Wednesday, October 22, 2014

The Other Side of Spring Canyon: Sometimes You Just Have to Get Your Feet Wet

 

(Since we’re still sipping coffee in Tropic and I managed to finish this post, here it is, two in one day.)

On Sunday we did our last Capitol Reef hike. The previous week we hiked not quite halfway into Spring Canyon from the Chimney Rock trail, so this time we started a few miles east of the visitor center on the lower end. There is a paved pull-off for a few cars but we were the only ones there. The problem with this hike is there is no official trail, and to get in the canyon you have to cross the Fremont River, which means wading through about 10 feet of knee deep water. So we wore our water sandals in preparation but didn’t realize it would be so hard to locate the river crossing.

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You can barely make out Bobbie in the brush. Yes, we walked through this wearing sandals. Both Jim and Bobbie had bloody legs by the time we got to the river. Some of us may have been having second thoughts.

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Mark finally found a somewhat easy way to get down to the river, and he hurried across, shoes and all. He said he doesn’t mind hiking with wet feet. The rest of us followed along with no problem, other than very cold toes.

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Once across, now we had to put on our socks and hiking shoes, not an easy task with no good place to sit. By this time almost an hour had passed since we parked the cars.

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But after bushwacking our way through more heavy brush we entered Spring Canyon, a mostly level, wide, very scenic canyon filled with cottonwood trees, many of which were a brilliant shade of yellow.

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Bobbie was trying to keep everyone quiet in hopes of seeing wildlife, but with our group of six that just wasn’t happening. We did see bighorn sheep and mountain lion tracks in the sand.

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And colorful art in the water pools and mud.

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We hoped to get close to where we turned around at the other end, but after almost six miles we still hadn’t come to the slot canyon we found from the other side. We kept thinking it was just around the next bend so we kept going.

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When we came to a view of these rock spires we decided it was a good place for lunch and a good turn around point.

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Since I forgot to make sandwiches and we had already eaten one of our Clif Bars, Jim and I went a little farther to see what was ahead while the rest of the group rested and ate. The wash became much rockier and we knew it was already going to be a long hike back so we didn’t continue on.

If Jim’s GPS was registering correctly we ended up with just over 13 miles. Except for tired feet and legs, we were all able to go that far because the canyon is a relatively easy place to hike. Much more like a walk in the park than Little Wild Horse. There were a few areas of soft sand and some rocks to scramble over but nothing too difficult. Well, there is that little issue of crossing the Fremont River, but it felt good taking off our shoes and going back through it on the way out.

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And on the drive home we saw this herd of sheep not far from the road. We’ve been looking for them since we got to Capitol Reef.

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What a nice way to end our stay here.

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Two More Capitol Reef Trails

 

The day following our hike in Little Wild Horse Canyon, Suzanne wanted to hike a couple of the shorter trails in Capitol Reef NP. Jim and Mark had other things to do, so it was another ladies only hike on the Cohab Canyon and Fremont River trails.

View from Cohab Canyon trail switchbacks. There is no warm up on this one.

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Debbie spotted some possible petroglyphs in a hidden canyon.

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The Fremont River trail begins just past the campground as a level walk along the river, next to a grazing herd of deer.

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Then it climbs very steeply, over 480’ in less than a half mile. The river was moving much faster than we were.

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Great views once we got up there, but we didn’t make the last .2 miles. That is one very steep trail.

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Yesterday after saying our goodbyes to Suzanne, who was heading for Moab, the rest of us moved on to Kodachrome Basin State Park, a scenic although steep and winding drive along Utah Hwy 12 through Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument. There is no cell or internet here so this is being posted from a coffee shop in Tropic about 12 miles away. When we leave tomorrow we are heading towards Zion, hopefully to somewhere with a Verizon signal. I have one more Cap Reef post, probably my favorite hike we did there, but that comes when we get connected again.

Monday, October 20, 2014

A Long Walk In the Park

 

On Jim’s birthday we had a very nice lunch at Café Diablo in Torrey. Unfortunately Jim and I, Suzanne and Mark suffered from some gastric distress after we ate. Bad batch of black beans, maybe? Jim and Mark were resting that evening, but the ladies decided to take a short hike at Chimney Rock to watch the sunset.

It wasn’t the best sunset we’ve ever seen, but we felt like we worked off at least a little of our dessert.

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The next day Mark and Bobbie suggested a hike in one of their favorite slot canyons, one that we hadn’t done, Little Wild Horse/Bell Canyon, near Goblin Valley State Park. They didn’t mind that it was an hour and a half drive to get there, so even though driving eighty miles for an 8 mile hike isn’t my favorite thing, we decided to join the fun.

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Unfortunately it was UEA weekend, where Utah public teachers attend a conference and the students, along with their extra-large LDS families, all pile in their minivans to go camping and hiking over the four day weekend. And it appeared most of them decided to go to Little Wild Horse Canyon. This may be one reason why, an article I read about the hike that makes it sound like your grandmother could do it.

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Here is my favorite quote from the description: “This hike is suitable for just about everyone. If you enjoy a long walk in the park then you can probably complete this hike with little problem.”

Since the crowds were heading to Little Wild Horse, we decided to go counterclockwise and hike through Bell Canyon first, hoping Little Wild Horse would be less crowded on our way back.

A bad omen as we entered Bell Canyon?

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We started off being almost alone for the first 4 miles or so, only meeting up with a woman and her daughter who needed Mark’s help in getting over a rock obstacle. As you can see, Mark is pretty handy. And with those long arms and legs he didn’t need much help getting himself up and over like the rest of us did. He was a big help, and I’m not sure Suzanne, Bobbie, or I could have made it without his assistance. Well, I’m not even sure Jim would have made it.

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This certainly wasn’t your usual walk in the park.

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Bell Canyon is not a real narrow slot, but the geology was interesting and the scrambling was entertaining.

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In between canyons we took a break for lunch after climbing up a dirt road for what seemed like a very long time.

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We began seeing lots of families and groups of kids in the wash just before entering Little Wild Horse Canyon, but at the start of the slot we were pretty much alone.

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Mark and Suzanne, playing for the cameraman.

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The not-so-fun part came when we were halfway through Little Wild Horse, and the crowds of families and groups with mobs of children came our way. There wasn’t much room for two people to pass, but we sucked in our guts and let them go by, and let them go by, and let them go by for what seemed like forever. Bad timing on our part. Kim, you would have climbed the walls to get out!

These aren’t the best photos, but you get the idea.

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We didn’t think to take any pictures, maybe Mark or Suzanne did, but at one point where it was really narrow, kids were straddling above our heads with one foot on each side of the slot. Absolutely crazy! And we saw quite a few people carrying toddlers in those giant backpacks. Not sure how they even made it through some of the narrow parts. And to add to the fun a few people even brought their dogs.

In spite of the crowds it was a beautiful hike, though, all nine miles of it. Just a long walk in the park, with lots of playing on the jungle gym. I would highly recommend you avoid it over UEA weekend!

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Thursday, October 16, 2014

Golden Throne and Capitol Gorge Hikes

 

Sorry, this is a long catch-up post.

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On Monday morning we awoke to freezing temperatures outside, and only about 10 degrees warmer inside. Between our furnace and Kozy World propane heater, and with the help of the sun, our little house quickly became a warm retreat and we had a hard time getting motivated to do much of anything. We finally loaded up our dirty laundry, which accumulates much too quickly with all the hiking and biking we do, and headed to town for clean clothes and some faster internet.

That afternoon we joined Mark and Bobbie for a little bike ride down the BLM road we’re camped on.

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When we returned Jim and Allison were there, stopping by for a visit on their way home from a hike, and as we were all standing outside talking we saw a white Winnie View towing a newly renovated Tracker heading our way, none other than Take To The Highway Suzanne. With the crowd to greet her, and the unsolicited advice on picking her campsite, I suspect she was having second thoughts about joining our group. But good sport that she is, she took it all in stride and got settled in.

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Since it was too cold for an outside happy hour, and since our RVs are too small for that many people, we went over to Red Rock Patio for pizza and a watered down 3.2 Utah beer.

The next day we gathered everyone together for a group hike to the Golden Throne in Capitol Reef. It’s a two mile hike to a view of the throne, with about 700’ of elevation gain. It’s a nice trail, with a bit of climbing, then some level ground, then a bit more climbing, etc. until you reach the end of trail sign.

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Bobbie found a little throne of her own to rest on.

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It’s a bit of a stretch to think it looks like a throne.

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But the scenery was lovely and the chit-chat made for a fun hike.

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A rotten molar, perhaps? At least I didn’t think this one looked like a monkey.

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Mark, Bobbie, Suzanne and I wanted to hike a bit more and the Capitol Gorge trailhead started from the same parking lot, so we headed down the gorge to look at the petroglyphs and the pioneer register on the rock walls.

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Current day rock writing which is now considered graffiti. The sign said the writers were caught and awaiting prosecution, but is this really any different from the above photo that we now consider history? I know, I understand and agree, no defacing national park property.

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About 3/4 of a mile in there is a turnoff for the tanks, pools of water high up in the rocks.

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The sign said .2 miles to the tanks, but after our four mile hike to the throne and back it felt like a much longer climb. Mark and Bobbie had been there before but even so we scrambled around and found a natural bridge and other pools they didn’t know were there.

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Bobbie photobombed my reflection shot.

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One from a different tank.

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Mark was interested in going back yesterday in the morning to get a view of the bridge with better light, and to show us some secret petroglyphs farther down the gorge. So Mark took his harem (me, Bobbie, Suzanne and Debbie) and we headed off for the park, while Jim and Allison, and my Jim stayed home for a day of R&R.

Mark wanted his picture taken on top of the bridge but the ladies didn’t think that was such a good idea. If he had a rope with him I’m sure he would have been down there.

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We then continued down Capitol Gorge, what used to be the old Hwy 24 into the park. They had built several diversion dams so the road wasn’t under water during rains.

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Just under three miles in we came to the last of the dams and the Capitol Reef NP boundary, marked by this rusty old car.

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Somehow we missed the secret petroglyphs and there were no more high canyon walls, but on the way back Mark went off trail and found them. Bobbie and I scrambled up to take a closer look.

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I think the kids were taking a creative drawing class.

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This colorful varnish almost looked like blood dripping down the rocks.

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Jim and Allison left today for Virgin, kB snuck off a couple days ago to get his door repaired which got blown open during the strong winds we had, and I am caught up to today, which happens to be Jim’s birthday. The rest of us are heading to Café Diablo in Torrey for lunch to celebrate everyone’s birthdays and anniversaries. It’s been recommended by several friends and none of us have eaten there before. I won’t divulge Jim’s age, but I will say that he was eligible for Medicare the 1st of October.                                                                                                                 Winking smile