Archive for the ‘Utah’ Category
NOTE: As mentioned some time ago, the comments function of this blog no longer work. I tried to get the problem sorted out before going on the road last autumn, but to no avail. I finally resorted to setting up a new blog at another URL. It contains all of the posts that reside at this URL, but also has all of the missing comments and allows new comments to be posted. You can find the version of this post to which you can post comments here. I’ll try to remember to put up new posts here, but I suggest updating your bookmark to the new URL.
In my last post, I wrote about our first night at Big Bend campground on the Colorado River a few miles above Moab. The following morning, the dogs and I departed for a day of touring through Arches National Park. Arriving shortly after opening time, there were few other visitors on the main roadway that meanders through the park. I believe that the weather may have been keeping people away – there was a severe weather warning for rain and snow in the forecast. Fortunately, in addition to scaring away the visitors, the approaching storm front also made for some wonderful cloud formations in an area where clear blue skies are common. For a photographer, drifting clouds can create some dramatic light conditions over such vast landscapes.
I had some difficulty choosing just a handful of photos to represent our day at Arches, but I believe that this selection will provide some idea of the type and scale of the rock formations. Also, I wanted to show how theatrical these landscapes can become when the sunlight and clouds work their magic under certain conditions. I took great delight in standing awhile at each spot, watching as the formations could be transformed within seconds. In the past, I’ve enjoyed this effect over rock formations in other vast landscapes in places such as John Day Fossil Beds. Some of you may even remember me writing about such light effects back on my old “Burning Silo” blog back in November 2006.
Another interesting aspect of these formations is how much the appearance can change as you move around the periphery. What at first looks to be an irregular wall of rock may, within seconds, reveal a massive arch. Likewise, spires and boulders balanced atop rock towers often morph into the heads of howling wolves, a dragon, a group of people, or whatever else one might imagine.
Soon after arriving at Arches, I noticed that my way of looking at the place seemed to differ from that of the other visitors on that day. Very few would stop at the turn-outs where you would have a view of the landscape and the rock formations at a distance. Most would bypass these spots, rarely even slowing down, but instead driving on to park before an arch or other formation to snap a few photos. For myself, I loved the distant views where I could watch the storm front passed over the landscape. It was amazing to see a formation from a couple of miles off, and then drive toward it, marveling over how it would change as I drew increasingly near.
The only problem with Arches is the same I have encountered in the past. After four or five hours of being immersed in red rock, I begin to experience a sense of overload. There’s just so much that your eyes and mind can handle before it begins to feel like a little too much — at least, for this easterner who is more accustomed to lakes and forests. By the turnaround loop at the end of the road, I had seen enough red rock landscapes for one day and was ready to return to my campsite on the Colorado.
The weather forecast proved to be correct. That evening, shortly after cleaning up after preparing our meal, the rain began to fall – gentle at first, but then increasing until it was pounding on the van roof. When the deluge continued for a couple of hours, I began to consider how such a downpour might change the flow of the river alongside our campsite. When you have camped in red rock country enough times, you learn to have some respect for the effect that heavy rains can have on creeks and rivers. A dry creek bed can soon fill and become a raging torrent, tearing and transfiguring its sandy banks. After a time, I opened the window near my head and listened to the river. The gentle sound of waves lapping on the shore had now become a growling rumble in the utter darkness. During a lull in the rain, I decided to get up, pull on my jacket and take a good look at the river with my largest flashlight. I was quite sure we were in no danger of flash flooding on this section of river – the campground being located quite a few feet up from the water’s edge. Also, there was little evidence of previous flood damage – always a pretty good indication that it’s a safe spot. Still, in my travels, I have seen the remains of long-established campgrounds that were torn apart by raging rivers – so much so that they were never repaired or re-established. I’ve also met camp hosts who are out checking river levels during the night, deciding whether to tell people to move to higher ground (the Smith River in northern California being one place where this has happened). That thought was enough to get me up shining a beam along the shore. However, after checking out the river, I found it was a little higher than earlier in the day, but not enough to be concerned. Now I would be able to go back to bed and go to sleep, knowing that there probably was little chance that we would need to relocate to higher ground.
The heavy rains continued on through much of the night. By morning, the air temperature in the canyon was much different than on the previous couple of days. Gone was the slight warmth that seemed to radiate from the great masses of stone about us. In its place, there was a frigid walk-in freezer feel to the air. I’d been thinking of staying on another couple of nights, but knew we would probably feel cold and miserable. I decided to break camp after breakfast and go exploring elsewhere. I wasn’t quite sure where we would go, but knew that just about any site would be warmer than the one we were leaving.
I’d been thinking of going up to see the petroglyphs and pictographs up at Sego Canyon near Thompson Springs, so that became our morning destination. After that — well, surely we would come upon a good place to camp a night or two. That’s the way I try to think when traveling — to remain optimistic that something interesting will present itself. Most times, that’s just how it goes.
I’m going to end this post with something a little different. A friend in New Mexico sent me a link today, saying that this song made him think of me. I watched the video and soon discovered why. The song is entitled Lighthouse, performed by Antje Duvekot, written by Antje Duvekot & Kate Klim. Here is a link to the lyrics for those who are interested. Thanks to Dusty for sending this along. I very much enjoyed hearing this song.
As promised, I’ll be writing a few more posts about Arizona and the time spent in southern Utah as we made our trek homeward to Ontario. I’d meant to finish this in time to submit to Carnival of the Arid #4, but have been so busy getting the house ready to sell, that it didn’t happen. However, please do wander over to Coyote Crossing to check out the latest edition. Now, back to our journey.
Enroute through Utah, the region between Escalante and Boulder totally blew me away. This map depicts the Grand Staircase-Escalante and Capitol Reef areas of southern Utah through which we passed.
From Escalante, route 12 winds downward into an area of immense, soft yellow domes of Navajo sandstone. The above image (click on it for a larger version), doesn’t even begin to convey the view and how this place feels when you’re above or moving through.
In places, the high domes are deeply cut by canyons through which meandering creeks flow. One of these is Calf Creek where Sabrina and I stopped to camp and hike (see above).
We arrived late in the afternoon, snagging the second-to-last site at this small BLM campground. Something should probably be said about my crappy timing for the return trip home. I had chosen to depart from Bisbee on March 15th, not realizing that we would be continously mobbed by crowds of campers during March Break. Needless to say, next year, I plan to at least look at a calendar from time to time.
My plan was to make dinner, retire early, then get up and hike the Lower Falls Trail to see the pictographs that are about half way to the falls. Sabrina had been doing fairly well on our day hikes, so I felt she would be up to the walk.
Our campsite and the next were backed by a redrock wall with many circular or oval cavities. While cooking our dinner, I couldn’t help but overhear a conversation going on at the next site. The last camper to arrive wandered over to bother the lone male camper at the next site. I guess that’s the best way to describe what went on. In a booming voice, the late arrival asked if the fellow had ever camped at Calf Creek before, then went on to warn him that, after dark, droves of some kind of small rodents would pour out of the holes in the rock wall behind our campsites and swarm over everything looking for food crumbs. Next, he launched into a description of how dangerous our sites would be if a flash flood were to occur. He said he’d been camped here a couple of years ago when a flood hit and that it got real nasty. I listened to what was mainly a one-way conversation and wondered whether the late arrival was just trying to scare the lone male camper so that he would pack up and vacate his site, making way for the late comer who was stuck with a small and not-very-nice site even closer to the creek. Fortunately, he didn’t come over to bother me. Perhaps the sight of Sabrina tethered to the picnic table was enough to keep him away. All the more reason to travel with my dog, and a reminder of one of the many advantages to camping at dispersed sites in the back country.
Early the next morning, Sabrina and I set out on the Lower Falls Trail. Much of the way is winding but relatively easy walking, but with plenty of ups and downs. The hardest walking was over some patches of soft sand which Sabrina did not enjoy crossing. A few days before at Coral Pink Sand Dunes S.P., I had discovered that she really does not like to walk on any sand that gives way beneath her feet — no doubt, it bothers her arthritis at least a little. Fortunately, most of the sandy spots along this trail were short.
There were a few small scrambles, but most of the trail has been well constructed, with stone steps here and there. In the above photo, a set of these can be seen just behind Sabrina.
We took our time walking the trail, stopping many times to study the rock formations under the shifting light of early morning. The taller walls of rock are banded with yellow and red, but deeper in the canyon along the trail, the rock is predominantly red.
Water and wind have eroded the red rock into fantastic shapes and textures.
Of course, we had to stop at this formation to take the almost obligatory “Fred Flintsone” shot.
After about a mile and a half or so, we arrived at the spot where pictographs can be spotted on a high rock wall on the opposite shore of the creek. A set of binoculars would be a good thing to bring along if you want to study the rock paintings. With my cameras, I was able to zoom in to get a couple of decent shots. These pictographs are of the Fremont type in which human figures are trapezoidal in shape with elaborate decorations on the heads. Rock paintings of this type are seen throughout the Great Basin region and are dated to about 1000 years ago.
Our hike to the pictographs took us about two hours round trip. We could have gone on to see the falls, but I didn’t want to push Sabrina too much as she was still in the process of building up strength after the hardships of last year. We returned to our site at just about the time that the other campers were rising. I’d packed the van before leaving, so we headed off on our way toward Capitol Reef. I’ll write more about our travels in Utah in a further post or two.