Friday, July 31, 2009

Flaming Gorge and the Flat Top Mountains

Sunday, July 26

We drove north on US191 from Vernal to Flaming Gorge. We picked Fireman’s Memorial CG which seems like the best of the many in the area. By luck, we got a good site. It’s quite a large site that has two views of the reservoir below. And it’s cooler here. The afternoon high was 84.

This is a boaters and fisherman’s paradise. It is not as scenic as it is billed. I recall the north end of the Gorge as being more striking.

We plan to do a scenic drive on one day and paddle the yaks the other. Then it will be decision time. Head west and camp in Unitas mountains or head east to Colorado.

There is a Magpie here and it sounds like the very annoying noise you hear on the radio when Civil Defense does it monthly test.

I think Utah could change it’s flag. A truck towing a travel trailer, towing a trailer with ATV’s would better depict what Utahans are all about.

I never thought about Utah as cow country. They are everywhere as it’s open range. You are hiking in an area where mountain goats do not tread and there are cow patties. Nothing green in sight, but cows were here. I’ll bet the ration of cows to humans is high in Utah as they have so few people.



Dorothy writes: We got on the road before 9:00, looking for a place to put in the yaks. We found a ramp and away we went. We had a great paddle. I think Flaming Gorge is just fantastic. This is one place where I wish we had a motorboat so that we could explore the Gorge. No one has asked us to go boating or share the fish they have caught. I am getting a craving for salmon, so guess we will have to find a store and buy some.

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We did a scenic drive today. The first part of the drive took us through Hideout Canyon, which is a excellent canyon. When we came out of the canyon, we were at Flaming Gorge Reservoir, the part called Sheep Bay. This is one fantastic vista. See picture. It totally beats the view from Red Canyon. There are two places to overnight here, both overlook the water. They are nothing but dirt, but the view is great and it’s free. Note to self, come back here in cooler weather.

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Wednesday, July 29

Into Colorado

As we crossed the state line, the odometer read 28,122, 3,162 miles since we left home. [Pelli has about the same number of miles] That means we have averaged about 40 miles a day in KoKo on this trip. That’s about four gallons of gasoline a day.

When we stopped in Craig, CO for groceries, it was noticeably cooler even though we were at the same elevation, 6,300, as at Dinosaur. I don’t know why it’s cooler, but it sure feels good.

Not having a clue where we wanted to be, we picked the closest FS CG to Steamboat Springs - Meadows CG just off of US40 at 9,300 feet. It was a long pull up Rabbit Ears Mtn from Steamboat Springs to the CG.



Dorothy writes: We are near Bear Creek Campground near Yampa at 9700’. For those of you at lower elevations, I will explain the difference. I am wearing jeans, socks, long sleeve t-shirt and a light-weight flannel shirt and I am very comfortable.

I said were are near the CG as we are dispersed camped, but with a difference we have not encountered before. These dispersed sites have fire rings, picnic tables and gravel parking pads rather than just an open place in the forest. And they charge for them – a buck 50 a night.

Why are we here? Well without any research on Colorado, the Flat Top mountains sounded interesting and close by. Besides, I could not resist going to a place named Yampa - the Ute word for big medicine.

From a pamphlet about the area: Nathan Meeker, a Government Indian Agent, arrived in the White River valley in 1878 with visions of developing a rich agricultural business. He saw the Indians as threat and vowed to plow up their lands and convert the Indians to farmers – thereby “civilizing” the Ute.

This conflict, known as the Meeker Massacre, led to the killing of Meeker and ten government employees. The massacre resulted in the eventual removal of the Ute’s from their homeland to reservations. And was the last major Indian uprising in Colorado.

A political note from Dorothy: Theodore Roosevelt was responsible for much of the public lands we enjoy. He did this, not for political gain, but because he thought it was important for everyone to have the opportunity to enjoy the wilderness. Franklin Roosevelt created the CCC, of course, buying votes for the next election. But these young men built things that still stand 70 years later. He helped create roads into these public lands. There is no way this would happen today. First, young people probably aren’t willing to go without their “comforts” – cell phone, wifi, etc. for a very small amount of money, half of which had to be sent home. Second, any construction would have to have union members. Probably no other presidents have done so much for the public lands. Can you picture some of our “modern” day presidents and congress people getting away from it all!



We drove into Oak Creek to do laundry and had a yummy pizza for lunch. I wanted to give the Flat Top Mountains more of a chance to charm us so we took the scenic drive. This turned out to be mostly a drive through fir trees. When we got to Dunckley Pass at 10,000 odd feet we overlooked and decided we had seen enough and turned around. I have ruled off the area for future exploration.

The Flat Tops are black basalt on top, carved by glaciers and covered with dark green firs on the slopes. This makes getting a decent picture of them futile for me.


The west has lots of dead trees. Consider that Yellowstone had a major fire in 1988. The trees are still standing. The fir trees in this area were attacked by beetles - in the 1940’s. They are still standing. The Indians used Cedar and Juniper as roof supports. Some of those logs are still laying across the ruins – 1000 years later. Now consider how long it takes an Oak tree to decompose in Alabama.

Wildlife – closely following camper’s need to build campfires in the summer, is taking pictures of wildlife. Well, not all that wild. In a film we saw at a FS VC last week, the narrator mentioned wildlife and on the screen was a freaking chipmunk. The same damn varmints that I shoot in my backyard. Perhaps I should start feeding them and charging people to see our wildlife? Perhaps it would increase the value of our home?

Marmots are everywhere here. When they hear a car coming, that signals them to exit the weeds and cross the road.

Big Horn Sheep

We would leave here in the morning, but it will be Saturday and on weekends finding a decent place to park can be difficult. Weekends are the bane of retired travelers.

We will drive south to Buena Vista Sunday and meet up with a Lazy Daze couple and do some four-wheeling.



Dorothy is officially old today - a Medicare recipient. She starts it just when Congress wants to transfer funds from the near bankrupt Medicare to fund health insurance for those here illegally.

Today also marks two months without hookups.

We had our second hailstorm last night. This one lasted for about 15 minutes with BB size hail. A brochure for this area says “Summer days normally begin with sunshine, but thunderstorms often form by later afternoon. They are usually short-lived and skies clear quickly for a fresh and cool afternoon”. In our brief time here that has been the case. But, there may be participation at other times also.

Today has been rain free with blue skies.

We managed to do a two-hour huff and puff hike this morning. We never acclimate to elevation and at 10,000 feet getting up is often a problem for Dorothy. The trail we took goes to the Devil’s Causeway, a narrow path linking two buttes. Why it is so popular is beyond me, but it is the most popular trail in NW Colorado. The popularity is also evidenced by the number of vehicles passing our campsite on the way to the trailhead.

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