Friday, March 30, 2018

Her Last Spring Break

Bruneau Dunes, from our campsite.
It took us a full week to get everything ready for departure after our return from Mexico. It only took us a few hours to be ready to leave the cold weather. Our weather, and the fact that this was our friend, Jacquie’s, last spring break before her retirement, was the main reasons for heading south and searching for warmer climes.

Sunset looking east from the Dunes.
We left Post Falls driving west to Ritzville where we turned south. It was 10:30 AM so we began to stream the Gonzaga game on my phone. The Zags were playing UNC Greensboro in the first round of the NCAA tournament and since we couldn’t find the game on the radio, we connected via the phone. Linda watched the action while I drove and listened. This is not the best way to hear the action as you drive. The commentators on TV broadcasts tell you absolutely nothing about the game action and a lot of gobble gook about everything else. Linda gave me the play by play and did a great job. When it was close she was screaming the action in my ear.
The game whiled away a good amount of driving time, the Zags pulled it out, and before long we were in the big city of La Grande, Oregon where we had reservations in the Walmart parking lot.
Looking down the Snake River.

I was not feeling quite up to par, so I went to bed early. It was a rather cold night but we were able to sleep as well as you can expect on your first night out.

During the night the weather changed and when we got up and hit the road there was a slight cover of snow on the road. As we drove south toward Baker OR, the snow got a bit heavier. Outside temperature slowly got warmer. It made for a slushy mess and every big rig that shot past covered our truck with a dirty slush splash that shook us mercilessly. Linda did her best to stay calm, but I heard a few swear words as several 18 wheelers splashed by.

We drove past Baker and the roads began to clear up, driving became easier. We passed through Boise and made our way to our rendezvous spot at Bruneau Dunes State Park. We set up our camper and went for a short walk. Within the hour of our arrival, Jacquie and Grant pulled in to a spot close to our site. Once set up and ready for the evening we gathered in their RV and started our evening ritual of playing Skip Bo, talking, and laughing.

Here, pull my finger.
The next morning we packed up and drove from Bruneau Dunes into Twin Falls where we stopped at the visitor center and took some photos of the Snake River gorge. It was windy and cold, but if you are driving all the way down to this part of Idaho, you have to stop and see the deep cut created by the Snake.

Wingers and basketball. Go Zags!
In early afternoon we pulled into Willard Bay State Park located just outside of Brigham City, Utah. Our set up each night was getting quicker, so Linda and I drove into Brigham City and found a Wingers Restaurant where we could visit later in the evening to watch Gonzaga play another game in the tournament. Jacquie and Grant set up their RV while we looked for a TV.

At around 7:45 PM we all loaded into old Stinky Jeep and invaded Wingers. They sat us in the center of the pub area and turned the 80” TV on to the game. We had burgers, salads, fries and drinks as we watched the Zags eke out a win. Jacquie mentioned that she had never been in a pub where almost all the patrons were drinking soft drinks. Welcome to Utah.

View from our campsite at Big Bend.
The next morning our little caravan headed out and drove I15 through Salt Lake City. Traffic was light and we had no problems getting past the usually congested metropolitan area. At Nephi, Linda and I had a discussion concerning previous trips and we decided that it would be better to backtrack to Spanish Forks and drive up over Soldier Summit and then through Price. This would make it so we wouldn’t get to stay at Lake Yuba State Park, but it would cut off more than a hundred miles that we really didn’t need to drive.

Our change put us in Green River where we went to Green River State Park and spent the night. We wanted to get up early and drive into Moab area to find a BLM campground site. The earlier the better, especially since this was Monday, the first day of numerous college and school spring breaks. Also the Moab Jeep Safari was gearing up to start the following weekend. We had our work cut out for us!

Leaving the Green River before the sun came up saw us on our way to Moab. Sunrise was beautiful and we arrived in Moab around 8 AM. When we crossed the bridge at the Colorado River, we turned left and followed the highway upriver to Goose Island Campground.

Weather coming in, Linda's running.
We drove in and immediately talked to the camp host. He explained that there was only one campsite available, but a kid was trying to decide if he wanted to take it or not. We met the young man and asked him what he had decided. He was sort of strange and gave us a very vague answer. After a bit and without saying a word, he walked to the site and put his tag on the post. We guessed that meant he was taking it. So we missed the prime spot by about five minutes. Oh, well!

After the storm!
We drove on upriver to Big Bend Campground where we found a spot. As it turned out, the spot we ended up in was very nice, with early and late sun. What made it better was that it was big enough for both rigs. This meant that each of us was paying $3.50 per night by using my US Parks geezer card. I guess getting old has its benefits.
Once we were all settled we loaded into Stinky Jeep and headed into Arches National Park for a bit of a recon mission. At this point, let me explain the “loading into Stinky” part of our day. This is important to know about because we did it at least 14 times a day.

First, we would pack the back compartment with items that we needed to access during the day. Water, food, extra jackets, stuff like that. Then Jacquie and Linda would alternate climbing up onto the Jeep and scrunching into the back seat. Once they were there and had their seatbelts on (which could be quite a project in itself), they would be handed numerous items that we didn’t want to squeeze into the way-back. They would find a spot for them and then give Grant and I the OK to climb into our seats and fight to get our seatbelts on. 
The seven Gossips.
Once that was finished then someone would remember that they left something and one of the front seat owners would then dismount and go get the forgotten item. Like I said, we did this several times a day and each time I think we got a little slower.

During our hike down Park Place.
In the National Park (Geezer pass entry - free), we stopped at the Visitors’ Center and gathered information that we felt would get us through the week. Linda checked and found out that there were no guided tours happening in the park due to budget problems, so we would not be able to go into the Fiery Furnace area during this visit. Don’t get us started on the budget problem thing.

Our little exploration then took us up into the park where we introduced Jacquie and Grant to a beauty they had never viewed before. Each curve of the road displayed the red rock wonder of this national treasure. I had taken the windows out of the Jeep; the sun was out yet the air was chilled. I think we introduced our friends to this part of Utah quite well that afternoon.

In front of the Three Gossips.
Back at Big Bend we ate dinner and played cards. Everyone was beat and wanted to get an early start the next day. After three games of Skip Bo we retired and slept like logs.

The next day we spent exploring Arches National Park. The weather was beautiful as we drove from one hike to the next. Park Avenue, Balancing Rock, The Windows, and Turret Arch were all there before us in earth’s entire glorious splendor. 

Hiking back up through Park Place. 
We had our lunch, mid-day, along the side of the road with Balancing Rock and all its partners spread out before us. By 3:00 PM we were beat and headed back for another evening of drinks in the sun followed by dinner and Skip Bo. What a life we live!

Wednesday morning we woke to a bit of a change in the weather. Plans are made to be adjusted so we decided to save the Delicate Arch hike for a nicer day and we drove south to the Wind Whistle area. Linda and I had stayed at Wind Whistle CG and explored the area beyond extensively.

Looking out over the La Sal Mountains
Stinky Jeep took us out to the Needles Overlook and there we spent the next hour looking out over Canyonlands National Park. We pointed out the areas we had visited in the past which prompted the first of many stories about our “Epic Trip” by Mt. Bike along the White Rim Trail. By the end of our Utah visit, Jacquie and Grant would hear about that adventure every time we walked to a canyon overlook where we could see the White Rim Trail off in the distance. It is amazing that they didn’t get fed up with our yarns and toss us off the cliffs before us.
On the trip back from the overlook we took a little detour to a big red rock that protruded out of the ground out in the middle of nowhere. Circling the giant rock we drove to an area where cows had been fenced in during the winter. There were cow pies everywhere, so we decided to have our lunch amongst the treasure trove. It was fun climbing on the big rock and enjoying the sun. We did, however, have to watch our step as we moooooved about.

Back in town we searched the internet and found that we could get showers at Moab’s new aquatic center. Having planned for showers prior to leaving for our daily adventure, we made a hasty beeline to the center, paid our access fee and everyone took a long hot shower. All clean and squeaky, we returned to Big Bend for sun, drinks, dinner and, of course, Skip Bo.

Behind the Windows.
Delicate Arch was our destination for Thursday. As we progressed through the week we noticed that the crowds in the park were getting bigger. Our hopes were that if we got an early start and with the slight weather change, we would not see as many hikers on our visit. We were wrong. When we arrived at the parking lot for the trail to Delicate Arch it was packed. We lucked out and got a spot; Stinky can fit anywhere! 

With all the people on the trail and in the parking lot we decided that we would not let the throngs impede our visit to this iconic arch. Onward we hiked up, following the cairns and the folks before us.

When we reached the end of the trail and climbed the final steps up to view the vista, it was well worth the work. Before us were the La Sal Mountains in the distance and fronting them was Delicate Arch in all its glory. I can tell you this, the license plate does not do this icon justice.

We took photos and climbed around for a while and then headed back to the parking lot. On the way down we did a quick scramble up into a small arch where we got a different view of Delicate Arch. I believe that Jacquie and Grant were impressed with all they saw during this adventure.

We hustled back to camp and grabbed a bite to eat. Then we loaded back in Stinky and went into town where we found a sports bar called the Alley and watched the Gonzaga game. The Zags played poorly and lost. We had a good time watching the game and observing the “sports bar” happenings. Our waitress was a bit strange but was very nice. 

We accepted our loss (reluctantly) and returned to Big Bend. One thing that we decided during our evening away from camp was that instead of packing up and moving camp to another area, we would stay in Moab and keep exploring all that was available to us. No need to search for another site when we have just scratched the surface here.

Morning found the weather in a bad mood. Linda got up and took the Jeep downriver to a running trail along the river. There she took off on her run and within a half hour discovered that a huge lightning and thunderstorm had followed her downriver. 

She turned around and made it back to Goose Island CG when the storm caught her and opened up. The camp host rescued her and drove her to the Jeep. During all this I was worried sick, but could do nothing but wait. She returned and told us her story. I was very relieved.

The weather cleared up so we jumped into the Jeep and drove upriver to a hike that would lead us into Fisher Tower area.  We parked and hit the trail and immediately got lost. The people we met on the trail told us that they had gone out the direction we were going and the trail ended. So we listened to them and turned around. Needless to say, they had not hiked far enough and had missed the rock cairns leading down into the gully. After a bit, we figured out the mistake and got on the right trail.

Picnic along the side of the road.
This area is really amazing! Fisher Tower is well known as a climbing paradise. We hiked beneath its spires and took in the views. Linda was not feeling well so she and I turned back a little early. From our viewpoint we watched Grant and Jacquie hike out to a point and return. When they caught us we returned to the Jeep and then home to Big Bend.

Saturday was a shopping day! Yep, we went into Moab and did the tourist thing. Even better, it was shower day!!! Showers and shopping, Linda’s favorite combination ever! We got clean, shopped and had a great lunch before we returned to camp and sat out in our chairs in the sun.

Climbing up the cable to Corona Arch.
Every afternoon about 3:00 PM, we were able to witness a strange phenomenon. As we sat in the sun in our chairs, groups of what we called Squarebacks would amble by and head across the highway. There they would cut through the sagebrush to a huge rock. 

Then we climbed the ladder!
When they arrived they usually spread out around the big boulder. At that time they would shed their protective squareback and start crawling, like ants, around on the rock. We observed this from a distance of about 200 yards. They would cling to the rocks face and either climb up or fall off. Looking closer we noticed that they tended to reach out for white areas on the rock’s surface. 

Our conclusion was that they were feeding on the white substance that dotted the rock. These Squarebacks repeatedly clung to the rock until the sun went below the skyline and then they would wander back away from the rock and back across the highway.

We got up on Sunday and drove to the park entrance. Our destination today would be the Devil’s Garden at the far end of the park road. As we rounded the bend a line of vehicles stretched out before us. It looked to be about a mile long. I slowed, turned on my blinker, and made a U-turn. Corona Arch, here we come! If you go north out of Moab and follow the road down the Colorado River in the direction of Pot Ash, you will eventually come to a parking lot that lets you access the Corona Arch trailhead.

Corona Arch, my favorite!
As we traveled towards our new hike, we drove past rock climber after rock climber being belayed as they attempted one of the hundreds of climbs up the north face of this canyon. It was fun to see all these climbers and a few Squarebacks enjoying the outdoors.

The hike into Corona Arch is very cool. You get to walk ledges, climb steps using fixed cables, and even ascend a ladder affixed to the rock wall. You pass a couple arches as you hike and at the end of the trail you come upon one of my favorite arches, Corona. It is spectacular and pictures can’t do it justice. We climbed around, took photos, and talked about how amazing it was.

Back in the Jeep we drove back upriver and stopped to look at a large canyon wall covered with pictographs. There were etchings everywhere! The area of the etchings was right adjacent to the area where the climbers were doing their thing. Signs prohibiting climbing amongst the pictographs made you wonder why in the world anyone would climb on or around these ancient wonders. Then again, man will be man, I guess.
Monday we agreed to hike Devil’s Garden come hell or high water. (Note the pun.) Back in the Jeep we drove to the last parking lot in Arches. The hike was busy but the sun was out and it wasn’t too windy. We visited Tunnel Arch and then walked over to Pine Tree Arch. The panorama views of Pine Tree were spectacular! After some photos, we backtracked to the main trail and made our way to the Landscape Arch viewing point. From there the trail heads up a steep fin. Linda and Grant continued up while Jacquie and I held down the fort at the foot of the fins.

Back at the Jeep, we drove back down the road to the parking lot for Sand Dune Arch. Sand Dune Arch is the area where all parents get a few minutes rest as their kids scale the dune, jumping and cavorting in the sand. We took a couple photos and hurried on down the trail to Broken Arch.  From the trail you could see Tapestry Arch off in the distance; we decided not to make the hike over to that area and returned to the Jeep.

Pictographs along the road.
Back in camp we gathered in our chairs and indulged in our usual drinks and snacks. The camp host stopped by for a visit and he asked us to do him a favor. He was going to be off duty for the next two days and he wanted to appoint us as temporary camp hosts while he was away. Yes, you heard that right! We had just been given a huge amount of responsibility and boy, were we up for it. Grant asked the host for his official host hat, but that was not part of the agreement. Of course, we accepted!

For the next two days our duties, as assigned, were as follows: in the morning we were to take down the Campground Full sign and hide it in a bush. In the afternoon, we were to then take the sign out of the bush and place it in the road at the campground entry.

As you can probably imagine, we read a bit more into the “Duties as Assigned” as the specially appointed official Big Bend Campground Hosts. Grant and I became the dusty road speed monitors. Whenever a vehicle drove by at a speed we deemed too fast we would motion with our hands to “Sloooow Doooown!” Come to think of it, Grant and I were drunk with the power of the title of specially appointed official Big Bend Campground Hosts. Our voices got deeper and we observed every happening around the campground with a wary eye. Linda and Jacquie were good with just completing the two duties assigned. They rolled their eyes a lot as their boys spouted off about how they were going to straighten up the campground.

After two days of our being in charge, the camp host returned and stopped by to thank us. Grant asked for his hat and again was denied.

Landscape Arch.
Changing directions on Tuesday, we drove out to Dead Horse Point State Park and hiked the rim trails. From there we continued to the Visitor Center in the Island in the Sky part of Canyonlands National Park. At the center, we looked down and over the Shafer Trail below us. This was the trail we rode our mountain bikes up at the end of the White Rim Trail.  You know, our “Epic Trip”, once again the story was told and Grant and Jacquie listened sincerely.

The day ended with our group sitting and talking about their adventures. We played Skip Bo and made plans to do nothing the next day. I, however, had gotten a text from a former student, Jack Vanderlinden and he said he was in town staying at the Lazy Lizard Hostel. It wasn’t that late and the drive into town wouldn’t take long so I drove in and met up at the hostel.

Arriving at the Lazy Lizard I pulled in and parked next to a North Idaho College van. Calling Jack, I found which unit he was staying in and proceeded on in. Jack was with the NIC Outdoor Mt. Bike class on their spring break trip. Also in attendance was instructor Paul Chivvis and another former student I knew, Brian Hilland. We sat around their room in the Lizard and chewed the fat. We caught up on what each had been doing and laughed about some of our past adventures. 

Morning activities were low key. We drove into town and took our final showers at the Aquatics Center. For lunch we bought quesadillas from a food truck and sat in the sun enjoying life. Tomorrow we will part ways. Grant and Jacque will drive home through Salt Lake City, into Idaho, through Washington and then into Canada. We will head to the California Coast and then north visiting friends and family as we go. We had a wonderful time in the Moab area; it was a good last spring break.


Squareback feeding rock, note the white powder.
Squarebacks heading to the rock to feed.
Deadhorse Canyon area.

Looking down over Canyonlands.

The Green River and White Rim.

Appoint as temporary camp hosts,
we took our job seriously!

No comments: