Sunday, May 9, 2010

"Visit Goblin Valley State Park". This is what I was told by another hiker I met on a cliff behind the south window arch at 4am. He was dragging his wife who had just had foot surgery up a rocky trail so that they could watch the rising sun impart a glowing red hue to the arch. He told me that he had gone there about 10 years ago on the recommendation of a guy he had just happened to meet as well. He hadn't arrived until after dark and so he grabbed his sleeping bag and walked down into the valley without any notion of the sandstone mushrooms surrounding him. Apparently the experience of seeing these "goblins" for the first time when you open your eyes after a short night's sleep could be described as surreal. Actually he said he was unsure of whether or not he was actually back in his dorm room in Salt Lake City sleeping off some variety of intoxication.

For me, the experience was surreal in a different way. I had been in Arches for a few days which, while beautiful throughout, is focused on certain points of interest. In goblin valley there really is no destination when you begin your hike, nor is there really any trail. You merely drop down a short incline into the valley and choose a direction in which to wander. The "goblins" (I prefer their original name "mushrooms") look mostly identical with some standing alone or in pairs and others clustered together. At the far side of the valley the wall stands roughly 50 feet above the valley floor and is riddled with short tunnels and bubbly protrusions that made me feel like I was in an anthill. If you follow this wall, you can eventually find your way into a "side valley" where the mushrooms get taller and more irregular in shape.

The mushrooms are apparently formed of eroded sandstone but after the previous day's rain everything felt soft. To me it seemed like I could have smashed the formations with the swing of a shovel or something. I also left deep footprints in the spongy ground as I walked around. Unfortunately I entered the park with my water bottle half full and ran out pretty quickly while walking and had to turn back before I had explored the rest of the area.

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