The astounding Double Arch, Arches National Park, April 25, 2012

(Moab, April 25, 2012) There’s an equation Marc taught us during our program in Utah’s national parks, and it goes something like this:

(Stone + Sand + Sediments)/(Water + Time + Gravity) = Spectacular Natural Beauty

Cousins Bonnie McAdoo and Janey Trawick enjoying their first Road Scholar program together. Their next one will be to Washington, DC

Okay, it’s not exactly what Marc would have said, but it’s hard to deny that the results of eons of geological forces are easy on the eyes. Today, we saw dozens of arches on several hikes in landscapes that defy imagination. Some of them are fragile ribbons of stone, and we’re told we are among the lucky ones to see them before they fall. Even in geological time, sometimes you just have to hurry.

Landscape Arch in all its fragile beauty, April 25, 2012

At one point, we stopped alongside Landscape Arch, the thinnest, most elegant rock formation in the park, for a discussion about global warming. It’s a debate we’ve all had, but when it comes to lifelong learning, context is everything. We’ve seen evidence of previous epochs of global warming — and cooling — in the rocks around us all week. And we’ve also seen acid rain stains that are no more than fifty or so years old. So the question of whether we are causing or merely experiencing climate change is complex.

Geologist Marc Deshowitz pointing to clues in the rocks, Arches National Park

All the while we walked through and looked up and down at the most spectacular scenery on earth, we listened, watched, and learned. We now know that wind and water don’t just wear down stone – they build it. We now know that, when you think of time in terms of millions of years, stone really moves, and even flows. And we know that geologists get really excited about these things, because Marc, and Chrystal, and Keith, and Marcia, got excited when they talked about how the rocks we saw got here, and where they are going.

How many of us have friends who are geologists? And, how many of these geologist friends will go hiking with us, and explain all that we see in new and inspiring ways? How many of them bring an endless supply of jokes, or know the best places to share a meal or find the best home-made salsa in town? These are all good questions, and they have a common answer: you can find them on any of Road Scholar’s Desert Southwest Programs. See you under the arches!

Turret Arch is one of the otherworldly landscapes in Arches National Park

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