Thursday, September 30, 2010

Day 18: Moab UT to Salida CO, Arches NP (#9), Black Canyons of the Gunnison (#10)

Day 18: Moab UT to Salida CO, Arches NP (#9), Black Canyons of the Gunnison (#10)

I don't smack him around. I don't yell at him. And if he wants to go to the park in his pajamas, I don't care.
Peter Krause

Pics: Arches NP (including a very sandy narrows that led to an arch), Gunnison NP (including THB leaning casually over a lookout that plunges straight down for a long way), on the drive from Gunnison to Salida, and in and around Salida (including our hotel lobby and bike polo being played on a basketball court)

Book Review: Country Driving, Peter Hessler, audio book. Maybe 17 – 18 hours long, and a great listen. A China coming-of-age story told in three parts: driving all over China in rental cars, mostly to see the Great wall, from late 1990s to early 2000s; living in a small village outside of Beijing that goes through a boom in the early 2000s because the car revolution makes villages like this accessible and “quaint” to affluent city folk; following a new factory town in the mid-2000s up to 2008 (and one factory that makes bra rings) as it tries to grow and compete in the new China economy. Fascinating, well told (er, well read), HIGHLY recommended, especially if you’re on a road trip.

So, THB is not prescient, the Tony Curtis quote was just coincidence (or else all the other living humans quoted should be worried)

Up early, grape nuts with Hampton Inn fruit, and into Arches NP (#9 this year) for a driving tour and short hikes. Note the sandy slot canyon with an arch in the middle. This park is loaded with arches and fins (slot canyons next to each, not very tall, very disorienting if you walk among them). It is actually nice out, around 70, until about 9:30 when it is starting to warm up again.

We hit the road: drive out from Moab along the Colorado River the pretty way (Hwy 128) to I70 and have lunch in Grand Junction at the Kannah Creek brewpub; the parents of one of the people that helped DB set up her jewelry display runs the place and is the master brewer. DB’s helper now owns and runs a small place on Telegraph near 29th called Commonwealth pub.

We have sandwich, salad, two 10 oz brewskies (since we’re now in CO it means that this stuff is 2-3 times more potent than UT), $27.

Then we head south towards the Black Canyon of the Gunnison NP. It is hot out (same same) and we can barely see some clouds on the horizon and we can see a lot of haze. Turns out they are doing “prescribed” burns around the park, so even if we could tolerate the heat while hiking, we’d have to wear masks and keep our asthma inhalers close at hand. No hiking, a few scenic overviews and pics and we head east.

Our plan is to get as far before dark as possible, and that leads to Salida; a very pretty drive with many yellow aspens and a few orange trees. Salida is a cute town, lots of aging hippies and younger types that like to mountain bike or perform river tricks. Note the pics, the town is almost arty and THB is hoping for fresh pastry tomorrow morning (several promising spots scouted).

We’re staying at trip advisory’s top rated hotel in town, the Days Inn. THB has figured out why it is so highly rated: the fasted/strongest wifi in 7 states and 13 countries. $70.

Dinner at Amica’s for pizza (pretty decent), wine and strong local brewski, $43.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Day 17: Boulder to Moab, Canyonlands NP (#8)

Day 17: Boulder to Moab, Canyonlands NP (#8)

Quote of the day:
How many roads most a man walk down
Before you call him a man ?
Yes, how many years can a mountain exist
Before it's washed to the sea ?
Yes, how many times can a man turn his head
Pretending he just doesn't see ?
Yes, how many times must a man look up
Before he can see the sky ?

The answer my friend is blowin' in the wind
The answer is blowin' in the wind.

Pics: Hickman Bridge hike and rest from Hanksville, UT
Breakfast at the place across the pasture from our room at the Boulder Mountain Inn; THB orders the huevos rancheros and hash browns and get a wet breakfast burrito with home fries and DB orders blueberry pancakes that are such a weak imitation of the pancakes at Hell’s Backbone. With coffee, $20.

We drive Boulder Mountain, even more pretty than two days ago as some of the Aspen are now even more golden while others are turning bright yellow. In CR NP, we take the Hickman Bridge hike, a two mile round trip, at around 10:15 in the morning, and it is too hot again, in the low 80s by the time we are midway and mid-to-high 80s by the time we’re back.

Lunch in Hanksville, at Blondies and we order and split the conflicted combo: a veggie burger with cheese and a chocolate chip shake. Yowza, that shake tastes good! $13. And, lots of local info: they are prepping “astronauts” for a Mars Landing outside of town, and the dinosaur digs are just off Cow Dung Road behind the house boat cemetery. Quite a town, they say sometimes the martian guys come into town in their space suits to fill up the tanks of their cars. Yeah, right….if you didn’t believe the moon landing was faked, now you can start.

Make it to Moab, and the heat is up another notch, in the 90s here. THB is nothing if not flexible and accommodating, the heat is winning, so we decide to do what we can in less than 20 hours here and move on as quickly as we can to the Rocky Mountain NP, where apparently fall is in full bloom.

Visit Canyonlands NP (#8), take a few short (and hot) walks, and skip Dead Horse Point State Park, too far off the road and too little light left in the day and too little interest.

Dinner at the Moab Brewery: veggie burger with inedible onion rings (can this no-french fry diet turning us off to fried food?), chicken salad sandwich on rye toast, two beers (in Utah the beer is only 3% alcohol), total $27.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Day 16: Capitol Reef (#7)

Day 16: Capitol Reef (#7)
I believe the National Park Service has demonstrated strong partnerships geared towards respecting the private property of citizens in its administering of the current Trail of Tears National Historic Trail and will continue to do so upon the addition of the routes.
Zach Wamp

Pics: Slot canyon on the Burr Trail road and rest from our hike to a scenic overlook of the bottom of CR NP (what do you think of our first “self-portrait” at the turnaround point?)

More fun with NPs

• Breakfast at the Backbone: Blue corn pancakes, french toast, coffee, $25
• No second cookie (we are showing restraint, this was a 5 minute conversation of how much restraint should we show)
• We drive about an hour each way to/from the bottom (and rarely visited) part of CR NP, this time along the Burr Trail road that starts adjacent to the Boulder Mtn Lodge: pretty spectacular, coming and going
• Around 11 miles from the Lodge is a short (to the end) and tall (to the top) slot canyon (see pic), easily accessible from the road
• Today we take only ONE hot (high 80s, as usual, maybe even hotter) interesting hike, totaling around 6 miles. We get to the turnoff and there is a sign that the road is not favorable to 2WD low clearance vehicles – that describes the Lexus perfectly – and, with advice from the hikers in the one car we saw leaving this road, we park and hike the road! Good advice…and very pretty, as usual, with the payoff of a huge vista lookout of much of the different geological formations in the area (which means about 5 or 6), stretching for 30 miles or so.
• Picnic of leftover meatloaf, and carrots and apples and trail mix, NO cookie (some regrets) while sitting in a sliver of shade near the lookout
• Dinner at the Backbone (we’re eating light tonight): house salads (one with smoked trout, one with chicken), quesadilla, lemon cake with crab apple sauce and whipped cream, wine and beer, $85

Monday, September 27, 2010

Day 15: Capitol Reef (#7)

Day 15: Capitol Reef (#7)

He was certainly in a confused state. I used to go and visit him in Callan Park. They were really - to me they were the best poets those two writing in those days but it wasn't very encouraging because, well, they weren't getting far were they?
Robert Adamson

Pics: Sunrise in Boulder, Capitol Reef NP, THB staying off drugs at U-pick in CR NP, local rodeo in Boulder, the best doubleheader we’ve attended in years

Book review: Love and Summer, William Trevor, Kindle edition. Not Trevor’s finest effort, another fable of small town life and motivations set in late 1940s Ireland (could just have well been 1880s) where one of the main characters is a senile old man (I came to skip his long blatherings, never a good sign) who, sure enough, plays a pivotal part in swinging the story in the last 20 pages. Not recommended.


• Breakfast at the Backbone: Awesome, dude! Smashed potato pancakes and egg, blue corn pancakes, lousy French press coffee, $30
• THB buys his first cookie of trip (other than for desert at Silver Jack, those were really ice cream sandwiches, something entirely different), at Backbone, GOOD IDEA! $2.50
• High mountain autumn is happening and aspen are turning colors in huge quantities making hour each way drive to/from CR NP over the top pretty (and, we do it again in 2 days)
• Capitol Reef small and exquisite (even has a U-pick apples spot in the park, see pic), with maybe the best scenic drive we’ve taken (so far) in a NP; add this park to your itinerary
• Two more hot and dusty and interesting hikes, totaling around 6 miles, including one from parking lot to parking lot (see DB pointing at the turn around point: cars…who knew)
• Picnic of leftover chicken and beef posole, cookie (cookie the best!), sitting on a blanket at a pullout off the scenic drive
• Return to Boulder Mtn Lodge in time for cow roundup (rent and watch Sweetgrass!), see pics
• Dinner at the Backbone: meatloaf, trout, salads, leftover wine, fudge sundae on top of meringue, $100

Why DB is a great travel companion:
1. She upgrades our headwear and now we are wearing lightweight neck covers sewn on to lightweight hats (See prior posts on THB’s interest in spending money on such frivolity, no matter how much a functional upgrade), see pics for new hats
2. She doesn’t mind when I want to do an excursion to see the water tanks, see the pic of her lifting her arms up in jubilation (she’s small, look closely) while I scamper and climb over rocks in 85 degree heat and she waits in the shade
3. She let me go first on the Calf Creek hike, so I was the one that almost stepped on a four foot snake (hike still great)…she swears it was a rattler
4. She figures out the optimum routes, making sure we see beauty while minimizing the driving

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Day 14: Cannonville to Boulder UT

Day 14: Cannonville to Boulder UT

He lives out in Orchard Park. I mean, to be able to sit on the bench so patiently, for whatever part, and to be able to get up and do something, with such heroic competencies would be great.
Robert Creeley

Pics: Shots from the Lower Calf Creek hike, a head near our room at Boulder Mountain Lodge (this one is for you, runningwithdogs)

Normal breakfast: grape nuts and fruit. Hit the road to a recommended hike, the Lower Calf Creek, in the giant area of Grand Staircase – Escalante National Monument (hey, maybe THAT’s where the hotel got its name!).


THIS IS THE BEST HIKE IN THE CONTINENTAL US!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Revise your plans from what THB told you after Zion, you need to now make sure you take this hike, the extremely overly scenic drive from Cannonville to Boulder (all of 63 miles), stay at the Boulder Mountain Lodge, and eat at the Hell’s Backbone Grill (on the Lodge property). Do it as an add-on, do it as a stand-alone (though it is 400 miles from an airport), do it….plan for it, and execute the plan. Do it…soon (okay, not in middle of winter, they’re closed).

What makes this hike so special? You hike three miles up a canyon where the walls are as good as you’ll see anywhere, in profusion, great perspectives, great contrasts in color, even visible at a distance Indian pictographs. At the end of three miles, you are at an oasis of a waterfall and a pool (though THB did not swim, the water is pretty damn cold, he should have), where you put your feet in, eat your picnic, and glory in your blessed good luck. Karma magnified.

Picnic: leftover chicken from last night (tasted way better today than last night), great cherry tomatoes from Escalante art fair, carrots, trail mix.

And, it was hot on the hike, mid-80s. Doesn’t matter, even if it was hotter, this is a “do not miss” top 10 type event in the world of nature travel. Go….plan now,

The last 20 miles from the hike to the lodge are some of the best scenery (of the Southwest style) we’ve seen. Have you planned and booked your trip yet?

Then the lodge, on top of a ledge of rock, with grass and a pond and a hot hot tub and a vista from the chairs in front of our room (#18, with a king size bed).

Dinner at the Backbone: Two bottles of wine (because we are eating here tomorrow night, so they keep the open bottles for us), beet salad with goat cheese, cucumber and heirloom tomato and sorrel salad, beef pozole (with leftovers for tomorrow), cilantro chicken enchiladas (with lots of cheese and maybe cream), apple bread pudding with whiskey sauce and whipped cream (extra saved for THB’s coffee in morning). Total $185 (remember, wine carryover for tomorrow).