Sunday, September 9, 2007

One Week and still going!

Day 8, Mile 1250 Capital Reef National Park

I am going to start from today and work backwards. Hopefully, as we leave here Sunday morning I can find a place in Torrey UT to send this out to my blog site. After all we have been spending a few days in a area that is estimated to be over 2 billion years old; and as many of you know, when you reach a certain age it’s very hard to make, adapt, to or accept changes. We did find a couple of telephones down here, so if necessary we could call out! It’s very remote as far as communication with the outside world goes.

It is really and truly beautiful here. The daytime temps are in the 80’s and the nighttime are in the 60’s. There is usually a nice breeze throughout the area. There have been very few threatening clouds, though we did miss some flash flooding up in the Canyons a few days ago when Kathie and I were in Moab.

Today, Kathie, Don our leader (who came late and will explain that later) and myself went looking for desert bighorn sheep back up in some of the canyons. We were not successful but we did get into a pretty remote area of the Park known as the South Draw area. This area was a cattle gathering area years before Capital Reef even became a National Monument. Ranchers would herd their cattle to this area as winter was drawing near and take them down to the lowlands for winter. It was the first time I had ever had Big Red on a 4 wheel drive road (and I don’t have 4-wheel drive). It was fun.

Kathie and I arrived here on Day 6 of my trip, from Moab. It was a relatively blah drive over here and only several hours in length, so we didn’t hurry our departure from Moab. We got here around 1 p.m. and quickly found two other Casitas belonging to Marilyn from the Phoenix area and to Ann and John from west Texas. After a couple of hours we finally had ourselves set up and ready to join the group. I am parked on a steep incline and have had to extend the trailer jack a bit more than I am comfortable, so I told the group there will be no partying or dancing in my trailer! I did not want to roll down the incline into Kathie’s rig.

We leaned later, from a message left at the Visitor Center, that Don our leader had called and needed to talk with someone from our group. Uh oh, we thought something has happened and we are on our own! This is how we found one of the land lines as I said in my first paragraph, we are communication remote. Well, due to an issue Don had at home that would be taken care of Friday morning (9/7), he wouldn’t be joining our group until after we had gong to bed Friday night or early Saturday morning. So we were pretty much on our own to decide what to do for the day of Friday.

Early Thursday evening we spent the time getting acquainted with each other. Later that evening we attended the Park show, put on by a Ranger, at the amphitheater and learned about the geology side and man’s discovery of the area and about the settlements. Briefly, this area was used by mountain men, John Fremont explored the area looking for passages, and right here in the area of the campground was settled by Mormon families. Community activities were established and all kinds of fruit and nut trees were planted. The area is just perfect with plenty of water, climate for fruit trees, etc. In fact the fruit trees are still here and are loaded with pears and apples right now. You can pick them when the orchards are open and eat all you want while in the orchard, but you must pay for what you take out of the orchards.

President Roosevelt established the area as a national monument in and later it was declared a national park. Not only is the geographical condition of the area under preservation but the little town area of Fruita is too. We were told to be sure and go the Gifford Farm House at 9 a.m. and get some of the locally produced fruit pies from the locally grown fruit. I purchased an apple and a mixed berry pie plus some other goodies Friday morning before we started exploring the area. And they are really good.

On Day 7, Kathie, Marilyn and I decided we were going to explore the Grand Wash area. You drive a few miles on a paved road, then a dirt road, then hike 1.3 miles to The Narrows. The canyon walls become very narrow and one can imagine the rush of water coming down the canyons and gaining speed. Marilyn and I could stand with arms outstretched touching each other and touching the walls on each side, that’s how narrow it got. We had an enjoyable walk taking our time, resting here and there. That was pretty much the extent of our activities for the day. It is somewhere between 5,000 and 6000 feet elevation so we weren’t pushing ourselves.

The rest of the afternoon, we visited at one of the campsites, called to see where Don was, and he was on his way just leaving Salt Lake City. He estimated to be in sometime after 10:30 p.m. Marilyn, Kathie and I went into the little town of Torrey, tried to call out on our cell phones, gassed up Big Red and found a place to have supper. While there, I found a place to send an Emil to family to let them know I was okay as my phone call to Juno got cut off after I got a couple of words out of my mouth, as my battery went dead. We waited up until 10 p.m. for Don to show but he hadn’t yet and everyone else in the campground was turning in.

I was just climbing into bed at 11 p.m. and saw what looked like a Casita coming around the bend into the campground. It was Don and I went out (in my pjs) and met him and helped him get temporally set up for the night. Marilyn had told us earlier that, due to pressing matters at home, she really needed to be hitting the road for back to the Phoenix area Saturday morning and Don would use her space so he would be closer to the rest of us.

Oh, one cute incident. I walked over to the House where the pies are sold and on the way I stopped to take some pictures of deer in the pasture surrounding the house. As I turned around here were a dozen mule deer coming toward me to go to the pasture also. It was so interesting watching them and seeing their relationship with each other. There were 4 or 5 fawns and one buck. Bringing up the rear was a doe. A man and his little Scottie dog had just walked by where the group had been and this doe saw the Scottie dog and could not take her eyes off of it. She wanted to go up to that little dog but the man kept shooing the doe away. She kept watching that dog, would walk a few steps, stop and watch, take a few more steps, stop and watch. Meanwhile, the dog was totally oblivious to what was going on.

Need to take a break and fix supper. The two men joined forces and made a peach cobbler in Don’s Dutch Oven for our dessert tonight. Can even smell it. More later.

Day 5 Moab, Utah
This was a day of exploration. I got up early in the morning to get to the Island in the Sky district located about 30 miles up a mesa. Unfortunately, it was pretty hazy and was hard to get good pictures. You were up on top of this mesa that is connected to a larger piece of land with a “neck” that is the width of a shoulder less two-lane road. At some point in time it would be an “island”. The Green River runs on the west side of the mesa and the Colorado River on the east side of the mesa. What the Colorado River has done is much more spectacular. There are 4-wheel trips you can take that take you about mid-way down the mesa and all the way around. It is a two-day trip and you camp out on the lower level. The area was extensively mined for uranium years ago and you can still see the scars. Some of the roads are used by the tour companies. I took several hikes to overlooks not accessible by vehicle.

After returning to camp, taking a short nap, Kathie and I headed to Dead Horse State Park. This is another mesa with a very narrow neck that was used in days of long ago, when cowboys would herd mustangs onto this small mesa and put a brush fence behind the horses to keep them there. Then the cowboys would cut out the horses they wanted and normally would open the fence so the unpicked horses could make their way back to grass and water. But, for some reason the horses stayed this one time and starved to death. The cowboys claimed they opened the brush gate. The view towards the Colorado River is really great. It forms goosenecks thru the country; and, once again you could make out people in 4-wheel drive vehicles or ATV’s along the roads below. I have pictures from that day on my “flickr” page, but not labeled yet. There are several large lagoons of a blueish water and this is salt brine being brought up from way down below, dried in large lined lagoons and what is extracted is potash. We were told that this area has never felt an earthquake because of the salt layer way below that acts as a cushion. There have been earthquakes, they have never been felt - otherwise there would not be the spectacular arches, pillars and so on there are.

Kathie and I went into Moab for dinner and they took a wonderful boat ride up the Colorado River at dusk. By the time we got about 4 or 5 miles up the River, it was dark and a truck that has 40,000 watt lights on it displays the canyon walls. Along with a narration about the area, its history and good music you really get wrapped up in the whole thing. It was cool and felt good, no bugs because the bats were taking care of that as they swooped over your head and around the boat.

Day 4
This day I traveled to Moab. Not much to say except that a few short miles into Utah, I passed a sign on the highway that said “Eagles on road”. Never saw one, never saw another sign.

Day 3
Took a designated Colorado Scenic Route to Gateway, Naturita, Narrows, Ridgeway, Montrose, Delta and back to Grand Junction.

The trip to Gateway - WOW, WOW and WOW beautiful canyons

Gateway - AMAZING, FASCINATING, WANT TO RETURN. John Hendricks, the founder of the Discovery Channel grew up here and he loved it so much he and his family want to share the beauty. He has moved his fantastic Auto Museum here, built a gorgeous lodge, restaurant, general store and soon to be amphitheater next year. An campground is in the works too. Their web site is www.gatewaycanyons.com and for the auto museum it is www.gatewayautomuseum.com

Continued on south, more canyons, wooden flumes built on the side of cliffs in Dolores River Canyon during the gold mining days is astounding.

As you get closer to the area around Norwood, you are in high altitude meadows and it is ranching and some farming country. Very beautiful country. Several hours earlier there had been thunderstorms in the area. As I was going down “Norwood Hill” a 4-mile 7% downgrade the sign at the top of the hill said “Falling Rocks”. This is the first time I have ever encountered already falling rocks plus one falling hitting the tonneau cover on the back of the truck. No damage luckily.

The area west of Ridgeway is very beautiful, again high elevation, meadows, groves of aspens just starting to turn the dull green before they turn their beautiful colors.

I tried to keep this portion short as I got pretty windy on Day 2. And I’ll try not to go as long again. It gets hard to remember so I try and keep notes. See my pictures so far and they will explain my awe so far.

Well, my bed and bedding should be dry by morning. It’s amazing how big that 6 oz glass of water can grow when you spill it! And a note for my family and friends: Since I have come to the high elevation, I have only felt two incidents of heart flutter.
Good night. Off to Escalante National Park tomorrow.

PS For those following the road/highway routes I am taking, it has been west on I-70. Just past Green River Utah, I took UT 24 to Hanksville, west on UT 24 to the Fruita campground at Park Headquarters. When I took the CO Scenic Byway, it was CO 141 to Gateway, then to Naturita, then CO 145 to Norwood, CO 62 to Ridgeway, US 550 to Montrose, US 50 thru Delta and back to Grand Junction

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