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May 11   Chesler Park Trail

Chesler Park is one of my favorite hikes ever. My guess is that we have hiked it about 12 times. It is 3 miles one-way and you go up and down through three canyons, a couple of narrows, roly-poly white-topped grabens and end up in a “park” totally surrounded by needle-shaped spires. It is wonderful.

The only issue now is can I still do it? My hip has been acting up since before the trip started. The short walks we did yesterday have left me sore and stiff. And it’s going to be a fairly warm (mid-70’s) day. One way to find out is to take an Ibuprofen and do it. We get to the Elephant Hill parking lot early and find it’s already crowded. It’s to be expected: it’s Saturday.

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Heading for Chesler Park

The trail goes up, over and down. We’ve been on it so many times, we look for familiar rock formations.

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Spring has sprung big here and we see more flowers and green shrubs than we usually do.

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Cliffrose

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Dave in the narrows

We reach one of our favorite canyons in the hike. The light bounces around on the walls.

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As we go along, I realize my knee is now hurting more than it has before. We are too close to Chesler Park to turn back now. I figure out the best way to step up and step down rocks to not aggravate my knee. The hiking poles help a lot.

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When we reach Chesler Park, we walk a little ways into it to experience the environment and look for a place to eat lunch. There are a number of people wandering around but the area is so large that nobody feels crowded.

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You can see so far in every direction up there.

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We have never camped here, but there are 3 or 4 campsites hidden near the spires. Otherwise, the restrictions of where you can walk around up here have tightened quite a bit. There are a lot of unofficial trails, but they are all blocked off by dead tree trunks; it’s clear park personnel don’t want you walking on them. So we can’t get very close to some of the formations.

Reluctantly, I slowly walk back to the exit point. I don’t know if I’ll ever make it up here again. The only roads going near here are 4-wheel drive and even they can’t come into Chesler.  The walk back is hot and sunny, but not too bad.

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I am very happy to take of my boots and put on tennies when we get back to the Rav. We stop at a picnic spot to have coffee and then head back to the rig for a shower.

May 12    Slickrock Trail

My legs are much better the next day, so I have no problem when we decide to walk a little ways out on the Slickrock Loop Trail in the late afternoon. The entire trail is only 3 miles but I’m thinking we’ll only go out a half-mile or so. I put on my boots anyway because they work so well on sandstone. A car parks right behind us and a couple get out and ask us what are the best trails out here. I tell them this trail is great but it is 3 miles long. Dave recommends the Pothole Trail, it’s shorter.

We take off and quickly realize that 5 p.m. is way too early for late light. So we dawdle along, doing what we do. The Slickrock Trail has lots of potholes and many still contain water in them. Others have dried up and developed enough dirt to start some plant life.

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Pink Mariposa Lily

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It’s hot. The area of the trail with the overlooks is further along than we expected. By the time we get there, we’ve gone halfway on the trail so we figure we might as well finish the loop. We meet the couple who asked us for recommendations. They have done the loop in the opposite direction and seem unhappy that we are hiking in different directions.

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Either Pearly Everlasting or Poison Milkweed

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It gets a little cooler as we hike on but the light never does get that great. The sunset is nothing special. Oh well, it is a nice farewell hike for Needles.

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May 13    Monticello

We’re done with Needles. We want to upload our blogs and spend a few nights at an RV park. The town of Monticello is at the foot of the Abajo (aka the Blue, aka the Bears Ears) Mountains and we are fairly close to the House on Fire hike from there. Also, their RV parks are cheaper than those in Moab. So when we get to UT-191, we turn south and drive 14 miles down to Monticello.

We stop at the RV park we stayed at before and I get talking with the man who helps out there. He tells me about the horses and the 3-legged goat belonging to the owner and I get to meet them. I feed the two horses an apple each and when I turn away, one of the horses clangs his horseshoe on the metal gate to remind me that he would like another apple.

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Janet’s Dave had mentioned that the windmills installed on the Abajo Mountain foothills ruined the view, in his opinion. There weren’t the huge installations we had seen near Palm Springs but they certainly were noticeable.

Once we settled in, I went grocery shopping and the Blue Mountain Grocery store, the only one in town, hadn’t changed a bit. That is to say it was a very small grocery store. But it gets the job done.

May 14    Abajo Mountains

We decided to drive into the Abajo Mountains. I didn’t remember the road too well, but it did end up at the road into Needles so I thought we’d see a lot of nice rock.

Before we got into the mountains we tried to get close to the windmills. The owner of the RV park we were in said he loved the windmills, since he owned some of the land on which they were installed. The weather was getting stormier.

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We continued to drive into the Abajo’s using the Garmin. As is often the case, it was leading us onto some unreliable (primitive dirt) roads. We followed it a while and found a hillside of aspen that were just starting to leaf out, giving them a soft green furze.

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We finally reached the road leading into Needles. We didn’t want to go there, so we turned around and tried a different road back into the Abajos. This one had a short turnoff to Foy Lake, where we had coffee and spent some time scaring coots and recording reflections in the water.

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The scrub oaks at Foy Lake were a tangled mess of branches and the light was silvery on their smaller twigs.

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May 8   Arches National Park

Our rationale for visiting Arches National Park was to go as early as possible. It worked. We drove in and traffic was only slowed by rubber-necking at an auto accident. Right before the entrance station, a white sedan had gone off the road and down a steep embankment. Four police cars were monitoring the scene.

We got in and drove up the impressive, steep switchbacks to get up on the mesa. We decided to go straight to the Windows area because it is very popular and parking is limited. That worked also. There were quite a few cars but not all that many people climbing around on the windows. The sky was full of clouds and we hoped that a huge thunderstorm would break out, but it didn’t. The light kept changing.

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Cliff Rose

After exploring the main area, we took a short trail that went behind some of the formations. That was fun, with lots of wildflowers and good views of the distant mesas.

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Yucca

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San Juan Onion

The light is harsh when the sun comes out.

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Wild Rhubarb

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Primrose

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We got back to the car 90 minutes later. The two parking areas were full and cars were trolling for a place to park. We pulled out and went to a viewpoint to drink some coffee. Then it was down the road to the viewpoints of Cache Valley and Salt Valley. The mud hills make for multi-colored spectacles. The light was super-soft.

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Delicate Arch is in the center

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The light was pretty flat as we went down the hill so we continued driving to see if it would improve on the way back. It did.

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Fiery Furnace

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At one point, we trained the binoculars on Delicate Arch. We could make out 20 or 30 little specks that were people moving around the arch and huge amphitheater. It’s famous for the light on it at sunset but this was at 10:30 in the morning. The crowds here are amazing. So are the olive-colored hills in the front.

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We continued along the road, getting out at the Fiery Furnace. These formations are so twisted and confusing that rangers conduct guided tours of it. Otherwise, many people would get lost. It was windy and chilly so we didn’t stay long.

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We finally reached the endpoint at the campground and the Devil’s Garden Trail. We had no intention of doing the hike but counted out the empty spaces in the very large parking area. There were 9 out of about 150 parking spaces. The hike would not be a solitary commune with nature. We found a pullout to eat lunch and watch the light on the valleys. The sun was dancing from one spot to another.

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May 9   Going to The Needles

It was time to move on. We wanted to spend some time in the Needles area of Canyonlands National Park. Needles is so remote that there is no town within 50 miles, there is no gas station and there is no phone service. There is only one public campground, The Outpost, where you can dump and you might be able to fill up the RV tank with water if you stay there for the night. So we prepared for lasting 4 or 5 days by running around Moab, loading water, food and gas and unloading the tanks.

We recognized with pleasure all the familiar landmarks on the way down UT-191 and UT-211. The weather was cloudy and cool with showers, but was due to heat up over the next 4 or 5 days. We found our favorite BLM dispersed campsite. There were several other campers there, but they were around the corner of a sandstone formation so we didn’t see much of them. One of their group had a tent up when we got there and we settled in fairly close to it but he had plenty of space to move it, and he did.

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We got out early the next morning and drove the 16-mile road in Needles. We got out at the Potholes and made an effort but the light was flat. It sprinkled a few times. Not ideal. But I still liked the colors in the sandstone.

Yellow Primrose


Raindrops

Sixshooter Peak

The end of the road provoked a little interest as we walked around a large formation, looking into Big Spring Canyon.

I love the way the layers of sandstone create patterns.


We got back into the Rav. I tapped on the Rav window to attract the attention of a raven. It’s response? It flew up on the rear-view mirror, about 9 inches from my face. It was a very large bird and it was eyeing me speculatively, looking for a handout. I was spooked and very glad the window was closed.

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We then went to the Squaw Flat Campground to climb around the rocks there. I’m always amazed that it’s so easy to scramble around on the sandstone.

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It was around this point I heard voices. A lone male hiker was engaging an Asian couple in conversation, asking them how they felt about President Trump’s trade war with China. I didn’t stick around to hear the answer. No politics on the trail!

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Sometimes you need a little help getting down a steep slope.

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A man waving a map of Canyonlands Park approached us at the Visitor Center to vent. He was angry. He drove all the way down to Needles from Moab and now finds that he cannot get to Island in the Sky from here. I think it was a case of him not getting the proper information earlier, but I can understand his angst.  Park entry is $30 if you do not qualify for a senior pass and visiting both areas of the park in one day is close to impossible. There are actually four sections of Canyonlands, each with entrances that are far apart. As far as I know, there is no other national park like this.

We returned to camp and relaxed. The light got really nice around dinner, a double-rainbow manifested and Dave went out and got some nice shots. I just sat on my butt, looking out the window a few times. At that moment, I preferred my Sudoku puzzle.

 

May 3-4     Goblin Valley

It was a short drive from Capitol Reef to Goblin Valley. Highway 24 proceeds east to Hanksville, then takes a sharp turn to north. The San Rafael Swell appears, thrusting all kinds of colorful rock into the air at a strong westward tilt.

We knew we couldn’t camp at Goblin Valley State Park – no reservations available. Once again, we were examining BLM options. We dropped the Lazy Daze and went on a campsite search. One BLM dispersed site looked like a large parking lot and already had a lot of cars and rigs parked there. Also, a lot of ATV trailers, which didn’t please us. But we didn’t see any other great choices and headed back to pick up the rig and move there. We saw a small butte with a short, fairly steep road on the way back and investigated. It had one other rig up there but looked perfect to us, quiet and remote with a good view of the Swell. That’s where we spent Friday and Saturday nights.

Both of us were in the doldrums. It seems to be a part of each trip. We reach a point where we’re kind of tired and not excited about anything. As a result, neither of us was too excited about seeing Goblins State Park. We had been there before and it’s tough to photograph. But it was nearby and the clouds were interesting so we visited.

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As expected for a Sunday, it was loaded with people and kids. But we ambled around, snapping away. I can always Photoshop away anything I don’t want included in the image.

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Some of the formations seemed to take on the characteristics of cartoon characters.

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Some people were climbing very high into the hills.

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On the way back to our Rav, I saw this.

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May 5-7     Moab

It was another short drive to Moab. We called 5 different RV parks to find a space on a Monday. One returned the call. We managed to get into Moab Valley RV Park for one night. Price? $73. Unbelievable! As we drove down UT-191 towards Moab, the line of cars going the opposite direction was unending and slow. As we neared Moab, the line of cars in front of us was long and slow. It seemed like everybody was on the road. We later found out that was a normal exodus on Sunday afternoon. Braving a lot of traffic, we did our chores: bank, groceries, wine, soap dish, laundry, take on water and dump. It was hot and we were glad to have air conditioning.

The next morning, it was off to find a site for the next couple of days. We wanted to be on the Colorado River and there are many BLM sites there. One of the first ones we passed was Grandstaff Campground and Trailhead. Grandstaff? Didn’t that used to be Negro Bill Canyon? Apparently, Negro Bill was not acceptable. His last name was Grandstaff, so that’s what it is now. I’m not sure how to feel about that.

During the few times we had connectivity, I contacted a friend who lives in La Sal. We hadn’t seen Janet Curley for quite a few years and were anxious to catch up with her and meet her friend, David. We suggested a hike and she suggested the Dinosaur Trail, about 15 miles north of Moab. After reuniting at the Lions Park, we followed them up Mill Canyon Road. There is a short walk featuring fossilized dinosaur tracks. They are neat-looking but the way they are displayed doesn’t allow any perspective to show how large they are.

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Sego Lily, Utah’s State Flower

We wanted to walk some more and Dave used the AllTrails app to find the Mill Canyon Dinosaur Trail in a nice valley that featured dinosaur bones in situ.

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Janet and Dave

The bones differed in color and shape from the surrounding rock so they were pretty easy to pick out.  This was the vertebrae of a sauropod. Parts of four v-shaped bones remain as the only evidence of a vandalized tail.

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This is incomplete scapula and shoulder blade and several ribs of a sauropod.

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We passed the exhibits and continued up the valley. I saw lots of flowers I hadn’t seen before. I think this is some type of vetch.

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Hedgehog Cactus

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There was water in the wash. That was nice to see but the mosquitoes quickly became unbearable. It was the first serious bug attack we had during the trip. We turned back and decided to get a late lunch at the Moab Giants, a dinosaur museum.

After a huge hamburger with fries, I stumbled over to pay the entrance fee to the Moab Giants facility. $47 for two seniors. We first went to a small theater where the 3D film started at the beginning of time and progressed to the time of the dinosaurs, in about 20 minutes. From there, we headed over to a small aquarium. Aquarium in the desert? Yes. This is a 5D prehistoric aquarium. The huge creatures that inhabited the oceans in times past are recreated digitally with a grand finale of a Megalodon encounter. It was a well-done display and fun.

After that, we walked the outdoors dinosaur trail, featuring over 100 full-size replicas of the dinosaurs and the footprints they left behind. One interesting thing I learned today is that when dinosaur footprints are found, they are assigned the name of the person who discovered them. That is because it isn’t always easy or possible to figure out to what type of dinosaur the footprints belong.

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Dave tickling a dinosaur

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Tyrannosaurus Rex, rampaging through the Tamarisk

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Unfortunately, the wind was fierce by this time and flying grit was stinging my legs. At one point Janet’s Dave had a tumbleweed crash into him with enough force to leave a bunch of stickers attached to his jeans. We joked around and did silly things and took silly pictures.

Finally, we went into the small museum. They had many interesting exhibits and some fun ones for kids. We said goodbye to Janet and Dave and got home fairly quickly. I was totally exhausted and took a quick nap before making dinner.

April 30     To Capitol Reef National Park

Our big treat on Tuesday morning was breakfast out. Our RV park was next door to a place serving breakfast, lunch and dinner. We headed out to go 100 feet for our breakfast. Dave noticed the restaurant’s chile roaster was going. Maybe Huevos Rancheros, I thought. But no. There were workers in the restaurant and the door opened but they were closed. They clean on Tuesdays.

Disappointed, we asked where we could go for breakfast. Go to Outfitters, they said. “Oh good”, I thought. We could eat breakfast and then I could buy wine there too. Well, they were open and they did serve some things for breakfast. The menu showed breakfast burritos. “Nope”, the perky barrista said. They were out. Bacon and egg bagel? Nope. Spinach quiche? All gone. Dave and I finally snagged the last two pieces of a bacon quiche. She said on Tuesdays, they were the only game in town. She said there was another café, but they were closed for “recuperation”. (Huh?) I guess we should have arrived earlier.

It was supposed to be clear and windy on Tuesday so we thought driving over Boulder Mountain to Capitol Reef should be relatively uneventful. Knowing that the road over the mountain rises to 9,600 feet, I wore a warm turtleneck. As we retraced part of our drive from yesterday, the fluffy clouds coalesced into a fairly solid mass of gray. When we stopped to photograph the naked aspens and great views at 8,000+ feet, it was freezing outside.

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Capitol Reef in the foreground and the Henry Mountains in the background.

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We knew we weren’t getting into Capitol Reef’s campground. Reservations for that popular place get booked solid months ahead of time. We were going to check out a couple of BLM dispersed camping sites a few miles from the park. We ended up at Bea’s Lewis Flats, with a nice view of Boulder Mountain. It began to sprinkle lightly as we settled in. It was a good day to be inside.

After dinner, as dusk descended, we just watched clouds go by, changing shape and tone. It was wonderful.

May 1   Capitol Gorge, Capitol Reef National Park

We weren’t terribly energetic on Wednesday so we decided to drive through Capitol Reef, drive down the short Capitol Gorge road and take a walk in the Gorge. The familiar line of very high cliffs paraded down the road, but we stopped for the flowers.

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Penstemon

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Claret Cup Cactus

After turning east on the gravel road into Capitol Gorge, the walls started closing in. We had to stop and capture the rich, warm colors.

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Once we started walking further into the gorge, the Pioneer Register appeared. People had to graffiti the walls, even in the late 1800’s.

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Pioneer Register

The real attraction for me was “The Tanks”, a series of catchbasins that are found after a short, steep climb above the gorge floor. There were lots of people up there, but then they wander about so it’s not all crowded in one place.

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The tanks weren’t outstanding but the surrounding area was.

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The variety of rock here is astounding.

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Right before the steep descent, we rediscovered a really colorful rock area.

Once back in the gorge, we retraced our steps, noting the changes in light on the walls.

May 2     The Chimney Rock Trail in Capitol Reef

The Chimney Rock Trail was a 3.5-mile loop with a 700 foot rise in elevation. It only took about 15 minutes to reach the parking area off UT-24. It was full of cars. I resigned myself to seeing and hearing a lot of hikers.

Most of the elevation gain is right at the beginning. It involves some switchbacks but they are not terribly steep. It’s just a big trudge. The first formations I saw primarily were deep red-orange with some interesting gray mud hills. Nice.

570View0374ChimneyRockCapitolReefAs we rose, we got a good view of Chimney Rock, then rose above it and it dropped out of sight.

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There was an expansive view of Boulder Mountain and the Henry Mountains when we reached the top of the butte.

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After traversing the top of the butte, we began to descend into another canyon.

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Penstemon

Soon, some good-looking aqua/turquoise-colored mud hills appeared below the red rock.

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I tried to capture the subtle varieties of green that the hills revealed, but it’s hard to get the image to show what I remember.

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Heliotrope

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We made another left turn into Spring Canyon and the view of the multi-colored hills was wonderful. I didn’t remember this from this hike in 2012.

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It seemed a long way to the end of the loop but the canyon was quite nice. We only passed 3 hikers on the entire loop. We finally reached the end of the loop and began the descent. The afternoon light was good and a few formations stood out.

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We drove the short way back to camp, cleaned up and went to the Diablo Café to celebrate my birthday. We shared a smoked salmon “Mingle” with arugula, cous cous, and other stuff drizzled with an avocado cream. Oh, that was wonderful! I followed that up with a huge lamb shank served with hominy. We split a lemon tart for dessert. It was all great.

 

 

April 26-28    Changing Plans

It was only 17 miles from Bryce to the small town of Cannonville, Utah. I made the unfortunate decision of staying at a KOA. $62 per night! Never again if there is any other choice.  I chose Cannonville because it is at the north end of Cottonwood Canyon Road. We wanted to do the Yellow Rocks hike again. Alas, it was not meant to be. The chance of rain showers shut us down. When that mud road gets wet, it is totally impassable. Our Photographing Southern Utah guide suggested a closer alternative: Willis Creek Narrows. It was fairly close, it was a pretty short hike and we might not slide into a ditch if the road got wet.

It was an easy drive there and we set off following Willis Creek into the first narrows. Because wading might be involved, I carried along some sandals but never needed them. With the aid of my hiking poles, there was always a dry spot I could hop over to. The beginning of the narrows wasn’t too impressive but I can always find something to photograph.

We had passed a few horseback riders on the road and now they passed us in the narrow stream. I wonder if some horses are claustrophobic. These didn’t seem to be.

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The colors of the rock in the narrows wasn’t that interesting, but the patterns on the rocks were fun to play with.

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A couple of times the canyon walls opened up and then they would close again. It being a Saturday, quite a few people were traversing Willows Creek. Footwear varied from hiking boots to tennies to galoshes to flip flops. Everyone was having a good time.

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After lunch, I went a little farther, then decided to retrace my steps. Dave went on another half-mile or so. It was a nice outing.

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Fringed Gromwell

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We had thought we might try to catch a couple of nights at Kodachrome Basin State Park, a very pretty place with some nice hikes. But the weather wasn’t getting any better and we’d have to drive out to Kodachrome and see if there were any campsites available. Instead, we decided to move another 30 miles east to Escalante. I could get some groceries there and perhaps we could go down the Hole-in-the-Rock mud road and visit some sites there.

We stayed at the Canyons of the Escalante RV Park, formerly the Broken Bow. A visit to the BLM office put the kibosh on the Hole-in-the-Rock road. Big chance of showers. Too bad.  I couldn’t even go grocery shopping- the one large grocery store in town is closed on Sunday.

April 29     Escalante Canyon

If you can’t drive unpaved roads, drive paved roads. Highway 12 east of Escalante is one of my favorite drives in the U.S.  At the top of the canyon, at Boynton Overlook, the light was mostly dreary and intermittent showers kept happening.

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Highway 12, the road that descends down the hill, is impressive. When you’re driving a rig and towing, it is a little frightening the first time you do it.

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Dave noticed that the new (to us) sidewalk has faint patterns in it. It probably was taken from local rock.

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We started down the switchbacks and pulled over to explore a few times.

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The second stop was the key. I explored one side of the road, Dave explored the other.

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Yucca bud

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Indian Paintbrush

When I returned to the car, he motioned me over to an absolutely wonderful area where a series of potholes had been created by the intermittent streams that occur with rainfall. The colors were very subtle, in shades of creams, grays and beiges and the shapes were subtle as well. No hard edges here.

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We were only halfway down the canyon when we stopped to eat lunch. The Escalante River Trail is at the bottom of the canyon, as is Calf Creek, a hike we have done a few times. From the bottom, the road then rises and rises higher to a mesa that narrows and narrows until it reaches “The Neck”, a section only wide enough to accommodate the paved road itself. The dropoffs on both sides of the road are stupendous.

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After that, the mesa opens up again and you begin the descent into Boulder Valley. At the decrepit little grocery store/gas station, we verified that the three primitive RV sites had expanded to five. Then we drove the Burr Trail into Long Canyon, a long red canyon. All this time, the weather had not improved. I only got out of the car to photograph one rock formation, smell a yellow-flowered bush to see if it was cliff rose (it wasn’t) and to photograph the venerable cottonwood tree in front a short, narrow canyon carved out of the rock face.

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After we returned home, I grocery shopped. The grocery store hasn’t changed since we came here about 40 years ago. The selection is poor and the prices fairly high. I had to ask where the state-run liquor store is – it is contained in one of the tour outfitters businesses. It was not open on Sunday or Monday; by law it must be closed two days per week and on holidays.

That night, a big thunderstorm hit. At one point, we turned out the lights and watched nature’s light and sound show. Exciting.

 

April 22-23    Getting stuff done

We returned to Kanab for one more day to upload the blogs and replenish our supplies. We stayed at the RV Corral Park, another place with tight little spaces and our space was right next to highway which meant highway noise. We went to Kanab’s one hardware store and Dave found the right size machine screws and washers to fix my hiking pole. The small town of Kanab is going to be the biggest town available until we reach Moab.

On Tuesday, we took off for Bryce, hoping to score a campsite in the park. The options are limited because only one campground is open right now. Heavy snow has limited both camping and hiking options. We arrived at the North Campground in Bryce around noon. At the entrance station, we told that we were lucky – there were still some campsites available. The first loop we checked had one lousy space (too tight and not level) so we unhooked the LD and went into Loop B. Score! A small loop off B had several spaces available. We took the largest one. Site 51 is right near a bathroom and is sunny. We could put our chairs out and look at the trees without looking directly at other vehicles or the road. We decided to go for 3 days, $45 with the Senior Pass. A great deal!

We didn’t know how lucky we were. Every time we reentered our camp for the next couple of days, it was full. We kept watching people troll the loops, searching, searching and not finding. We didn’t drive anywhere in Bryce the first afternoon and evening, just enjoyed our campsite.

April 24    The Fairyland Trail

On Wednesday, we got up early and were on the trail about 8:30. Dave and I had negotiated a complex agreement. The full Fairyland loop is 8.5 miles long. Dave wanted to do the entire loop. I didn’t. So we took off from the Fairyland Viewpoint, where the Bryce shuttle buses don’t go. We would hike together until we reached Sunrise Point where I could catch a shuttle back to our campground. Dave would continue hiking back to the car. Good man!

Glowing formations

We didn’t catch sunrise on the formations but the sun was low enough where the glow was wonderful here and there. There were a few other groups that left when we did, but as usual, they soon outdistanced us. We are not speed hikers.

Easter Island statue?

The dried mud trail was quiet and peaceful for an hour or so. Then the planes started flying overhead and Bryce helicopter tours began buzzing like nasty mosquitoes. Oh well, there was a nice breeze and wonderful views.

A fairyland castle

It is fun to get up close and personal with the formations.

The total trail elevation change is 1,300 feet but I don’t think that covers all the ups and downs of the trail. We descended onto the forested canyon floor before beginning to rise again.  The trail had more than visual delights. I sniffed the bark of a Ponderosa Pine and got that faint whiff of vanilla.

Looks like a glowing pumpkin

The nice breeze became a stiff wind as we rose out of the canyon but it was sunny and we never got too hot. One thing I had forgotten about Bryce is that it contains a long series of discrete amphitheaters. You hike out of one and a new one appears. I have no idea how the trail-makers decided where to build the trail but I appreciate the results.

One of the keynote formations on this trail is Tower Bridge.

The wonderful formations in Bryce come in so many varieties of color: white, cream, apricot, orange, pink, russet. The shapes include round, conical, columnar. The mud can be eroded into discrete forms or still run in long walls. It can make for wonderful abstracts.

As the day progressed, we passed and were passed by more and more people. Two young women were hiking in open-toed sandals of the type not meant for hiking. I assume they were doing at least the full 5.5-mile portion of the trail. We passed a couple of couples lugging their babies in a backpack.

The final ascent up to Sunrise Point seemed long, but I was still in pretty good shape. I think the key factor in making a hike miserable is unrelenting heat and the breeze kept me fairly cool. Patches of snow began to appear near the trail. It’s hard to believe it can survive warm weather on orange-colored slopes.

From Sunrise Point

The trail split just below Sunrise Point. I kissed Dave goodbye and went to catch the shuttle. I was back at the Lazy Daze in a half hour and started the coffee and the water heater. The day’s take? 171 images. The selection process begins.

April 25    The Bryce Rim Drive

It was a lazy morning after the Fairyland hike. We always seem to carbo-load after our hikes, so the breakfast menu was French Toast. The weather report was a chance of showers in the afternoon. That could make for interesting light.

We took off around 1:30, not knowing if we would be out for long. The Bryce Canyon rim drive goes 18 miles along the top of the mesa, but only 12 miles were open. The other six went as high as 9,000 feet and it was still very snowy so we were told it was closed. The first stops were Sunrise and Sunset Points, thinking there were only a few stops after that before we’d have to turn around.

View from Sunrise Point

There were hordes of hikers and riders on the trails.


Virga not quite hitting the ground

At Sunset Point, a ranger was hanging out, answering the many questions by various people. I started talking with him about the wonderful petroglyphs we had seen on the Mansard Trail at Kanab and he began to tell me “secret” places where we could see petroglyphs. I had seen several of the places he spoke of so they weren’t all that secret, but it was nice of him to tell.

Dark clouds over Sunset Point

Crew repairing the trail

We decided to drive up as far as we could and then work our way back. As we drove, I noticed quite a few cars returning. I supposed they were all going as far as they could before turning around. But when we reached Natural Bridge, the supposed “end of the road”, it was open! There was quite a lot of snow on the sides of the road and it kept getting higher as we rose beyond 8,000 feet.

Ponderosa Point

Curious, we wanted to see if we could reach Yovimpa Point, the end of the road, at 9,115 feet. We did. The parking lot was crowded with cars. Lots of kids were playing in the snow. One couple had a red-tick hound. “Bark” the man said when we asked him what type of hound his beautiful dog was, and the creature bayed on demand.

View from Yovimpa Point

It started to rain. The wind was blowing hard. Not expecting to reach that point, we had only brought long sleeve shirts and light rain jackets. No mittens. But the views with the rain clouds and virga were spectacular. We stayed there for a half hour, getting water spots on our lenses.

We worked our way back down, running the car heater at full blast when we weren’t popping out at the various points.

From Black Birch Point

Natural Bridge

Aspen trunks

Each point looked into a different amphitheater or two different sides of the same amphitheater. There was some snow visible at each stop, something I don’t remember ever seeing at Bryce before.

Fairview Point

We never made it to Inspiration Point at all. By the time we were back under 8,000 feet, we were tired and had been out more than 3 hours. We returned home to a toasty motorhome and got back into shorts.

 

 

 

 

April 18-19          Kanab

We woke up Thursday morning to plaintive “MOOOOO”. Peeking out the window we saw a cow with a very full udder. Apparently, she wanted us to milk her. Not possessing a lick of lactation-extraction expertise, we left her to her own devices.

We went to the large town of St. George, Utah to restock groceries. That place was busy and it was stressful maneuvering the Lazy Daze into crowded supermarket parking lots. We also had to find a state-run liquor store in order to stock up on wine. One bright note on our way to Kanab: we found a gas station with gas for $2.80 per gallon. Score!

Since we were closing in on Easter weekend, I called ahead to make sure the Hitch-N-Post had a space for one night. They did. While in conversation with the RV park manager, I mentioned that we planned to drive through Zion National Park to get to Kanab. “Oh, you can’t do that! The road through the park is closed near the tunnel; they had a rock avalanche early this year.” Lucky to find out when we did. Otherwise, we would have entered the west side of Zion and had to turn around and backtrack. Instead, we turned off at Hurricane and headed east on a different road.

We’ve been to Kanab, Utah many times. It’s a well-situated little town for us to supply up so that we can stay at the remote areas we love. I remember one trip in the 80’s when we came to buy groceries in Kanab and I found artichokes in the store. Loving artichokes, I added them to my cart. When I checked out, the young cashier looked at them doubtfully.

“How do you eat these?”

“Why, you just slice off the tops to get rid of the stickers, steam the bottoms until they’re tender, pull off the leaves and dip them in butter or mayonnaise.”

“Oh yeah, I’m sure.” she replied, disbelieving my cooking scheme.

The Hitch-N-Post, a small, rustic place, is handily next to a laundromat and grocery store. While doing the laundry, I got into conversation with two others, one a girl covered in tattoos and a man who looked to be in his late-20s or early 30s. It turned out they were both full-timers. The girl said that she and her boyfriend were tattoo artists and when they needed a little money, they could always find a tattoo parlor to work at for a while. The man said he full-timed with his wife and 3 kids, self-schooling them. “A lot of Millennials like this lifestyle a lot.” he said.

We caught up on chores and blog stuff and began to discuss what we wanted to do in-and-around Kanab and where we would go for Easter weekend. There were BLM dispersed sites a few miles north of Kanab and I thought they would be good.  I also thought there would be a lot of them. I was wrong.

Friday morning we took our time taking off, drove about seven miles north of Kanab on US-89 and looked for a campsite on Hancock Road, the way to reach Coral Pink Sand Dunes. Note the word “sand”. There were few dispersed BLM sites than I expected and ones we looked at involved deep sand. Not good. We drove further up the US-89 and pulled into a large area where a few rigs were parked but it really looked like an unloading site for ATV’s, aka sand buggies. Uh-uh, no peace and quiet there.

“Let’s go further up the road to the next BLM site.” We left the LD and drove another 5 miles up US-89 and took a turnoff just south of the turnoff to go to Zion NP. The road was gravel, flat and easy to traverse. A muddy fork of the Virgin River ran alongside the road. There were ATVs roaring up and down the road, but we found a large flat space right by the water. Figuring this was as good as it was going to get, I settled down in my camp chair with water and my iPhone to hold the site while Dave drove back at retrieved the RV. We were settled for the weekend.

April 20    The Mansard Trail

Sifting through all the hiking possibilities, we selected the Mansard Trail hike. In 4 miles or so, it climbed 900 feet to an alcove with petroglyphs. We figured it would be a good introductory hike in canyon country. Also, it was only 6 miles outside of downtown Kanab, so not much driving was required. And I guessed it was not the type of trail that tourists would flock to.

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The Mansard Trail

As soon as we got on the trail, the wildflowers began to appear. All kinds I have never seen before. I knew I would be spending more time with my flower identification book in later days.

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Milkvetch

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Fresh Linanthus

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Not so fresh Linanthus

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Penstemon

After a gentle rise for a while, the trail began to ascend in a series of switchbacks (26 of them). But they weren’t severe and I only got out-of-breath once. Plus, photographing the flowers slowed us down. The views were wonderful – we were back in canyon country, with mesas, buttes and domes.

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Rough staircase

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Yellow Cryptantha

We took a break at a bench that provided a view of two canyons. It also provided a refreshing breeze.

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Our destination

The trail flattened out as it traversed the mesa-top we were on. We were heading towards some nice rock formations.

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Locoweed

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We suddenly turned onto a sandy road with tire tracks on it. What? People drive up here? The road ended in about 100 yards and the rock face I was looking at was spectacular. Usually, desert varnish drips down the rock face, depositing dark stains. This was not desert varnish. It was stains in shades of mocha and brown on white rock with bands of yellow through it. It was beautiful.

The path alongside the cliff was sketchy and the fall was steep if you lost your balance. Both of us were entranced and spent about 20 minutes with our noses and cameras pressed near the rock.

Finally, I suggested that we find the petroglyphs before other people showed up. The alcove containing them was only a short way down the trail. The unusual thing about these petroglyphs was that they were pecked into the sloping floor of the alcove. The first one I noticed was an archer. The neat thing was the artist had added three T-shapes, possibly picturing the progress of the flying arrow.

I am always amazed at the variety of images that are included in petroglyphs. We moved across the expanse, marveling at the work. Soon, a group of four kids and a woman showed up. I was happy to hear her forcefully tell them that they couldn’t touch anything. They soon left and we ate a quiet lunch at the site.

Looking out from the alcove

Afterwards, we worked our way slowly back across the rock face. We heard some engine noise coming from the road and found a couple of ATVs there. The people didn’t look like they were even going to attempt the trail over to the petroglyphs.

The afternoon winds picked up and blasted me to point where I had to remove one of my contacts. I had brought my hiking poles but hadn’t used them on the way up because the path was easy to navigate. But they really help on the way down 900 feet, when I’m tired. So I pulled them out and one of the pressure clips that hold the segments in place, fell off. The bolt had fallen out somewhere. So I hiked down with one pole and hope we can fix it.

 

April 21      The East Side of Zion National Park

As mentioned earlier, the tunnel connecting the west side of Zion with the east side was closed. It would take a one-way trip of about 60 miles or more to get from the west side to east side. So we figured Easter Sunday was the perfect day to visit the east side, only a few miles from our camp.

We had a relaxed Easter breakfast an omelet with bacon and cheesy-bread toast. Later we took off for Zion. On the way in, a dead deer on the side of the road reminded me to drive more slowly. It’s a terrible feeling to kill an animal accidentally.

We would have entered Zion for free with our senior pass but it was a free day anyway. Whether because it was Easter Sunday or because the tunnel was closed, free is nice. Especially because the entrance fee is $35. Wow!

The first formal “sight” in East Zion is Checkerboard Mesa, that is fractured in an unusual fashion.

There are only a few formal pullouts along the road but many pulloffs that we used extensively.

The tints on many of the formations are very delicate and subtle.

There are a lot of beehive formations here. And the huge, cumulous clouds make a great backdrop.

I was driving, toodling along watching the road, when Dave yelled “Stop!” I stopped. “Pull over right there!” I pulled over, next to a young couple staring intently down. There was a large herd of Mountain Sheep grazing a little below the level of the road. They noticed us but that didn’t scare them off.

The collared sheep seems to be the male, keeping an eye on his harem.

Getting a little RAM-bunctious

Suddenly, the herd decided that the grazing was better across the road. Luckily, there was little traffic as they all crossed single file.

Then, one after another, they made incredible leaps onto the steep cliffs above.

The lamb hasn’t grown his horns much

Several sheep approach from the other direction

A lamb kneels down to nurse

74 mountain sheep pictures later (for me), we moved on. It was so wonderful to see the healthy-looking creatures acting naturally in the wild. (Well, sort of wild, with a road running through it.)

We stopped a few more times before we called it quits and went back to camp.

Indian Paintbrush