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Friday, October 30, 2015

Grand Staircase Escalante: What To Do When You Don't Win the Lottery for "The Wave"

Well, we tried again this morning for a permit to hike to "The Wave" in the North Coyote Buttes Section of the Vermillion Cliffs Wilderness in Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument.  We set that blamed alarm clock for 5:30 am Arizona time.  Woke up.  Stumbled down and made coffee. Slurped down our cereal and soy milk.  Climbed into the truck and made the 75 minute drive to Kanab, Utah.  Again!  Got there ON TIME this time (we properly accounted for the time difference between Arizona and Utah).  Sat down with the 67 other applicants and listed to our instructions for the application lottery:

Ten spots were available.  They called out the numbers:

Nope.  We didn't win.  But we had backup plans ready.  We headed out and first drove up Johnson Canyon to see what we could see.  The morning was auspicious:  the waning gibbous moon looked down on us as we arrived at the head of the paved road:

There was snow on the distant pink peaks!

Had we been willing to drive 30 miles north on that dirt road, we would have returned to Kodachrome State Park in Utah, one of our most favorite southwestern hiking destinations!  But we decided to work our way back down Johnson Canyon Road.

We saw these cool white cliffs with hoodoos and such:

More hoodoo cliffs watched over us as we drove back down south toward US 89:

Another white cliff graced us with its blessing:

Our road followed Johnson Wash, and at one point, we climbed out of the truck to peer down into a particularly picturesque section of the wash, complete with deciduous trees whose leaves were turning golden in the fall air:

Looking back behind us, we got another view of snow on the pink peaks:

Halfway back down Johnson Canyon Road, we stopped at the trailhead for the Crocodile/Hog Canyon ATV Trail System.  These trails span at least 25 miles from Johnson Canyon Road, north of Kanab, up to US 89 on its way north to Panguitch.  We decided to hike in a mile or so, because there were some cool pink rock formation we had to examine:

David decided to use his feet to examine them:

At this point, the pink rocks and white rocks converge, and Kathy found a smooth round white fellow she liked:

Here are some white hoodoos we spotted as we looked out over the landscape from our walk:

Our second stop on our Consolation Hiking Marathon was to drive and hike up to see Pariah Town Site and the Pariah movie set, east of Kanab.

Pariah is a ghost town on the Paria River.  It was first settled in 1865, and thrived into the late 1800's with 42 families and about 130 residents.  A gold mine was established here, although it was not successful.

In later years the film industry became interested in using the town site's canyon vista background as a location for making Westerns. Several scenes for "Buffalo Bill" were shot there in 1943.  Producers of other movies and television programs used Paria in the 1950s. In 1961 the old ghost town was used as a major location for the Rat Pack film "Sergeants" and again for the filming of "The Outlaw Josey Wales" in 1976.  That was the last of the filming done at the site.  Flash flooding severely damaged the set in 1998, and BLM employees and volunteers recreated the movie set structures from 1999 to 2001. However, in 2006, the rebuilt set was destroyed by a suspicious fire.  It has not been rebuilt, and all that remains of the original movie set are some historical markers.  The town site itself, down by the river, is marked by remains of the foundations of some original homes, but no structures remain standing.  What does remain, however, is the dramatic scenery that inspired the original residents to move here and the movie producers to film here.

We didn't expect to see a lot when we parked our truck about 3 miles above the town and hiked down the road to the site.  However, we were blown away by the scenery.  The sandstone formations and patterns were as colorful as the rainbow:

We found toadstools and hoodoos galore:

Kathy was very impressed with one of the buttes above Pariah Town Site and concentrated very hard on getting just the right photo:

We were so impressed with the cliffs and color around us, that we took this 360 degree video of the Pariah Canyon around the Pariah Town Site.

Here is another view of a butte that appeared in the movies filmed at Pariah, but from the vantage point of an unusual sandstone formation by the road:

We hiked down as far as the Pariah Cemetery and decided that, since the original town site has nothing left but some old stone foundations, we would rest satisfied with the scenery and not obsess over hunting the ghosts further.  The cemetery was refurbished by descendants of some of the original settlers, so that new headstones were placed on the graves, but no grave site was individually identified.  Instead, those who were buried here are acknowledged on a central brass plaque attached to a stone marker in the middle of the cemetery.  Here is the view that the Pariah ghosts have from their resting place:

Our hike down to the Pariah Town Site was about 3 miles, so, naturally, we had a 3 mile climb back to the truck.  But the hike back went quickly and, before we knew it, we were hurtling back toward our campground, another day of hiking and exploration under our belts.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Cruise to Rainbow Bridge

Hi Blog! From our campground at Wahweap, we can look down upon Lake Powell. The lake is the center piece of the Glen Canyon National Recreation Area. On Wednesday, October 28, 2015, we decided to take a boat ride and explore the lake. One of the more popular excursions is a six hour tour that takes you 50 miles up the lake to view the world's largest natural bridge know as Rainbow Bridge. Here we are leaving the boat dock in the wee hours of the morning. Upon on the hill behind the dock is the Lake Powell Resort.

Due to low lake levels, a man-made channel had to be dug between Wahweap Bay and Warm Creek Bay. Without this channel, the boats would have to travel an additional 20 miles (1 hour at the boat's average speed) down to the Glen Canyon Dam and back up the Colorado River channel.

As we boarded the boat, we were given audio receivers and headsets. Temperatures where in the 50s when we started, so the headsets actually helped keep our ears warm! The narrator described the history of the area and pointed out the different buttes and mesas. Did you know a mesa is table like - long on top and short on the side. A butte is like a bar stool - short on top with long sides. Sometimes it was hard to tell whether a particular formation was a butte or a mesa:

Some of the buttes and mesas were all clumped together making them seem like little cities along our route.

Others stood out loud and proud, providing a point of reference for weary travelers.

The 20 mph winds in our face, and the boat's speed through the water, made the cool morning air even colder.  By the time the first hour passed, the only folks left on the top of the boat were us and two Japanese ladies dressed in down jackets and rain pants. Below, Kathy is styling and profiling her multi layers: t-shirt, long sleeve thermal, fleece 100 pullover, fleece 200 jacket, Gortex shell, hat, hood and gloves!

We took about 200 photos. Each of the features were unique.

At mile marker 49, we left the Colorado River behind and began to work our way up Forbidding Canyon toward our final destination.

The sides of the canyon loomed over us, imparting a feeling that we were entering some secret hideout.

The ride through this slot canyon was breathtaking! After the last hairpin turn, we reached our destination. This courtesy dock is maintained by Rainbow Bridge National Monument.

As the lake level goes lower and lower, the dock is moved further and further out the canyon. Boats can no longer sail right up to the bridge. Visitors have to get out and hike 1.25 miles up to the bridge.

It is by no means a straight walk. Forbidding Creek twists and turns its way up the canyon. We passed a number of rocks slides and this really cool hanging garden.

After a 20-30 minute walk, rainbow bridge came into view. From its base to the top of the arch, it is 290 feet - nearly the height of the Statue of Liberty - and spans 275 feet across the creek; the top of the arch is 42 feet thick and 33 feet wide.

Theodore Roosevelt, after his 1913 visit, recounted: "Next morning early we started our toilsome return trip. The pony trail led under the arch. Along this the Ute drove our pack-mules, and as I followed him I noticed that the Navajo rode around outside. His creed bade him never pass under an arch. This great natural bridge, so recently 'discovered' by white men, has for ages been known to the Indians."

Navajo stories tell of a male and a female rainbow person coming together in perfect union, and being frozen in time. This rock rainbow is particularly special because it is the only rainbow that can be viewed from both sides. However, because the arch is a Navajo sacred site for ritual offerings, sacred ceremonies, and other religious practices, tourists are asked not to walk under the arch. We felt it was a reasonable request.

The closer we came, the larger the arch grew. It made it difficult to photograph because you couldn't get the whole arch in the frame.

Of course, it wouldn't be a trip to a National Monument if we didn't take a selfie!

We took our time walking back to the boat. The sandstone cliffs reflecting in the creek made for some interesting photos.

As we boarded the boat, we noticed it was registered in Philadelphia, PA. What's a Philly boat doing in the middle of Lake Powell you might ask? According to our captain, Aramark won the contract to run the Lake Powell Resort. Since Aramark is a Philadelphia based company that provides food services to large venues such as schools and sporting arenas, the boat is registered in Aramark's home city, Philadelphia.

The clouds began to thin out on our ride back, giving us a completely different look at some of the mesas and buttes.

Near mile 42 is the entrance to the Dangling Rope Marina. Dangling Rope is only accessible by water. Aramark provides limited services at Dangling Rope, including: boat fuel, minor boat repair, and a supply store including some groceries. This is the only place to get boat fuel between Wahweap and the Halls Crossing/Bullfrog area - another 50 miles up river. We only stopped long enough for the boat to pick up and drop off some mail.

We were soon our way seeing things in a whole new light.

The closer we got to Wahweap, the more small boat and jet ski activity we saw.

We really enjoyed the trip to Rainbow Bridge. It was certainly worth the time and expense. If you like mesas and buttes, please feel free to scroll through the photos below.

The End!

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Wahweap Marina

Today was a bit of a rebound day.  After driving all day yesterday, we decided to throttle back.  We took a long coffee walk this morning, did some chores, and then rode our bikes over to Wahweap Marina, where we poked around to try to get a better idea what the boating life must be like on Lake Powell.

The Wahweap Marina sign clearly has been moved many time, what with the steadily declining levels of Lake Powell.  These days, it sits on a dry hillside, not so close to the actual marina, which sits maybe 50-100 feet below the sign:

Here is the marina itself.  Where we stood to take the photo used to be under water.  Levels of Lake Powell have declined about 20% - nearly 150 feet in depth.

As we worked our way over to the marina, we had to cross beaches, rocky shores, abandoned boat ramps and the like.  We had a pleasant surprise when we stumbled on these elaborate, delicate sand castles:

Some sand artist had even sculpted a sandy octopus:

From the marina, you could see other boats anchored nearby, to the north:

This was the view to the south from the marina:

We walked out onto the marina docks and snapped this photo looking back at the lodge, with some of the huge houseboats between us and shore:

We decided that the life of a boater on Lake Powell (or perhaps anywhere) isn't all that different from the life of an RV'er.  There are fresh water and waste water tanks to manage, fuel to obtain and monitor, electricity to charge batteries - life unplugged from the main part of society, but still dependent on it.  But with boats you have to decide how mobile you want to be.  A boat on Lake Powell has few options:  the marina, floating, or anchored in some cove, but in any event remaining on Lake Powell.  A boat on the Atlantic Inland Waterway might end up on the Erie Canal or in Key West, Florida.  Things get a lot more complicated than with an RV.

Hmm.... Thanks, but I'll take RV'ing.