Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Southern Utah Trip- Day 3

Our last day was full of more adventures.  We headed into a cute little town out in the middle of nowhere.  I knew of it because my favorite professor ever lives there.  I wondered why he would commute 3 and a half hours to work, question answered.  We did drive by his house, but being dressed for wet hiking, I didn't feel like showing up on his doorstep unannounced.  So if we head back there I might warn him I am coming, and I will dress nicer, and maybe shower.

We loved this ancient gas station, the pumps still said 42 cents.  I wish.  Man, those were the days, and if you were alive and driving long enough ago to remember that..... yeah, never mind.

 I think sometimes I might come off as sarcastic.  It seems to be written on my face.

We were told about this slot "canyon" by the cute little couple at the visitor's center.  Canyon is not the word I would have used, maybe cubby would have been more appropriate.  It was beautiful, and still a slot.  And the kids had not seen one (except Bryn, but she was not even two when we took her).  So this was fun.  It is tucked away on the Burr Trail road into Escalante.  There are no signs, you just have to look for it. It is not very deep at all, but still has the cool walls that go a couple hundred feet straight up, and it is pretty narrow.

There was poison oak at the entrance, so if you find the "canyon" be careful.

 This is the entrance.  Look for the cottonwood tree.  And can I just point out one more reason to not grow cottonwoods?  They clearly have 20 lives.  They grow, they break, they grow, they break, they grow... you get the idea.  So even thought they fall apart and look dead, they come back to haunt you.  They can apparently live through huge wind (but they will break and crash down in massive amounts), and they seem to live through flash floods.  But the catch is that they don't die.  You have them sprout back to life just to repeat it all again.  I don't know about you, but I would prefer a more sturdy tree that stays big once it gets there. hahaha

  More climbing adventures.  This was a little too tall for Leah to get into without help.  And there were black widow webs around it so I decided we should just move on.

This spot was also on the Burr Trail, it has an incredible view!  You can see so far, and the rocks and scenery are just beautiful.  I love how you can see all the layers in the rocks that indicate formation time, or what minerals are in them.  The contrasts with the purples, reds and greens are just so awesome.

 Joe thinks this spot is a lot like Israel.  I can't say, but I think Utah is probably prettier.
 If you keep following the Burr Trail toward Capitol Reef you can take a dirt road (assuming it hasn't been washed out or made impassable by flash floods). The road was pretty decent when we went.  You need 4 wheel drive to be safe.  We did have to use it when we crossed the washes.  They are mostly sand, and they can be wet and very washed out and rutted.  But it was do-able.  We even passed a guy from England who was coming from the other way, and he was about to turn around.  He saw how we crossed the last wash and asked why we did it that way.  We explained that sometimes you just have to work a new route, but that he should definitely keep going. So he did, I was excited for him, it's fun to see other people that come from all over the world to see and experience these same adventures!  And he had a Jeep, so he had to at least try it, right? (We know he got through it alright.  We went back out the way we came and checked.)

The road has a petrified forest a few miles down that you can walk to.  The hike to the forest is only a quarter to a half mile.  It is flat, but there is pretty much no shade. The dogs got to sit in this tank of water we found.  They appreciated the stop.  There were little toad tadpoles in it, and I hope Bear didn't sit on any, 

It was really hard to capture the way this rock looked.  It has so much quartzite in it, it looks like it could be covered in glitter.  It was gorgeous!

 And then we got to the petrified forest.  It doesn't actually look like a forest.  But if you know what petrified wood looks like you will see it all over!  It was awesome!  Here is a picture of a fine specimen:

On the way back up the Burr Trail road we decided to walk up a gulch.  It wasn't as amazing as we'd hoped.  We had kind of wanted to find some swim-able or wade-able spots.  There weren't any.  And there were leeches.  So I got creeped out. But the kids found some more tadpoles, and some of the little toads they become!  They are so tiny, I don't know how the kids saw them.

So, that was followed by a really yummy lunch at one of the two restaurants in the "city".  The food was great, the people were super friendly, and the price was good.  We will go back if we are back in town again.

After lunch it was back to the lake for fishing.  It was a little better.  We went to the "busy" side, and it was crowded with about 3 other people, no ants, sandy beach... So much better.  I caught three whopper trout about 6 inches long.  Joe caught one.  And the kids didn't catch any.  Brynja is banned from fishing poles until she can treat them like fishing poles instead of accessories or whips.  

And then we headed back to camp to pack out and head home.  Long drive, and so sad to leave this awesome area.  I already can't wait to go back.  I am going to start watching real estate and wishing we could find a way to make a job down there happen.

Southern Utah Trip- Day 2, part 2

Phew!  Crazy day today.  Trip to the post office to get one passport- complete waste of time.  Drive another 25 minutes to a city office, in and out in 10 minutes.  I will not make that mistake twice.

Now, on to the rest of our trip...

 We decided to try out some fishing.  We stopped by a visitor's center in the National Forest, and the cute couple there were so excited to help us figure out where to go.  My goal was to get the kids actually catching fish.  I wanted to, having paid a gigantic price to be allowed to fish, but I am used to failing at fishing.

So, after being directed to the perfect lake, with a couple of hints, tips and warnings, we set out.  And then the wind blew in.  And the warnings about the red ants that would be in the sand because of the water level being so high, they were true.  And those ants bit like crazy!  And they were mean.  And they didn't drown when you jumped in the water.  And when you got in the water to stand while you fished you still got bit somehow.

So, fishing didn't last long.  And we had absolutely zero luck.  But, no poles were broken, no lures lost, so that made it at least semi-decent.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Southern Utah Trip- Day 2, part 1

We started the day out with a delicious breakfast... Chocolate Marshmallow Matey's (or something like that... AKA spaz and death in a bag.).

We then moved on to bigger and unbelievably better  things. We headed into Escalante National Monument and went on the Lower Calf Creek Falls hike.  It was awesome!  The hike is 2.75 miles each way, but there is only a 300 foot change in elevation. So it isn't strenuous, just really long, and in the desert.  Bring a lot of water.  Head out in the morning so that the sun isn't so intense when you head back.  Or hang out at the waterfall until evening....

A couple notes: You walk mostly on sand.  Some spots are on the sand stone. If you take dogs they need a lot of water, just like you.  The first half of the hike it isn't super easy to access the stream (or the last half on the way out). So plan for that.  Get them drinks and let them in the water every chance you get on the way in and out.. We learned that they will burn the bottoms of their paws on the hot sand on the way back out. Socks helped, but they may get lost or holey, or both. Wonder how we know?  Aliyah ended up walking the last half mile or so barefoot due to a forming blister.  Which was probably the result of sand.  So, I  took her shoes and socks off and she walked barefoot.  Her socks were donated to Bear.  He lost one, I seriously couldn't find it, it was red after a few steps and it just disappeared.  So if you hike later and find a used-to-be-white sock, maybe it is ours.  This was generally a bad idea though, Aliyah's feet started burning, too, which I sort of expected but hoped they wouldn't.  So she hopped from shady spot to shady spot, but ended up finishing the hike on Dad's back.

For people, if you swim, wear a suit (we don't generally hike in ours, but this was a definite swimsuit wearing hike)!  It is freezing, but feels awesome.  And then you stay cool for the first half of the hike out.  We hiked out about 30-40% faster than we hiked in, and I think that being wet had a lot to do with it.  It was hotter and pretty direct sun on the way out.

First order of business- get the crap, literally, off of Sammie.  Thank heavens for the stream!

 Apologies to anyone downstream for the next little while.
I have always been fascinated by the way the water has washed holes and caves into the sandstone over the last few million years. The kids find lots of cool places to explore along the hike.  Most of it in the first mile.

The trail is in such a unique spot.  In the middle of a crazy huge desert you get to walk alongside beautiful flowers, willows, snake grass, and other plants that grow in wet places.  The stream must make the water table fairly high through the area for these plants to be all over the place.  It was really beautiful!

More fun spots to climb up to and check out. Aliyah might have enjoyed hanging out in the granaries 1,000 years ago.

The pretty stream that you walk along for most of the hike.  It isn't always accessible, especially in the first half of the hike because of how wide the gulch is.  But the closer you get to the falls the more narrow the gulch, and then you walk alongside it quite a bit.

For a size perspective- that is Brynja walking on the trail in the picture.  The cliffs are super high all around you.  It's pretty awesome! Typical of Southern Utah, and I love this!

Not long after the kids start asking how far they've walked, and how much farther is it, you start noticing that there is more noise in the air.   It doesn't necessarily sound like water, or maybe it seems like it could be the stream.  But when you notice the sound you are super close to the falls.  And then, you look up, and there it is!  And this first view is exciting, but it doesn't do it justice!
The colors of the water, the rocks, and the moss were gorgeous!

 Joe and Brynja decided to brave diving into the water.  It was really cold, but oh my goodness, it feels so good!  Just do it, head under and all!  Be careful, there are some decent sized trout in there! And the water is clear so you can see them.  hahaha

All of us eventually dove in to the water.  Josh took some coaxing, but I think that was mostly because he had refused to wear his swim trunks for the hike. So his pants were a tad heavy for a little while.  Hmmmm..... should have listened to mom.....

 After diving in, Josh walked the wall where it weeps.  It's really cool looking, and a little slippery.  Be adventurous and try it!  The worst that can happen is you'll slide into the pool.

I don't know if these are always there, or if they had some flash flooding the night before, but there was an area of water outside of the pool under the falls that was nice and toasty.  After diving in it felt like a sauna.  The kids loved it. It was pretty shallow, so kind of like nature's baby pool.

A granary in the far wall around post 12.  This was where the Indians (Anasazi I think) stored their grain.  It is crazy that they could do this.  It would for sure be safe, but holy cow, was there not an easier way?

Hot sand.  We are about to find out that the dogs' feet are burning.

Did I mention water? Take a lot.  We each drank about 40 ounces, and could have used more.  Why did I not pack the camel thingy?

Cooling off the burnt feet.  Poor puppies.

Brynja, the cross country runner, got to take a lot more breaks in the shade than some of us.

How do you keep an 11 year old busy and mentally occupied on a hike?  Have him take the slingshot.  He'll never run out of ammo, and there wasn't much he could damage off to the sides. And we only saw about a dozen other people on the hike.

Cooling the dog feet again.  We eventually just ran them the last half mile or so to keep their feet off the ground more.  It seemed to work better than walking.  I am seriously making them booties for next time.

One last dip inthe stream before we head out. This helps them feel air conditioned as we drive to our next adventure.   (And did you notice she is clean?!  Thank goodness!  And she did not repeat the incident after getting back to camp. She must have felt my vibes telling her she'd be toast if it happened again.)