calf creek, utah   13 comments

Posted at 8:34 am in geology,Utah

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.

Written by bev on May 5th, 2009

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