I haven’t been to Ah Shi Sle Pah for nearly two years, but we went out there yesterday to try to locate a rock formation that has been eluding me for some time now.
Ah shi Sle Pah is a dry wash that runs from east to west through the San Juan Basin about thirty miles northwest of Chaco Canyon. Over the course of millions of years, the run-off has eroded the soft mudstone leaving the harder sandstone balanced precariously on the remaining mudstone columns. These bizarre fformations, referred to as hoodoos can stand for thousands of years before finally yielding to erosion and gravity.
The sandstone that is slowly being exposed by erosion was formed in the late Cretaceous period when this area was a tropical forest with rivers which served to compress and cement the sand particles into the sandstone we see today. There are petrified logs lying about as if carelessly tossed aside by some giant prehistoric toddler.
One of the things I find intriguing about Ah Shi Sle Pah is the variations in the visual texture of the place. It is a photographer’s dream come true. The erosion channels in the mudstone are a never -ending source of delight for me.
When the light hits these incredible features in a certain way, especially early or late in the day, the side-lighting makes the textures jump out and the whole scene is electrified with a sense of other-worldly drama.
Did I find the formation I was searching for? Well, I have to confess that I failed, but that’s alright. I guess I’ll have to go back another day.