Thursday, December 01, 2011

4-Wheel Driving Smokey Mtn Road Escalante, Utah

As of 1pm today, 78 miles of Smokey Mountain Road is open with some sections needing high-clearance vehicles. Its not everyday you can drive this dirt road along the Kaiparowitz Plateau to Page, Arizona. Rain, wind & snow play havoc on this slow winding remote road. You'll want to go slow because you can miss this cache along side of the road or other ruins on the way to Lake Powell. The rugged desert landscape had long shadows as we descended into Big Water, Utah.
After spending the night in Page, Az, we headed back in search of an interesting hike. There are countless old ranch roads that go no where and that was fine with us. We walked a double-track ATV road that seem to connect with Last Chance Canyon for over 2 hours. Perhaps next exploration we'll ride our mountain bikes and find where the ATV track meets Last Chance Canyon.
Closer to Escalante, we had a rare glimpse of the elusive "Fins," tall castle-like fortress, lit up in the late afternoon sun. We recognized our next adventure off Smokey Mountain Road: to find a route to climb these secluded rock fins.

Monday, October 03, 2011

Friendly Flash Flood

We saw all the symptoms of an impending flash flood: dark grey clouds over our westerly direction, thunder despite our sunshine, a 20 minute cloudburst, the creeping foamy trickle of water, newly formed waterfalls. Then our previous dry canyon became a ripply river within a minute.
Yet, the worse fear I had was my shoes getting wet. We had found a rock over-hang while the cloud busted open and ate lunch. Caramel, a Boxer dog, drank rain water that streamed off the overhang as if was coming from a Camelback tube. Later, she played in the foamy water by tossing up the foam in the air and catching it. We watched water shoot through conical slickrock chutes. As we continued to hike up Mitchell Canyon, we stayed higher than the caramel-colored river and hopped on rocks when we had to cross the rising river. We managed to record the GPS coordinates of "Sand Dollar Rock" (our objective) and I didn't get my shoes wet until the last crossing to the truck. The drive down Alvey Wash road was another story: How not to get your vehicle stuck in the mud. Not all floods are nice.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Moment Away

The pressure was on: get from Park City, Utah to Escalante, Utah in less than 5 hours so Ricki (husband) could give his lecture on "Beekeeping." We were miffed when a caravan of tourists stopped on Highway 12 to gawk and film a huge horseshoe rainbow over Henrieville. How dare these tourists hold up our deadline! We sped past them and as we zipped into the Blues, a hologram of yellow, red, and blue spilled into the Blues' ravins. Was this the end of the rainbow? How to capture this moment when we didn't have time, nor was it safe, to take a picture of this pot-of-gold? I realized that this moment will never come again. The sightseers had it right: have your camera ready because you'll never be here, in this moment, again and there is beauty all around you.
Yesterday morning I did capture the moment, via iphone, as the Harvest Moon dipped below Powell Point.

Tuesday, August 09, 2011

Road Cycling to Kodachrome State Park

We changed our usual morning exercise routine to an early evening road bike ride last night to Kodachrome State Park from Cannonville, about 20 round-trip if you go into the State Park. What a relief to have the temperature cool down the longer we rode bikes. The shadows were long as the sun lost it's luster. Highway 12 has fascinating scenery for road biking, West and North from Escalante, Utah but no shoulders.The road to Kodachrome rarely had vehicles on it, perhaps because of the evening time or it just isn't as crowded as the local National Parks. I felt safe and at ease riding skinny tires on this open road toward Cottonwood pass (just outside Kodachrome), home of Grosvenor Arch and back to Cannonville, and continued east on Highway 12 toward Escalante. Ah, this is where the missing vehicles were going, to Escalante.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Peak Bagging Mt Ellen

This wasn't the first time we've tried to bag Mt Ellen, the highest peak of the Henry Mountains. In July 2009 the conditions were stormy, foggy, and viewless. This year we marched right up to the top of Mt Ellen (11,522 ft) and we could not believe we were at the summit, despite a mailbox of "yays, we did it," in a large cairn on top. No, we had to continue to the other peak, Dry Lakes Peak, a conical peak that drops 400 ft and back up to 11,506'. It did look taller and had a bona fide trail leading to this yonder peak. We saw Factory Butte in Cainville and the La Sals and the Book Cliffs around Green River. It's the 360 degree views that were amazing. We saw herds of buffalo and deer on distant fields and a few ATVer's looking for their wanna-be deer trophies. The drive to MacMillian campground was a 4 hour drive from Escalante but less if you ride a mtn bike to Sandy's Ranch from camp (save 2 hrs driving). Now when I see the Northern most nipple in the Henry Mountains I know that there is more than just one peak to be had.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Strolling in Upper Calf Creek

Last Saturday was down right hot in Escalante, Ut. We headed to water, Upper Calf Creek to be precise, from our campsite perched above Boulder. I'm vague as to where this almost-pristine campsite is located because 1) we want to keep it almost-pristine 2) DEEP sand would most likely trap your vehicle 3) The winds can be challenging on this exposed bench.
We traversed down and over mounds of slickrock and came to where the trail from Highway 12 leads to Upper Calf Creek Falls. I brushed my knee on some Poison Ivy in an alcove before we traipsed down Calf Creek. The brushy steep banks kept us in the creek which was no problem with our trusty water shoes. After a mile and half of walking in this dappled-light filled stream, we found a way up over more slickrock to our campsite. This loop hike took us 6 1/2 hours and we welcomed the winds that cooled our brows from exertion. We toasted the views and to our wonderful warm day.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Local Lunar Camping

"Extreme Supermoon" was last Saturday night, and I had to sleep under the influence of this March 19th lunar perigee.
We found a spacious, civilized camp spot at Deer Creek campground off Burr Trail, near Boulder, Utah, to watch the moon rise to its "closest point in orbit to Earth." It didn't appear any bigger or closer, especially if I compare it to a "harvest full moon" in September, which is HUGE.
Friday, we hiked five hours up The Gulch, exploring Water Canyon (the spring is flowing well and new green fauna is present), only meeting one family backpacking nine miles up to the arch.
The wicked winds came Saturday and we aborted our ridge hike across from our campground and found a few human tracks going down a canyon we dubbed "wind-break canyon," that is probably a tributary to Deer Creek. Five hours later, with help from the GPS and our nuclear reactor landmark, we were back in camp.
Due to high winds, we drove and ate at Hell's Backbone Grill in Boulder, for a sandless wonderful, albeit expensive meal, ten minutes away from our campsite. Desert camping in March is not madness but pleasurable.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Glory Skiing

Every once in awhile the snow, the weather, the wax is just right and exaltation happens. Skiing in Bryce Canyon has been magnificent: clear views (see Powell Point, end of Escalante Mtn in picture), easy & fast glides, remanent of corduroy grooming, Ponderosas and Douglas Firs clutching snowballs, sunshine with crisp breezes, and accessible trailheads. Adventure abounds with over 50 kilometers of trails to classic ski in the parallel tracks or skate-ski diagonally on wide courses set by a professional groomer. And the price is right - its free. Ruby's Inn has classic skis, boots & snowshoes to rent if you don't have equipment. Red rock with contrasting white snow will make your winter Southern Utah trip glorious.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Freshies In Escalante

What I like about skiing in Escalante is the fresh untracked powder snow. There is no competition with snowmobilers or other motorized vehicles for these forest service roads that run perpendicular to Highway 12 or Pine Creek road heading up to Posey Lake. Breaking trail can be challenging, but our ski tracks are set for the rest of winter so we can kick & glide to our heart's content. When was the last time you skied without seeing any people, with only traces of animal footprints marking the snow?