The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

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October 8, 2013

Four Corners desert tells story of the Southwest

(Continued)

Thanks to the geologist from Northern California who's part of our group, I'm now armed with my newest geological word: hoodoo. A great word, hoodoo. A hoodoo is a rock formation in which a large piece of rock is balanced on top of a much smaller piece. I start looking for them. The best example is Mexican Hat, and it's impressive. It looks like a rock sombrero sitting atop a giant rock person's neck. And, with the rock's red coloring, it's the same color as my neck.

We've come to the end, and now we're taking it all in. We're high above Monument Valley and seemingly on top of the world. To get here, we drove up a precarious dirt road full of switchbacks, along which Ricky gleefully pointed out a handful of cars and trucks that hadn't made it.

We sit on folding chairs, drinking margaritas and watching the sun work its way down the horizon. Mesas and buttes and the tiny San Juan River far below are lit up in dramatic hues of oranges and yellows and dark reds. My shadow trails behind me for more than a hundred feet.

As I sit looking at many of the same sights I've driven past for years, I realize that they have been transformed. Instead of some unknown pile of rock, I now see Jackson Butte. I now see either dark gray Mancos shale or ochre-red Navajo sandstone. I see where inland seas have created buttes and mesas.

The desert is showing me things that I couldn't see before. And with the help of Mark and Ricky, it has also been telling me a story.

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