on April 28, 2007
What is Slickrock? Slickrock is anything but slick rock. Slickrock is a type of sandstone with the texture of coarse sandpaper, making it the grippiest of all rocks unless you try to cross it on a horse shod with iron horseshoes, as did the pioneer explorers, one of whom apparently remarked after his horse slipped and slid over the hilly bare rock surface, “Damn! That’s slick rock!” The name stuck. But put rubber soles or tires on slickrock, and the effect is remarkable, giving such a good grip that it becomes possible to go up inclines you would never consider trying on regular rock. Most of the Earth’s surface is covered with dirt, but there are vast expanses of the Colorado Plateau, where Moab is located, where the surface is bare rock, mostly sandstone. For all practical purposes, all this exposed sandstone surface is slickrock, but technically, there is one geologic strata called Slickrock, the coarsest of the sandstones. Even the most casual day-hikers should get out on the slickrock for the experience. A good place to try out slickrock is at the Delicate Arch Viewpoint in Arches National Park. There is an opening in the fence near the far end of the parking lot to a trail going uphill. It is a short climb to the slickrock surface, which looks like the waves of the ocean. Walking up and down these rock undulations is an unusual experience, as you go up and down hills with ease which your whole past life tells you to avoid because you will most likely fall on your butt. The slickrock experience is not all there is to this little hike. While there is a good view of the Delicate Arch from the parking lot, the views from up on the slickrock are much better.Even leather soles will grip some on slickrock, but to really experience it, wear either athletic shoes with a good tread (slickrock is very soft, easily eroded, so there is a lot of loose sand laying around. Smooth soled shoes can slip on the sand if they step on even a thin layer of sand on top of the rock. Treads are a must). I’m partial to shoes or hiking boots with Vibram soles, a material designed for mountain climbing boots that makes you feel like you are glued to slickrock.
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