august 9
day 92
27 miles 
total 2,397

the last few days i have been making my way up the wind river plains.
by yesterday the mountains had closed in from north and south until it was more the wind river valley.

it continued to narrow today 
and i found myself crossing a series of snowmelt tributaries.
millennia old, each one entailed a long, steep descent and a long steep ascent.
but the reward at the bottom of each was a beautiful rocky stream, with trees and grass and a picturesque little farm you wish you grew up on.
on the way out of one i found muddy footprints of a grizzly bear crossing the road.
on the way out of another i saw two wolves loping fast across a field…
heading for somewhere.

and the best was yet to come.

the wind river valley was dotted with great buttes and mesas 
the horizontal layers of rock creating striking stripes of red, gray, green, white, and brown.
as marvelous as they were,
these were not what i was hungering to see.
i want to reach the mountains.
and those horizontal layers are not the footprint of mountains!

then i came to a long descent into where the wind river passes thru a canyon.
there i found what i have been waiting to see.
great slabs of rock, some the size of small towns, had fractured and been thrust up at 45 degree angles.
you could see where the stripes of rock layers had cracked apart as one massive slab rode up over another.

the genesis of this incredible place was easy to imagine.
sometime in the distant past,
when all these layers lay horizontal,
far beneath the surface of the earth,
the immense orogenous forces creating the mountains i yearn to reach had slowly built up tremendous pressure pushing against the layers.
with the great weight of the overlying rock holding them down 
and the vast expanse of rock preventing them from being pushed to the east 
the stress from the tectonic forces had simply built until something had to give.
what this deep canyon cut thru was the crumple zone
the weak spot where the crust of north america had finally cracked.
and the fractures i could see are mute evidence of long ago earthquakes that once shook the land…

how cool is that?

all that remained was for the wind and water to carve the slabs into fantastic shapes and you have the wonderland i was walking thru.
how lucky for me to get to see it at the speed i travel.
there were too many things to see to get anything from a car except ;
“oh! cool!”

and then i rounded the bend to drop down to the very bottom….
sitting there were three gigantic red monoliths, the size of colliseums.
where did they come from?
there was no other rock like them anywhere.
did the massive forces shove them up from far below? 
did they topple down into some earthquake chasm from a long gone upper layer?
who knows?
not me.

but there they were,
the most fantastic sight yet.
horizontal layers eroding at different rates had given shape to the exterior.
remarkably evenly spaced vertical cracks had eroded wide enough that the appearance was of rows of statues standing on the circular base of uneroded layers….
rows of statues stood atop rows of statues from top to bottom.
it was like a natural angkor wat.

directly across from the central temple was what wyoming had labeled a “picture pull off “

as i made my slow way down,
i saw car after car pull off.
one person would jump out,
snap a quick picture,
jump back in,
and speed off…

no one else ever got out
and usually the picture was not even a picture of red rock wat.
just a photo in some random direction.
admittedly, there was beauty in every direction.
but i don’t think most of them even had a chance to see what they were shooting.
they just pointed and fired.

i could have spent all day imagining what the statues were.

i guess that is the american vacation.
just anything to post on facebook.

that was far from the end of the day 
but there is another day tomorrow 
and i need to get some sleep.