Thursday, September 30, 2010

Arches National Park

Jill here. Our first morning in Moab saw us taking off before it got too hot, to Arches National Park with our first stop at the visitor centre, to gather some information but also to fill up with water. There are only two places you can access drinking water in the Park-one is about 18 miles in at the campground, the other is at the Devil's Playground!! This might not sound important, but the temperatures here are around 95-100F and there is a lot of hiking to be done if you want to see the splendour of the park. Hiking is very well organised and marked, both on gravel trails but also over 'slickrock', more about that later.
It is hard to do justice to the rock formations in the park. The poster tell us that it is a photographers paradise and it is surely is. We had a flavour of it as we drove along the Colorado River Valley towards Moab yesterday, but nothing prepared us for the colours of the sandstone, the weird formations and markings, which have been assigned some great names in an effort to describe them. Around every bend nature displayed her splendour, and just as we thought the show was over, she gave us an encore, and like an actor addicted to the applause and cheers of the audience, the encores kept coming, until finally the sun tipped her hat, slipped beneath the horizon and gave one last blaze of glory before the fins and fingers, cathedrals and cities, shrouded heads and mythical forms, bowed into the night, illuminated only by the mystical twinkle of a zillion stars-until tomorrow.
As you can imagine we ran riot with the camera which is doing a sterling job taking photos and video footage, considering it's size. Here are some highlights: First we decided to ride 18 miles through the park to Devil's Garden Trailhead where we were promised a rash of interesting formations that we could hike to on a 3-4 mile trail. Armed with 3 litres of water as the temperatures began to soar, we headed off first along gravel, which soon became what is accurately described as a primitive trail across slickrock marked only by small cairns. The first stop was Landscape arch. If you are wondering what the sausage is hanging over my right shoulder it is a Cobber. We've only used them a couple of times, and not yet in heat like this, and it actually works, though only if tied around your neck rather than hanging over your shoulder! The best time to take photos is in the afternoon as the light casts a warm glow over the red formations. It was only about 1pm here and you can see the colour is bleached out. There are many arches in the park as you can imagine, and some have actually fallen. Here is my attempt to hold this one up. After Landscape Arch the trail changed from gravel to slickrock. We're not sure why it is so named, but although it appears slippery, it actually has the grip of sandpaper. The problem is that although you can generally climb the rock, with a good pair of boots on (note David was wearing Tevas!), it is a bit treacherous getting down. But first we had to get to the top, where the view across the desert began to open up before our eyes Onwards to Double O Arch. David had a go at climbing up to the piece between the 2 O's so that I could photograph him. It looked pretty impossible without a rope and harness, but I sat and waited in the company of a chipmunk sunning himself briefly, and after I heard a faint crash, I wondered how I would summon 911 in the wilderness without a mobile phone. Luckily after a little while he abandoned his macho endeavour, and appeared looking perplexed but safe and sound from where he set off. We continued on to Partition Arch, a huge hole overlooking the trail we had followed. By this time I was feeling like a grilled trout and wasn't sure whether I was becoming a bit dehydrated. The walk had taken longer than we thought and we had not brought any lunch with us. It was packed neatly on the bike!! David was in his Arian fiery element, I on the other hand was feeling like a fish out of water for just a tad too long, so to speak!! Knowing my limits I agreed to one more half a mile detour to see the Navaho Arch. It was about 4.30pm and we had been walking and climbing for about 3.5 hours in 100F-Nuts!!
Along the route to Navaho, the rock had developed lots of small holes. People had begun to put small artefacts in them, so I found a small twig, located a suitable hole and placed mine in it for posterity. I can imagine in a thousand years someone will find my petrified twig tucked away in it's little hole. Navaho Arch looked like a cave from the entrance,
but opened out into a space between two enormous fins of rock.
On our way back we visited the Fiery Furnace, a maze of fins which look a bit like flames when the sun is on them. There are some organised tours which take you in between these enormous structures, because to go in alone, you could easily loose your bearings and get lost forever!
Next we viewed Delicate Arch from the nearest view point on the road, because by this time I was becoming hysterical from the heat! and could not face another 1.5 mile hike that day.
An interesting stop was also to the former dwelling of John Wesley Wolfe in the late 1800s, It is hard to imagine living in this wilderness for 10 years.
As we sped on the sun was setting and casting a deep red hue over the sandstone. Here are some highlights:
The sun had completely set and the stars were twinkling, as we drove the short distance back to Moab and our KOA campground. We had wanted to camp in the Park, but the only campground of about 50 pitches, gets booked up weeks if not a years in advance and they have a waiting list. I am not surprised, at night it must be mystically quiet, with a blanket of stars you feel you can reach right up and pluck out of the sky!
We decided to have a takeaway pizza and Pizza Hut did just the job at $10.88 for a medium veggie. We dived into bed completely exhausted and decided to have a day of rest the following day. After a short burst of Agatha Christie, just long enough to find out who did it, we fell into a deep slumber.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Heading South. 24/9/10

Finished downloading the blog in the morning and on the road at 1100. Took the 191/189 out of Jackson classed as a scenic byway and a really beautiful road. Past Cowboys doing real cowboy things and scenery that was becoming more and more desert like with sage bush and little else on the sandy soil. Stopped in Green River for fuel before taking the 530 on the western side of the Flaming Gorge.
Stopped at a National forest service camp site where we were able to shelter from the wind and sun under a metal canopy. We were later joined by some large eared Mule deer who were enjoying the camp site grass. Later a father and son team joined us on the camp site who were going to fish the lake for a few days. The full moon rise over the park office was stunning as where the stars in the endless sky that night.
We crossed into Utah and joined the 44 which climbed over a pass giving magnificent views of the Flaming Gorge. Joined the 191 stopping for lunch at the city of Naples before joining the 40 crossing the state line into Colorful Colorado just short of Dinosaur. Turning onto the 64 then 139 we travelled over Douglas Pass at 8268 ft which is another 10 out of 10 motorbike road, before stopping for the night at the Highline Lake State park, where we camped under a huge Cottonwood tree with view over the lake and hills beyond.
The lake was quite small having be made by damming an irrigation channel off the Colorado River and people were going round and round in powerboats, some towing water skiers other just going round and round.
The next day Gertie the GPS wanted to take us on a cross country route. We saw some interesting things, the gravel road seemed to go on for ever, before turning back and joining the Interstate 70. Loosing the will to live on such roads we turned off onto the 128 past Cisco describe as 'Hydrocarbon Heaven' but looked more like a huge junk yard. We were told that people lived there but there was no evidence of them. Suddenly from the dry plains we were in the Colorado river canyon
following the fast flowing muddy river south west. We passed a farm that was able to irrigate it's fields and the colours green against the red rock and blue sky was stunning.
We were now entering the land of canyons and strange rock formations
as we drew into Moab and settled into the KOA camp site. The temperature was 93F and we were told that KOA had a pool. That's the place to stay we thought only to be told they had closed it down on the 16th September. Had a nice trees for shade though.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Leaving Yellowstone and the Grand Teton. 22/9/10

Rose to -6C on the thermometer which sped our packing up and by 0900 we were getting on the road back to Norris and then east to Canyon. Stopped to look at the Grand canyon of Yellowstone and the upper and lower Falls , which were quite amazing. These picture are rather smokey due to the fires. The lower falls drops about 300 ft and we walked down a very windy path to have a closer look. The 600ft climb back up warmed us and we stopped to take in the view more than once. Travelling round the north rim road we stopped at various points to get the views We then travelled around to the south rim road to look at the upper falls which aren't as high but the water races through a narrows before throwing itself of the cliff. Further on we had a great view of the lower falls
and the colours of the canyon. Heading south to Lake village we came across Bill and his mates causing a 'Buffalo Jam' and then onto the south entrance just as large black clouds were starting to deposit there contents onto us. This road leading south travels straight into the Grand Teton National Park which has a range of spectacular mountains but due to the precipitation we didn't spend much time looking at them. On the other side of the mountains is a huge flat plain called Jackson Hole before the mountains rise again on the far side. There were more small fires in the hill just above where we camped for the night in the Gros Ventre camp site. The camp site was very beautiful with the fall colours of the trees. We met Jordan, a fellow biker who was travelling north wearing everything he had at night before moving onto the Hostel in Jackson Hole mountain resort for Jillie to have a good pampering and the blog to get written up. The weather is forecast to be sunny and as we head south today towards Utah I think the thermals can be put away.