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A smile on my face...

As is usual in my mornings, I get a cup of coffee and go sit on the patio for quiet time, to meditate and just think about my day or the days gone past. This morning I reflected on my vacation and thought of all the beauty I had seen, the National Parks, the photos I had taken, my blog and the comments from readers, ( I always appreciated your comments to know that you are enjoying the writings and the adventures), the hikes, the "misadventures", the excitement I created for myself (whether intentional or not), the people I met along the journey, and the overall feeling of exploration and adventure that I experienced. My own back yard, the desert hillside, with the birds, the rabbits (lots of those), chipmunks, geckos and the vegetation also brought it's own peacefulness to me  and I always like to just sit, listen, watch and absorb what the day may bring.

With all the good thoughts and feelings, I also thought about Phiona and how disappointed I was on Wednesday finding that, after 3 weeks, the painting had not been done or started. Mike promised that they would devote Thursday and Friday to work on Phiona. When I left the shop on Wednesday, I told them I'd not be back until late on Friday to see the progress. My thoughts this morning were about IF they would actually have accomplished any work or to what extent. Though I was understandably unhappy with the shop and their lack of following through having the car painted while I was away, I have remained very calm about that ordeal. As the years have steadily advanced in my life, I've also learned a few things, one is to try to be more patient with myself and others. Another is to look at situations from a different perspective if I give myself the time to consider it more thoroughly. I have often reasoned and found that delays or setbacks are not necessarily bad things. In this situation, with summer still in full force here in the desert Southwest, a 3 week delay would actually be to my advantage. The weather will start to cool off somewhat over the next month, which will allow me to more comfortably work on re-assembling the car. Looking at the delay as a blessing in disguise, and realizing I have no need to rush the process, I felt that everything would work out as needed. Still, I did wonder just what amount of work had been done over the last two days and what I would find when I visited the shop later in the day. Would I have to be firm and put my foot down, or would I (preferably) be cool, calm and collected?

Thereupon, I got on with my day and was wrapped up in some odds and ends around the house. Late in the morning, before noon, Mike called from the shop, which was a surprise, to tell me the fenders had been painted in black and that the doors were painted in blue. He asked if I'd come down to see the progress done on the car. After the debacle on Wednesday, I was impressed that he took the time to call me. Obviously, from the sound of his voice, he was very pleased with himself and the shop and wanted to share that with me. Not being able to drop everything at the moment, and approaching lunch time, I told Mike I'd be down a little later.

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So, I did go down early this afternoon and Mike was outside where I parked the car. He shook my hand and gave me a hug (yeah, really, a hug!). He was practically beaming and told me to walk around the corner to the back shop and take a look. I held off for awhile, however, and asked him if he would give me a timeline for completion. Mike said in a week and he and I would then work of putting the pieces back together. (yes, he said HE and I would work on the car -wow). Even as I delayed going to see Phiona, he was anxious for me to go see it myself (he was like a kid wanting to show off a new bike), so I obliged. The car was in one of the bays, but I couldn't see the other parts right away and stopped to talk with a couple of the guys. Funny, how two days before, it seemed they were, well, loafing around,and today they were busy as beavers. Hummm, did someone light a fire under their posteriors?? These guys were happy to stop their work and showed me the painted pieces. 

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First, one of the front fenders, nice and shiny black - lookin' good. Then one of the front doors in blue. I really liked how the color turned out. As I told them, the color was better than I expected. And it was so shiny I could see myself in it. I then saw that some of the other parts were on racks drying - the hood halves, the back splash panel, part of the trunk, and inside the paint booth were the other doors, the trunk and it's lid, and the hinges. To say I was impressed would be putting it mildly. Steve was already on the scene by then and, looking quite tired, he explained more about what other work would be done and the sanding required to produce a nice finish. They also were working on Phiona's body, wet sanding, as Steve and I talked. (These guys really had devoted most of their time to getting my car painted in the last two days). Impressive!

The right fender, sitting atop a T-bird's trunk.


Before leaving I talked again with Mike and, as I said earlier, he was very pleased that they had made such headway and was very happy that I was happy. Steve and I talked a bit more and he, probably more realistically, said I should wait two weeks before trying to reassemble the front clip. It needs time to dry and cure he said. If that is the case, I'm still happy and thankful that, finally, Phiona is going to start taking on her new appearance. Steve did look awfully tired though. I wonder if he put in some extra time to do all he did in two days…

With the black fenders, running boards, taillights and headlights in black, the body in blue and a thin pale yellow pinstripe along the body, I think Phiona is going to look FABULOUS!

Do you suppose it's true, "The squeaky wheel gets the grease?"











                                                         I really do like the blue color I chose for the body of the car. Mike and Kevin holding the driver's door.


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Parts drying

Front Passenger's door.

Back door and trunk lid still in the paint booth.

The trunk.

Making tracks for home

Those are dinosaur tracks near Tuba City, AZ on Rt. 160.

With no reliable internet service at Cliff Dwellers Lodge or anywhere along the Vermillion Cliffs area I had to wait to send that last story until I arrived in Flagstaff. That proved to be a good stop and rest spot also, before continuing on my way back to Phoenix. I arrived back home at about 5:40 p.m. Tuesday afternoon.

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Part of the Vermillion Cliffs, along US 89A

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Not wanting to put it off, I unloaded my very dirty car immediately, but have not yet stored all my gear. I'll need to go through everything to have things ready and restocked to go camping the next time I venture out. 

Rock House, built into and around a huge boulder under the Vermillion cliffs. In 1927 a woman's car broke down near here, so she camped out and liked the area so much, she bought property and built her rock house. It's pretty much dilapidated, and still interesting.



Now it is late on Wednesday, 8/29. I spent most of the day cleaning the car. From past experience I knew I would likely end up with road dust inside the car. To help lessen the cleanup, I covered everything in back with a tarp, and covered the front seats. That tarp has been covered in dust since I first left paved roads and hit those dirt roads on the North Rim of the Grand Canyon and on all the other unpaved roads in the Arizona Strip, and in Utah. Though the tarp captured a fair amount of the dust, it still permeated every nook and cranny inside the car, even underneath the tarp. Again, from past experience, I knew it would take quite awhile to clean up the mess. After several hours of vacuuming the interior and washing the surfaces thereafter with Murphy's Oil soap, I was happy to have the interior, at least, looking like normal. 

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The exterior of the car had received help from rains while away and then a nice shower just after leaving Flagstaff yesterday. I'd guess that after my battle with the mud hole, I had more than 100 lbs. of mud adhered to the car. Most of that was lost with rains and on paved roads when I intentionally tried to hit the wet spots which made that clean up a lot easier. The car wash up the road provided all I needed to high pressure wash and scrub the remaining mud and grime off the car. Back home in the garage I decided to then polish the car, which took the rest of the day. I was wetter with sweat than a fugitive with blood hounds hot on his trail. Dripping like a faucet as I worked on the car and toweling off (myself, that is), made the job more tedious.

                                                                                         A view from inside the rock house through a window.

However, the car is clean and spiffy now and I'm happy.

Also this morning, after the interior car cleaning I ran to the Post Office and got my accumulated mail. I can't remember when I have ever entered the Post Office and found no one else in line, so was able to get in and out in record time. Oh joy, then all that mail to sort through later in the day.

Being close to 1st Class Collision I, naturally wanted to check on the progress with Phiona. When I left 3 weeks ago, they were all very optimistic that they would have the car painted while I was away.

NOT!

Phiona was pretty much sitting just as she was when I left. NO PAINT.

Mike the owner said Steve the painter had questions about the color, supposedly not sure all that was to be painted black. I was shocked to hear that, since I had reviewed those items several times with them. Mike said I should talk to Steve. Being very unhappy with having Phiona still in primer, I went to the back shop to talk with Steve who was idling chatting with a couple of the other guys (not looking like they were too devoted to doing much work, at least that's how it appeared to me). "What the heck", says I, "why is my car not painted yet? It's been 3 weeks, and back then you told me you'd have paint on the car!" 


"Not my fault", says Steve, "its the boss, he keeps putting other jobs ahead of yours, go talk with him."    

"No, I just talked with him and he said to talk with you, I"m tired of this finger pointing you to him, him to you, and back and forth. 3 weeks ago YOU told me the car would have been painted by my return". Steve goes on again about Mike loading him with other jobs and mine has to sit on the back burner, and again says go talk with Mike. I did start back to Mike's office, but turned back to Steve and asked him if he had doubts about the color scheme and what was to be painted black. He had understood, but said they found a fender that needed some welding and that took time (yeah, right, a welding job holds up the whole process??) He showed me the fender and it was a minor repair, but, of course I'm glad they fixed it. When I pressed him about when I MIGHT expect to see my car painted he said to talk to Mike. 

"No, WE are going to talk to Mike, I want everyone on the same page here. After all these months, I am really pissed off that you guys keep passing the buck". As we left the back shop, Mike was coming out of his office. I stopped in the shade of the building with Steve and said, "just wait, Mike can come to us", which he did, apologizing for not being able to talk more when I first went to his office.

Mike, Steve and I then talked. Mike wanted to know what Steve needed to do to get my car back in line. Steve saying he had all these other jobs that Mike put ahead of mine, and that he had sanding to do on it, more sanding and prep work (which surprised me because of his telling me 3 weeks prior that, the car was ready for paint). Understandably, I felt I was getting mixed messages and that further annoyed me.

So, Mike then told Steve to devote Thursday and Friday to my car to get it back on track. Monday, being Labor Day, they will be closed. Hearing from the boss to Steve that my car was to take precedence, really does not make me rest that much easier. I've heard that song and dance before and have little hope, yet, that I'll have Phiona back before October. 

My parting comments were that I'd stop on Friday at the end of the day to check on Phiona's progress. I'm not holding my breath.

The cold, hard reality of real life is back. 

(But I did have a terrific time on my vacation)!

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More along the Vermillion Cliffs, nearing Marble Canyon and Navajo Bridge, which is the only crossing of the Colorado River on the North Rim.

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Navajo Bridge - old (1927), and new to the left. The old bridge is closed to vehicles, but open to pedestrians.

Marble Canyon with 3 rafts going down the river. Marble Canyon is, basically, the start of the Grand Canyon.

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Another view of Marble Canyon and Verrmillion Cliffs.

More dinosaur tracks, these measure nearly 4 feet from heel to toe.

Snake Gulch

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                                                  The Vermillion Cliffs. US 89A is the highway just above the lower shadow.

Sitting on the porch at Cliff Dweller's Lodge enjoying my dinner and a couple of much anticipated and appreciated beers, I looked eastward to the red cliffs beyond and a ¾ moon high in the sky. As I sat gazing and admiring the early evening quiet, the last vestiges of the setting sun broke through clouds and set just the upper peaks of those distant cliffs aglow with intense brilliance. With the moon high overhead, it was a moment in time that captured the tranquility I was feeling after one last day of another exploration in the wilderness.

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 Before I checked out and shortly after awaking on Monday morning, I thought of what I might like to explore today before heading back to Phoenix. One choice was to go toward Page, AZ and try to find some odd hoodoos/toadstools and/or go to the slot canyons there. Another choice was to see about finding the Indian rock art in Snake Gulch, back up on the North Rim of the Grand Canyon. Snake Gulch is one of those places in this part of the country where ancient Indian pictographs and petroglyphs can be found. And even though the total hike into and out of Snake Gulch is 20 miles I read that much of the art is not at the end but along the way, so I could just do a partial hike and then decide when to return. Upon leaving the Redrock Country Inn in Kanab, I spoke with the manager David about Snake Gulch and a couple of other places. He had not yet visited the Snake Gulch area, but was very willing to go sometime if I decide to explore there and several other places. He told me about a few other places that would interest me and asked me to call him if I decide to come up and go exploring. 

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With that, I decided my day's goal would be to investigate Snake Gulch and followed the directions from an online article. The directions were spot on with mileages, being 34.6 miles from Kanab. Getting my gear together, including extra water and some snacks, I hit the trail at 9 a.m. With negligible changes in elevation, this was proving to be a much easier hike that the days before in Bryce Canyon. In Fairyland Canyon, the hike was 8 miles which I completed in 4 hours. That would average out to 2 miles per hour (and that is with many photos stops along the way and a moderate to easy pace. A human being averages about 2 ½ to 3 mph walking, so if the total distance into Snake Gulch was about 10 miles, it probably would take me 5 hours one way. Obviously the complete hike would be impossible in this one day. My goal then was to attempt a 3 hour hike in and (hopefully) 3 hours back. With that set in my mind I hiked along, feeling very upbeat and able to tackle the world. (Never mind I had just managed to hike 8 miles the previous day and that, as a result, my muscles may not have totally recovered). But being on level ground the exertion felt minimal.

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About 1 hour into the hike I found my first examples of the rock art. These seemed to be the earlier types with little colorations. Getting back on the trail I continued along and found other examples as I kept to the often barely visible trail. It appeared that at least one person, maybe two had walked this path a few days earlier. Those tracks stopped after about an hour and a half into the Gulch. By 11 a.m. I had found a few more examples, some higher up on a cliff, which was easily accessed. I climbed up for a closer look. By about this time, my feet were a bit sore, but not blistering, just sore from all the walking over 3 days. My legs seemed to be holding out fairly well, at least no knee pains, just some tightness in the upper legs and a small ache in the left hip. But none of that would stop me. 

This canyon, which might be a quarter mile across, at most, also narrows somewhat in places. Along it's length, a wash (think ditch or stream) runs through the canyon. The canyon side  walls did start to get higher the further I went, but I still was not finding what I recall from internet photos of the best art. At noon, the 3 hour mark and my supposed turn around point, I decided another half hour would still be doable and get me back to the car by 4  p.m. At 12:30, seeing nothing was likely to pop out at me, I did follow my revised plan and turned back. Thunder had also been sounding behind me as dark clouds, there, filled the sky. I did not want to get caught back in this wilderness with rain, so another good reason to abort and leave this lonesome valley. 

I mentioned that this trail often nearly disappears. That was most certainly the case, but being in a rather narrow valley (gulch), I still would not get lost. All there was to do was forge ahead and follow the wash that ran through the middle of it. The wash was sometimes 3 feet deep and at others over 15 feet deep. From the evidence of debris caught up in the sagebrush and other plants where I was hiking, I saw that the water had flowed out of the wash and over the landscape sometime in the past, but not too far past. Seeing the evidence of the water's height over those plants, I would have been up to my chest in water. Hummm, that is a whole LOT of water flowing through, as obviously the wash could not always handle the rainfall. I did NOT want to get caught in that kind of torrent. But, the storm had passed and a nice breeze with clouds provided a comfortable temperature. 

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With no real threat of getting rained on or washed away in a flood, I slowed down my pace a bit and kept on trudging along, and trudging and trudging. I was a whole lot more tired that I thought I might get on this return hike. And mind you, absolutely NO ONE was back in this lonely place. Heck not even a snake, despite the gulch's name. Though I was aching more that I liked, I kept a slow, steady pace. Along the return, I spotted some other rock art, one several hundred yards across the wash. As I looked across the way, I really could not see anything with my eyes, but with binoculars, my suspicions about that cliff proved correct. So down into the up the other side of the 8 foot deep wash across the open area and up to the cliff. Quite a few drawings were there and worth the detour. 

Soon, back to the other side of the wash, I then spotted a few other drawings that I missed before. And at least one that was now in sunlight, which I thought might show up better in new photos of those examples. I rested and drank water frequently, ate some snacks to help fortify me and sat at times to get the pressure off my aching feet. 

Keeping an eye on my watch I figured I might get back to the car by 3:3o but planned on 4. Looking for landmarks as the time and I marched on, I seemed to not be getting any nearer to the start point. I'd look at the cliffs and slopes jutting into the valley, hoping that was the one with the old stone house around the bend, which would mean I was much closer to the car. Alas, not that bend, or the next, but then a fence I passed through, and I knew I'd be a mile or so to the finish. The ruins of the stone house appeared , and not long after I saw my car. Almost on the dot, it was 4 p.m. as I reached the end.

A seven hour hike, 3.5 in and 3.5 out. At an average of 2 mph walking (that includes the stops), I figured I went  at least 14 miles today. That was a WHOLE lot of walking and my feet were ready for fresh air and to be out of the shoes. A little washing of the dogs also felt good, then sitting to keep further pressure off my feet. Not wanting to linger much longer I again rehydrated, slipped on my sandals and got on my way out of Snake Gulch. 

Taking a shortcut up the Kaibab Plateau and driving through rain in the forest going to Jacobs Lake, I soon was back on US 89A and headed to Cliff Dwellers Lodge. I've stayed here several times in the past and knew I'd find a very comfortable room, and an excellent meal at the restaurant. 

Which brings me back to my reverie sitting on the porch enjoying my meal. As I hiked in to see those ancient examples of Indian rock art, I wondered what stories they were conveying. What meaning do the paintings have? If only we could interpret meaning. And, why did they paint art in the places they chose? It is a mystery, but the kind I like to see and think about my standing in the same places where the artists stood over a 1000 or more years ago.

 Today, I took a big bite out of my endurance, and accomplished that feat with some aches, but am otherwise none the worse for wear. As I sat thinking about this trip, I have seen incredible scenery and beauty and had some adventures along the way. The rainbow at the end of the day as I approached Cliff Dwellers, was a good sign, for me. I think I found my pot of gold in all that I was able to do on this trip.

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The rainbow, coincidentally, ended at Cliff Dwellers Lodge as seen from this view. 

See the photo album I created for today's photos. You may choose to see them as a slideshow or individually.

Fairyland Canyon

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Yes Virginia, there is a Fairyland. (and no wise cracks from the peanut gallery in reference to me at the sign).

The Fairyland Canyon loop is 8 miles long and is not as crowded as some of the other trails. At 10:15 a.m. I started out down the trail. I could see from the overlook views that this was a hike meant for me. The descent was gradual, so it was not so hard on the knees or feet. Soon after dropping below the rim I was down amongst the hoodoos. And the deeper I went the more they towered above and around me. The early morning sun was fantastic also and made everything stand out very sharply. 

Other people were on the trail and I greeted most of them as they passed coming the opposite way. (Not everyone is as friendly as I). I could tell a number of them were Europeans. Several had families of about 4 or more in their groups. Parts of the trail went steeply up, then down, then up and down again and again. After an hour and a half I was starting to ache a bit, but not significantly. I just slowed down and kept walking and I felt fine. After 2 hours I reached the 4 mile mark and intersection with the Sunrise Trail, which made up part of the last 4 miles. It was 1.7 miles up to Sunset Point overlook. It was a slow ascent, but the beauty surrounded me all along the way. Every few steps the awesomeness of the scenery had me feeling enchanted with what I saw. After awhile it becomes nearly overwhelming. Then I find it best to stand and absorb what I see, etching it in my memory. The splendor of this hike can not even begin to be expressed in the photos I took. As some other hikers along the way and I acknowledged, a person would need to be on these trails to really understand and feel the magnitude of the place. Once I reached the top, I still had another 2 ½ miles along the rim trail back to my car. It was then, of course, that I wished I had an easier way to finish the hike. I had already completed 5 ½ miles as I reached the top, but the rim trail was up and down also, but not as steep as from in the canyon. The bottoms of my feet were hot, but I knew they were not blistering, that is a whole different kind of discomfort. 

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As I was nearing the rim, I had seen the weather was changing, as it does this time of year with dark clouds starting to form. I figured that once on the rim trail, even if it began to rain, it was a better place to be. In that last 2 ½ miles I passed a German family that I had earlier passed within the canyon. Then another couple with whom I chatted for a while in the canyon, were also going the opposite way. In both incidences, they had started their hikes the opposite of me, and seemed our timing for hiking was about the same.

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Thunder had been starting to roll from the darkening sky, so I wanted to pick up the pace to try and avoid getting wet. But the views were still capturing my attention and I had to stop once in awhile. Once the trail started to level out more, it started to drizzle, then sprinkle more heavily. I got out my rain poncho just as it started to rain steadily. The trail, not yet overly wet or muddy was getting a little slick. I trudged onward, passing another European family of four huddled under a tree with rain ponchos on but two of them. I passed on by, as I then could see the parking lot through the trees in the distance. Then one of the sons of the family passed me from behind and ran to a picnic shelter in the parking area. That was also the place I wanted to hang out until the rain (and small hail) let up. We both stood under the shelter as he kept looking back for his mother who he said was right behind him. I saw her amidst the trees as she was quickly nearing the shelter. Along the way she had removed her blouse and was attired top side with only her bra. Initially she looked slightly embarrassed for me to see her as such, but I just smiled and waved it off, as no consequence to me, which put her at ease. 

The family were from Holland and as we waited for rain to cease, they said the father and younger son (with the rain ponchos) were headed to their car at Sunrise Point and would drive back to pick them up. I'd have given them a ride but my car is jammed full and there is no place to sit. They were fine with waiting. In the time we waited for the rain's end, I explained this is a monsoon and it would soon pass. And as we chatted the sky did start to brighten. They had been in Las Vegas, which she said was too crowded and too hot, so not their favorite stop, but had been to Zion Park, were going to Death Valley (but only driving through), then to Yosemite and Sequoia Parks in California. 

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Since the rain had stopped, I felt my time had come to shed my wet poncho, get in the car and head on down the road. 

I was very tired, and felt huge relief in just sitting in the car seat. Ahhhhh, a long drink of water and I made my exit of Bryce Canyon National Park. An 8 mile hike that was worth the effort, now behind me, and 2:30 in the afternoon, my resting point would be Kanab, UT, once again. It was after 4:30 when I arrived here and upon chatting with the manager found him to be a cave explorer. He had just returned from a cave exploration with the Park Service on the North Rim of the Grand Canyon. Meeting people like him always interests me. I guess I feel a camaraderie with such explorers and adventurers. 

As my trip is now nearing it's conclusion, I am remembering the people whom I have met in passing down these trails, our conversations and sharing our adventures and know we all will have stories to tell and memories to share. 

Kanab, UT tonight, no specific plans for Monday, 8/27/12. 







More photos to share:

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This was from a place near Mossy Cave before entering Bryce Canyon.

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Descending into Fairyland Canyon

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If you use your imagination, you might see things in or atop the hoodoos

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All those pillars of stone, as if standing watch over the valley

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This shows the formation "sinking ship"

A cat atop the hoodoo?

A bridge between the hoodoos

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A wall of windows

Don't step too close to the edge

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Nearing the rim as I ascended

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An easy section of the trail

The final stretch to trail's end.

Bryce Canyon National Park

In a word - Breathtaking!

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As soon as I arrived at Bryce Canyon this morning, I got my gear together and started on a hike down into the canyon. I was in no hurry and planned to spend the whole day exploring down in the depths amongst the "hoodoos", the otherworldly rock spires that are the canyon's trademark. As I entered the park I asked the ranger which trails he might suggest and his reply was to start at Sunset Point and connect with Navajo Trail, then Queen's Garden. So that is where I went, and, as it seemed, loads of other park visitors also. 

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Descending down was on a steep, traversing, well made trail, I soon was in the middle of the towering hoodoos. Along the way I met some other hikers (there were a whole bunch of hikers along the trails, largely foreigners, and everyone seemed to be enjoying the amazing beauty with each step along the trails. In the bottom I switched to the Queen Garden, which led to the Queen Victoria hoodoo. Sure enough there was the old gal atop that pillar of stone. She resembles a statue of herself in London.

After returning to the Navajo Trail, I then started out on the Peek-A- Boo loop trail. This was a excellent choice. Fewer people were hiking there, but again, I ran into several Europeans and chatted with a French couple with suggestions of other parks they might visit while in the US. Other people during the day that I chatted with were from Holland and Israel, plus the always present and friendly Germans. Some of the languages of other hikers I could not determine. 

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I hiked all day, starting at 11:30 and by later afternoon, thunder could be heard as well as darkening skies. As monsoon storms go out here, sometimes they produce rainfall but then again maybe not. I really did not want to get wet, but I was so in awe around every corner that I just took my time and finally ended my day in the canyon 5 hours later.

As I started my steep ascent, the rain did start to fall, but not much more then a steady drizzle. Getting a little damp was no problem as it seemed to relieve the stress of hiking up the steep zigzagging trail. At the top, instead of going directly to my car, I just stood and looked over and into the canyon from several points, in hopes that the sun would break through at some point and hopefully illumine the hoodoos. My wait paid off as the clouds parted for a spell and lit up the landscape below. A young French couple arrived at the moment the sun broke through and they were is stunned awe. The young man told me his parents brought him to Bryce 11 years ago but they did not hike. He and his wife were going to hike in the canyon in the morning. I suggested they try the trails I had done. They plan to arrive by 7 a.m. and hike to the bottom.






Words have such limited value in this place, so I will simply share photos with you. I believe I will go back in the morning, take the shuttle bus to several viewpoints and possibly, then, find another trail to hike. 

                                                                                                                                  This is the Queen Victoria hoodoo.

Here are photos from Bryce Canyon.

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Trail ride

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Last evening at dinner, a lady came to my table and introduced herself as the trail boss and to ask me about delaying the start of our 2 hour trail ride from 9 to 9:30. She said she had a load of hay coming in that she'd have to unload first. A half hour delay was not a big deal for me, but I told her I would be more than willing to help her unload the bales of hay. She wouldn't think of it, but I REALLY would have helped. I think I'm still a pretty good hand at pitching bales, plus I like to be helpful and useful. 

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So, in the morning I wandered down to the stables and she was waiting for me, the hay hadn't arrived after all. It was just the two of us, and having the horses already saddled, I mounted up on my horse, "Pepsi" and set out for the ride. These kinds of trail rides are at a walk and single file, so not much effort on my part, just sit up tall in the saddle and get another perspective of the scenery.

We did some fairly steep climbs up to the same points I had gone on the ATV, but at a slower pace, I was able to see it in a different way. I originally had wanted to do a 4 hour ride, but now was glad to do just 2. I wasn't sore (butt), but my right knee was getting sore, Lisa (trail boss) said it was because of how we ride, but I think my inner knee kept rubbing against the saddle. Much to my relief, the discomfort ended once I walked away.

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At the Rec Barn a group were doing the rock climbing activity, on the side of the barn where I was to do my practice rappelling. Zack was there and seemed happy to see me, as I told him that I did the ATV ride yesterday as my alternative. He did try to get me to do the rock climbing, but I was content to watch the two young men as they tried tackling the climb. Their mother and grandmother were there also and all were a very friendly and engaging family. 

The rest of the day, I did nothing but some reading and searched for motels in the Bryce Canyon area. 

Tomorrow morning I check out of here, Zion Ponderosa Ranch, and will go to Bryce. I hope to get in a hike for the day, will stay overnight nearby and then, on Sunday, start on my way back to Phoenix, or, if something else catches my fancy, I'll head for there instead. Each day until I finally end my trip will be a secret, even to me.


Self Preservation?

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                                          This is the "Rec Barn" with the tower from whence I was to rappel to the ground.                                     

Today was one of those days when I went with my instincts…

Arising early and getting ready for my day of planned canyoneering, I was at the Ranch's recreation barn before the appointed time of 8:30. To my surprise, no other people staying here seemed to be arriving for this activity, but some of the hands arrived and prepared gear while I chatted with them. There were two young men, one suited me up in a harness, then we walked up about 3 stories to a tower on the barn. A balcony with a gated iron rail was where we stood as they gave me instructions on how to rappel. There would always be two of them with me, one at the bottom to prevent my falling with his control of the rope, the other above to also assure my safety. 

O-o-o-o-K, ummm, I THINK I got it…., let's review that once more, so they did, as Zack opened the gate and, like easing back into a recliner, feet on the edge, he leaned back, holding his rope through his harness apparatus and just hug there on the edge as they are telling be how to move my feet and release the rope, lowering myself down the side. I'm HEARING what they were saying, but my brain was telling me something else and my eyes are SEEING Zack hanging out like a branch on a tree - ARE YOU CRAZY??

With that Zack just started releasing the rope tension and, zip, he was off the edge and down he went - to the ground.

I stepped back inside the open doorway into the tower, feeling v-e-r-y uneasy and quivering in my boots. Jake was observing me and saw the look on my face. Are you OK? 

Huh, I'm not sure, that is a long way down…

We understand, we will not let anything happen to you. We are here to make it totally safe for you.

Yeah, sure, I believe YOU, but my brain is overanalyzing what I'm seeing and I'm not at all comfortable laying back off the edge with nothing but empty space under my back. 

Well Jake was not pushy, was very considerate, understanding and, above all, patient. Kids, he tells me, usually just do it, but adults at times have difficulty. It is a self preservation phenomenon. This was all making complete sense to me, but still my reluctance was just overpowering. My comment to Jake was that if I were running this demonstration, I'd have about a 12' wall, for us adult novices, which would not be so intimidating and give us practice without such a huge fear of falling to earth. 

Still, with the delay I was creating, I stayed harnessed, just trying to fight my reluctance and fear. As Jake put it, the whole process is counter intuitive. Boy, oh Boy, ain't that the truth? As he talked with me the other side of my brain is saying, find a way to control the fear and just see…

Taking a deep breath, I said, OK, let's try this: Show me the maneuvers and walk me through this again. And if possible, let me give it a trial up here with just the wall in front of me, with out actually going over the edge. This would give me some idea of how it felt, but only fall on my back from a foot or two to the ground. That was fine with Jake, but even then getting my feet to go UP the wall as I tried to relax and lean backward was a struggle. Now, I am not always one to just give up, so I steadied myself again, took another deep breath, toes against the wall, cinched up the rope and tried again, tenuously moving my feet up, trying to make them cooperate with feet lying flat against the wall. I tried, then again, and again. In between one attempt I looked over the edge and there is Zack, laying on his back, just patiently waiting for me to make up my mind. 

How's it going up there, he says. Workin' on it I called down to him. (Good Lord, he made it look so easy). 

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More trials and, though somewhat getting the hang (pun intended) of it, my supposed, "better judgement" says, NOT TODAY.

Let me interject here, and something I then told Jake and Zack. Shortly after moving to Phoenix I spent a weekend at a retreat in Flagstaff with a group of men and women that among other things required us to do a "ropes course". We were also harnessed and encouraged to attempt to do several, off the ground, exercises. Imagine the letter "H", that would be with two telephone poles to the sides and a cross pole between the two pillars. A rope is stretched above the cross member, to which the roping is attached. That is the lifeline for the people, who have to climb up the side pole and out to the middle of the cross member. Now I'm not sure, but I think, in that case, with moral support from the staff and the other participants, I was much less apprehensive and, once out on the beam I let go, spread my arms and left the control to the people in charge. It was a liberating feeling, standing tall, looking out on the world and feeling no fear. I trusted myself and those who were there to protect me. As that days exercises progressed, one final hurdle was to climb up a telephone pole, stand on the top (imagine how little that space is), and then - now get this - JUMP, yes, actually jump off the pole, about 30 feet from the ground, AND, leap forward to ring a bell. And, I DID IT! The support team then gently lowered me safely to the ground. 

The purpose of those exercises was to help people overcome fears, to let go and put your trust in someone else's hands. It was, as I said a very liberating feeling and freed my mind of needless worries. Not everyone was able to complete the exercises. Some were frozen with fear they would not, or could not, overcome. Perhaps, at that retreat, the encouragement and moral support of the others bolstered my confidence and allowed me to relax and go for the unknown. 

But, back to today, other than Zack and Jake, no other people were going to go canyoneering. Some of the canyons in which we were to rappel, were over 100 feet deep. That would be higher than from where we were practicing. Over the whole day we were going to go into several slot canyons. If there had been more people in the group, I think I would have gained some intestinal fortitude from them and felt less fearful. But there weren't and I was afraid. 

As I was trying to conquer that fear and Jake working with me, my thoughts about giving up were somewhat embarrassing. But, on the other hand, the thoughts were that there is no shame in having tried, and, to to admit to myself that, at least on THIS day, I should NOT be putting myself in such a turmoil. Going with that instinct, quite abruptly, I told Jake, "No, I'm not comfortable doing this." There was no cajoling or coercion to change my mind. It was just OK, it's fine. Again he, and Zack were totally agreeable and willing to help me find another activity that would fill my desires. 

Jake asked me what it was I wanted to do and I told him that to be IN a slot canyon to take photos was really my aim. We talked about several possibilities, but many of those were a distance away or required a long hike, which I would be doing solo. That did not appeal to me. However, I totally shifted gears and did something else entirely. 

Another activity offered was ATV riding through the wilderness to some otherwise hard to reach scenes. I had never driven an ATV, but figured I would be on solid ground, at least, and I was willing to have a go at it. Just some short instruction from Jake, the two of us were off. He first led me on a fairly easy ride through the woods then back out to a paved road. That gave me some feeling for the machine and how to operate it. Then Jake took me on a more challenging romp. Oh boy! Mud holes, and rocks, and ruts, and steep inclines and steeper declines and sharp curves, between several closely set pine trees, yeee, haaa. It was more fun than I ever imagined it could be. He led me to some overlooks that were just too gorgeous for words. He pointed to some of the places I had driven through the prior day before entering Zion Park. 

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Even at the higher elevation, I could see the mountains of which he spoke. We had two hours, so he took me on progressively more challenging trails. At one point I lost Jake when I took a wrong turn, then stalled my machine. He was often out of sight ahead of me as we wound in and around the trees. But he slowed down frequently enough to see that I was still trailing him and off we'd go, twisting and turning, zipping around corners, trying to dodge the water and mud if possible, up and down very rocky slopes, over little gullies across the trails, and then, a steep ascent to his great grandfather's favorite overlook. His great grandfather bought the 8000 acre ranch in 1962 for $6 an acre and raised his family there. He envisioned sharing the place with others to have them experience the views and the tranquility. That vision was finally realized after his death by Jake's uncles who have turned it into a vacation getaway for others to enjoy. I could see, and feel, the uniqueness of  his great grandfather's special place. A place of tranquility and inspiration. I only wished I could have spent more time there myself. 

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            Part of Zion National Park is to the middle left. The ranch property abuts Zion Park. The clouds today were outstanding.

Today, I think my guardian angels had other plans for me, as I told Jake, and that the ATV ride was much more spectacular than I could ever have imagined. That experience, too, was new for me and still a challenge (I will admit that I was afraid of riding an ATV). As the day has progressed, I've thought about and resolved some of the fears about rappelling. It still is something I'd like to do and believe I will. But I'll start out on a small scale and face that fear, over the edge, one little step at a time.

More from today:

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The first view Jake showed me.

Reflection.

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More reflection.

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Up the trail to the top.

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The Zion Ponderosa Ranch is in the clear area in the center of the photo, with the green roofed building.

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My Cowboy Cabin.

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Inside my cabin. No facilities, so a walk to a public building. Queen size bunk beds.

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On top of the world.

Zion National Park

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Waking up to rain in Mt. Carmel Junction, UT this morning, I still had not determined what I would do until late in the afternoon when I was to check into the Zion Ponderosa Ranch. I dilly-dallied, went to eat breakfast, looked over my maps and STILL I was without a plan. Most of places I'd been, Cedar Breaks, Kolob Canyons, were back from where I'd been and Bryce Canyon was an hour away, again in the opposite direction. I might as well thrown a dart at the map and picked any place nearby. 

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Already having had the car packed, I went back inside and did some researching online. And then the electricity started to flicker. On and off for several minutes and then, lights out. Not much use sitting around in a motel room without power, so I walked to the office to check out. The whole complex was in the dark, so I left and decided to top off my fuel, which was very convenient with a Chevron station next door. Well, that was useless, as they had no power either. Another motorist and I waited for awhile and she asked if another station were nearby. I'd only arrived late the day before so I didn't know for sure, but then, right across the street was a Shell station and we both saw their signs were lit. We both scrambled there instead and got our gasoline. I then went into their store to shop and, guess what? Yeah, their power went out. Boy, was I lucky, or what? Those few minutes and I think the whole little burg went powerless.

Since I was at the intersection of US 89 and Utah 9, which leads to the ranch and Zion N.P. I decided that scenic route would be my outing for the day. I'd visited Zion several years ago, but had forgotten the incredible scenery as one approaches and enters Zion. Everywhere there is jaw dropping, eye popping, astounding views. Even before actually entering the park, I was stopping at the turnouts and taking lots of photos. Still, before entering the park I came upon a tunnel. Oh, cool, I read about a tunnel on this Eastern entrance. It wasn't very long but kind of cool anyway. Further up the road, still surrounded by mountains with reds, whites, pinks and in a mix of fantastic forms and shapes, I got out and walked down to a creek. With all the rain they had the night before, the water was running, and it could be seen on the mountain sides as that water made it's way down to the creek. Evidence of high water with debris being washed along was obvious near the stream.

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Now that I had come this far and remembering how gorgeous Zion is, I decided that this would be where to spend my days' idle hours. Shortly after entering the park came another tunnel. THIS is the tunnel that is talked about in the literature. Not remembering about it from years ago, I was very surprised that it seemed to go on, and on and on. Every so often they had carved out large windows to let in natural light, but otherwise this tunnel is blacker than black inside. There are no electric lights either. The car lights seemed barely sufficient to light the way, as if the very rock was sucking the illumination from out of the light beams. It was an odd sensation. As if the darkness were not enough to unnerve a person, the route was not straight through. Oncoming cars became visible as they approached curves and reflectors on the walls caught their headlight beams. As a side note, I then learned that tunnel was built between 1927 and 1930, when it opened to the public. Prior to it's construction, there was no possible way to connect the west entrance to an eastern one as the mountains were impassable. So they went THROUGH the mountain. 

On the other side, wow, the scenes were even more spectacular, plus the drive became more exciting with about 6 levels of switchbacks that zig zagged down the mountain side. Every turn revealed something new and stunning to see. Several turn outs provided a place for motorists (and lots of tour buses with their cargo of tourists) to get out, admire and photograph the majestic beauty. Mentioning tour buses, in 1930 the vehicles were not as large as today's tour buses nor motor homes, which necessitates their being escorted through the tunnel, keeping to the center to avoid hitting the overhead arched opening. When escorts for those vehicles occurs, the "normal" cars have to wait.

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At the end of the down drive the road leads through Zion Park and Springdale, UT on the eastern edge of the park. I drove to and parked in the visitor's center. You can not imagine the number of vehicles that were there. I parked a distance from the visitor's center and walked to it. There had to be a thousand vehicles in the park, at this location and at the lodge and the other places where cars are allowed. Many were foreign visitors. I heard a lot of German and French and others unknown to me during the day. Of course, there were many Japanese too. 

The Park Service has a great operation for getting people around to the various sites on the only road leading into the center of the Park and back again. Using clean burning buses, they make frequent stops to pick up tourists who can enter and exit at any of the 8 stops along the route. If all those people visiting the park were on the road, it would be a disaster and total gridlock. (I know that the Grand Canyon South Rim also uses a bus system. 

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It runs smoothly, and allows visitors to sit back and enjoy the views, get out at the viewpoints they desire and get back on an upcoming bus when they are ready). A person can go to the end, in Zion, to The Narrows, and hike up the Virgin River into the narrowing straits, which become large slot canyons. 

Walking and wading in water (up to your waist or beyond) is to be expected. Today's rains, however, did not allow for the upstream hiking. More water from higher elevations was keeping the river at higher levels and the force of the current, also, was too dangerous for that adventure. 

At the various stops on the bus route, there were trails that can then be hiked to destinations up to the higher elevations. I got off at one stop and hiked along the Virgin River, which was brown with sediment and flowing strongly. On that hike I saw where the river had undercut along many of the banks and eroded the soil. 

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Also, on that hike I saw evidence of beavers cutting down trees. Across the river I saw a long ribbon of a waterfall seeming to come right out of the mountain's rock face and it fell hundreds of feet. Then there were two smaller falls that dropped off from a level below the first one's end. 

The river flowing and the waterfalls would not have been evident if not for the recent rain. I was thrilled to be seeing it all.

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The river side hike ended at a bridge which led to the trails up to the falls. The area under the falls are the Emerald Pools. So, of course, I had to check it out and hike in a mile or so to each of the three levels of water pools. 

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And although climbing up, it was not a difficult hike. The Park Service has well maintained the trail with rock steps in many places to make it easier to negotiate. The trail was being used extensively today. It looked, at times, like a rush hour traffic.


By the time I got down from the falls it was past 4 p.m. and I had to get a move on to go back on U-9 to Zion Ponderosa Ranch, just a few miles past the eastern park entrance. The bus came quickly and then I rode it to the end at the Visitor's Center, and left in my car soon thereafter. Up, up and up the switchbacks and through the tunnels, then out on the road arriving at my current location.

Today turned out to be a great one. Despite the rain for most of the morning, it was a nice day and with more incredible scenery. It is quite a bit cooler here at the ranch. Tomorrow I go canyoneering into a slot canyon! OH BOY!

Here are more photos from today:    

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There are three smaller waterfalls from this overhang. A walkway passes underneath them. 



























Behind the smaller falls.

Waterfall hitting the rocks below.

A view of part of the trail near it's end.

Parked along the road on the second level from the top.

The hole in the middle of the picture is one of the tunnel "windows", maybe 15' - 20" wide.

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Another level down on the switchbacks. Clouds hanging over the mountains.

Along the river with upper waterfall in the distance.

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Me at the upper waterfall.

From low to high

Elevation, that is.

From this,

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to this,

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to this.

Last night, Monday, I spent in Hurricane, Utah. This gave me a chance to also do some laundry, and, as you can imagine I had some dirty duds to clean after the excitement in the mud earlier in the day.

Having stayed in Hurricane once before, I like it's location, it's a smaller city and close to many of the National Parks and National Monuments. Looking over maps and brochures, I was still undecided as to my next unscheduled adventure/exploration. Even this morning I had little idea of where the wind would take me. At breakfast I looked over my Utah map again and opted to skip Zion National Park, and Bryce Canyon N.P, both the larger National Parks in this area. But North of Hurricane is Kolob Canyons and Cedar Breaks National Monument. They are adjacent to Zion and, and as I found out, are part of Zion, but with totally different geological formations. After those places I would be much closer to Ponderosa Park Ranch, northeast of Zion N.P.

This part of the world is stunningly beautiful. And the differences are geologically remarkable from within a relatively small area. 

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After breakfast, the car packed, with clean clothes and a fresh new day ahead of me, I headed up I-15 to my first destination, Kolob Canyons National Monument. Driving out of town seeing higher mountains along the way and all the red rocks was inspiring. People who live here have such grand beauty within sight all the time, it should inspire them and bring peace to their hearts and souls. It certainly was calming and awe inspiring for me! 

Arriving at Kolob Ranger Station, I got a map and asked about hikes. The Taylor Creek hike was suggested, which I could do in total or half. The trail end was at a place named Double Arch Alcove. Now, who wouldn't be intrigued by that name alone? I most certainly was. It was to be 5 miles total over about 4 hours. That would still give me plenty of time to decide my next destination for the day and maybe do other exploring. There is a drive up to an end point with several overlooks, but the Taylor Creek Trail that I wanted was the first stop as I drove up the canyons road. Sure enough it does follow a creek (more of a babbling brook today). The sound of the water as I walked along was soothing and music to my soul. The trail goes deep into what is called a finger canyon, through a mixed forest of hardwoods, pines, junipers and various other vegetation. There were multiple crossings of the creek, but with rocks for stepping stones and shallow water, only the soles of my shoes got wet (which, by the way, helped clean off the mud from the day before). Having left on the hike at 9:30, I arrived at the Double Arch Alcove around 11. I took my time and took a lot of photos along the way also, including two cabins that are currently undergoing restorations. (The cabins date back from the very early 1930's. A man, name of Fife, went to college nearby in 1930, built his cabin and raised goats there). The Double Arch Alcove is HUGE and a spring towards it top seeps water down and into the creek. The "double" part of the arch is a dry alcove far above the lower one up on the side of the mountain. I spent some time there and others came also while I admired the place. The place can be very calming for a person and allow him to marvel at the wonder of it all. Mother Nature has provided us with many, many spectacular places of natural beauty. I am thankful that I'm able to go far down the paths to discover them myself.

As I left the area, I rounded a bend and there was a deer that came out of the woods, looked at me, I stood still, she, turned to run, but then came back, looked at me again and began nibbling on leaves. Another, perhaps it's mother, with antlers, approached from in the trees but, seeing me, kept in the brush. The first one continued to eat as I stood and watched (and photographed, of course). After several minutes they both ran off, but I did get a photo of the antlered one a little way up the trail. I continued along, saw the crew working on one of the cabins and arrived at the parking lot by 1:45 p.m. After snacking and re-hydrating, I started the drive up the canyons road. 

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WOW! It just got better and better. Views that are stunning. And an approaching storm only added to the backdrop of those red mountains before me. The canyons here are called finger canyons, since they are not yet as deep cut further in as they are at Zion National Parks. Look at your hand and that is how this geology appears - they are still forming and in time will also be cut into a much longer and deeper canyon(s). The little canyons at Toroweap are much the same. As water flows over the edges, it etches out and erodes, further and further back. 

Upon leaving Kolob Canyons, I was feeling refreshed and ready to take on the world. It did not escape me that, one day prior, I had been in and faced a challenge that I overcame. It seemed that that setback and not seeing or doing what I had planned at Bar 10 Ranch, really opened up other, maybe better, possibilities for me today. I think my guardian angels had other plans for me all along.

Back on I-15 and next stop would be Cedar Breaks. I knew very little about the place, but it sounded like a place I should visit. And, how right I was!

There is the town of Cedar City, where I exited the Interstate, but  Cedar Breaks is still 20 or 30 miles away. Following the road signs, I went through the town and headed toward some mountains, pretty HIGH mountains. Then I saw warning signs of increasing grades and that semi trucks were not permitted on the road. There was even a turn around lot for the large trucks. Not knowing anything about Cedar Breaks I got the inkling that I was headed for higher elevations. Oh brother, was I ever! As my Santa Fe kept revving up that highway, I saw semi trucks that haul dirt. Well, I thought, why are these guys allowed if they were warned NOT to be on the road. Then I saw the first of about 3 or 4 signs for road construction. The reconstruction was for landslide repairs. And it was a very large undertaking given the amount of equipment they had up there. It was also one of those one lane restrictions and I had to wait, for a short time, until the down traffic was permitted to pass. By this time I had already climbed a couple thousand feet, I believe. There was some light rain as I ascended and it was definitely turning cooler. After each of those construction zones, it never stopped climbing and my car kept shifting to meet the challenging climb. This was going on forever it seemed, climbing, climbing, climbing, the temperature dropping with each mile, degree, by degree, by degree. I closed the windows.

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Finally I saw a road sign pointing to "Cedar Breaks National Monument. Then it started to rain steadily. I climbed still further up the mountains and arrived at the park entrance. As I parked my car it started to hail. I sat for a moment but decided the pea size ice would not dent me too much, and so jumped out and ran to the rangers booth. With a cut off t-shirt and shorts, I immediately felt the COLD. Brrrrrrrr. What a change from a few hours ago! I was in a mostly pine tree altitude, with alpine meadows, some aspens and many fir trees. Ahhhh, breathing in that cool, clean, fresh pine scent was heaven on earth. In the rain I walked to another cabin that houses the gift shop and viewing windows out upon what is known as the Amphitheater. Outside a ranger was giving a talk on the covered porch about the deer in the park and their habits and lives. I listened for quite awhile as it was very interesting information, but then more hail began to fall and while those listening to the talk were all dressed in hoodies, rain gear or jackets, I decided it was time to go inside the building for some warmth. Seeing the large picture windows in the back I then saw my first view of Cedar Breaks. OH MY! The view was breathtaking! 

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It reminded me somewhat of Bryce Canyon, but this would be a younger version of that park. Since it was raining, I was inside comfortably taking in the incredible sight below me. The ranger had ended his talk and I began chatting with him and the other rangers. One told me the flash floods in the canyon had been raging a short time before when it had also rained. Though one pointed out the river below and said it was a torrent, I could not differentiate any amount of water moving from high above where I was.

 They brought out a high power telescope, aimed it at the river and had me take a look. Holy cow, it was then very obvious the water was flowing fast and furious. All those slopes above, while looking like sand are rock and all the rain, sheets down them into the gullies and grooves and rivlets and then just shoots down into the bottom. Seeing this force of nature, in person, it becomes pretty clear just how these valleys are formed and are still forming. Each rainfall sends an enormous amount of force of erosion over the surfaces, carrying with it rocks, trees and particles of sand and earth. Reading about and understanding the physics is one thing, to see it in person is the real thing. Even at a thousand feet (or more) above the roaring river, it was an impressive sight. The ranger showed me a couple of other points of interest through the telescope, that I could not have seen with my own eyes, an arch and a cave. With the enhanced view, it was right in my face. Since there were several more viewpoints along the way, I bid them goodbye and stopped at the other points, all with impressive vistas into the canyon. Along the way, it still ascended and passed through some wide alpine meadows. Very few people were traveling there today, so it was also a quiet, and relaxing drive. 

When I was stuck in the mud near Bar 10 Ranch, I was at 2000 to 3000 feet elevation, Hurricane is about 3300 feet. Kolob Canyons is at about 4500 feet. At Cedar Breaks I was at 10,500 feet. And the temperature up there was in the 40's when I arrived. Their low for tonight is 21. 

Today brought me from low to high, metaphorically and literally.

More photos from today:

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My car got lots of mud washed off at Cedar Breaks. oh yeah!

The river below was a torrent, with all the water streaming down the sides and into the bottom.

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Hail on the road.

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Sheep in the hundreds were grazing in the meadows - and taking their time crossing the road.

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Deer in the path at Kolob Canyons.

Another view along Taylor Creek Trail, Kolob Canyons.

A view at Cedar Breaks.

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Alpine meadows.

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An old lava flow on the way down from Cedar Breaks.

Tonight I'm staying in Mt. Carmel Jct., UT. Tomorrow more exploring the area, then to Zion Ponderosa Ranch for 3 days.



In a pickle...

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Upon awaking this morning in Fredonia, I had an unsettled feeling. I could not figure what might be happening subconsciously or otherwise. It did concern me about driving all the way back into the backcountry of the Arizona Strip to stay at the Bar 10 Ranch.  While I had planned to take the route to Toroweap part of the way, then cut over on another route, the rains that had chased me out from Paiute Cave, were falling precisely over those areas I planned to travel. What concerned me was that with the rain the day before, I thought the roads may be impassable and I would so dislike being stranded out there in the boonies. My confirmed reservations say no refunds 30 days prior, so that concerned me too. If, for some reason I could not reach the ranch, I would likely lose all my money.

To help relieve my troubled mind, I called the ranch. Sarah, hearing of my concerns on road conditions, suggested I drive to St. George, UT, and take that road directly down to the ranch. She said one of their vans had driven it the night before and had no trouble spots along the 70+ drive. OK, that would be an option, but I'd need to hustle since St. George is 66 miles from Fredonia. With everything packed in the car, I set out for St. George. All along the way, I still was feeling unsettled. Once in St. George, I called Sarah again at about 10:30 telling her I was on the way. They were going to save lunch for me and might expect me around 1 pm.

The road out from St. George is paved until the AZ state line, then the gravel begins. But, surprising to me, the surface was reasonably well graded, had frequent use and travel on it was faster than I had imagined. In the best spots (ie, there were some bad spots too), I was going nearly 55 mph. As I drove, my uneasiness drifted away, much like all the dust billowing behind my car. There is the Mt. Trumbull schoolhouse that sits at a crossroads just 14 miles from the ranch. This was to be my landmark for taking the correct road to the ranch. While Sarah had said a van had come in on that road the night before, I saw no tire tracks whatsoever. But I continued, thinking I had made very good time, and it was then a bit past noon. Not far up the road, I hit a wet spot with mud, but enough dry ground to the side allowed me to smush through. Then another. This one was not nice, at all, but I barely managed to keep the Santa Fe moving through the mire and the tires grabbed enough to hit dry ground and pull us right on through. Whew, that was nerve jangling for several seconds. I then thought, well, if this is the worse of the mud and wet spots, I feel good about getting out to the ranch without much more ado. 

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This photo may not seem like it's as bad as I say, but the cuts were a foot or more deep, and it was still wet and muddy. Water was flowing, as an be seen and the ditches were soft with with mud too. Being pre-occupied with my digging out, I forgot to take photos of my car in the mud.

Not more that 50 feet ahead, however, lay a much more disturbing disruption in the road. I should say, WHERE the road used to be. Not even getting close to it, I stopped and investigated. This is what I think is a washout. No Way, No How would I even consider attempting a crossing - even with a  4 wheel drive and high clearance vehicle. The washed out areas were deep, wet, and allowed no way to cross safely. My car would have been so badly mired in the mess, it would need to be winched out. 

I wondered about that van that was supposed to have driven this road (the only road to Bar 10 Ranch) the night before. Apparently more rain had fallen over night and flash flooded and washed out this part of the road. 

Standing for awhile, thinking about my predicament, I decided to just park the car on the road and hike in to the ranch. With water, snacks, backpack, water and hat I set out down the road. Not much more that a quarter mile it began to rain, though the sun was shining. Only that one dark rain cloud hovered above me. Hummmm, did my previous nervousness foretell this outcome and this rain cloud is hanging over me like an omen?? Despite it being sunny, otherwise, this was unsettling. I could not walk far in the rain with the road conditions as they were, so I stopped and decided to go back and drive away. Being only 1 mile in from the schoolhouse, I figured I'd park there and wait for them to come check my whereabouts. SURELY, they would come, since I had called and told them I was on the way…

Carefully getting my car turned around on the narrow road, I avoided backing into the water filled side ditches and stayed on dry ground. Up ahead lay that challenging mud puddle, but, hey I made it through coming in, I certainly can handle it once more.

WRONG!

Smack dab, right in the middle of the muck, the Santa Fe's tires began to spin and then we stopped dead in our muddy tracks. Now this is a pickle, I thought. Just SO, SO close to getting to the ranch on one hand and then so close to good, solid ground at the old schoolhouse and I'm motionless. Stepping out of the car, I sunk in the gooey slop up to my ankles. Slip, sliding around, I examined the car and how badly we might be stuck. Not good, but not quite dire either. I knew what I could do to try to get us out of the mess. Lots of dead sage brush branches lay along the fence rows and on the road where the water had carried them in the heavy rains. I started to gather up the brush and stuff it in front and back of the front tires (front wheel drive). I was sweating tremendously already but continued my efforts to help provide some traction for the tires. Of course, in my endeavors, I sunk deep in the mud as I gathered my materials, then had to try to scoop out mud from under the car, splattering mud on myself, shoes chocked full of red, wet, sticky mud. Getting in the car then to try to get it moving, I dragged all that mud in with me, brake pedal slimed with mud, the accelerator, the carpet mat, the steering wheel and gear shift from my hands. Heck, no way I could avoid any of the mess I created. 

First attempt to move failed. Hardly any forward or backward movement. Back in to the mud and gather up more branches up the road, sinking in more muck as I had to cross a ditch, sinking in, shoes coated in heavy, red mud. Another attempt and I got some movement, but the front wanted to slide to the side and not grab onto the branches. I tried to stuff them tighter under the tires and for about two feet fore and aft of the tires. After about the third or fourth try, I got her moving. But the darn car wanted to grab to the left, right toward the water filled ditch. Oh please good Lord, help me keep this thing moving forward and let her grab more dry ground. With ever so tender coaxing, I did manage to finally get enough momentum to get the tires grabbing solid earth and drag us out of the filthy mess. With that final grabbing hold, mud was slinging all around, including through the open window and onto me. But who cares, just keep slogging forward to higher, drier ground. Once on the move, I didn't stop until the mile away at the schoolhouse. 

What a sorry mess I was. Tired, dirty, sweaty, shoes with five pounds of mud on them, the car covered inside with all the dust from the roads and now mud everywhere I stepped or touched inside. Using the water from one of my water containers, I washed off my muddy shoes and changed to wearing my sandals. Cleaning my hands, arms and face at least made me feel a little better. Now, I thought I will wait for awhile and see if anyone tries to find me.

Mt. Trumbull schoolhouse is not in use but is open to see inside, so I wandered in and checked out all the photos of families from long ago who were the pioneers and settlers in the area. I got stuck in the mud at 12.24 p.m. It took more than an hour to dig out, so I thought that by 2 pm I'd leave if no one came by.

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No one came, so after 2 p.m. I drove away toward St. George. I took my time. But I had not eaten, was hungry, dirty and very tired. I knew I'd not have any cell phone service until St. George, but I wanted to let the ranch know what had happened. Several miles from town I got cell service and called Sarah. She wondered what had happened to me and I told her my woeful tale. None of them had left the ranch on that road, so they didn't know it's condition. She asked if I had passed any of her people on my way out. I did see a van coming in about half way out, which she said would be theirs. I suspect, the timing of my call to the ranch may have gotten them to go out and see about the road conditions, since that van certainly would not be able to drive through either. 

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The view coming down toward St. George, Ut, from the Arizona Strip.

Tonight I am staying in Hurricane, UT. I am undecided what my agenda will be for Tuesday, maybe Bryce Canyon...

Isn't it funny how I can keep topping my adventures with more odd and unusual misadventures?


Paiute Cave

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I found it! The Paiute Cave which has a few examples of ancient Indian art painted on the walls. This is actually an ice cave, which is a result of the volcanic activity in the area many, many years ago. Finding this little treasure was another little adventure, but at least I can chalk up completing one of this vacation's endeavors.

Up and at 'em early Sunday morning, 8/19. The closest, open restaurants are in Kanab. The one restaurant in Fredonia is closed Sundays. But having had a huge dinner there Saturday night, I wasn't hungry. I even forwent coffee this morning, as I wanted to head out early to try to find Paiute Cave, supposedly some 30 miles south of Colorado City, AZ.

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Colorado City, AZ is about 33 miles west of Fredonia and is the home of that large Mormon polygamist sect. It's obvious there are a lot of very large families there by the size of their HUGE homes. Many of those homes are newer modern places. 

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After locating the road I headed out on my quest. No route signs were to be seen, so I just kept headed on the main dirt route. It was dusty, as all of these roads are in the Arizona Strip. None are paved, to the best of my knowledge. At times it was level, well graded gravel, then hard pack sand, looser sand, but not deep, then there were wet places, some bits were rocky. Rain had been forecast, so this early morning drive was a good idea, I reasoned. I drove reasonably slow most of the way, had to make a detour around a still wet area in one place (where others had already broken the trail along side the road through a pasture. Some places showed evidence of water having flowed across the road, but that had not washed away the road. One spot, Clayhole Wash, had water in it, to one side, but the bottom was bedrock, so I was able to slow down and forge through the little bit of mud and up to the other side.

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Gerre, in Utah had drawn me a map with landmarks to keep in mind. Free ranging cattle were not on the map, but I kept an eye out for them and slowed down until they moseyed out of the way. When I reached an exceptionally green area with many cattle grazing I was enchanted with the landscape. There were many flat top hills and large volcanic rocks and boulder fields all around, looking as though they had just been thrown helter-skelter. The road, a bit further before, finally displayed a route number…5, so I knew then that I was on the right road. The drawn map informed me to watch for a shack and then right there turn left and go 1.2 miles to the cave.

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However, as i saw the shack ahead to the right, there was a huge impassable (in my Santa Fe at least) mud hole in the roadway with standing water. Fortunately, there was a detour to the right that led up over an embankment, around two large water ponds and then back down to the dry roadbed. Obviously this is often a wet spot that has prompted the little detour. On the other side, by the shack, sure enough, there was a two track road. It went up an incline and was composed of a lot of fist sized and larger lava rocks. I very slowly worked my way out into this open pasture land, not a house or person to be seen but cows and calves meandering along, stopping in the roadway to stare at me as I slowly approached them and then high-tailed it when I'd sound the horn. Looking back as I passed they seemed to be thinking, who the heck do you think YOU are? This is MY road!

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So 1.2 miles in and I don't see much but lava rocks and boulders, the volcanic, flat top hills, covered in green grasses, and one smaller flat top volcanic hill. I recognized that smaller one from someone else's account of finding Paiute cave. So seeing that little hill, meant I had to be in the very, very near vicinity of the cave. The cave is not in a hill side but rather is a depression in the ground. From ground level the only tell tale signs are large lava boulders that appear as a pile. There were quite a few of those appearing over the vast open landscape. One, however, stood out and I could see there was a depression in the ground by the rocks. I grabbed my camera and tripod and walked to the area. Sure enough, this was the spot and upon even closer approach a cave mouth yawned open to reveal an ancient ice cave left over from the days of volcanic activity in the area.

I had to scramble over the pile of rocks in front of the cave opening and immediately saw several painted drawings above the entrance and, peering into the cave, I saw the images that are posted on the internet. Picking my way carefully over the haphazardly  jumbled rocks, I left the surface above and into the much cooler cave. The artwork was colored and in good shape. From the opening to the back wall is maybe 25-30 feet. As I more closely examined the figures, I had to wonder how they had stood exactly where I was then standing and were applying their masterpieces upon these ancient rock faces. If only we could determine if they were telling a story and what meanings they had. 

After doing my photo shoots, I could see the cave probably went deeper in to the earth. I was not about to go exploring though. That is for experienced spelunkers. 

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Once out of the cave and back on higher ground, I saw ominous  black clouds, rumblings of thunder to the south and . It scared me to think I might be stranded on these unpaved backcountry roads, so I made haste and scrambled to get out of the area in case it startled to rain. The chances of that happening seemed very possible. Once over the detour, I sped along and only slowed down when the road way became precarious.  At times I was able to go in excess of 45 MPH. As luck would have it, my guardian angels kept me breezing along with the wind beneath my wings and with no dark clouds following behind me. Matter of fact it remained sunny ahead of me for the much quicker return to the paved highway. I saw the storm was moving in a more northeasterly direction. Once back on AZ 389, I headed East and that started taking me toward the darkening sky. 

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I drove through and past my motel and headed the 7 more miles to Kanab to get lunch and talk with Gerre about my attempts to find Shaman's Gallery and the Paiute Cave. Gerre was at the tourist office, and was excited to hear about my adventures. I reviewed my maps with him and updated him on the Shaman's location. Gerre then told me about some other Indian paintings not far from Kanab but nearer to Colorado City, AZ, on the border. He directed me to Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park and the landmarks to help me find these places. As I left him and headed to find lunch it started to rain, and continued with some drizzle as I made my way to the sand dunes. It cleared up along the way as I then searched for the hidden location Gerre told me about. An old topless windmill sat just over the AZ state line, a fence, as he described and a range of mountains about a half mile in. 

Unfortunately, the search came up empty, though I scouted around and over several ridges in that wilderness. Overhead, thunder had begun to rumble and the dark clouds hung heavily above until they gently released a refreshing drizzle. Now, though getting  wet, I decided to give up the hunt and head to my car. But I could not see my car, from where I had wandered. Instincts told me it had to be in a certain direction, but I had gone much further back in the area than I imagined. Continuing to walk more northward along the slopes I finally saw my car. Walking across the sage brush covered landscape I climbed over the fence and followed a two track trail back to the road and my car. Walking in all the sand there is tiring, but the rain was no hinderance since it was so mild and the sun was starting to shine behind me. A rainbow ahead of me was beautiful to see and a perfect ending to another day's exploring.

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Indian Rock Art

This trip, in large part, was to discover for myself, a couple examples of ancient Indian pictographs (rock art). In the course of my time away, I've been informed of several places with outstanding examples of these ancient paintings. This new knowledge has gotten me more excited about seeing these places too. But all the ones I've learned of will have to wait until another trip.

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Sunrise at Toroweap

Shaman's Gallery, if you'll recall, was my top priority for Rock Art. It is located relatively close to Toroweap, somewhere off of the road leading down to Toroweap. Well, despite my best efforts, I could not get to it's location. While I do have maps and some descriptions of how to get there, in reality that information did not get me close.

With some rain overnight, I had to close up the Santa Fe. That made it uncomfortable until later in the night when I open up windows  and the hatch to give me more air. Again I watched the sunrise and started out across the landscape to take pictures. Along the way I was trying to follow a path which seemed to go down into a narrow gap between huge boulders and pick up from there. Being 5 feet above that narrow gap I looked down to see if it made sense to go that way. As I gazed down I saw a small cactus in the way and then, something else. Something moving. Moving over part of the cactus. A RATTLE SNAKE!!! Holy crap! 

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Look closely along the bottom edge of the rock. He blends in nicely, doesn't he?

Interestingly enough this is the first rattlesnake I've seen. I had one pointed out to me once hiking down North Mountain a few years ago. I'd never have seen it until a woman hiker showed me. But this time I saw this one, colored pinkish to probably blend in with the rocks. Since I was plenty far enough away from him and any danger, I just observed it. He moved very slowly, flicking his forked tongue several times, maybe he smelled me, or sensed me, but in no way was he aggressive or defensive. And I was not about to provoke him. Being well out of harms way I just watched as he very slowly inched along. In all, over 5 minutes, he didn't more more than his length of about 2 feet.  

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Since the evening rain, many of the "pockets" in the rock surface contained water, which glistened in the morning light. I stayed away from any hikes in the near vicinity. Still, it does give me the creeps, just thinking about that s-s-nake.

On the third day camping at Toroweap, I decided that would be my day for exploring for Shaman's Gallery. Armed with my Arizona topographical atlas and some printed material from the internet, I packed my days supplies and headed out on the treacherous drive away from Toroweap. Upon reaching the ranger station 5 miles back up the road, I saw a woman, so pulled in to get information. Marjorie is a ranger volunteer, saying the ranger was not there at the time. I explained that I wanted to locate Shaman's Gallery. She was taken there by the ranger, she said, but could not help me tell it's location. We looked over my materials and talked about a few other things about Toroweap and the Arizona Strip. I told her I may also hike to to the top of Vulcan's Throne by Lava Falls later in the day, if time allowed. And since I was there I was able to inform someone (Marjorie) of my plans, so that my whereabouts were known. Marjorie, herself, was going to hike to Toroweap to check on a new camper, a girl from France, who had driven in a Ford Focus. We both were amazed that she was able to drive it all the way in with the condition of the road and the low clearance on such a small car. Back to the point… I told Marjorie, I would leave a note at the station upon my return letting her know if I was successful in locating the rock art.

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                An old road grader sits idly by near the ranger's station. It's been in the same spot every time I've gone to Toroweap

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Driving another 8 miles or so up the road, I came to what looked like what might be the intersection I sought. However, upon driving on one of three branches of that road, the most used one just took me back to Toroweap Rd. there was a shack, a water tank, corral, and two water ponds at the junction, so I next tried to follow the fence line road along the corral. It was obvious no one had driven on this patch of earth in quite some time. It was just a two track with lots of weeds and grasses growing up in the center and in the tracks. 

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Next I tried the least visible track and that REALLY led me out to pasture, so to speak. I think it was really a cow path. I turned around and thought about it for a bit. Obviously my directions were wrong and it made no sense to go off to heaven knows  where, and then still not find what I wanted. AND, if I drove around all day looking for the elusive rock art, I would 

burn up fuel that I'd still need to get out of the remote Arizona Strip. (There are NO gasoline stations within the who vast area). Fredonia is the closest to where I was in this backcountry for fuel.

Since plan A had hit a dead end, I then opted to hike Vulcan's Throne. On the way past the ranger station, no one there, I left a note telling Marjorie that the first plan failed and that Vulcan's Throne was my next adventure of the day. 


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Vulcan's Throne ahead, on a better part of the road.

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The "road" to Vulcan's Throne is about 3 miles from the ranger station. I turned off and found the road a bit rougher that I remembered from a previous drive to Lava Falls. The further I drove the more unnerving the whole drive became, some areas nearly washed away and then the most harrowing of all a spot that had deep ruts where a previous vehicle had driven when the road was under water. To top it off the whole roadway was sunken, meaning it was more like a ditch in that there were no berms or shoulders, or even open land on either side. I could not back out of the spot, so, having stopped I saw my only option was to ride the ridges left after the other vehicle(s) had carved those deep ruts - and pray that my car did not slip and fall into the grooves.No way was it possible for me in my Santa Fe to drive in the ruts, as the depth of those ruts would have had me scraping bottom. Another place had me tilted so far, to avoid a washout area, as I straddled the only dry, intact land on one side. It was a couple of miles out to the mountain, and I felt discouraged if I would not be able to make it there. But more disheartened if I had to abort this exploration too and then walk out. 

I suppose it's needless to say, I didn't give up that easily. I forged ahead and, having made it through the tough spots, I then faced Vulcan's Throne. Several years ago I had attempted to hike down Lava Falls to the Colorado River - in August. That turned out to be a very bad idea. While I had enough water with me, the hike in August heat, on black lava rock was almost a disaster. Luckily I was able to conquer that days'  heat distress and overexertion and come out alive. But, getting back to Vulcan's Throne. It is an old volcanic cinder cone, very rounded, smooth appearing, and not especially intimidating. There is a sign at the base saying there is not a real "trail", but rather a "route". Not really comprehending the difference, I set out on what was a fairly well marked path with cairns placed along the way to direct hikers as they wound their ways to the summit.

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Starting out seemed like a not too difficult hike. But to my right as I walked along was a very long slope to the old lava flow and then the Colorado River below that. The composition of the throne, is, basically, small cinder stones, with some larger rocks thrown in for good measure, and then some very large outcropping volcanic rocks hanging out along the path. For most of the hike up I was ever conscious of the slope of the throne, the looseness of the cinder stones AND the possibility of a misstep sending me careening head over heels to a certain calamitous culmination in the Colorado River. If standing on the edge of the canyon overlooks had me weak in the knees, this was much more precarious.

                                                                         Yes, there is a path. As you  can see, there is nearly a 45° pitch to the hillside;

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For the duration of my trek up Vulcan's Throne, I felt like a billy goat and that one foot had to be shorter than the other to negotiate along such a steep slope. Then I came to a spot that had me scramble over some large volcanic rocks that jutted into the path. After VERY, VERY carefully climbing atop those boulders with all their sharp, jagged volcanic edges, I felt even more vulnerable. I could then see, oh too clearly, the dreadful slide to oblivion if I were to slip. But I also surveyed my position and then saw what faint a trail that existed continued  further to my left  and 8 feet lower as I, sitting like a crow also looked down that cinder covered slide to suicide. There from my perch, I could see no reasonable way for me to pick my way down off my perch and resume the hike. As much I would have liked to mount the summit and take in the views, my discretion told me that safety was better than risking unspeakable pain or death. As it was, getting down from the rock was a slow, difficult endeavor. I inched, really inched my way along, hanging on to the stable rock outcroppings from whence I had sat and ever so gingerly made my way back along the "route". 

Now my balance was again shifted, right side leaning into the mountain, going heel to toe over the most precarious portions of the pathway. Additionally, as I had done on the upward climb, I dug the inner edge of my shoes into the loose cinder stones to get some bite out of each foot step and to help level me on the slope. 

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I was so glad to have NOT completed that hike. I know others have done it and more will do so too, but my instincts were telling me to give it up. I made the attempt and am happy to say so.

After the equally nervy drive out, I finally returned to camp. Whether it was the hike, being unable to get to Shaman's Gallery, or who knows what, I decided I'd had enough of Toroweap for this trip. And I had my days mixed up, thinking I was to be at Bar 10 Ranch on Sunday. This was still Saturday, and I had no other things I cared to do there. I showered (I have a solar shower bag, put in several gallons of water, lay it in the sun and in one hour you have a nice warm shower). Lay the bag in the sun for all day and the water will be very HOT (the voice of experience speaking). Marjorie stopped to check in on me, before she began her hike back to the ranger station. Having already packed up my gear, I sat for a time, sat atop a huge round boulder near the camp and decided to return to Fredonia and the next day, today, Sunday, see about locating the other rock art in Paiute Cave.

On the way out I stopped at the ranger station and found both Marjorie and the ranger there. The ranger is a young man, who knows the area very well. He went over my maps and in the Arizona atlas corrected several of the roads. Many no longer exist, so he "x"ed those out and then he helped me locate the correct way to Shaman's Gallery. It is only about 30 miles in from the paved road. But he highly suggested that a higher clearance 4-wheel drive would be a better choice getting to the trailhead. The road there is rough.He also helped me with directions to find Paiute Cave. We talked for some time, about my day's activities, both aborted explorations and he reminded me - It's not the destination, it's the journey. It was good to be reminded of that and so, I headed off back on the dusty road to stay for two nights at the Grand Canyon Motel in Fredonia, AZ. 

Sunday morning would begin another adventure.

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Does that huge rock near the foreground look like a bear? This is next to my camp area.

Toroweap

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(This is the approach in the last mile or two to Toroweap Campground. The road goes for another half mile to the viewpoint and is one that contorts a vehicle from side to side, front to side, back to side, and every which way, including loose).

Over the past week, I've had some white knuckle, nerve wracking, treacherous, bone jarring, brain rattling drives through some of this country's most superb scenery. Some parts of the drives were definitely challenging, but my hikes were challenging as well. And I'm here to tell the tales.

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After spending 2 nights in Kanab, UT, I departed on Thursday morning, 8/16 for the long drive to Toroweap. From Kanab it is only 7 miles to Fredonia, AZ, just south of the UT/AZ border. Then, out 7 miles on AZ 389 is the turn-off to Toroweap, an unpaved, 61 mile adventurous drive to one of the most fantastic viewpoints into the Grand Canyon. 


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Part of the road, most of it actually, are in decent shape for a gravel, hard pack, unpaved road. But the bad stretches are not for the faint of heart. Some bad stretches were just plain rough, either washboard, corduroy road type or rocky, and loose rock inclines/declines. Then there is the last 3 miles into the Toroweap overlook area at the end of the line. Having been to this place, I think now 5 or 6 times, I knew it was slow going and very uneven, as vehicles are riding above the smooth slick rock formation tops. But this trip seemed to reveal an even more rough road.

Some of the best places on the road allowed me to drive upwards of 45 mph.

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                                  That is Mt. Trumbull in the background. A forest fire smoke is visible to the left of the white cloud.

There was one spot, near the end, that got my blood really pumping, and my palms sweaty. There was an incline that had partially washed away and in the gaps were some larger various sized rocks, not quite boulder size. Yikes! I'd driven all this way and it reminded me of the spot I clawed up and though the week before on the North Rim forest road. I dropped into low drive and with just a minimum of slippage, once again my Santa Fe, grabbed ahold and threw out her paws scratching for that fingernail hold to pull us up and over that nasty patch. 

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                Nearly to the campground, typical "road" surface. The mountain in the background is on the south side of the canyon.

This vehicle is not really a high clearance vehicle, but in cases like this I'm always concerned that I'm going to hit the undercarriage and rip the guts out from underneath. I've become pretty adept at quickly sizing up the situations and aiming to avoid the center belly from being exposed too closely to anything that would tear the car apart from beneath. That goes for rutted roads too, which, I've been fortunate to skirt around or ride on the ridges, if the soil is not still wet. 

There is a ranger station 5 miles north of the overlook, but no one was there when I arrived the first day. I averaged 5 MPH from the ranger station to the campground. That's how rough the road is. I do know some drive on it faster, but I'm not about to rattle every single bolt and nut loose from MY car. Not to mention the grey matter under my skull.

OK, so there is the campground. a bit rough and uneven entering it, and one of the upper area campsites already taken. I like the lower part too, but that was NOT going to happen. A part of the drive had washed out and a bunch of very large rocks and boulders had been thrown in to fill the over 2 foot drop. Now this situation was totally hopeless unless a person had a 4 wheel drive AND high clearance vehicle. The rocks were not all stable either, so one that slipped could leave my car teetering with no tires on the ground. That spot would most certainly have destroyed my car and caught the undercarriage. I opted to take one of the other upper spots, which was nice too. Since the surface is mostly rocky, and having tried this before, I opted to not set up my tent. Only rocks on the corners or tying off to the sparse vegetation would keep a tent stable. Instead, for the first time I slept in the back and rigged up a tarp to cover the open back hatch which gave me some overhang and privacy at night. With the hatch open, I was able to comfortably stretch out and sleep soundly. 

I did a quick walk to the overlook and chatted with an Italian couple who I had stopped and chatted with on the road in. They had just come in for a day visit and, after going to the edge, taking photos, they left. They were driving a larger 4 wheel drive SUV so had no problems along the drive.

For the rest of the afternoon I read and relaxed, then after supper, read by lantern light until after 9 p.m. It was a mostly clear night, though I wished I could be looking up at the stars from my tent, instead of having no view above from inside the car. 

Friday morning I awoke with dawn's early light, fixed a cup of coffee and trekked to the canyon edge to catch the sunrise and take photos along the rim. Toroweap, by the way, has no barriers to help prevent people from falling over. People are on their own here and hopefully the fear of heights is enough to keep them at a safe distance from a 3000 foot drop off.

After 9 a.m. I started on one of the hikes at Toroweap, the Esplanade Trail. It follows an old jeep trail that is closed, but open to hiking. Looking at the photo to the left, the Esplanade is the level at which I was located. Looking at the background, the level at the base of the  "mountain" is the Esplanade and it wanders in and out all around the base of those formations. It is mostly flat, but still a workout.

I soon diverged off the path and tried hiking to other of the "points" above the river but still on the same level. There is nothing flat about this land. It is made up of a multitude of little valleys and drainages that feed into the Colorado, etching deeper and deeper with hundreds of feet drops as it descends. I had to cross may such gullies, drainages, valleys to go out to the furtherest outcroppings in my attempts to be "on the edge". In a few instances, I lay on my belly to take a photo over the edge (standing that close made me weak in the knees and in the pit of my stomach).

It was great exploring into some the those side canyons to the depths that were possible for me. As I mentioned, they do get deeper and have precipitous falls before reaching the river. I never put myself in danger that would have me falling into some inaccessible gorge (at least from my point of view).

I can not tell you how many little nooks and grannies there are all along the way. From above and looking across the Esplanade, there are waterfalls (when it rains) that must be amazing. The erosions of millions of years have left formations that just amaze me. One rock along the trail looked like the head of a dinosaur, other places left rock that looked lacey and fragile, and areas where a series of falls stair stepped downward with little pools of standing water on the levels below. Then were the cliffs, the split off boulders as big as buses, narrow gaps between. A person could search in all those levels in a small part of the canyon and never see every inch. It is so enormous, with new discoveries around every corner.

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This overhang and ledge was a bit nerve wracking to get to from the level above, and was easier to negotiate without the pack. I scooted along duck walking to an opening area that got me much closer to an over the rim view below.

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The head of a Dinosaur? No, a rock that eons of time and the elements have carved in such a shape.

Dropping from one level to another this waterfall must be spectacular when water is flowing. Little pools of water are seen below.

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Another of the gullies and valleys. This one with formations looking like fish heads.

This waterfall has etched out interesting formations, and such delicate scalloped edges, alcoves and spindly columns.

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A toadstool?

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Pancake layers like this abound within the Canyon.

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One of the multitude of little valleys that feed into the Canyon.

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And, a view standing out on a point, nothing but air and a sheer drop beneath me. 

So, I had a great afternoon on that hike, poking around over the landscape, seeing what I could discover and being in total wonderment of all that my eyes could see. 

I think I probably covered a good 6 miles, or more and the march back was tedious, weaving in and out, along the inner edges of the Esplanade, following the contours of the  mountains all the way.

While out on the edge, at one point, a condor or two swooped and glided overhead. Sorry, no bones to pick here.

Utah...

No, I'm just 5'8".                                                                                                                                                                                                                           Yeah, that was a groaner.

But today was not a groaner for me. I had an excellent day of exploring!

To begin my day, which initially was unstructured, I stopped at the Kanab, Kane County Tourism office. This area is rich in things to do, historic sites, natural beauty, hiking and terrific exploring and adventuring. The women in the tourist office offered a lot of information on some natural formations I wanted to see, plus more about the "Cowboy Legends" festival that begins tomorrow in Kabab. Apparently Kanab, UT is also known as "Little Hollywood" where a large number of movies have been filmed, the first with cowboy actor Tom Mix in 1924 and the most recent "John Carter" a Disney film that mostly takes place on another planet. Once you have seen some of the natural formations up here you can understand why they like the areas here for many types of movies.

I am thinking about hanging around another day to see the beginning of their "Cowboy Legends" event, but really do want to spend at least two days at Toroweap so that I can try to find and photograph the ancient Indian rock art at Shaman's Gallery. That is one of the places I wanted information on at the tourist office, and another, Piute Cave, which also has painted rock art. The person who had information (Gerre) was not available until this afternoon, so I opted to drive east to the Paria Canyon area and get information from the Ranger office there. It was 40 miles, but I got a whole load of more information which helped me plan my days' adventures.

First I trekked into an area to see "toadstools" (some as seen here). I spent about an hour there. These interesting rock formations are formed as the softer layers of rock erode and the harder layers stay intact. Thus the "topper" being a harder material, actually protects that column of, otherwise, softer rock. Quite a balancing act, and so much like some other worldly landscape. I can see why formations like these would prompt this area for some far off planet movies.

One of the other places I wanted to check out is near "The Wave", a place I visited in 2009. The Wave is just over the border into Arizona, but the place I wanted to see today is just north and still in Utah. And those places are slot canyons, which I also learned are in abundance up here.

To reach these remote areas, both The Wave and the slot canyon one must take a rather rough, unpaved road, Houserock Road. Turning South off US 89, onto Houserock Rd, I slowly drove back in about 5 miles and turned at the sign, Buckskin Gulch. 

Rain was in the forecast, and the warning at the head of the road cautions that it is impassable when wet. So I was mindful of some dark clouds to the West and certainly did not wish to get stuck back in the outback. 

At the trailhead to Buckskin Gulch and the trail to the slot canyons, a man was pumping up the tires on his Explorer. He told me he had been driving in sand and deflated them to allow better handling, but now it was mostly (MOSTLY, I repeat) solid stone road surface. I headed on the trail to see if I just might get to where the slot canyon began. Crossing a meadow area, the trail eventually fed into the dry creek, then narrowed between two huge red rock hills and then through even more fantastic rock formations, similar to what is found near the Wave.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                               

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More photos show the interesting swirls and convoluted shapes as I ventured, deeper and deeper into the wilderness, still following the dry creek bed.

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As I further followed the creek trail, hoping that it would soon narrow and start to become the slot canyon, I was, as well, looking over my shoulder to keep an eye on possible rain. A person does not want to be caught in a dry creek bed if rain begins or if it rains upstream, and unbeknownst to the hiker. Upstream rains can quickly pour a flood downstream and come in a torrent that will wash everything away as it forcefully flows in the open channel. So, not wanting to get caught in a washout nor get trapped on an impassable, wet road, and not seeing any possibility of the creek narrowing into a slot canyon, I thought it best to make haste and get back to the main road before it might start to rain. 

I'd hiked in for about 45 minutes, and surely covered more than one mile, but I picked up the pace on the return and was back to the car in less than a half hour. And, luckily, the rain clouds were heading further north east. Still, I was thrilled to have even a brief hike in Buckskin Gulch and would love to return with friends another time when we can go much deeper and then into the slot canyons. I think I have a few friends, in mind who are going to be stoked about this place…

Heading back to Kanab, I decided to check out another remote location, Old Paria, where several Western movies had been filmed and where an actual town existed at one time. All the buildings have been destroyed, but, once down into the valley, I was stunned to see the multi-colored mountain sides that once were the backdrop for the old town.

The only remaining evidence of a town is a cemetery. I followed the "road" further into the valley, but it started to get sandy and was actually the riverbed, I believe. Some spots were partially washed away and then the sandy places put me on edge. I stopped, turned around and made my escape before I got myself in a terrible fix. It was not difficult to end that part of the day's adventure and get back to US 89. It was obvious from my car tracks that I had been the only one to venture down there all day. My take on Paria town is to skip it. It's not worth the effort, except for the fantastic mountainside colors.

On the return drive to Kanab, it did rain a bit, but cleared up before I hit town. Once in town I went back to the tourist office and  met Gerre, who was very helpful. At 76 he has seen and done a lot of exploring and discovery of ancient Indian sites and  artifacts. Piute Cave is one place he has visited and drew me a map to help locate it on my own. He showed me several places on the Utah map that he thinks would interest me. Those will have to wait until another trip, however. 

Today had me feeling very upbeat for another reason… my legs and knees did not ache or cause me any discomfort. Now I'm feeling better able to tackle some longer hikes, like discovering those rock art sites on the Arizona Strip. The last several days of rest and minimum walking have obviously helped to get me back to what I like best - to get out and explore!


Monument Point, part 2

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Early morning light filling in the Grand Canyon from Monument Point.

Having slept very soundly under a blanket of stars, chilly temps, and bundled up with two blankets in my sleeping bag, I almost didn't want to get up from my nice warm nest. But, nature calls, and the day must begin. After fixing a cup of coffee, I strolled to the rim and sat and watched as the morning light from behind me began to frost the upper layers of the Canyon. As the sun rose, the morning light melted downward, deeper and deeper across and down the cliffs, dissolving the night shadows ever deeper into the inner depths. 

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Being in the mood, I decided this first full day would be my day to attempt a partial hike, over the rim. I wrote a note with the date and statement that I would attempt to hike just this day to the Esplanade. A notice board at the trail stated the first segment of the hike, to the Esplanade was 2.5 miles with a decent of about 1800 feet. The total hike to reach the Colorado River would be 12 mikes. I've done 12 mile hikes before, but wasn't even considering such a distance this go around. Summer hikes into the Grand Canyon can be deadly if not prepared and certainly not a feat to be attempted alone. Water requirements, alone, are prohibitive. One person could never carry enough water, to sustain himself on such an arduous hike. Most people go in groups and cache water supplies along the trails, so that they have water awaiting them upon their return ascent. That is a very heavy load, even with several people together. It would get lighter as you go, but there is food and supplies, tents, sleeping gear, etc to consider also…you get the picture.

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 By 8 a.m. I was atop the ridge across from my camp. I decided to carry most of my camera equipment, three lenses, the camera, extra battery, a small camera, energy bars, apple, dried fruit mix, and over a gallon of water in smaller, manageable containers. The pack was heavy, probably 60 lbs, at least. But "be prepared" is the boy scout motto and most applicable here as well. Shortly, I reached the trailhead that dropped over the edge and into the canyon. I did, actually, stop and survey the situation. What lay before me, or should I say "below" me was a narrow, very steep descending trail. Checking my pack, I saddled up, so to speak, set my hiking pole to the ground and the hike began.

As I descended, I very carefully, stepped along, using the hiking pole extensively as extra support and safety. Several hundred feet down, I stopped to wipe my sweating brow, not even 9 a.m. and I was sweating profusely. Hummm what's the hike up going to be like?

Now, considering, I thought, an average walking speed for a human in 2 ½ to 3 mph, I should be able to reach the Escarpment two hours, maybe 2 ½ hours tops. Well, that was not going to happen this hike. This was a much steeper hike than I had thought it would be and, being alone, I opted to proceed with utmost caution. It was not a race, after all, and I had all day to complete the journey. I stopped frequently and caught glimpses of the trail lower down onto the Esplanade. As I worked further down, I would also look up to where I had been.                                            

Holy Kamole!                 

 How in the world am I working down along those cliffs. It looks impossible. Then the trail took a change of direction, it leveled out somewhat and seemed to be heading upward to another area which led me to believe I had missed a part of the trail leading downward. This upward trail looked like it might lead to another starting point further along up on the rim. I was ok with that. HA, well no, the trail did not go up again, it rather quickly started a more steady descent, with untold switchbacks, zig zagging downward toward the Esplanade. By now I had been on the trail for 2 hours and while I could see where I hoped to stop, it was still a long ways away. 

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Then I hit a roadblock, of sorts. Before me was a cliff, about 8 feet above where the trail continued below it. Darn, I've come this far to be stopped? Having recalled from past reading about this trail I thought this had to be the spot they talked about lowing backpacks by rope to the trail below and picking it up again. Oh, hey, I have rope --back at the campsite. Already having taken off my backpack, I searched around for another possible way to access the trail. No way. I sat and pondered the situation, walked around a bit, remembered the saying "you'll never know until you try", and wondered how I could safely lower my pack and myself those few 8 feet.

Here is what I did. I used my hiking pole, undid my belt, hooked the pack to the belt, the belt to the hiking pole strap, and lowered that down off the cliff. The cliff was not vertical and had a rough surface, that allowed for some finger and foot holds. This also allowed me to scoot the pack ahead of me and safely scoot myself down too. Making the try, successfully, made it seem like a piece of cake once done. Having the pack on my back would have thrown off my balance and may have been trouble, but the way I managed it, it even lessened the fear of my return and hauling the pack up again.

Once that hurdle was jumped I continued to traverse into the canyon. Zig, zag, zig, zag, zig, zag. 

And my legs were feeling the burn. Both my knees, also, were starting to ache. 

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I stopped about 10 under the shade of a larger pinion pine, quenching my thirst, and eating some of my snacks. I thought I heard someone above me, talking as they came down the trail. But I could not see anyone and I was enjoying the shade and rest, so took photos from where I was, while also building up my resolve to march onward to the Esplanade. Then I heard voices again and, yes, there was a couple coming down the trail. They stopped and also took a break with me, telling me they were scouting out the trail for another possible hike further into the canyon. The couple were Mark and Moira from south of Tucson, were camping at Timp Point and have hiked and explored extensively at the North Rim and other locations in the northern area. Since we all were heading in the same direction, I joined them and enjoyed chatting with them as we went along. The rest of the downward climb became much more enjoyable and bearable with their company. 

On, and from high above along the trail, it appears the trail levels out at it approaches the "supposedly" level Esplanade. This turned out not to be so. It was an optical illusion, I think. We ended this hike on a much flatter area just the same, which would have been a great spot to camp, preferably the night before you make the final push UP to end the total hike to and back from the river. That, of course, is from my perspective. This area is also where two trails converge, the Bill Hall (which we were on), and the Indian Hollow Trail. The rest of the trail then leads on for almost 10 more miles to it's end.

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In the background is from where we began the hike…it was a horrendously long hike back up.

So, there we were 2 ½ miles into the canyon. Looking up at the cliffs we had climbed down, it seemed a totally impossible feat. After some short exploration and some rest, we, soon enough, began our upward push. And that is when it became oh, too obvious, the trail ahead was always on an incline and, to me, it only got steeper and steeper. I do believe that if Mark had not been leading the troupe, I'd have barely crawled out, probably hours later. We did rest several times along the way, but also steadily kept at it. My legs and knees had taken a beating and, Oh boy, were they a hurtin'. Along the ridge top and back to my camp, while easier, was about as fer as these old appendages would go. All I wanted to do then was lay prone on the ground and REST! I think the Park Service has the distance wrong. My body was telling me it was not an 1800 foot elevation change, but more like 3000 feet. (and double that on the way back up).

Mark and Moyra and I exchanged names, numbers, etc, talked about some other sites for me to explore and we said our goodbyes.

I pulled out a blanket and laid in the shade.

The next day I could barely walk. I had some vitamins, Aleve and a sports ointment that helped but any attempts at hiking were out of the question. I read more of Huck Finn, living vicariously through his adventures on the Mississippi, instead.

The following day saw some improvement, and I hiked close by, trying to avoid longer up and down trails. I finished reading young Finn's stories.

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Finally, on Monday,  I had to get moving, so decided to drive out to a few other view points. Sowats Point is further north of Monument Point and about 9 miles off on it's own road. Twice I had to maneuver around mud holes, but my Santa Fe was at no risk. It was a long slow drive to the end, but the view was spectacular. The area resembled a huge bowl, which is part of Kanab Creek drainage leading eventually down to the Colorado River. I could see there was a trail down into the depths here also but lost sight of where it went.

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After that excursion I decided to go to visit Parisawumpitts Point and on the shortest route there I took a road proclaiming "Narrow Steep road" At it's beginning I had my druthers about attempting it but threw caution to the wind and headed up. All was well until I hit a steep patch of road that was partially washed away with larger rocks and some large slick rocks making up what was left. To my dismay, also, there was no place to turn around. It was narrow, steep and treacherous. I slipped the tranny into low drive, which I've used in similar situations and the Santa Fe, kept reaching out her paws, trying to grab at any stable enough surface to grab ahold of. She kept climbing, some wheel spinning, but always that reaching forward and she clawed her way through and over the rough patch. Thankfully it was only about 15 feet of terror that I had to deal with, and, yes, I sighed a huge sign of relief as I then easily continued up to level ground. After hiking to some vantage points at Parisawumpitts, getting lost in the woods, and returning to my vehicle, I decided to avoid the road that, although the shortest route back to my camp, had that pesky unstable patch of loose rock. I went twenty miles out of my way instead. Chancing a downward catastrophe was more than my nerves would allow.

My last night at Monument Point, ended with an extended gazing upwards at the stars, then another as I lay in bed, being thankful for a wonderful day of exploring, some excitement and beautiful sights that words can barely describe. It was, as usual, another brisk, cozy under my blankets kind of night, as I thought about the next leg of my journey.



Monument Point - North Rim, Grand Canyon

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(At the moment I'm in Kanab, Utah, just 7 miles north of Fredonia,AZ)

After leaving for my trip on Thurs., 8/9/12, I filled up the fuel tank, stopped at The Scramble for breakfast and was on my way by 8:30 a.m. A short pit stop in Flagstaff about 11 and off again up US 89 toward the North Rim. After crossing the Colorado River over Navajo Bridge, near Lee's Ferry (this area is also named Marble Canyon) and is the first very narrow vestiges of the Grand Canyon.

I continued along 89A, past the Vermillion Cliffs, past Cliff Dwellers Lodge (a good motel and restaurant, by the way), and then climbed up to the Kaibob Plateau to Jacobs Lake. This is the entry to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon. Pulling in to re-fuel, I noted it was exactly 300 miles from home and 1: 45 p.m. A quick check of a map inside the store there confirmed I would be taking the very first forest road past Jacobs Lake. From then on it was all gravel, dirt roads. As I had been approaching the higher plateau, I could see  dark rain clouds and feared I may be running into that rain. Luckily, the rain had ceased before I arrived, but those back roads were wet, not anything hazardous, just water standing in many low spots. Those forest roads are actually pretty well hard packed, so it was not difficult to maneuver over them. However, the driving on the roads is slow going. At times I was climbing up, up and up, then down, down, down, up to higher ground, then down to valleys, all winding through gorgeous Ponderosa Pine forest. Meadows interspersed, here and there, opened up the views and wild flowers were quite abundant. Apparently they have had sufficient rains this year, as everything green - pines, grasses, oaks, aspens and other vegetation, were vibrant. 

Driving up the plateau and then into the North Rim area, I could see evidence of past forest fires that had ravaged some areas. Passing along steep mountain and hillsides, were hundreds and hundreds of fallen timbers, like bodies of fallen soldiers that had been felled by an overpowering, marauding foe - FIRE. Though some major, destructive fires there have bared hundreds, maybe thousands of acres, thankfully, not all the forested areas were so devastated. And, even as the old timber was destroyed, new growth is also visible on those steep hillsides. Aspens naturally spring up in burned pine forests, as well as scrub oaks and other plant life.

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                                                                                       In my projected itinerary, I had planned to go directly to Indian Hollow viewpoint and camp. However, remembering that I did stay there once many years ago and left after two nights because of how forlorn and depressing it felt, I changed my mind and decided to, instead, go to Monument Point. I also happened to have printed driving directions inserted in my road atlas, so I changed course and drove on the adjacent road to my changed destination. Another advantage of changing to Monument Point was that it offers one of the shortest routes down to the Colorado River in the inner canyon.

Having driven 34 miles from Jacobs Lake, I parked my Santa Fe and walked to a view point and monument to former park ranger Bill Hall, who was a dedicated devotee and friend of the Grand Canyon. Apparently he died in the Canyon in 1979. A major trail leading into the canyon bears his name, the trail I would take if I were to venture over the edge and into the depths.

But, as I ventured up to the top the the ridge there, a storm to the west was threatening to head in my direction. With black clouds above, lightening flashing through that storm and long, nearly transparent, lacey tentacles of the storm clouds, tangling into the canyon, I decided to hastily retreat so that I could set up camp before chancing a drenching. Luckily, the storm diverted itself and headed northwesterly instead. Whew, I dodged that one and was able to set up my dry camp. One other car was parked out there, with a note on the dash that they were IN the canyon and would  be coming out on the 15th. I had no idea when they began their hike, but that note reminded me to do the same if I decided to hike down into the canyon depths. 

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After setting up my camp I returned to the trail and hike a bit further along the ridge above. A fire had also swept through that ridge some time ago, but this area was composed of mostly Pinion Pines and Junipers, so the skeletons I saw were of such. Not wanting to go too far as it was getting late in the afternoon, I returned and had supper, then started to read one of the books I had brought with me, "The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn". I don't know how I missed reading it as a boy, but, from the first words, I was hooked. I read by lantern light until well after sunset, lit a small fire and then let it fade out as I then stood in the blackness of a moonless night sky. The stars are amazing here! Larger than how I usually see them, and BRIGHT, and twinkling and seemingly dancing in place as I stared up into the heavens.              And QUIET!                                       Except for the night chirpers in the trees, the aloneness surrounded me. But that was not in a fearful or desperately lonely way. It just was. Here was I, alone with the millions of stars, the vastness of the night sky, such a speck of humanity in the cosmos. It can humble a person to stand in such a place and be in such awe of the creation of our universe. That night I slept in my uncovered tent, looking up at the stars, and the heavens, mindful of all the beauty my eyes had beheld that day and what wonders would greet me with the dawn.


HOT!

Yes indeed, it has been a very HOT day here in the Valley of the SUN.

112° according to the TV weather man, which hasn't been seen on this date since 1905. And more of the same through the week.

I did a little bit of running around this morning, getting a few last minute items for my trip and paid a visit to Phiona. The rest of today has been spent indoors. 

Phiona still is sitting in the same spot as last week, but I spoke with Steve, Mike the owner and one of the body guys about removing several rivets before they begin painting. Better to have them removed now than to try to cut them out after those parts are painted. The body man, Zeke, says the fenders are ready to go, as soon as Steve is ready. I suspect that will happen after I leave on my trip, but I do plan to stop by the shop again tomorrow just to check.

So, even with all this heat, I'm getting ready to venture off into the wilds of Northern Arizona. My plan is to depart on Thursday morning with an unplanned destination, but will be on the way to the Grand Canyon North Rim. If I make good time, I will be heading south on AZ 67 at Jacobs Lake, AZ into the forest. If possible I hope to reach Indian Hollow and set up camp before nightfall. Indian Hollow is far into the forest and remote. It is primitive camping, but offers some glimpses into the Grand Canyon. At this place there is a trail that goes over the edge and into the upper layers of the Canyon. While there I hope to hike down on those  trails for at least one day hike. I will NOT attempt to go deeper into the canyon down to the Colorado River. That is a much longer hike that could take several days, and not something that should be done alone, especially in the summer.

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From Indian Hollow, I may end up at Locust, North Timp or Timp Points (or one of the other points) and camp a few more days. All of these points are along the Rainbow Rim Trail, which offers great views into the canyon. I've camped at N. Timp a few times previously and have enjoyed the solitude and hiking both Eastward and Westward, from one view points to another. There are 5 points along this rim trail, and while the distance from N. Timp to Locust is maybe a mile directly across, it is 6.5 miles on the trail. The hikes lead into the pine forest, traverse over many hills and valleys, open grass lands, through stands of Aspens and several times along the canyon edge with broad vistas into and across the chasm. 

I've camped up on several of these points in past years and often have been alone for much of the time. Some mountain bike groups have camped for a day or two also and I'd share the trail with them in the day as they biked on and back to several points. I've met some interesting people in the past and most likely will this time also. After several days of solitude, I guess I'm always up for some conversation and human contact. As much as I seek the solitude and time for my own thoughts, reconnection to the Earth and Nature, and enjoyment of the beauty, I don't shy away from others while on my solitary quests.

As I see things now, I will be in this area from August 9 (0r 10) until August 14 or 15. 

Upon leaving the forested area, I will go to Fredonia, AZ, probably staying one night at a motel. I'm sure I'll be in need of a good scrubbing and shave by then.

Next planned location will be Toroweap, also called Tuweap, which is further West, but still on the North Rim of the Grand Canyon. This location is also one of my favorite places, in the area known as the Arizona Strip, but requires visitors to drive 61 miles one way on unpaved roads. I believe all the roads in the whole vast area are unpaved. Flat tires are not uncommon on this road and the last 5 miles are very slow going over very uneven, but flat rock surfaces. Parts of the road are very well packed and allow for 40+ mph speeds, but it is all dusty and requires a drivers full attention and diligence. The scenery, in all it's vast remoteness and loneliness, is beautiful. Very few people live in the area. In contrast to the forested area that I will have left, Toroweap is mostly treeless and much more barren. Water is scarce in the area and past attempts to ranch in the area forced many to abandon the area. 

It is in the Toroweap area that I hope to explore and try to locate the ancient Indian pictographs (Shaman's Gallery) in another very remote valley. Another targeted hike will be to the top of Vulcan's Throne, a dormant volcanic cinder cone, just above the Colorado River. 

I will be in the Toroweap area from August 15 until Monday, August 20. I will then drive a bit more westward to Bar 10 Ranch where I will stay for two nights. On the way to Bar 10 Ranch I may try to hike up Mt. Trumbull, the highest mountain on the AZ Strip. At Bar 10, I hope to horseback ride and probably will go with a group on ATV's to the edge of the Canyon. If possible I'd like to hike  down to the river. I will be at Bar 10 Ranch from August 20, leaving on August 22. In both the areas, except for Fredonia (as far as I know), there will be no cell or internet service. When possible, I will send stories to let readers know my whereabouts. Another place I'd like to find and explore is Piute Cave, which is in the AZ Strip areas I will be visiting. Depending on how bad, or good, those back roads actually are, I may seek out some other remote places to explore on the way to my next scheduled stop.

August 22 will find me on the way to Utah and Zion Pondersosa Ranch. I'll be taking a horseback ride and hiking, but the most exciting part of this part of the trip will be a guided trip to do some canyoneering into a narrow slot canyon in Zion National Park. I've wanted to try some rappelling into slot canyons but would never attempt it alone. I have no experience rappelling, so this is the alternative that will allow me to safely venture down into the fantastic formations awaiting me. I will be leaving Zion on August 25. 


I have not planned for the last week of August, but may then visit Bryce Canyon National Park which is also nearby. I have no reservations there but will play it by ear, and probably be spontaneous. Hopefully, I will have cell service, at least, and be able to leave messages from the road. I plan to return to Phoenix by August 29.



This photo is a view from Toroweap overlook from my last visit there in 2008. It is a 3000 foot drop down to the Colorado River. No barricades.