calf creek, utah   no comments

Posted at 8:34 am in geology,Utah

Note: I’ve moved this blog to a new location as it suddenly started to have problems with navigation and the comment feature (comments no longer displaying). Please visit the new location to read this and more recent posts. Sorry for the inconvenience. – Bev

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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  1. I love southern Utah. There is so much to see there. I hope my wife and I can see some of it this fall, when we plan to take a trip to Colorado, Utah and New Mexico.


    5 May 09 at 10:15 am

  2. Mark – Hope you do spend some time in Utah this autumn. I love southern Utah too — and the San Rafael Swell is a super area too.


    5 May 09 at 2:29 pm

  3. Bev – I’ve been following your journey for awhile, but, until recently, I haven’t gotten up the nerve to be a blog commenter. Must have something to do with starting my own blog. 😉 I love southern Utah, too; unfortunately, I haven’t been there for a long, long time. I heard my first coyote song there when I was a kid, and that sound settled into my soul. Your pictures are beautiful, but what I find most intriguing is that Sabrina is smiling in these pics.

    Beth Lowe

    5 May 09 at 3:01 pm

  4. Hi Beth — Glad you decided to leave a comment! You’re right — Sabrina often looks like she’s smiling. I noticed that quite a bit while we were in Arizona. Perhaps she felt like she was in her heart’s home.


    5 May 09 at 10:07 pm

  5. Lovely to be seeing Utah through your eyes, Bev, and to see Sabrina looking so happy warms my heart!


    6 May 09 at 9:37 am

  6. The vistas are so completely different from anything I’m familiar with. Sometimes in my mind I strip away the trees and large vegetation to try to envision what our area would look like if it were like the southwest. I’ve enjoyed your glimpses into what is the alien for me.

    The rock paintings are great. I was trying to figure out what they were doing – holding hands? Advancing as a force? And that’s another thing – something like that wouldn’t last more than a decade here. Dripping water and growing vegetation would obliterate it quickly.

    Sabrina certainly helps to bring things into perspective!

    And finally, getting the farmhouse ready – it sounds like a monumental task. I hope you can find time away from that. As a query of interest, what do you think will be the climatological differences between Ontario and Nova Scotia? I should bookmark the two, for weather comparisons.

    Right now here, we have green, green, and more green. A month ago we could see everything for great distances – now we can see ten or twenty feet into the woods. Everything is obscured, and more so this year than in the last several. I was thinking – if seasonal affective disorder hits because of a low level of light in the winter, what might be the effect because of high levels of green in the spring? I’m not talking about emergent, bright spring green, but more of enclosing, forbidding, omnipresent green.


    6 May 09 at 10:55 am

  7. Wow …………………nature at its best, so glad you got to see all these wonderful creations of Earth, and took the time to share them with everyone.
    As always


    6 May 09 at 1:46 pm

  8. And so, did Sabrina catch all those nasty little critters that swarmed over the campsite after dusk? 😉

    Good grief. You go someplace in the wilderness to get away from obnoxious people like that!

    I’m glad he didn’t ruin anyone’s stay.

    What a beautiful area. I hope to visit someday, although my true love is the ocean and I don’t think I’ll ever move away from the coast.


    6 May 09 at 2:55 pm

  9. Beth made my comment–Sabrina is ALWAYS “smiling.”
    I don’t which I enjoy more–your pics and descriptions of Sabrina, or your pics and descriptions of wild places.
    Yes, I too want to know if “critters came swarming out of holes”.


    8 May 09 at 7:44 am

  10. Cate – Thanks! It’s fun being able to share some of the days of this trip, and posting the photos will help me to remember some of the best of them.

    Wayne – The vistas of s. Utah really are quite special. Of all of the places I’ve ever traveled, I’d have to say that the geology of Utah is the most unique. I will definitely return and hope to spend more time there either this autumn or next spring. It would take years to explore even a few of the canyons and I’m guessing there would me many astounding things to be seen.
    Yes, getting the farm ready to sell is a lot of work — I’ve been working pretty steadily on things for about 3 weeks. About more week and I think I’ll have finished up.
    You asked about climatological differences between this part of Ontario and the area of Nova Scotia where I’ll be looking at properties. I think it’s safe to say that, in the Annapolis Valley region, autumn would be warmer for longer. Snowfall is not generally so great and minimum temperatures not nearly so low in winter (although I hope not to spend winters in the north much in the future). As you probably know, I belong to nature lists from Ontario and Nova Scotia, and it seems to me that the first appearance of certain plants, birds and amphibians is at least even with Ontario, and in some cases, seems to precede things in my area. In summer, it can be very warm in the Annapolis valley – I would say more steadily so, and with less frosts, etc.. I just found a fairly good description of the climate in the area I’m interested in — near Annapolis Basin and on north or south mountain — on this extension department file on the viability of commercial peach growing in Nova Scotia.
    It states:
    “The Annapolis Valley, where the majority of the commercial apple industry is located, is in a 5b hardiness zone while areas of south western Nova Scotia have a 6a zone but lack suitable soils. On average, winter lows in the Annapolis Valley range between -19 and – 23C with a 45 year extreme low of -30.50C. Minimum winter temperatures can vary by 2-30C within the Annapolis valley which can have an impact on the probability of winter damage to the flower buds and or trees. The coldest temperatures tend to be on the floor of the Annapolis and Gasperaux Valley, while the warmest are found next to the Minas and Annapolis Basin, as well as on the upper slopes of the North and South Mountain and Gasperaux Valley.”
    It’s worth mentioning that there are now quite a few established vineyards in the Annapolis Valley region of N.S. I think more stable summer and autumn temperatures and milder winters are the key. I just checked the Agriculture Canada hardiness zone map and it shows the area between about Middleton and Digby as being 6a and 6b. This differs greatly from my current location near Ottawa, which is zone 5a. That’s enough difference to make possible the growing of many plants that can’t be grown here at my farm. Should be interesting.

    Ed – Hi! I’m glad you got to see these photos. I always wish my local friends and family would visit the blog, so it’s great when someone actually does! (-:

    firefly – Sadly, no, she didn’t catch any of them. I even got up and looked out during the night, but if they were around, they weren’t showing themselves!! I love the ocean too. If I manage to sell my farm, I hope to divide my time between the Atlantic ocean, and the southwest U.S. It seems to me that could be the best of both worlds.

    KGMom – Well, Sabrina definitely smiles a lot when she is in the southwest, or when we’re out hiking. Those seem to be her favourites.


    8 May 09 at 10:24 am

  11. I haven’t ben to south Utah for many years. Your photos remind me that I need to go back. Did you see the endemic (and endangered) tiger beetle at the Coral Pink Sand Dunes?


    8 May 09 at 12:01 pm

  12. Doug – I saw tracks and holes in the sand, but did not see the beetles (drats!). Will post some photos of the dunes and the tracks sometime soon. Hopefully, next time I’m in s. Utah I’ll return to CPSD and will be a little luckier!


    8 May 09 at 12:04 pm

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