Sunday, May 31, 2015

A Hike at Dead Horse Point State Park

Dead Horse Point State Park got its name because cowboys used a high finger of land to keep wild horses after a roundup, by driving them to the point and then blocking the neck off with rough piles of wood. The rims of the finger are too high and steep to allow horses to escape. After one roundup, they left the horses penned up and they died there.

We took a hike along the rim of the point that started and ended at the visitor center. It was about four miles long. The day was perfect, bright and sunny but not very hot. The trail was great in my eyes, because it was quite easy without a lot of climbing up and down.

The view along the East Rim included a couple of large potash evaporation pools in the valley below. These are commercial pools and they are tinted bright blue to speed up evaporation. 

At the Point we had a good view of the Colorado River. It carries a lot of silt as it meanders along. Dead Horse Point is quite a few miles north of Lake Powell, but seeing the river reminded us of the Grand Canyon.

A few benches along the rim would be nice, but Craig found this seat in a dead tree. There were many of them, and this was probably the kind of tree the cowboys had used to block off the neck of the point.

As we returned by way of the West Rim part of the trail, there were some rough rock scrambles, but none of them was very hard. In fact they were fun. I would rather do an easy rock climb that be on a paved path any day.

Overall, the trail was very well marked by many cairns along the way. We have been on some trails where we went astray, but this was not one of them. Thank you to whoever maintains and builds these big and little rock piles.

It may not look like it, but as I sat down for my last rest, I really felt pretty good after this four mile loop. I wish I weighed a lot less, and wish I had never smoked, but I am glad I can still do this.

Speaking of smoking, for me the biggest cost is in lung capacity. I often wish I could carry a small canister of oxygen instead of a bottle of water.  

If you still smoke, quit now!

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Landscape Arch and Other Delights

Although we will be in Moab for a few more days, Wednesday was probably our last day to go into Arches National Park. We still want to explore Canyonlands National Park and Deadhorse State Park before we move on.

Wednesday was very warm, and once again sunny in the late morning when we left the rig. It did rain and blow a bit early in the evening, but we were back home by then.

We wanted to see Landscape Arch. If you have ever seen any pictures of the arches in Utah, you have probably seen one of Landscape Arch. It is said to be the largest arch in the world, and is approaching the end of its life. In 1991, several hikers were resting under the arch when they heard loud cracking noises that they mistook for distant thunder. Then suddenly, large sections of the arch fell. The park poster about Landscape Arch had an image of the event, but we can't find it on Google.

Looking at the picture below, you can see some lighter, newly exposed, rock on the bottom. Can you imagine being there when 180-ton blocks of sandstone came down? The trail under the arch is now closed.

When we got to the parking lot at the trailhead, it was full. But after going around the circle twice, we spotted a couple walking towards their car. I hopped out and confirmed they were leaving, then followed them to their spot. This may be a strategy we will use when we get to Yellowstone in July.   Being able to get out of the Jeep with Craig driving behind me is a help. He’s pretty good at pulling over far enough so other cars can pass him, but at the same time staying close enough to me and the car leaving, to indicate his claim on the spot.

The trail to Landscape Arch is an easy mile and half.  It was one of the first warm days we have encountered, and there was very little shade or breeze. Being the grumbler that I am, I couldn't help observing that hiking in the sun at high noon might not be a good plan! We agreed to get going a bit earlier as the days warm up.

There are over two thousand arches in the park, but only a few have been made famous through photography and art over the years. This one is just to the right of Landscape Arch.  It probably has a name, but I don’t know what it is.

As we walked along the trail we could see islands of sandstone out in the valley, every one of them worth a picture.

I did manage to find a bit of shade here and there, but it was pretty sparse.

On the drive back out of the park we stopped at the Fiery Furnace overlook. You can hike down into this area, but only with a special permit and a guide. We wondered if it was because it was particularly dangerous, or because it was vulnerable to damage by careless hikers.

Finally, there really is a lot of life around, but most of it stays well hidden in the day. This was a new kind of lizard for me. I'm used to California lizards, which are much smaller and gray. This one was almost yellow and spotted.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

A Mile and a Half that felt like Five

We avoided Arches National Park for the holiday weekend in part because of the crowds (we saw a mile-long line of cars waiting to get into the park) and because the weather was blustery and threatening rain.

On Tuesday morning the sun was bright and the sky clear, so we again headed out to hike a few miles to see another of the famous rock formations in the park. 

The park brochure describes the 3 mile round trip hike, to and from the Delicate Arch as "moderate". Well, I think it was quite strenuous, at least for a fat old lady like me! 

The little people-shaped spots up on the slip-rock are in fact people, on the trail ahead of us. The sun was shining and most of the path climbed steadily upward.  Huff n' Puff!

But the views were beautiful and all the people on the trail were happy.

I rested often, and exchanged encouraging words with another couple who were climbing at about the same rate as we were. Craig waited patiently for me. 

Shade was at a premium, and we stopped next to any small juniper that was offering any.

This wall was located almost at the top, and the cool space at its base was a welcome rest stop before making the final push.

And then we were there.  An image of the Delicate Arch is used on the Utah license plates, and I have seen pictures of it many times.

Sometimes I wonder about the distances given in the park information brochures. This might have been a mile and a half as the crow flies, but it sure felt like at least five miles to me. 

Two more views of the arch:

There were lots of people there, but we were patient and got a couple of shots without strangers posing under it.

After enjoying the views and resting for a while, it was time to make the return trip. You probably know that it was much easier going downhill!

We were well on our way down when we noticed storm clouds in what seemed to be the distant sky. 

We've seen similar clouds and experienced brief storms several times in the recent days. A few drops, no big deal.

But not this time. It started to rain quite suddenly, and quickly turned to a downpour. As we hurried toward the parking area, we were surrounded by loud rumbles of thunder. We saw lightning, but fortunately it was far enough away to be no danger. 

Surprisingly, as we hurried into the driving rain, there were a few hardy hikers going UP the trail. We arrived back at the Jeep soaked to the skin on one side, and almost dry on the other. We ate our lunch, and decided to call it a day. By the time we got back to the Alfa, the sun was out.

I crashed and took a short rest.

Tomorrow we will go back to see a couple of other places.  

That is one of the wonderful things about full-timing, being able to go back and see more. The RV park is emptying out today, as many other campers have to go back to work.

Not Us!

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Arches National Park

The drive from Panguitch to Moab was smooth. We did have some significant uphill grades, but downshifting kept the engine temperature within the safe range. The scenery was absolutely beautiful. I grew up in a mid-west city, and spent most of thirty years in the coastal mountains of California. I am awed by the huge rock formations at every turn. 

Our current location at Archview RV Park is close to two National Parks and at least one major State Park. 

On Thursday we headed over to Arches National Park. I could post several hundred images of what we saw there, but I will try to limit it to a few.

One of the many enormous fins of sandstone.  This is several city blocks long.

   Of course I can't have a post about rocks without at least one dead tree.

These are called the North and South Window, but other rock people would prefer to call them The Spectacles.

The more you look at rocks, the more things you start to see.
We called this group the Three Kings:

Then I spotted this grumpy bearded man:

This cloud formation seemed to mimic the rock pile to the left:

It did get a bit stormy for a short while. We stayed in the Jeep and had our lunch sandwiches during a brief cloudburst, but it passed and the sunshine returned.

 Of the "over two thousand" arches in the park, the Double Arch was one of our favorites. Notice how tiny the people look!

Speaking of favorites, I really like this closeup Craig took looking up at the Double Arch above him.

There are many odd piles of rock in the park. One wonders why some tumble down and some stay up. This is the most famous of the balancing rocks.

We will be going back for at least one more day since we still have so much to see, but it probably won't be until next week sometime.

Meanwhile these are a couple of local residents we saw:

As Judy would say: "The End"!

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Travel Thoughts

Tuesday's weather was too erratic to go for a last hike in the nearby Red Rock State Park. It would be sunny for awhile then get totally gray and suddenly burst into hard rain. There was even some thunder and lightning!

So, Craig took care of a small but perplexing problem with our fresh water fill valve, checked the batteries, and did the pre-departure tank dump. He often does these things on the morning we leave a place. Now they are all done a day ahead.

Our next drive  is about 250 miles. We will stop in Panguitch to fill up on both diesel fuel and propane. We prefer using the propane furnace for heat rather than the electric. I do use a small Dyson heater in the front of the coach on cold days, and when it is on, the gas furnace rarely runs.  Craig prefers to have the furnace on at night because it also keeps the bays warm enough to prevent the water pump from freezing.

I almost always have mixed feelings on the day before, and on travel days. I feel excited about going to a new place, and at the same time feel a bit uneasy about what the new park I have picked out will be like. As the trip planner, I'm always a little afraid I have booked us into the "Bates Motel of RV parks". 

I can't say I'm a big worrier about the mechanical aspects of travel. I know we have a good RV that has been maintained and has good tires and brakes, but anytime we are moving I know breakdowns can happen. I am glad to say that any misgivings I have are usually forgotten as soon as we are hooked up, fueled up, and on the highway.

Once we are on the road, I enjoy watching the landscape change and taking my turn(s) as the driver. 

We never rush to get going. If we are on the road by nine or ten, that is good. I always make sandwiches before we leave, and we eat them as we roll. We don't try to go too far in one day, and like to arrive and get settled before evening. Mid-afternoon is ideal.

When we do get to the next park, I always feel a release of tension  when Craig releases the air from the bags and the Alfa lets out with a big sigh as she settles into her new space. 

I guess it's like coming home from work or school at the end of the week. Looking forward to the first day at a new campground is like looking forward to Saturday morning. 

Monday, May 18, 2015

A visit to Kodachrome Basin

We went on a nice day trip to Kodachrome Basin State Park on Saturday.  Before that we had two quiet days, resting in the Alfa and watching it rain and snow. Brrr! 

It was still a little threatening Saturday morning, but we decided to chance it. We had a bit of sporadic rain, but the day was mostly sunny.

Kodachrome Basin is about 25 mile from Bryce Canyon. The road is good and the scenery was beautiful.

I'm sure I will get to the point when I will not want to see another rock wall, but I haven't gotten there yet. Each place is so different. At Kodachrome Basin the upper part of the rim walls are colored grayish-green by the minerals mixed with the limestone. The rusty reds are caused by iron oxides.

Because the weather was threatening, we kept our walks short.

It s really hard to show how steep a trail is, but from Craig's careful stance I think you can get the sense that this was not flat ground. The path going to the right of the picture was also quite steep.

One feature of the basin was the varied large single rocks and pipes standing here and there without many other rocks around them.

This one was very odd.

As we drove past this one Craig called it a "Widow Rock". The larger rock behind this one was really quite far away. If  you look carefully you can see rain coming down in the distance. It started to rain on us shortly after we took this picture.

Kodachrome Basin State Park is a nice added day trip if you are staying in the Bryce Canyon area. There were very few people there when we were, but it may be because the weather was so "iffy".

We don't leave here until Wednesday. I can't say I recommend Panguitch, UT as a place of interest or entertainment. The weather forecast is for possible rain and moderately cold temperatures,  so we may continue to just relax and hang out at the rig until it is time to roll.

Friday, May 15, 2015

Bryce Canyon: Navajo Loop Trail

[From Craig] On Wednesday May 13, Merikay and I hiked what a Ranger told us is Bryce Canyon's most popular trail. It went down and then up again, starting and ending at the Sunset view site. Merikay asked me to tell the story, which is accompanied by pretty large images. This post is not recommended for readers who are currently on low-bandwidth Internet links.

From the Sunset parking area we walked along the rim to the Sunrise site, from which we started down. Neither Merikay nor I can figure out the Sunrise and Sunset designations, never having been in the Park at either time.

There are many images on the Internet from the Sunrise site. This one is from a short way down the trail:

A few turns down the trail came a great view of an array of hoodoos (formations) that I think of as The Castle because of its apparently rectangular arrangement:

Down and down we went, each of us thinking of how we were going to have to pay for this nice downhill stretch. The next image goes Tolkien's Lord of the Rings one better: Three Towers.

A few turns more down the trail, we saw another three striking formations. From this you can see that we're starting to turn right, along the recommended "clockwise" route around the loop:

The next image has almost nothing to do with the rest of this post, but we swear it is from the hike! It reminds both Merikay and I of an abstract work by Salvador Dali, and needs only a saggy clock draped over one of the trees to complete the Surrealist motif.  :-)

As we neared the bottom of the loop, we came to an area called Queens Garden. Probably the name comes from the ring of features around the top of the tower, which resemble the top of a chess queen:

When the trail turned seriously upward with a long set of switchbacks, we both had to stop very often to catch our breath:

Our uphill climb passed a crew that was improving the trail for future visitors. Here Merikay looks forward to the rest of the climb, next to one of their powered devices:

This series of switchbacks gives climbers the impression that they will be "at the top" when they complete them. It's not true: quite a few longer switchbacks meander up the slope thereafter. They look out over some wonderful new views, like this one:

This formation is close to the trail, and looks almost edible!

Just before we reached the top was another of these amazing "from the rim" images:

The trail is about 3 miles long with about 600 feet of down and up. We finished it with enough time left in the day for a driving tour of the south end of the park. Merikay may write a future post about that... enough for now!