Monday, June 6, 2016

Goblin Valley and Agate Rockhounding

Oh, Goblin Valley. One of my favorite places in the world! I haven't been there since I was a little girl, pleasantly shivery from listening to my brother's stories about the goblins creeping out at dusk, and feeling that every spot I discovered there was mine alone.

My boys went here last Thanksgiving with my mom, and stayed in the yurts, which would be awesome, but they aren't big enough for our whole family…and I have never loved tent camping with babies. So, we stayed overnight in a hotel in Green River. It was nice because we swam in the pool in the hot part of the afternoon, then spent time in Goblin Valley during the cooler evening and again the next morning. Even better would be to go in earlier Spring, or Fall, but this was the time that we could make it work, and the heat wasn't too unbearable at those times of day.
I always wonder what it would have been like to come upon some of these places for the first time, without knowing what you were going to find there. As you get down toward the San Rafael Swell you can tell there's something interesting beyond, but Goblin Valley is set down low, to the other side, and from far away you wouldn't ever suspect anything was there!
We stopped by a spot where you can collect agate and jasper nearby. There was a great view of the San Rafael Reef. So jagged and cool!
We found some nice agate for the tumbler. But we would have stayed a lot longer if it hadn't been so HOT!
There are a few green places by the river, but most of the landscape is just dry and desert-y!
One thing I love about Goblin Valley is how freely you can roam around. I love that you can climb over rocks and scramble through openings and you don't have to stay in certain areas. And yet the whole area is relatively small, enough that the older kids can go off exploring on their own and not get lost.
The Amazing Abe seems to have provoked a smile from Teddy…
though his usual expression was more like this one. Although, to be fair, Teddy did start singing little happy hiking songs several times as we walked, which was adorable. That was when he wasn't vocally expressing his displeasure in torrents of unprintable words. Unprintable because they are in baby language, that is. But they carried a wealth of meaning nonetheless.

"Mommy, I am in a little nest."
I like all the shapes you can find in the rocks. Here are a camel and a dog, though Sam says it's a bear.
A funny guy's profile.
A duck? And Sebby.
Can you spy Abe?
I love the areas where you can see up into the next rock layer. The goblins are formed from the Entrada Sandstone (deposited about 170 million years ago) and the whitish-greenish layer is the younger Curtis Formation. During our slot canyon hike we even saw some rocks with ripple marks preserved on them, from a time this area was part of beach next to an ancient sea. (Lots more good information at this link.)
Can you spy Sebby?
On this butte, you can see the even higher layers that were cut away to form the valley. That sloping part above the Curtis Formation is the bottom of the Summerville Formation, and then the very top layer is the Morrison Formation, which is the same layer where all those dinosaur fossils in Dinosaur National Monument (and other places, too!) were found. (That one is youngest; only about 150 million years old.) We could see lots of these other layers in the rocks when we went there, too, even though it's clear across the state. They are big sediment beds! 
Here's a picture of that butte in better light the next day. You can see the layers really clearly!
I really liked this shelf-like area in a little mini-valley behind the first row of cliffs. Sam thought the outcroppings looked like fingers on a hand!
By far our favorite discovery (discovered by many before us, I'm sure, but we felt proprietary ownership over it all the same) was this big cave. Do you see the sort of bird-like face in the cliff, with a two eyes and a beak or open mouth?
You can climb inside, and then the chamber turns and goes even farther back, and there's a sort of skylight to let some light in. The little girls needed assistance getting past the entrance, but once in, they LOVED playing in there. Goldie could have happily stayed in that "little home" for the rest of her life!

The face's "eye" was a cave too. It was so fun to climb around and find all these little hiding places!

Inside the "eye"
Junie, dancing on a makeshift stage, as she is prone to do
I love how there's an atmospheric gradient as well as a rock layer gradient here.
A mad goblin
It was amazing how much the colors of the rock changed with the light. Sometimes the goblins were bright pink, and other times more orange or red or rusty brown.
But by far the best light was in the evening before sunset. Suddenly different faces of the rocks start to glow and change color, and the textures change and everything starts to look new and strange again. I had thought everything was beautiful before, but now it was even MORE beautiful! I love that delicate, glowing-from-within light on the sandstone.
We had climbed really high at this point. I took this picture of Malachi and then when I got closer and saw the dropoff behind him, I yelped "Get down from there right now!" I'm not usually scared of heights, but I'm terrified of my kids on heights!
Three boys and me
The colors were unbelievable.
Fading light.
As we were driving out, we could see some rock formations that made the shape of a man sleeping! :)
Such a great place. We'll be back soon, I hope!

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