Thursday, June 18, 2009

Cap Reef and Escalante

Monday, June 8
Lay Day – washed clothes.

Forecast for rain today is 60%. We did a two mile walk down the Grand Wash for exercise. The sky was dark and a few raindrops fell on us, but still no rain by mid-afternoon. You don’t want to be in a canyon when it rains due to the very real possibility of sudden high water. I was looking at the gazillion holes in the canyon walls today; almost every one has small stones in them. I tried to consider the force required to keep fist sized, and larger, stones elevated in a flash flood so they lodge in a hole on the rock face twenty feet above the wash. Being on the floor of the wash during a flash flood is not on my bucket list.

We saw pictures of a Jeep’s tires coated with mud, Bentonite they call it. It sticks like glue to the tires. It was at least three inches thick all around the tire in the picture. Traction and control of the vehicle is zero in that stuff.

The day ended without rain. At least around here.

Decent sky at 6:30. Forecast for rain is 30%. So we started out on the Notom-Burr-UT12 120 mile loop. I had pondered doing this road for years. I could never make up my mind if it was worth it. Yesterday, Betty Wood told Dorothy it was a must do.

We had not gone 20 miles before dark clouds appeared south of us – our direction of travel. We drove through some light rain just when the road surface became all dirt coating the sides of Pelli with red dirt. We look like locals again.

Our first destination was Surprise Canyon, just south of the Burr Trail junction. We could see the canyon from the road and it looked good to us. After we got into the canyon, it was better than any canyon we have encountered so far. The going, however, was not so easy. At one point, the side of the canyon had recently fallen blocking our way. We managed to scramble over the large boulders and get farther into the canyon. All too soon, it got over our heads. What we saw was great, but going deeper into the canyon did not seem worth the risk of a sprained or broken something.

The hillsides in this area have the best colors we have seen in Utah. It’s called the Waterpocket Fold, which is a geological term whose meaning is lost on us. We have seen the drawings. We heard the geologist explain it. We don’t get it. We can see that the rock formation pushed up into the Reef does not match the rocks around them. That’s as far as we can go. Great colors tho.

The Burr Trail is one of the fine scenic roads of Utah. It was much better than I expected. It starts with a series of switchbacks that climb through a break in the Reef. At the top, we found the unmarked overlook down a road that only a short wheelbase vehicle could manage. From the overlook, you have a good view of Waterpocket Fold and the Strike Valley below.

We continued west on the Burr Trail through some very unremarkable terrain. I thought great, we will have 30 miles of nothing until we get to UT12. However, after 10 miles, we descended into one fine canyon that was about 12 miles long. It reminded me of Zion. Not everything magnificent is within park boundaries. When the canyon ended we were driving through miles of pillow rock.

When we got to UT12 things changed from rock to green. Trees! As we went up Bolder Mountain into Dixie NF we climbed to over9,000 feet and were in Aspens. Every so often, there was an overlook to the canyons 4,000 feet below us.

It was a long day, 8 to 5, and we were tired before we got back to the CG.

Lay Day – Marketing in Loa, napping, doing a few chores. Dorothy cooked a fine dinner; chicken enchiladas and napolito salad. The enchiladas were cousin Pam’s recipe. Thanks Pam!

I have written before that most people only stay here one day. This is our tenth day. I suppose that having six major national sites so close together get people in the mood to keep moving to “see it all” before they have to return home. We have seen most of Cap Reef and yes we would come back.

We are parked under some old cottonwood trees and bordered by fruit orchards planted by Mormon settlers. We have partial shade all day. It has been in the mid-70’s all week with a nice breeze. We can use all the 12v we want and we are still fully charged before noon every day, even with the usually constant overcast sky. Plus we have fresh water and a dump. Life is good.

We started out this morning to hike Cohab Canyon from the UT24 side. I recalled a red rock ledge that I though was attractive from 2006 and wanted to return to it. When we got to the split in the trail to go into the canyon or to continue up the Frying Pan Trail, we opted for the latter. We could see the canyon below and it did not look all that great to our now jaded eyes. Besides, we had not been to the top of the Frying Pan Trail before. And so we did. And we are glad we did. Combined with our foray to Cassidy Arch last week we have hiked all but a ¼ mile of the Frying Pan Trail, which we deem most scenic.

We only saw one other party on the trail, a young family, who had camped on the trail. The kids were about 5 and 8. We often remark how much fun our grandkids would have on the trails. We think most of the west is made for kids.

A ranger told us Cohab Canyon is so named because when Utah declared polygamy illegal and sent the law into the area, the settlers would hide in the canyon.

We could not resist going to Café Diablo one more time. It was divine.

On our last day here, we did the trail to Hickman Bridge. It was better than we expected, as so much here is. We did the two miles real slow, taking 2.5 hours for the round trip.

We are planning to spend one night in the mountain tomorrow and then try to get into Calf Creek Falls.

It has been warmer yesterday and today and we may have to gain elevation soon as the cool temps of the last week or so seem to be going.

We went to the ranger talk of coyotes last night, which was not all that great. But we did enjoy looking at the stars through a telescope afterwards. Factoid of the day. You could fit one million Earth’s into the Sun. You could fit one million Sun’s into Arturus.

We saw a really neat electronic toy, the Star Scout, only $179. You point it a star and it tells you name and other information.

Sunday, June 14
On the road - We stopped by the Best Western at Torrey and mooched some more bandwidth. We do appreciate their excellent broadband; six routers no less.

We also filled up the gas tank - 21 gallons. Our last fill-up was 179 miles and three weeks back. Our good friends are writing to us about the wonders of Alaska. They left home two days after we did. They have already been to Denali. Of course, they are traveling at warp 3 and will be heading home before we make it north of I70. They are happy to be moving, we are happy to be parked and exploring in the Jeep or on foot. They are seeing all sorts of wild animals along the road, some that are use to people. We are seeing Robins, Yellow Tattinger’s, jack rabbits and lizards along the trails and cattle on the side of the road.

We took the long, long drive, 40 minutes, from Capital Reef up Boulder Mountain to the agreeable FS Singletree CG at 8,600 feet. I thought why not spend a night in the forest before we head down to Escalante for more rocks and canyons The aroma of the pines is quite pungent. The CG has water a dump and paved sites.

It will be another grueling travel day tomorrow. Maybe 30 minutes down the mountain to Calf Creek Falls. We will stay there three or more days, if we can get in.

Dorothy did not feel spunky today. It must have been the cherry pie she bought yesterday. She improved late in the day.

It was seriously overcast all morning, but at 1:30, presto blue skies. I took a short hike and saw some fine pillow rock formations just behind our campsite.

Life is more fun when it’s like a scavenger hunt, rather than a surprise party
Jimmy Buffett

We did another tiring 40 minute drive from Boulder Mountain to Calf Creek CG, which is just east of Escalante. We pulled in the parking area around 10:30 and it was a hot bed of activity for hikers for Lower Calf Creek Falls. This CG is low at 5,300 and the temp was already approaching 80. Not the time of day for a hike for us. We will get up early in the morning and try the 6-mile RT hike.

In the afternoon, we decided to drive the Hell’s Backbone scenic road. This is one drive we could have done without. It is just a 45-mile drive on a good gravel road through pine trees. The road ascends to 9,000 feet to the advertised feature – a short one-lane bridge. The bridge is built over a narrow ridge. The sides of the ‘H’ are parallel canyons and the bar of the ‘H’ where the bridge is will someday be gone and the parallel canyons will be connected. We consider the drive was a waste of time and gasoline.

Now there are good days and bad days. Today happened to be my (Dorothy) bad day. First thing was nearly knocked myself out getting into Pelli, the Jeep. Guess I just didn’t duck. Next I smashed part of my left thumb. The one thing I hate to see is lots of blood, especially mine! But I will consider these two instances as learning experiences. Remember to always duck and watch where you put your fingers.

It’s 2:30 and we have not even seen a peek of blue in the sky today. That has kept it cooler - only 75.

We started on the trail to Calf Creek Falls at eight. The air was cool. It took us 2.5 hours to hike the three miles over a mostly level trail. The falls were delightfully cool and that invigorated us. The return hike was in a slightly warmer temperature. We were both walking dead the last mile. We learned last year that four miles is good limit for us, but this was supposed to be an excellent destination and like I said it was mostly level. So we tried it. We did it. We are glad we did.

The Calf Creek Canyon is different than most canyons. It has a river. With water in it! Back home, it would be called a stream. But here, it’s a rarity. The floor of the canyon is green with vegetation and that attracts birds. We don’t know many birds, but we saw some of every color except green.

As opposed to yesterday, today was a good day but tiring. I would celebrate the six-mile hike, if I weren’t too tired. Now it’s a sad day when I (Dorothy) am too tired for a toddy! Resting up now for a ranger lead hike into a slot canyon tomorrow.

Today we drove the Hole in the Rock Road as far as the Peek-a-Boo and Spooky Canyons – 26 miles. This is a destination, as there were already 14 vehicles in the parking area when we arrived at 10 and two more vehicles showed up before we could get on the trail.

Peek-a-Boo is hanging slot canyon, meaning you have to climb up to get in it. You had to ford water holes and a rowdy Boy Scout group that loved yelling. [They were all named Joseph and Robert] We passed on Peek-a-Boo quickly. Don went up on top of the hill to Spooky, but I stayed back. Then we walked in a dry wash canyon with high walls. Ever since I have been aware of slot canyons, I have wanted to walk in them. So today was my chance.

There was a short distance across a slick rock ledge at the beginning of the hike that scared me and detracted from the total enjoyment of the canyons because I was very concerned about getting back out of there and not killing or maiming myself. [It was a narrow ledge that sloped down sharply] Luckily we met a family at the beginning of the trail and she had a difficult time also. They caught up with us coming back and Joel, the father, helped me. He was in front providing foot support with his hand and Don was behind holding on to my back-pack straps. I did it and wasn’t as tired as from the previous day’s hike.

There are those of you that have known me for a long time and cannot believe that I do such things. Sometimes, I can’t believe I do it either. I consider what we do fun although there are those that would not. My vacation home goes with us wherever we want to go. We have most of the amenities that we have at home. Since we live in Koko half the year or more, why not have a good kitchen and bathroom facilities? Although we do look forward to campgrounds that have good showers, so we don’t have to clean ours. Also, life is short so we want to enjoy all that Mother Nature has to offer that we are able to enjoy.

On the return on Hole in the Rock Road we stopped at Devil’s Garden for a late lunch. This grotto has some excellent looking hoodoo’s - better than those at Little Egypt or Kodachrome in our opinion. I was really too tired to get the pictures that were there for the taking. I winged it.

We also tried to find the arch in Cedar Wash, but the directions were not explicit and we were too tired to risk the effort for even short walk if we were in the wrong place.

Dorothy baked some chicken for dinner. Yummy! Thank you Jeanne for the Rosemary!

It was overcast until after 5. Just like yesterday. So the color in the photographs suffered.

We need another day here, but the weekend is on us and if we are going to get into another CG, it will have to be either tomorrow or Sunday. So we are going to move in the morning. Besides, the cooler temps cannot hold forever. It should already be hot here. Also we want to be in Panguitch next weekend for the balloon rally We have been slowly crossing southern Utah for a month. We will finish the trek in another two weeks.

Water Pocket Fold - Cap Reef

Calf Creek Falls

Devils Garden along Hole in the Rock Road

Spooky Canyon

Dry Gulch

1 comment:

  1. As usual reading your blog generates smiles and laughter for us both.