was a wounded warrior, having lost his right arm to a bullet at Shiloh.  He never let the injury stop him, often scaling cliffs thousands of feet high to scout down river.  His crew of mountain men (who had zero whitewater experience!) performed countless courageous deeds as well.  If you want to learn more I highly recommend "Down the Great Unknown" by Edward Dolnick. 

Did you know?
Major Powell married his first cousin Emma.  How hot is that?  Am I right West Virginia?

18 miles/3062 total miles

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