(Moab, Utah, April 26, 2012) As our fellow Road Scholars begin their journey to Lake Powell and Antelope Canyon, we share happy memories of the time we spent together.

Thor’s Hammer, Bryce Canyon National Park, April 22, 2012

Mary Miller in Capitol Reef National Park, April 23, 2012

Bill Lucas hiking in Bryce Canyon, April 22, 2012

Carrie Claffey hiking Grand Wash Trail, Canyonlands National Park

A lonely sapling hangs onto a sandy cliff in Bryce Canyon, April 22, 2012

Steve Pestorius enjoying Capitol Reef National Park, April 23, 2012

Eric and Arlene Paul outside the Gifford House, Capitol Reef

Lyle and Nell Jones high above the Moab Fault, Arches National Park

Road Scholars hiking in Arches National Park, April 22, 2012

Edna Klein and Pat Miller near South Window, Arches National Park

Frances Poirier up close and personal with the rocks of Capitol Reef

Leon and LaGatha Adkison on the Grand Wash Trail, Capitol Reef

Jane Dohler on the Grand Wash Trail, Capitol Reef National Park

On the way to Moab, Utah, April 24, 2012. Even the drives are beautiful.

Charlie and Adrienne Bodie at Dead Horse Point, Utah, April 24, 2012

The Canyons of Canyonland National Park, April 24, 2012

Edna Southard hiking in Capitol Reef National Park, April 23, 2012

Where did these rocks come from? Arches National Park, April 24, 2012

Helene Ryan trying out one of Butch Cassidy’s hideouts, April 23, 2012

A late afternoon thunderstorm over Arches National Park, April 26, 2012

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

The Colorado from Dead Horse Point State Park, Utah

(Moab, Utah, April 24, 2012) We left Torrey, Utah, this morning, heading east along the San Rafael Swell, a long ridge of rocks to our north. Its exposed rocks jut straight upwards, evidence of forces we have come to understand as powerful, even violent, despite the millions of years they have taken to occur.

Program guide Chrystal Deshowitz and geologist Marc Deshowitz above Dead Horse Point, Utah

Marc tells us they mined for uranium in the canyons here, and explained the environmental damage the federal government is still undoing sixty years later. They ought to be done in another fifteen years. It’s a day our current history combines with the story the rocks tell us by themselves. Oil rigs alongside the roads — we’re not always in National Parks as we continue our journey — lead to further discussions about how we tap into the energy stored here, both the good and the bad.

An exhibit at the John Wesley Powell River Museum

Another story frozen in time is told at the John Wesley Powell River Museum in Green River, Utah. Along the banks of the largest river we’ve seen yet, we learn about the Powell Exhibition, which charted the last unmapped area of the United States in 1869. “Journey into the Great Unknown,” the museum’s award-winning movie, presents the dramatic story of men braving the rapids of the Green and then Colorado Rivers in small wooden boats. The reenactment, filmed in replica vessels, is reminder enough about the power of the water that flows here.

Phyllis Mattern at Dead Horse Point, Utah, April 24, 2012

The afternoon is filled with spectacle. We stop at Dead Horse Point, where the Green River winds its way through a canyon far below us. The wind always blows strong here, another reminder of the energy that has given us this special place. Sometimes you can feel the land almost as much as you see it. And finally, we arrive at Canyonlands National Park, and the rock formations that give the park its name. Our final stop is at Mesa Arch, a giant rock window with sweeping views of the canyons below. Tomorrow, in Arches National Park, we’ll see other, larger ones, but the views through Mesa Arch are more than enough for today.

Mesa Arch in Canyonlands National Park, San Juan, Utah