Although the valley of the sun reached record breaking heat during the August of 2012 heat wave, the weather phenomena that followed was nothing new to Arizona.
Every summer morning in Phoenix the sun rises relentlessly and as expected into the Arizona Sky. AC units power up in force, people caught outside become cooked and most importantly to this story, water vapor rises and begins moving towards its destiny of carving canyons.
The rocks, the land, and the weather stew here where the low and very hot Basin and Range Province meets the high cold and dry Colorado Plateau. Arizona is not one or the other but a product of both. During the summer “monsoonal” months the final catalyst of water vapor is funneled in from the surprisingly close body of water to the south called the Sea of Cortez. Water is also recycled locally from the human-corralled bodies of water caused by Phoenix.
As the moisture-laden monsoonal air skyrockets and drifts north the air is rung out like a sponge. Forced upwards even more bn the rising landscape this moist air hits its final squeeze around 100 miles north of Phoenix along the Mogollon Rim which is the southern extent of the Colorado Plateau. Here the accumulated water beats down in aggressive torrents digging, shaping, and carving its way through a mash-up of geological history dubbed the “transition zone”.
As the water starts the journey back downhill towards Phoenix it gouges deep claw marks into the edge of the Colorado Plateau, cutting steep ravines reminiscent of those found in Utah’s Canyonlands. Through these areas we find big, deep canyons of sandstone as well as sections of limestone and basalt. As the water gains momentum it finally gets to the real job of carving granite, sandblasting the rock with sediment collected upstream.
The granite canyons of central Arizona are works of art with the bleached white, gray, orange, purple, pink, and even green-colored walls rising abruptly to the sky. As you travel down these slots you feel like you’re in a place designed by the ancients and for good reason. This rock is some of the oldest exposed rock in the western United States. Granite is dense and does not allow water seepage like the soft sandstone or porous basalt, so as you’re traveling down one of these canyons you’re most likely swimming, jumping, and sliding in water. These canyons are where timeless beauty meets maximum fun.