Monday, April 16, 2007

Just been thinking.

I was cleaning up the photos area on the home computer today when I ran across the website I created to document our trip through the Grand Canyon on the Colorado River. It was my first attempt at creating a site, but the reading is fun and the pictures bring back memories.

Check it out by following this link.

If you have been visiting our blog you probably have noticed that I have been having photo problems. For some reason I keep losing the photos I post. Google and Blogger are absolutely no help. They have built a fortress where you can’t get help from anyone. I'll try to fix it but don't keep your fingers crossed.

Saturday, April 07, 2007

Spring Break - Escalante Grand Staircase

View our photos at our Google photo album.

Man, we must have been excited to get out of town. Everything was ready and Linda arrived at 10:00 AM. Our first camper adventure of the season and it looked like we had packed to the max. The first thing in the morning I packed the refrigerator and all the last minute items. I put the equipment to tow the Jeep on the truck and backed it into the street so when Linda arrived we could do a walk around and hit the road.

By 10:30 AM we were at Alton’s getting our tires checked, the final item on the list. We hit the road at about a quarter to eleven. Driving conditions were perfect, bright blue sky and normal traffic. We listened to the iPod and tried to let everything go.

I drove to Missoula, Mt. and we filled up the truck. Then I continued on to Dillon where we filled up again and Linda took over. Now don’t gasp, we were filling up at either a quarter or half tank of gas. It was more a driver’s break then needing to fill up. Gas prices are amazing, somewhere between $2.69 and $2.90 per gallon. Linda drove until the sun went down and we changed again. Pocatello, Id. was our next fill up stop and we talked about stopping for the night. I felt real good and so we decided to push on a little further.

Staying on Highway 15, we sailed on down past Bountiful, Ut., one of my favorite Utah towns. Salt Lake City was a mess of highway construction, big trucks and fast cars. I griped the wheel and kept her at 60 mph. By Provo I was beat and we pulled over at the Wal-Mart inn. There were three other travelers there so we felt safe and went to bed. It was about 11:30 PM Cd’A time. We set the alarm for 4:30 AM and fell right to sleep.

Back on the road before sunrise, we ate a muffin and cruised. We followed I-15 south to Scipio and then turned Southwest on Hwy 50 to the junction of 322 just above Aurora. We hit I-70 and Hwy 24 at the same time and we took 24 to Torrey. We filled up with gas, got coffee, used the restroom and then pointed south again on a little road labeled Hwy 12.

Hwy 12 climbs over a pass of 9330 feet of elevation. It seemed like we climbed the entire time we drove on this section of road. Snow was about 2 feet deep and fresh, but the road was good. Temperatures at this point were hovering just above 19 degrees, but the sun was out and it was clear so we were in a good mood. We dropped down the southern side of the pass and entered Boulder Town at about 10:30 AM.

Our plan was to camp somewhere on the Burr Trail Road so we drove directly to Deer Creek campground, found a nice spot and settled in. Once we got our camp in order we drove to Escalante and left a note for John and Loretta Sutherland at the national park headquarters. Then we drove to the market and picked up a few items, and made a phone call to John and Loretta. It’s crazy but we got a hold of them south of the border in Ensenada Mexico. John said they were in heavy traffic and so we talked fast and let them know where we were camped. Boy, technology sure makes the world smaller, wouldn’t you say. So after that Linda and I drove back to camp, got out our chairs and sat in the sun. After about four hard naps in the warm sun we got up and took a 45 minute hike down Deer Creek. The sun set and we settled in to eat some cold pizza and catch some sweet dreams.

Saturday morning came in real cold but clear and sunny. I got up and started the heater and then Linda followed. She got on her running gear and headed on the Burr Trail Road back in the direction of Boulder. I lay in bed for a bit, then got up and made my coffee. The sun hit the camper about fifteen minutes later and things started warming up. It got down to the 20’s during the night. I thought about all the tent campers around us and smiled to myself. I bet they were a bit cold last night. Oh, those were the days.

Linda got back from her run. You know, when you camp at the bottom of a canyon, there is only one way to run and that is up hill. She said the first mile was real steep and then it turned into a gradual upward grade. Once again I smiled to myself.

We had a quick breakfast and then loaded the Jeep up for a little recon drive, heading out the Burr Trail Road in the direction of the Grand Staircase. What a cool place! It is just as we had imagined it. The big red walls, like Moab, and lots of slot canyons with grand vistas. The road was paved and in very good shape. We passed many of the trail markers we had read about. Every spur road looked like it led to a different valley and primitive camping area. We kept driving and all of a sudden the pavement ended and a dirt road continued. About a quarter mile ahead we saw a sign that said “Welcome to The Grand Staircase National Monument.” We had driven about 40 miles! We stopped and took pictures of us with the sign. I looked at Linda and we both agreed that we needed to go on. In the distance we could see the steps of the staircase.

We drove through a slot and into a canyon. We rounded a corner and saw a sign that read, “Vehicles use low gears”, and the road dropped into a series of Magic Mountain style switch backs. It was awesome to look down the slot and see the road ribbon back and forth, playing out onto the valley floor. Geared down and Linda hanging on for dear life we pointed down the middle of the ribbon. Mid way down the drop, there had been a huge boulder tumble into the path. They had cleared the debris away, but it left a space just big enough for rigs to get by one at a time. In the valley below the switch backs, we came to a junction and at that point we turned back. Before we returned to the road, we took a couple pictures and read the information sign.

We drove back to camp taking pictures along the way and stopping for lunch at the top of the ridge. Baka was tired of riding in the Jeep and it was getting harder to get him back in his nook. Our lunch consisted of the final slices of pizza. We finished the pies and headed back to camp.

Evening was spent sitting in the sun and finally cooking dinner. We had salad and pasta with pesto sauce on it. We read a bit and then turned in at about 9:30 PM.

Morning brought the day of our first hike. We packed up and headed to the trail head for The Gulch and started our trek from there. We followed the stream bed and hooked up with the trail whenever possible. The rain had washed the area a lot, so the true trail was hard to find. The theory was that tracks heading down stream, downies, were usually off the real trail. The uppies, tracks heading back to the trail head, were usually many so these were the ones we tried to follow. Uppies always were on the real trail. We hiked down to an old cabin; it was at about three miles of hiking. Most of the way down we walked on fresh sand from recent rain washes. There were some big bird tracks in the sand that looked like they were walking with one set of foot prints. Linda commented that someone was hiking with their pet bird.

We ate our lunch in the shade of a cliff and relaxed. As we ate we noticed clouds building so we turned around and hiked back to the Jeep. Six miles was just about right for both of us and Baka. The dog was real slow when we hit the vehicle, so were mom and dad.

When we got back to Deer Creek camp, Linda and Baka sat down, Linda reading and Baka sleeping. I decided to drive into Boulder and get some gas and fill the water jugs. The gas pump was available at the grocery stop so I put my card in and started filling. I cleaned the windows and washed the dirt off the lights. I noticed the store was closed but since all I wanted was gas, and I was pumping, then all was well. I went back to the pump and watched as the pennies slowly added up. Each click was a penny’s worth of gas and the clicking sounded like a very slow metronome. So for about $20 dollars worth of gas, I spent about 20 minutes listening to the clicks.

Once full of gas I grabbed the receipt and headed to the Anasazi Museum to fill up our water jugs. I entered and just like the first time when we stopped for information, I was greeted by a stoic Indian park ranger. Here is how the conversation went. Ranger: “One entrance fee?” Dean: “No, not today. Do you have a place where I can fill some water jugs?” (Long pause) Ranger: “No, did you try the grocery store next door?” Dean: “It’s not open. Do you think they would mind if I used there water?” (Long pause) Ranger: “No, that would probably be ok.” Dean: “Ok, thanks, have a nice day.” No reply only a head nod. So I went over to the store and found that all the water was shut off.

Now, prior to going to get gas, I had driven around a bit and saw the grade school, a Mormon stake house and the town hall. I drove to the town hall and noticed that there was a little playground there with a water hose. I tried the pump and out came cold, clear water. So I filled the jugs and placed them in the Jeep. On the drive home it started to rain a bit so when I pulled in Linda was putting stuff away.

I looked over on the road leading in to the camp site and there were two men and a turkey. The younger one wore a cowboy hat and at the time I spotted him he was picking up the turkey, setting it down and scratching its head. It followed then up the road and back down again. When they got close to our site I asked if that was their pet turkey. Then I asked if they had hiked down the Gulch and they both looked at me like I was crazy. They shook their heads saying, no they did not hike the Gulch and no it wasn’t their pet turkey. I was confused and I bet they thought I really was crazy. So I explained about the tracks and footprints in the Gulch and how we thought that someone might have walked their bird down there. They said it was a wild turkey that hung around the camp. When I think back I know they still think I am nuts for thinking they had walked the Gulch with that bird.

We went in the camper and Linda took a shower while I pooped around. I got into the shower after she was through and no sooner had I gotten started, John and Loretta pulled in to camp.

The Citation, followed by the boat, parked out front and everyone hugged. I scrubbed my legs. They started exchanging stories as I washed my hair. I dried off and dressed just as another truck pulled up and honked. John and I disconnected the boat and pulled it to the side of the campsite. John backed the big camper up and let the impatient old man past.

John backed the camper in next to us, we put the boat across the front of the trucks and moved the Jeep out to the fee collection area and we were set. The next few hours was filled with catch up, drinks and conversation. By 9:30 PM we were ready for bed, Sutherlands beat from the long winding drive in.

We woke up and made breakfast, oatmeal for me, and cereal for Linda. Everyone dressed and we loaded the six of us into the Jeep: John, Scout and Dean up front; Linda, Loretta and Baka in the back; and we headed to the Calf Creek campground to hike to the lower falls. About half way there I realized I had left my camera on the shelf outside the camper. I cussed and we continued on, hoping that no one would go back there and take the darned thing.

At the trail head Linda and Loretta went to the rest room and the rest of us sat at the stream smiling. If the ladies back track to the bridge their feet would stay dry, but if they walk up stream to where the trail head started they would have to walk across the stream and that would be the last of the dry feet. After a few minutes, here came girls and when they got to the stream they stopped and looked at us. We smiled, they pouted, and the dogs jumped in the water. At the very moment they started to step on the rocks in the stream a Park Ranger drove up and crossed the stream. He stopped and offered his back bumper to the damsels in distress. They eagerly accepted and climbed on. He backed across the stream and let them off, dry as a bone. It was like throwing a cape over a mud puddle. The ladies were all a titter.

We hiked up the trail looking at the canyon walls, meeting fellow hikers, and enjoying the walk. It was not a hard hike, only about 5 1/2 miles round trip. We came to Lower Calf Creek falls and the sun glistened off the cascading water. What a beautiful spot. Lunch was shared with a raven, while the dogs played in the pool at the bottom of the falls. We rested while numerous groups came and went and after an hour we started back down the trail. Linda and I took the lead and were making good time. We came around a corner and were striding past a couple sitting on the rocks when we heard the man say “Post Falls, Idaho, eh.” We stopped and turned, I said, “Yes, we’re from… Hi Roy!” It was Roy Cook and his wife. Roy and I used to play volleyball together in Coeur d’Alene. He has worked at the college many years teaching math and it sounded like he has been trying to retire permanently. We chatted as John and Loretta caught up. Feeling the need to use the restroom, we hiked on as John and Roy chatted as they descended back to the parking lot. Once again I have to say, man, what a small world.

We packed ourselves into the Jeep and drove back to camp. John and Loretta cooked a wonderful barbeque shrimp dinner with rice and salad. I made a fire and we sat around till the wood was gone and the night breeze became chilled.

Morning brought the Sutherlands last few hours with us. We hiked down Deer Creek about 40 minutes and then returned. It was just the right amount of exercise for us and the dogs. John packed up the exterior gear as Loretta picked up the interior and got ready to travel. I moved some photos of yesterday’s hike to my computer using a thumb drive that Loretta bought in Mexico at a Costco. With all this complete we said good by and waved as they drove up and around the bend heading first to Boulder and then to home. It was wonderful to see them and we had such a great time hiking and talking camper talk.

We drove into Escalante to the BLM station to see if we could get some souvenirs. All they had was books so we went to a liquor store/gift store/coffee shop/guide shop. I bought a T-Shirt and Linda bought two bottles of wine. We drove home, took a solar shower, cooked General Tao’s Pork with vegetables and then we went to bed. Tomorrow we plan to do another hike and Linda wants to be on the road by 8:30 AM. We’ll see!

Wow, on the road by 8:45 AM, that’s a record! Well, not really with Linda on the watch. Today we have decided to hike without our dog. We tied Baka in the shade with plenty of water and food. At the end of the day yesterday poor Baka almost couldn’t get up in the truck, so he has the day off to recover. We drove east into the Grand Staircase to a Jeep road leading up the wash called the Mulie Twist. We read that the Mormons named it because it was so rugged and twisty the trail could twist your mules all up.

The Jeep road was not bad due to the sand and gravel bed. There were a lot of rocks, ruts and major speed bumps, but the Jeep handled then real well. Three miles up the wash you come to the trail head parking lot. We packed our food and water and hiked up the half mile trail to the overlook. When we reached the rock outcropping marking the end of the trail, the Water Pocket Fold stretched our in front of us in all its majesty. It was a pretty unbelievable sight. Spread out before us was red sandstone to the west, the numerous colors of greens and tans in the basin, and then the burnt dusty orange of the cliffs to the east. This little hike was well worth it!

We retraced our steps back to the Jeep where Linda did some sock maintenance. I noticed a car with Kootenai plates so I walked over and asked what part of the Coeur d’Alene area they were from. The fellow said Hayden Lake and I asked if they were teachers in the area and he said we taught at Woodland. So I yelled to Linda and she said “Hey, aren’t you the folks we met two years ago in Moab?” He said that he remembered us and I said that we had hiked the Fiery Furnace area of Arches together.

He told us that they had gone to the Grand Canyon last year and got snowed upon. It was almost a blizzard. Kyle and his brother Brian who I play basketball with told me the exact same story, so I knew everything about that weather. Another instance of a small world, wouldn’t you say.

Linda and I hit the trail up Upper Mulie Twist and followed the wash. We spotted the various arches and when we came to the most prominent one I spotted the ridge trail markers. We drank some water and decided to hike to the ridge top and see if there was a view of the Water Pocket Fold. The trail was well marked with rock cairns, but the elevation gain was pretty extreme. We climbed and rested then took pictures and climbed some more. At the top of the ridge the trail of rock cairns lead us across slick rock over to the edge of the fold. Another view that was inexplicable awaited us. We sat and ate our lunch looking at the fold trying to figure out the geological events that created such a beautiful valley.

As we hiked out the descent we met the folks from Hayden again. We commented on what a coincidence it was to run into them. We said our good byes and as they walked away we heard “See you next Spring Break!” You know, we probably will.

We climbed down the trail and hit the wash with no trouble. The hike was well worth our sweat and tired feet. The Jeep was waiting and we drove back to camp. Linda cooked dinner and I packed stuff up. We had decided to drive home tomorrow so that we can take a few days to get back instead of doing the bonsai thing. The previous years I have driven like a mad fool to get back, this year because of the camper, we will set a leisurely pace home.

View Larger Map