Saturday, May 16, 2015

Tour of S Utah Days 11&12: Not really Utah


Detour back to Colorado

Our plan for Sunday had been to ride early in Moab and motor on over to see friends in Grand Junction, Colorado, but the trail we wanted to do was a bit of a detour off of Hwy 191 so instead we chose to go ride near Grand Junction and Fruita instead. New things!

We’ve ridden the some of the Kokopeli area trails before

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Drew on Mary’s Loop overlooking the Colorado River. We rode this trail a few years ago.

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Me on Moore Fun trail. New to both of us and over both our heads. Still nice to try something new.

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The view from Moore Fun is, in my opinion, more beautiful than the riding.

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Colorado River from Moore Fun

I was challenged but careful on all the difficult technical sections of Moore Fun, and it was a stupid bush on an easy section that finally got me in the end.

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Made it to day 11 with nary a scratch, and then this from a bush.

But the owie didn’t hurt once we got to friends Jon and Kathy’s house in Grand Junction. 

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We had out first nice private showers in a week (glorious) in time to accompany them to a family Mothers day barbeque.  It was nice to enjoy good home-cooked food with good down-to-earth people.


In the morning we departed as Jon and Kathy left for work and made Salt Lake by 2 PM to the delight of our fur children.  I was one day late for Mothers Day but they gave me all the love they had been storing up for me all week.


“Meow. Happy Belated Mothers Day, Mom. Meow.”

The End

We had a fun and adventure filled 12 days of exploring the goodies southern Utah hides in her rugged beauty.  I’ve lived in Utah for 20 years and I will say that this was the best Utah vacation I’ve taken yet.  The days and nights out among the rocks and canyons with my best friend for company, the freedom to detour to unknown places, the shelter and coziness of our van, and the time to enjoy it all.  Here’s to another 20 years of exploring this diverse, wonderful state with the best travel companion I could image.

Friday, May 15, 2015

Tour of S Utah Days 9 & 10: Mesa Verde and Bust

It has been a few days since we arrived home from vacation.  A couple of quick posts to finish the saga. 
Off to the Races
Friday morning we broke camp in Comb Wash quickly and rolled into Blanding for breakfast at the Center Street CafĂ©.  Tasty, especially after eating our own camp cooking for most of three days. We learned that Blanding is a dry town. Good thing we were there in the morning.
We motored on east, jumping into Colorado to get a campsite and reserve spots for our teammates at the 12 Hours of Mesa Verde Mountain Bike Race.  Drew and I have done this race three times, in 2010-2012. A couple of months ago we decide to cap off our vacation with this race and found spots on three-woman and three-man teams.
12 Hours of Mesa Verde is a super fun event on a giggly fun course.  We were looking forward to racing, however, as we rolled into town, the dude at the liquor store informed us there was a storm on the way.
“We’ve been lucky so far on this trip. I’m sure we’ll be OK,” we said. How wrong we were!
Friday afternoon we headed out for a pre-ride of the race course as clouds were building.  The course was in perfect shape, but the weather was a little chilly.  This lovely gopher snake thought it was cold too and wouldn’t get off the trail.
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Gopher snake on the trail
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But 30 minutes in the thunder and lighting and hail came down. We huddled under some trees to wait it out.
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Waiting out the storm. I look happier than I was.
Post ride, we tried to stay warm and hung out with other hardy teammates in the gravel parking lot.  Not my idea of ideal vacation camp spots, but whataya gonna do.
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Dinner in the parking lot.

Race Day

Our teammates Jennie and Devon opted to take the first lap.  Clouds were threatening and it was cold, but not unbearable.
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LeMans start.
Little did we know, that would be the best conditions of the race.  As Drew and I were getting ready to go out on the next lap, the snow started coming down in large non-race-friendly flakes.
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As we were waiting for our teammates to come in, the race directors called for a two-hour hold on the race to wait out the storm.  Each of our riders came in and marked their time, but the next riders (us) were not allowed to go out.  Since I had been watching bikes of other teams come in in bad shape, I was OK with just fine with that.

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  My teammates bike was trashed!
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Riders were coming in very cold and VERY muddy.
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At 10:30, the directors held another meeting and continued another hold until noon.  We went back to our camps and warmed up in the van.  But the snow and rain continued.  Finally, at noon, the directors, with very heavy hearts, called an end to the shortest 12 hour race in history.
Since all the food and beer was already bought, they served it up and handed out awards and prizes.  It was an OK time, but everyone was really disappointed.

Make Lemonade

Reports were coming in that the weather was better in Moab so we packed up and headed back west.  With unexpected time on our hands, we were able to continue the theme of new experiences on this trip with a side trip to Newspaper Rock…
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Newspaper Rock contains petroglyphs from Archaic, Anasazi, Fremont, Navajo, Anglo, and Pueblo peoples
and Needles District of Canyonlands National Park
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Once again, we found ourselves up against nightfall and out of time to hike in a spectacular setting.  We had to settle for pictures like any regular American.
Apparently lots of Americans like to feed the ravens in the park because this guy was not one bit shy to ask for a treat from his perch on my side view mirror.
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Bold raven
We checked every campground inside and outside the park
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Dewey, showing off to his Sportsmobile cousins who never get to leave Indiana.
but the inn was full so we ended up driving back most of the way toward Hwy 191 to find a nice spot for the our last night in Dewey during this trip. 
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Dewey’s last resort.
So 12 Hours of Mesa Verde was a bust, but we got to hang out with friends and continue to have new adventures.

Monday, May 11, 2015

Tour of S Utah Day 8: Arch spectacular - Brimhall Arch and Natural Bridges

Thursday dawned clear and cool – a welcome break from the rain clouds of the past three days.  From Halls Creek overlook (at the southern end of Capitol Reef National Park) we could clearly see miles and miles of Waterpocket Fold and its wonderful exposure of Mesozoic strata.
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View looking southwest from Halls Creek Overlook (a.k.a. Brimhall Arch Trail Head) on the southern end of Capitol Reef National Park. I have labeled the geologic units on the photo above and included a stratigraphic column to put the units in context.  The ridge I was standing on is composed of younger (Cretaceous), more resistant rock lying horizontally. The rocks in front of me are all tilted about 25 degrees except the horizon line, which is mostly horizontal again - there’s your monocline. Halls Creek carved the strike valley below into finer grained parts of the Entrada Formation, but it has a tougher time with sandstone, so that’s why you can see ridges of Entrada, Navajo, and Wingate extending away.  Between each of those units are formations that are more easily eroded (Carmel and Kayenta), so you can’t see them as well, but they are exposed nicely in the canyons. The blob of red sediment pouring out of the canyon in the far left of the photo is called Red Slide.  It is a big landslide of Moenkopi Formation material that slid when the wetter climate of the past saturated those muddy sediments.
May 23 edit: Drew snapped this picture from his airplane yesterday. Wow!

 View of the area from the air. How cool would it be to be a pilot and fly over amazing landscapes that your wife has helped you to understand in the geologic sense? Really cool.

As we had a lot of driving to do this day, we were tempted to get on the road and drive to our prospective stop for the night at Natural Bridges National Monument and hike there.  But we knew there was a good chance we would never get to this spot again in the right frame of mind and body to do a big hike, plus, our craving for adventure was strong, so we decided to hike to the arch that we saw clearly from the overlook. 
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We knew nothing about the hike except what the trail head sign said,
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And the fact that here had to be quite an elevation loss and gain from where we stood.
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Making our way down the rocky slope on the nicely built but still challenging National Park Service (NPS) trail.
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Once to the bottom of the valley, the rocks and canyons loomed large ahead.
The trail was fairly easy to follow into the canyon containing Brimhall Arch, although there were few footprints due to the recent rains.  According to the trail register, the last hikers came through 14 days earlier!  There can't be many National Park trails with that little traffic during peak hiking weather season.   

Once inside the canyon we were rewarded with soaring Navajo Sandstone walls closing in tighter and tighter.  In many places, the bottom of the canyon was bare rock or jumbles of boulders, and we had to use what was available to make uphill progress.
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Farther up, we came to a fork in the canyon. We still could not see our arch destination, but we saw a few faint footprints heading into what looked to be the more passable fork, a deep crack choked with large boulders. 
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That's the "trail"!

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I could chose to show you only the Hollywood version of how I traversed trail obstacles,
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but I’m not a good liar, so here is how it really happens. Hip wedgies.
After the tight slot section, there was still a lot of scrambling on loose terrain.
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Look out below!
At this point we still didn’t know if we were heading to the arch.  Should we have taken the other fork?  Were we even in the right canyon? The small and infrequent rock cairns and footprints were mildly encouraging, but the canyon didn’t seem to be going anywhere.  After a long scramble up a slope of Kayenta Formation shale and siltstone we crested a ridge together and looked yonder at Brimhall Double Arch!
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Capt’n Petey and Captain Jean Luc Picard marveled at the unique double arch formed in the top of the Wingate Sandstone (orange sandstone center of picture) and could clearly see the darker red and white ledges of siltstone and shale in the Kayenta Formation (left and right sides of picture).
After a brief geology discussion with my only willing listeners while Drew ate a Snickers off on a rock far away, we headed back the way we came.
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Back down the way we came.
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Can you spot the tiny frog in the center of this photo?

The rest of the hike was uneventful except that we got more unobstructed views,
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as we climbed out of the valley.
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Back at the van, we made a pot of cowboy coffee for our long drive ahead of us and hit the road.  Three miles of rough dirt road back to the Burr Trail, now paved again.
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Burr Trail Road heading toward the very upper reaches of Lake Powell, barely visible as a blue patch in the center of the photo.
Our plan had been to take the ferry across Lake Powell at Hall’s Crossing, but it is down for repairs until May 16, so we had to go around through Bullfrog/Ticabo.
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A rude welcome back to “civilization” – rows of houseboats in dry storage at Ticabo. Gas was $3.19 per gallon, as compared to $2.90 in Blanding 100 miles away. Although I find motor boating on Lake Powell a waste of vacation time, I am pleased others flock to the reservoir and stay out of my backcountry.
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About a hundred miles of this type of open country…

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…brought us to Natural Bridges National Monument home of three large natural bridges formed in the Cedar Mesa Sandstone. 
Since it was late in the day and the campground was full, (meaning we would have to drive on farther to find a camp spot for the night) we just did the auto loop and took pictures from the overlooks. Not the experience I had hoped for since last time I was here nearly 20 years ago, I didn’t have time to hike down to the bridges either, but hiking remote and challenging Brimhall Arch was so much more exciting than the hikes in the monument would have been anyway, so I still win.
We earned another win by stopping to camp in Comb Wash.
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Comb Ridge is an 80-mile long exposed monocline.
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Another spectacular campsite, this one in the shadows of Comb Ridge and only a half mile off the highway, but still so much more peaceful than an RV park.
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The campsite was surrounded by some of the largest Cottonwood trees I had ever seen.
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The trees provided some privacy for a chilly but much needed solar shower.
Clean and dry, we enjoyed our last night off the grid with cocktails and delicious-‘cause-we-were-hungry veggie chili from a can. Tomorrow we would head for Cortez, Colorado to meet friends for a mountain bike race.  The last few days of this this vacation were soul soothing, sole pounding, and so amazing.  A fitting “Lucy’s 20th Anniversary of Living in Utah” Tour of of Wild Southern Utah.

Morris, T.H., Manning, V.W., Ritter, Scott M., 2010, Geology of Capitol Reef National Park, Utah, in Geology of Utah's Parks and Monuments; Sprinkle, D.A., Chidsey, T. C., and Anderson, P.B, editors.