Canyonlands

Dead Horse Point State Park was our home base for exploration of Canyonlands National Park, located just north of Moab, UT.  Canyonslands is divided into three sections by the Colorado and Green Rivers – we visited only the northernmost Island in the Sky area. 20140401_134515 We hope to visit the Needles area next year.  The Maze is a part we may never get to – the only access is from the Colorado River, or by a rugged jeep trail.

The huge Canyon has a very different feel than Grand Canyon – it’s neither as deep, nor as dramatic. But, standing on the rim, it appears to stretch forever.  There are many different plateaus rising from the Rivers, 1000-2000 feet below. 20140401_135131 You cannot see the far rim.  That alone gives it a unique feel.20140331_141049

In two days, we hiked seven different trails, checked out the Visitor Center and watched the Park movie, lunched in two dramatic locations, and had a blast exploring this beautiful area.  20140401_144433We were happy to have made camping reservations at the nearby State Park, as the two small campgrounds in Canyonlands are first come-first served only.  Both were full, as was Dead Horse Point SP.  It’s hard to know where/when we will need reservations – perhaps we’ve overplanned, but trying to find a place to stay after a long day on the road is not our strong suit.  So…..we plan ahead.

Many of these photos probably have a familiar look to anyone who’s been a regular reader.  But, we did see Mesa Arch, our first big arch, which was amazing.20140331_122309 We dangled our feet over the edge of a steep canyon wall while eating peanut butter sandwiches,20140331_135658 and walked along the while sandstone back of Whale Rock.20140401_113955

We’ve (nearly) forgotten our dismay about waking up to six inches of snow on the Fireball on our last morning in camp.wpid-20140402_091810.jpg What was really weird about that experience is that where we could usually see the canyon, there was only fog.  After we moved a bit, it became apparent that it was because we were above the snow line, and actually IN the cloud – as we descended into Moab, we dropped out of the clouds and into sunshine.  For a couple of flatlanders, it was unusual.

We’re now at Arches National Park, and it is jaw-dropping.  We are grinding our hiking boots (and our tired muscles) into the ground, but we just can’t stop.  More on this amazing spot in a day or two.

 

Adios, Michigan. Sayonara, Snow.

wpid-20131230_101440.jpgAfter two days of packing, cleaning, and loading the truck, we finally hit the road this morning. Destination: Mounds State Park near Anderson, IN. We choose this spot for its not-too-distant location from Grand Rapids, not wanting to get too confident about our ability to actually not the road at a reasonable hour. We actually left the house just 45 minutes past our loose schedule. Not bad.  We waved goodbye to the snow.

Indiana is F-l-a-t. Relatively uninteresting at this time of year. To make miles speed by, we listened to a David Sedaris audio book Dress Your Family in Courderoy and Denim. He is hilarious and has such a curious voice – imitating his father’s and brother’s Southern accents to such an exaggerated degree that we were totally entertained for the entire drive. So good, in fact, that I’m looking forward to tomorrow’s drive to Nashville.

We decided to make a bbq stop in lieu of making dinner in camp. Bird’s BBQ in Anderson fit the bill perfectly (except for not having beer). Delectable baby back ribs, a shared baked potato, and spicy baked beans hit the spot after a long day in the truck. Would like a return trip to try other items but that’s certainly not going to happen for breakfast tomorrow.

Took a long hike with Jezzy once we got set up here. wpid-20131230_161142.jpgViewed the Circle Mound, which is actually a horseshoe shape, which aligns with the sun on spring and fall solstice days. This mound was apparently completed around 250 AD. Tomorrow, we will investigate the Great Mound before taking off for Tennessee.

We’re plugged in to electric power, and have the temp near 50 inside the Fireball. Add hot coffee, a chilled porter, fleece pants, and we’re all snugged in for the night. No water, but that’s OK for a day.

Day 1. In the books!

One quick note. We spent yesterday at John’s sister’s house. She has a one-legged turkey that has been hanging around her bird feeder for a week or so. He was pretty skinny to start with, but she’s fattened him up quite a bit. Mostly hops on one foot, with a few very painful-looking, one-footed steps in-between. She says he’s markedly better in the last week. This is a pretty poor shot, through a window and a fair distance from the feeder, but you can see how large his right leg is near the foot..wpid-20131229_144033.jpg He was feisty enough to give a squirrel that was trying to chase him away from the feeder, the business!  Hope this poor guy makes it. He’s lucky to have his Aunt Phyllis looking out for him.

Peaceful hikes

At night, we hear the coyotes in the hills.  Probably there are only five or six of them, but it sounds like a dozen – some making the long howling sounds, and plenty of others adding the yip-yip-yip.  Jezzy gets anxious, and seems worried.  We’ve talked about freeing Jezzy to run with the coyotes – to express her wild side.  Then, reality strikes, and we realize that any respectable coyote would laugh her out of the pack.  Check out the photo below – we discovered that, in addition to being afraid of shopping carts and plastic grocery bags, Jezzy is also afraid of large plastic cows.

How did we wind up with such a fearful dog?

How did we wind up with such a fearful dog?

Guess we’re stuck with her forever.  Lucky for us.

We went back to Sequoia NP today for a hike to Moro Rock.  This hike wove us through groves of the giant sequoias, then to a large domed granite rock that juts out into the valley below.

The peak of Moro Rock was our hike destination.

The peak of Moro Rock (center of photo) was our hike destination.

What was a pleasant walk in the woods quickly turned into a test of nerve.  The last few hundred feet are narrow steps leading out to a point on the rock with breathtaking views.  Not for the fainthearted, or anyone with a bit of acrophobia.  Wow. Wow. Wow.  It was stunning.  We could see a bit of fog rolling in, but didn’t pay much attention, as we took in the 360 degree view of the valley, and the snow-covered mountains to the east.

View from the top

View from the top

As you can see, the twisty road into Sequoia is not great for those of us with motion-sickness issues.

As you can see, the twisty road into Sequoia is not great for those of us with motion-sickness issues.

As we continued our hike, the mist rolled in, and the temperature dropped noticeably.  Once again, we were the only hikers on the trail.

The remains of this Sequoia are called Broken Arrow

The remains of this Sequoia are called Broken Arrow

By the time we reached the truck (a round trip of just under 5 miles), the fog was thick.  Driving down Highway 198 back to camp was NOT fun.

Heavy fog/mist makes the drive down challenging.

Heavy fog/mist makes the drive down challenging.

So, hopefully the photos will help explain what a magical place Sequoia NP is.  We cannot wait to return.

Tomorrow, we’re breaking camp early, heading to Bakersfield for a day of laundry, truck and Fireball cleaning, and personal hygiene.  We’ve had some really dank bathrooms and showers for the last several days, and are looking forward to some pampering with clean facilities, clean clothes, WiFi, and cable TV.  (update….we’re here, and the orange trees are blossoming.  The scent is unbelievably sweet).  Then, on to Joshua Tree NP for two nights, then on to Prescott for a couple of nights with our new T@B friends Lori & Cindy.  After that, the Grand Canyon!

Wander, Wonder, Ponder

Another day of superlatives.  We spent the day in Sequoia National Park, about 10 miles from our campground.  Sequoia is the home of the General Sherman Sequoia, the largest living tree in the world – not the tallest or the oldest, but the largest in terms of mass.  While enormous, we kind of gave it a big “meh”, having both been more impressed with the General Grant tree in Kings Canyon, or many of the other giant sequoias we saw today.

Last night’s thunderstorm in our camp was a snowstorm at the 7000’ elevation of our hike in Sequoia NP. After General Sherman, we headed to the Congress Trail, past the House and Senate Groves, then off into the wilderness.  We were the only ones around, proven by the silence that enveloped us, and the fact that no other footprints spoiled the new snow on the trail.  The knowledge that we were alone on the trail with these giant trees was sobering. We were given to heavy thoughts like

– Will people like us still be wandering around here in awe in 300 years?  Will we still be all wearing polar fleece?

– Will these trees even be around then?  What’s climate change going to do to these magnificent groves?  Will they survive?

– Will there be a National Park Service in the next 100 or 200 years to protect areas like this?

Will the sequoias that are 2000 years old now make it to 3000 years?  What will this all look like then? 

It’s crazy the stuff that comes to mind.  Makes me want to rush to Alaska and the Galapagos to see everything I can before it’s ruined.  Should we all hurry to Africa to see the last of the elephants and the rhinos?

It was a fabulous day.  John and I agreed that hiking among these huge trees has been the highlight of our three-month journey.  We feel privileged to be able to spend days out here at a small financial cost and to be the beneficiary of the thought and care that so many before us have understood.

We had a crazy dinner of some marinated chicken from a Mexican grocery which we grilled, with a quinoa/spinach salad that my bookstore friend Ann had given me the recipe for, along with guacamole and chips.  All cooked outside at sunset in a mostly deserted campsite in a gorgeous surrounding.  Nothing that really goes together – just stuff we like.  We’re happy just to be here, eating outside in such beautiful surroundings.

The last two hours have been spent reading Townie by Andre Dubus III by the campfire, aided by my LED headlamp.  I’ve rotated my chair around to avoid the smoke as best I could, but have finally been forced to retreat inside for the rest of the night.

We’ve got great photos from the day, but I’ve neither the battery power, nor the internet strength to post them right now.  And, I’ve got to get back to my book.  Maybe tomorrow I can post the photos.

If you can – come visit Sequoia.  It’s the most special place on earth I can imagine.

S***!

With a crappy weather forecast for Wednesday, we decided to spend the day in Tucson, running errands, and stocking up on stuff (Trader Joe’s!!).

Jezzy helps John navigate the path to Tucson.

Jezzy helps John navigate the path to Tucson.

While we were in Costco, it began to snow in earnest.  The parking lot was filled with folks pointing their cell phones at trees, taking photos.  To a Michigander, it was pretty funny to see everyone get so cranked up about big, wet snowflakes.

Costco parking lot

Costco parking lot

We treated ourselves to lunch at Nimbus (our favorite brewpub, but NOT this location).  When we exited, the snow had stopped, but there was a significant accumulation.  Time for another photo….

Enough with the snow, already!

Enough with the snow, already!

Hoping this is the last time I have to use the “S” word in this blog.