Terry and Judy do the Southwest March April 2011
Pictures on Picasaweb terryw 100
Colorado plateau april 2011
Off in the teeth of the storm to Canyon’s, Grass valley covered with 6” of new wet snow, roads littered with spun out cars, trucks prohibited on I 80, back to the museum; Canyon’s lair watching snowflakes fall.
Great visit, stretched to 3 days when the pass was choked with snow and accidents. I did try one time, but the pace was snail and I turned around and returned for 2 more nights before the hiway was clear. Great lunch in Grass Valley at the café and shopping in Nevada City, canyon gimping along with her tendon torn hiking leg, going slow. Gotta new hand lens from the cousin of dawson, the guy who runs the snarl and we got into an argument about who should be where.
Finally a run over a clear pass to the Wigwam for lunch and down to Benton, the house warm and set up by Win. Nap then work feverishly to get ready for Vegas run to pick up Judy, then head off into the plateau country. A re run of my safari driveabout of spring 02 after retiring; over the high points and old friends of the plateau. And the spectacular scenery of spots accumulated over the years which I want to show Judy. She is in Vegas at her bros house, all smiles and love, and immediately sets about organizing the camper, food etc. for our foray into never never land. Never seen before by her, a real treat for me to guide, and she to cater through 21 days of adventure and exploration.
Off to Flagstaff early, heading for Baronii manse after an audience with old boatman friend Bob Melville, now in a convalescent hospital after a brain-jangling accident; collision on a black ice highway. His wife lost control in front of a truck while he was asleep in the camper. He was the best, my guru boatman on the California rivers, migrated to the Grand Canyon, and now spending his years an invalid. The same smile, tousled hair and quick wit, but hobbled in walk, using a long staff and somewhat unfocused stare. Judy looks at a picture on the wall of the former self; focused, enjoying life, oars in hand doing Upset for the n th time and “is this you?”; Bob “Yes in another time, another life”.
We talk of old times, old friends, river stories, the first stan trip, his appearance in my office 1971, soaking wet, water dripping from his hair and beard and a toothbrush in his pocket. “I need a geologist for an interpretive manual for boatmen on the American, Stanislaus and Tuolumne rivers; I was told you were the one”. My reply; “When do we leave?” led to a career of river geologist, teaching, researching, and enjoying people on the rivers.
We reluctantly take our leave, and pull into Baron’s place, find the key, enter and nap. Cathi comes back late, we visit, go to Thai in a loud restaurant. And crash.
Early coffee and bkfst with Cathi and she’s off, and we find the whole foods equivalent in flag, a huge store, I mail taxes, and Judy buys essentials for camping on the road. We finally head to Grand Canyon and spend the day marveling at the view, hiking the south Kaibab trail to the overlook, and checking out museums, visitor center bookstore. Unrecognizable layout, new roads, huge parking lots, new buildings, the “Canyon View” visitor center is 1/2 mile from the canyon with no view at all and no displays. The old geology museum is better, still on the rim. Great views, lotsa people; foreign tongues Shuttle buses everywhere, old roads blocked off, very confusing, we seek solace in isolated overlooks and the trail, remembrances of times past with many students, Willy burning my chair in the fire, old friends and new ghosts of the past.
We secure a campsite in the huge empty campground, I’m pooped, stretch out while Judy rustles up supper of leftover thai. Cold out there, cozy in the camper, heater going, snuggle in bed with generators popping off now and then, drift off to dreamland.
Day 3 Grand Canyon to Lees Ferry
Up slow, we’re on vacation, tour the Bright angel lodge and overlooks, turns out Judy was a Harvey girl, waitress at a toll road restaurant in the 60s, some classic displays of them at the lodge. Fantastic rock fireplace by famous woman architect Julia Morgan and bustling crowds of foreigners buying buying buying. We cruise east along the rim, taking in Lipan point with views of the unconformity and Hance rapid and some boats running Unkar rapid. Hit the tourist hot spots, then the long lonely road to Marble Canyon bridge and the ceremonial pee off the bridge 800’ to the river. On to vermillion cliffs and Quistville, settle in with them, Claire and Pam, old friends, even George shows up, another transplant from Boulder colo. And old boatman. Moki Mac river expeditions, wine and dinner at vc lodge, long stories of river politics, catch up on people of the past. Settle in to the camper in the yard with distant moonlit views of plateaus and cliffs and gods country.
Day 4 Th’ ferry to Mexican Hat
Up late, long prep, miss the putin at the ferry of the gts trip, damn. Oh well, Peggy the ranger is there and Pam, we exchange pleasantries, and then off to page after watching a private trip put in.
On Pam’s recommendation we stop at the Horshoe bend overlook of Glen Canyon, just below the dam. A great peek over the edge to the green Colorado, a few boats plying back and forth, tourboats, Clean striated cliffs of Navajo Sandstone, red streaked with iron stains, setting the surreal scene for the Plateaus. A short hike to clean out the pipes, and we are off for Antelope canyon, only to find you can only do tours there now, and its 31$ per person, the Indians cashing in on their beauty. We pass, and pass the Power plant and coal train immortalized in Monkey Wrench Gang.
Driving across the great empty, hogans dotting the landscape, dirt roads stretching out into Hillerman country, looking for Chee and Leaphorn at the local chapter house, chasing down a murderer. Not far to Monument Valley and we turn in, pay 5$ and enter the red towers and buttes, the Mittens, the W spires, improved dirt road from the last time in 1991 with Heather and Kailen. We drive the loop, and take a lotta pictures, hiking a little and wishing we had more time. The light is low as we leave, I catch a great shot of the left mitten shadow reaching out to the right mitten with the Ansel rocks in the foreground, vertically layered in juxtaposition with horizontal buttes and mesas in the background.
Drive through more empty quarter, over a rise to the valley of the San Juan river and Mexican hat, find the BLM raft putin, no one there, and set up camp, cook a one pot meal in the new DO and kick back next to the river, white noise in the background.
Day 5 to Aztec and Margot
Another lazy morning, but Judy takes time to organize the camper and we are off into Garden of the Gods, a short drive up a fantastic canyon, many spires, a mini Monument Valley. More empty rez, New pickups, hogans with doors facing the rising sun, junked cars lying around.
Teec nos pos trading post pops up and we are sucked into the rug room, most $1000 or more. We find a smallish one for Benton and buy it, and look at the other kachina dolls, and then off on the road. Bypass the 4 corners , now determined to be 2 miles off by gps and over the border into New Mexico. Ship rock is irresistible, even tho the wind is kicking up, we find an approach road and drive to about 1/2 mile from the rock and take some pix with the iphone, so I can post it on the internet.
Into Farmington, eventually find the concert hall for an evening of irish music with Margot and her husband. Very Lively group with the fiddler dancing around the group. We repair to Margot’s house and settle in for 2 days. Bang bang of something in the middle of the night signals the windstorm expected, whistling through the wires, rocking the RVS in the trailer park across the street and dusting everything.
Day 6 Sleep fitfully, and awake early to coffee and cereal. Lazy morning, Sunday, and finally head to the Aztec ruins; Margo was a docent, so we get introduced around and enter the world of the Anasazi, rooms on rooms, all interconnected, Kivas all over, a major community here until 1200 when they all disappeared, migrating south for more water and resources. The grand Kiva is huge, completely restored with stairways, galleries and strange rectangular boxes with no known purpose.
Out into the wind again, then back to nap, and more visiting.
Day 7 White rock and Skip Dunn
Off into the fading wind, still gusty as we head south, a ways to go, we pass Chaco Canyon, more to come at Bandolier and Mesa Verde. Mountains and ridges skimming the caldera south to White rock, easily finding the Dunn residence with iphone mapping. No one around, so we sack out in the sun on the air mattress. “Well, well well, look whos here” I hear Skip’s voice resonate as he walks up. We talk and catch up and settle in. Hedy comes home and Skip heads to a rabble rousing town meeting, he is the original shit stirrer in local politics. We take stock and Hedy suggests a hike in an separate part of Bandolier np and we go up ladders, up over plateaus, along cliff dwellings following ancient paths rocks adorned by petroglyphs of Kokopelli and animals. A great hike not frequented by tourists, path furrowed deep by feet on soft sandstone.
Late dinner with Skip and Hedy, yet another chicken casserole, the national dish of New Mexico. Long conversations about growing up in Wellesley around the corner from each other, great to see old friends; 15 years since I’ve seen Skip.
Day 8 On to Taos
Skip is headed to Oregon with an old car he has restored for a museum there, we all pack and are off early to Bandolier National Monument, 5 miles down the road. More ruins, and a great hike with ladders leading into rooms, petroglyphs, remnants of a large village. Lunch in the parking lot, and off down the road again, Taos bound.
Tourist town, we find Nancy waiting for us at a local motel and she guides us to her Aztec lookout house with chickens, horse, 3 dogs , the whole farm scene.
She is a jolly lady an old friend of Judys, child therapist. She opens wine immediately and we feel at home. We talk of life in Taos, and past experience. Fun times and fade away into the night in the lookout tower.
Another relaxed start, finally taking off to see her old house up a canyon, the ski resort (just closed down) and hike to an ice cave. Then across the plateau to the west over the Rio Grande canyon, a big one, and down to Ojo caliente, a hot springs resort in the foothills. I spot Laura’s daughter’s car, and know she is still there; old friend from Sebastopol; we had realized we would be in Taos at the same time at this resort, and there she is, fresh from a massage, with daughters. We visit, soak in different pools and converse in low tones. A woman comes around bearing a sign “Please whisper”. Pools built into the rock cliffs, a big stone veranda dotted with pools, a lithium water drinking fountain to calm you down and finally a wet and dry sauna, the whole works, we are gonna come back here.
Dark storm clouds rollin in from the east, so we hightail it back to Taos, passing some earth houses, weird structures, free form, a way of life out here on the Taos plateau. We return as the first drops fall, and soon a gentle desert rain covers the landscape, still not enuf to obscure a spectacular red sunset. Another evening of good food wine and conversation, background music from Nancy’s son who is a flamenco guitarist, lives in spain and has several Cds out; studied with Andreas Vollevider in Santa Fe, one of the greats. We repair to the lookout bedroom and slumber to the gentle drumming of rain on the roof.
Day 10 Mesa Verde not quite
We have a relaxed parting, and then cruise the square for touristy things, of which there are many, and not many people. Pass the pueblo, tempting to go in, but it looks like a long time deal, so head out to cross the Rio Grande again then over snow lashed mts and north to Colo. Great farmlands, a huge grocery store in the middle of nowhere with friendly ranchers, up to Durango and arrive late at Mesa Verde, to find the campground closed. We head west and find a dirt ranch rd to the north, leading to some logging/firewood roads and a perfect campsite with a view of the buttes of Mesa Verde.
A glass of wine and snacks with a view of the buttes and early bed read by the LED light bar the gripping “girl who played with fire” with a higher body count.
Day 11 Mesa Verde to Castle Valley-Moab Utah
Nice rest, sun up early, still cold, but we are off to higher elevations, climb the Plateau to Mesa Verde and wander with wonder along the paths to the cliff dwellings, multiple kivas, hundreds of rooms, lots of people.. now the week before easter break, and many people are out, screaming kids, schoolbuses, but the dwellings are spectacular. Judy descends into a hole in the ground to find an underground kiva.
Finally tearing ourselves away, a fur piece to moab, and out onto the Delores valley, big farms, prosperous, big winds too have returned, buffeting our small craft, but not a danger. The red rounded rocks of canyonlands start dominating the landscape, fantastic mounds, shapes , caves, a treat to return to, winding through an unworldly collection of spires, goblins, hoodoos and the like.
Moab is madness, Suvs loaded with mt bikes, kayaks, rafting gear, climbing ropes, all the stuff of fun in the wilderness. Richard doesn’t need anything, so we head up the Colorado River road and into Castle Valley. Warmly greeted by old friend Professor Purple, local radio luminary and old friend from the rivers, we settle into a stew and long catchup conversations. We met on the Rogue in the late 70s on an ARTA trip, and have been fast friends ever since.
Long conversations about life past present and future, he might move to Patagonia, Chile to get out of the USA madness.
Sloshing around on the waterbed, we finally settle down for our much needed rest.
Day 12 Arches and the Island in the sky
Up to more deep conversation, plans for the day, cold and windy out, but we take our leave and head out the valley, marveling at expanses of red cliffs, buttes, mesas and plateaus. Definition a butte is not as wide as it is tall; a mesa is wider that high and a plateau is way wider than high. People camping on the river, many mt bikes, hunkered down in the wind and cold.
We get to the entrance of arches, the young ranger says “at least I’ve got a job” Congress was threatening to close down the gummint because the budget was still in the air, that meant that all the parks would close, and we are planning to go to them all. We have alternative entrances planned tho, but not necessary.
Up to the windows for a ramble through the holey scenery, along with a couple hundred others, enjoying the same thing. Great vistas off to the plateaus and short climbs into incredibly beautiful grottos wind whistling through rock gaps, kids running and screaming.
Finished here, too many people, off to Island in the sky, the high plateau north of the the green-colo confluence, spectacular views, few people, a japenese tourist woman wondering “is it all natural?”. Wow does she ever not get it.
We have lunch on the tailgate and head down the Shafer trail, winding 1000 feet to the White rim, with the high plateaus rearing high above us. Now very few people, a rough 4wd rd filters the mobs out. We hike the goosnecks trail out to the cliffs above the Colorado and talk of doing a canoe trip down from Moab or down the Green. Great views of the river, here with broad bottomland and tamerisk covering the banks. Dizzying views straight down to the river and along the white rim add to the mystique of wonderland. I recall a dark and stormy night, burritoed in a tarp with lightening flashing and thunder rolling through the cliff scape, another life long ago.
We head back on the Potash road toward Moab, a long trek to civilization as it is. Moab is raging with holiday crowds, we hit the grocery and I buy a sun shower at gearheads and inquire about old grand canyon friend Bego, get a lead, he’s now head of search and rescue in the local sherrif’s office, I call, but he’s out, busy finding someone, but now I know how to find him.
Well provisioned now, with food for 7 days camping in the outback of Canyonlands and Grand staircase, we head to Richards through a raging snow squall turning the world white for our entertainment. We have another dinner and conversation, plans for the future, and stories of the past adventures. We talk of the Maze, where we are headed now, and the ordeal of the drive in, hopefully we are ready for it, new 4wd Tacoma, 3” lift job, camper, bfg offroad tires, otta do it. W’ed better, this is the ultimate outback, about as far as you can get from civilization anywhere in the lower 48, even the ranger station at Hans Flat 45 miles of dirt from the paved road.
Day 13 Into the Maze
We get an early start, leaving Richards white shock of hair retreating up the driveway. The long road to Green River, check out the john Wesley Powell museum with all the old wooden boats that did the grand in the 30s-60s.. We gas up add 2 4 gallon gas cans, water up, propane up, ready to camp. Now south to the turnoff, sign to ranger station and Hite crossing on lake Powell 104 miles down the line. It’s a slow trip, few people on the road, winding through buttes, valleys fields, somewhere south is Robbers roost where Butch and Sundance used to hang out between jobs.
Finally the Hans Flat ranger station comes in view, and the nice ranger man gives us a permit; we add a day at the second campsite because we can, 3 days at the maze, should be enough. Now another 14 miles of clifftop driving to the Flint trail and the dive into hell, the worst road of them all, major ledges, one lane only and switchbacks down another 1000 feet.
We launch off a couple of major ledges, crawling down and around switchbacks and dive down some of the steepest inclines I’ve ever seen, white knuckling it, Judy silent beside me. We break after backing up and around a particularly sharp bend and take in the vista of cliffs and plateaus stretching out to the horizon. Luck would have it, no oncoming traffic, I keep listening for it, and we land at the pass and dodge left to the Golden stairs road and the Maze.
This is worse than I remember, ledges to diagonal off of, narrow slots, and lots of tirebusting rocks. We go slowly and take our time, descending over a series of steps to a wash, then along another deep canyon and around a ridge, over a really steep ridge, prerunning it, still a big crash from behind tells me the camper is takeing a beating. Now across a flat and finally there is the sign for the camp, over a low ridge and out onto slickrock ledges with the greatest view of any camp I ve ever seen, canyons stretching out for miles, buttes and mesas, Lizard rock, the choclate drops, the wall, stovepipe butte, ekkar butte and the Maze itself, plunging down from the edge of the camp, a sheer cliff and plateau serrated with countless canyons.
Wine and cheese at cliff’s edge, taking in the view, then full meal, Judy the chef putting it on, and sleep soundly, knowing we have made it to nirvanah of canyonlands.
Judy wakes in the night realizing we are totally isolated, far from help if need be, no one for miles. I tell her of the 10 mile exit trail to hans flat, to no effect. The ranger said the only emergency number is on verizon and we are both on att. Oh well.
Day 14, In the maze for days
Up to coffee and spectacular views, the Maze stretched out at our feet, prep with rope, food, water and things to help in case of need. Over the edge of the ledge and down the sloping staircase around the Nuts and Bolts, square towers at the end of the ridge reaching out to the maze central. Scramble down to the white rim, pure sandstone, and across a steep slope to an open slope. I see the rest of the route below, looking more dangerous than I remember, and we settle in to the scene and lunch. I have made the choice to stop here and Judy agrees, no sense in taking a chance with our 68 and 69 year old bodies with no help around.
We revel in the scene, infinite variations of rock slopes, hoodoos, cliffs. And consider ourselves lucky to be in this heavenly place. We will miss the Harvest scene, a 100’ long mural at the base of the cliff around the corner. 1/2 mile away down around the corner of the canyon, but been there done that, and we can see the pictographs in Horseshoe canyon in a couple of days.
Light getting long, etching the serrated ridges and canyons, so we carefully make our way back around the Nuts and Bolts, up over the ledges. I get off track and find myself leading judy up a thin set of ledges, with loose rocks, finally using my pole to pull her up. Her pole clatters to the bottom of the ledge, and I retrack on the real route, neatly marked by broken cairns to retrieve it. Now up the 2 major steps to the rim and a feeling of exhuberence at the spacious view and the slick rock plateau.
In camp the rest of the wine and cheese at the edge of the abyss and drinking in the view as the light levels and a mass of clouds filters a silver sunset. Another Judy catered feast, and an early bed in the snug camper, reading with the led bar over our heads.
Day 15 Layover in the maze.
We do a lazy day, moving camp to #1, just as spectacular and sit for breakfast at the cliffs edge. Some hikers happen by, left early from Hans Flat, headed into the Maze and out to the Doll’s house. We hike along the rim for a while, taking in deep canyons and plateaus, the snowy La Sal mountains in the far distance over by Moab. I putter with the camper, find that the batteries had capsized, and resecured them, didn’t think to check the turnbuckles, big mistake as we found out later.
Another silvery sunset, not looking like predicted rain. Another great meal from Judy’s kitchen. I plink a few tunes and we listen to the stereo and read some more Hillerman. Fade into the darkness of another deep canyon night.
Day 16 Surprise of the camper
Pack up and relish the view and the mystery of the deep canyons. “Is it all natural?” the japenese tourist lady asked, unbelieveable, and true. The ultimate example of geology in action, layering and carving an amazing maze.
We take it easy on the maze road, still very rocky with ledges and fist sized rocks hammering at the rig.
Up on the top of the golden stairs, I am just breathing easy, prepping for the steep climb up the flint trail, when I look in the rear view, and the camper doesn’t look right, too far back. We stop and view the disaster; the camper has come loose, the turnbuckles flattened out and fell off of the rings that hold them to the bottom of the camper. Shoulda checked them back at camp. I had felt several bangs coming down, musta been the camper getting airborne.
We retrieve 3 turnbuckles, no spares like I had in the old rig, oh well, we gotta do something. Judy sticks the flattend hook of the turnbuckle into a hole in the handyman jack and it miraculously bends back to usable shape again. So 3 turnbuckles are better than none, the task turns to repositioning the camper; it is 18” back from the cab of the truck. I think and propose I back into a tree, but Judy doesn’t think that’s a good idea. I think of physics, as Sam Green would say “its just physics Terry”. I think of momentum and see a small hill down the road. I rev the rig up and run over the hill and down the slope and slam on the brakes, we look at the camper and it has moved but some plywood underneath has stopped it, I can’t pry it out. So I do a reverse momentum, slam on the brakes and loosen the plywood, with the camper precariously hanging on the end, but still on the bed. After removing the plywood another run down the hill and a satisfying thump as the camper seats back in place.
I spend the next hour re placing the turnbuckles lying on my side in the camper, cramped, and eventually success. Judy makes sandwiches and reloads the camper while I rest under a pinion. No one comes along, we are on our own out here. Our ingenuity, and boy scout and girl scout training led to finishing the project. I bring out the truckers rope and we make a double loop around the camper and the bed of the truck with a tight truckers hitch with a carabiner to secure it.
We decide not to go up the Flint trail and save the pictographs for another time. Discretion is the better part of valor. Fluid logistics reigns supreme. Head left at the pass now towards Lake Powell across the serrated canyons where the Monkey Wrench gang made their last stand.
Miles and miles of canyons, cliffs, sage, drywashes and fnally out into an open valley. Two maxed out 4 wd jeeps towing trailers are at a junction and I talk with the big guy, they have 2 families, kids etc, headed toward the Dolls House for a weekend of vehicle breaking 4wd fun.
We look up into the canyon to the north and ask whats up there? I dunno a spring on the map, ok, we consult the maps, still 20 miles from the lake so we head up into a paradise of white cliffs of sandstone and a perfect campsite in a cove in cove canyon above the dry wash, far from flash flood reach.
We make camp and hike as the sun sets on the cliffs, rimmed by white cliffs making gargoyles and hoodoos great place. Another great meal and campfire in cowboy country. Clouds gather and Lightening and thunder cut loose as we drift off.
Day 17 to Capitol Reef
Long picturesque drive to pavement, after 130 miles of rock and dirt, storm blowing through, brilliant blue sky and puffy clouds. The lake is very low, and we pass up Hite marina and its houseboat mentality to head north to Hanksville and lunch at a locals joint with betty boop motif. We head east and soon find the turnoff south towards the Burr trail along the raw jagged face of the monocline; Waterpocket fold. It follows a strike valley into the park, only one campground and it is populous so we explore south along the ridge and find a corral with access road I can drive around behind some trees so no rangers can see. We set up and head up the slope to the top of the ridge in 50 yds and a magnificent view of the inner strike valley and white cliffs of Navajo sandstone billowing out like spinnakers in the wind. Great spot, my kind of camp, another great Judy creation dinner and read and settle in for the night.
Day 18 Escalante country and the Burr Trail
Cold weather, clear view of the multifaceted face of the fold, breakfast on the ridge taking in the ambiance of stone and light. We are getting better at packing up and are outta camp early, nice graded dirt road to the Burr trail turnoff. Turns out there is a campsite there, up a dry wash, hidden from the road, other tracks lead there so I mentally mark this spot for a return trip.
We enter the slot canyon on the Burr trail, good road, spectacular cliffs of Navajo ss, straight through them on the road then endless switchbacks up to the highlands, spectacular views, and a cruise to Boulder, the only town up there, and find the Burr trail grill for delicious lunch, reuben sandwich and turkey with local relish, a gem in the wilderness. Wi fi also and a crowd using it and pounding down great food. We find the office of the grand staircase and get a camping permit, and head down to the escalante. The Calf creek camp looks packed, we are approaching easter vacation time and families are swarming to the plateau. Up to the plateau out of Escalante exploring the first well beaten side road to a turnoff and another isolated secluded camp with hoo doos and buttes abounding. We nap, and judy takes a hike with book of animals tracks and trails. I r and r the bicycle and go for a ride across a broad valley, Snowy mountains in the far background.
We collaborate on a pineapple upside down cake in the d.o. and celebrate another great red rock sunset, silver on clouds to the west.
Day 19 Calf Creek falls
Another early start, and we back track to calf creek, 3 mile hike up to the double falls, still in the sun, kids running around screaming, oh well. I snooze and we revel in the sheer rock walls, shadows deepening, rush of water in the desert, search in vain for petros, many people on the trail, some not happy campers.
Back to the rig, fill with pure stream water and head out to Escalante. The store is well-stocked, and we top off the larder, friendly people, out there. I enquire about liquor store and find it buried in a gear/souvenier shop, a couple bottles of wine for the rest of the trip.
Out of town and through valleys with farms and old houses, gas up and water up, finding a hose lying there at an abandoned gas station. We wind over the mts toward the west, through national forest searching out campsites, too much snow, down to the next valley and find a nice place off the road up a dirt/rock track backed up against a line of cliffs. After lowering conciousness with some wine and cheese, another great meal we settle in.
I go out in the dark to check things out and the full moon hits my eye like a big pizza pie, rising between 2 spires of rock hundreds of feet high. I roust Judy out and take a bunch of pictures as we watch the scene in awe of our luck to be here at this time for this event.
Day 20 Bryce canyon
Now we realize that we are nearing the end of our journey, we talk and feel fulfilled, but always ready for more. Pack fast and leave early, we are getting better at this, and head up the road towards Bryce canyon. Really the serrated edge of a plateau, brilliant reds and oranges, hoodoos everywhere, a maze of intricate nooks and crannies and lots of people. It is one of the most popular parks, and the Easter weekend coming up and attendant school vacations are adding to it.
We find the major trail closed due to rockslides, and funnel with the crowd down another, well graded and spectacular views in all directions. Hoodoos, arches, walls horizontally layered and brilliant with oranges and yellows. There is a spaced crowd, all languages, young and old, a baby asleep nodding out in a backpack, tshirts from all parks, heavy metal, all there for the wonder of it all.
I snooze as judy goes down to the queens garden, an amazing laby rinth of slot canyons and ridges, we mosey out with the crowd. A group of Asians insist we take their seats, and one spots my hand lens and identifies me as a geologist, he too from san diego, we have a great conversation about old friends from the dirt patch and end up friends and exchanging cards for future communication in rock land.
Back on the rim, we tour more of the same, the vis center and another out of the way canyon with no one there, wish we had found that one. Just as spectacular as the main canyons but smaller.
Off down the high plateau of life, we follow the road towards Zion, looking for a camp, not finding one on the snowy high plateau. We descend into a narrow canyon, still with the national forest to our right and find a beaten track off into the woods. Immediately a sign presents itself “road closed ahead” a good sign for secluded campsites. Indeed the road has collapsed into a river and is impassable, and a local jesse there with family tells me of a camp back across a bridge downstream. I have spotted it on the way up and we turn in, with a small no trespassing sign in the trees, which we take in stride, cross a flat railroad car bridge over a small stream and find the ideal campsite with the roar of river In our ears. We decide to chance it, Jesse said it was a campsite, and settle In for the night.
I plink the guitar with another chorus of Pancho and Lefty. Cheeze, wine and crackers and another great judy feast and a walk in the woods waiting for the moonrise which never happened until after we were settled in and sound asleep.
Day 21 Zion and Hurricane motel
Last 2 days on the road, we’ll treat ourselves to a motel and clean up for re entry into civilization, but first a leisurely bkfst by the creek, then the usual packing scene. No irate landowners around, so I guess we are ok. Back to pavement again and to the turnoff for Zion NP, passing the camp I used with the Kids in 91. and into the slickrock country; checkerboard mesa deserving a stop. We park at the trail head for the overlook and marvel at all the people. A 1/2 mile walk to the viewpoint is rewarded by spectacular views of pine creek canyon and into Zion canyon. An old couple dodders along, and the man is forcing the woman complaining down the trail. Judy confronts them about elder abuse, and then goes on.
Im ahead at the road and talk to some canyoneers getting roped up for the descent into Pine canyon in dry suits and all kinds of rock climbing equipment, gear to the max. I take their pictures for them and watch as they wend their way under the bridge and down to the nether world below.
We head down the long tunnel into the canyon and find the scene changed completely. Access only by shuttle bus and a huge parking lot packed with cars. People milling about speaking many tongues. We check it out and get on a commute bus crammed with people. Not a fun ride, but we can see the cliffs and waterfalls, between people. We end up at the Narrows, and take the trail-ada paved-along the river to the end. The river is high and closed, I remember hiking up here in 91 and Kailen getting horrible sunburn as he was taking antibiotics to the spectacular narrows.
A 1000 foot hi waterfall attracts my photo sense and I reach for my camera,opening the case only to realize it was upside down and the long lens smacks on the pavement from 3 feet up. Shit, will I ever stop destroying things? Fortunately it looks like the filters are the only casuality, a star of cracks emanating from the impact point.
We hike with a crowd to the end of access,, people have stacked piles of rocks and are busy continuing the practice. We still cant see the narrows from here, but the river is 700 cfs and not feasible to cross. A crowd of boisterous teenagers make the place insufferable for a while, but they pass.
A slow return, marveling at waterfalls and sheer cliffs, and back on the bus, check out the visitors center, all brand new, big pile of bux has gone into handling the crowds.
We cruise main street outside the park a street mall of motels, restaurants and teeming with people and decide to pass on to Hurricane for cheaper lodging which we find for 45$ at Travelodge, and a brew pub with great fish and chips for our last meal.
Day 22, Vegas and beyond
We pull into Dicks place and greet family. He even washes my truck while Judy cleans the camper and I snooze. Great girl scout, minding everything. Another great steak bbq with argentine wine and sleep at last in their snug nest.
The next day Dick wants to take me on a tour of his power plate ponds and some springs, which we do and get a taste of engineering he did before he retired. Great free flowing springs also up the canyon toward the Arrow canyon range, the road blocked off now by the feds.
Another day spent with Dick helping me with the camper tiedowns, replacing the turnbuckle that wouldn’t fit. Then a local family reunion, all ahhing over their smart phones till I whip out the iPhone and they are all impressed.
Next morn im off to Benton for an afternoon of rest, then a day skiing at Mammoth then back to sonoma county in a long days drive.