Saturday, April 19, 2014

Glen Canyon and into the Grand Staircase - Escalante Monument

April 13 - 18, 2014:

Another windy travel day with gusts of 40 MPH or so, heavy clouds, then a short rain shower followed by sun.  The Gray Hawk was quite a handful to keep between the lines, but manageable.  It was all Navajo country until Page, Arizona.  You travel downhill a ways to get to Page, which sits on top of a Mesa practically within sight of the Glen Canyon Dam.  We are staying two days at the Page-Lake Powell Campground, our second time there.  This is a stepping stone to the Grand Staircase-Escalante area, Kanab, and then Bryce Canyon, Utah.  Stunning scenery is the norm around here, we are sort of starting to take it for granted now.  We may need a vacation to someplace ugly soon to get our scenic appreciation reset to standard ? 

Glen Canyon Dam

We were very confused about the time, we went from Navajo time which has daylight savings time, in spite of the fact that they are in Arizona, to back into Arizona which doesn't have daylight savings time.  Then we go a few miles into Utah where they have daylight savings time.  We have no idea what time it is, but who cares ! 

We are now leaving the Navajo lands, just when I was starting to understand the Navajo origin theory, customs, witches, chants and ceremonies mostly through reading Tony Hillerman books.  I love his books on so many levels, there're great! 

We rode 20 some miles out on route 89 on Monday morning  scouting out a few Glen Canyon Recreation area campgrounds along with adjacent BLM land.  We stopped at the "Lone Rock Beach primitive area where you can dry camp right next to scenic Lake Powell for $5 a day.  Along the way we also found a BLM visitor center with great dinosaur exhibits and area information. The plan is to do some hiking in the Paria-Vermillion Cliffs area nearby.  This is part of the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument which is a huge area, larger than the state of Delaware.  It became a National Monument in 1996 and is administered by the BLM.  They have recently found significant dinosaur bones and fossils in this area. It is mostly a wilderness area, no development, kind of one of the last great wild places in the continental US. 

We went for a short hike on a trail to the "Toadstools" which mostly followed a wash.  The rock formations at the trails end were just amazing.  We then went to a BLM camping area, the White House campground (tents only), with more great rock formations and campsites.  No RV sites, but we did learn that we can boondock just outside of this campground near route 89. 

Beautiful flowers in the pure white sand on trail to the Toadstools

The Toadstools

Another area of the Toadstools

Huge rock formation at the White House campground

Amazing colors in the slick rock

Tuesday, we left Page-Lake Powell campground and went 15 miles away to the "Lone Rock Beach" campsite at Glen Canyon Recreation Area.  It's a great spot and seems to be free now as the electronic payment machine was not working.  It's called Lone Rock because in the middle of the River is a massive stone rock monolith.  We went for a great jeep ride in the afternoon into the back country on Cottonwood Road.  The Jeep is really paying off now.  There are dirt roads going all over out here, but the road signs are minimal, you really have to pay attention.  This is all part of the National Monument, but is all fenced in cattle range land.  The soil here over the eons has developed a thick cracked crust to it, but everywhere you walk there are cow footprints breaking the crust. The crust being broken up increases soil erosion.   Seeing this up close and personal eventually makes you aware of how environmentally destructive cattle grazing is in the west. 

A view along Cottonwood road

Rock formation along route 89

Fences everywhere in the west

Beach view at Lone Rock 

The Lone Rock at Lone Rock Beach

Sunrise view of Lone Rock Beach

Wednesday, we went for a hike to the "Wahweep hoodoos" which are rock formations like chimneys or spires. This involved a 4 mile drive on a dirt road followed by a 6 mile round trip hike, which somehow ended up being more like 8 miles.  The hike was mostly following a huge wash which was a combination of stone, rocks and sand.  The stones in the wash were beautiful, the colors of the rainbow.  It was very cloudy and not a good Kodak moment day, but the scenery was fantastic. The hoodoos were worth the walk for me, not sure Twinkles would agree, as she was about ready to drop by the time we got back to the jeep. 

Daisy's growing out of the dry cracked soil 

Colorful rocks on trail to the Hoodoos

Strikingly pure white Primrose flowers are blooming all over

Lots of color in the desert

A single Hoodoo formation

More Hoodoos

Amazing balancing act !

The trail followed this wash with it's salty deposits

View of the rocks in the wash, was constantly looking down

Vibrant blue flowers along the trail

Edge of the wash constantly being altered by erosion

Layers of sand in the wash are artistic

Thursday morning another short move 23 miles north on route 89 to a BLM boondock site near the "Toadstools trailhead" that we had scouted out earlier.  It is close to the road, next door to the Paria BLM visitors center with nice views in all directions.  After an early lunch, we took a drive north to route 585 which is a scenic dirt road to the old deserted townsite of Paria.  There is nothing left of the town, which was an early Mormon settlement.  It was a sizable town in it's heyday, but was prone to flooding and eventually deserted in the 1930's.  Years latter a few buildings were recreated for movie filming but they were vandalized and burned in the early 2000's.  There is really nothing to see now, but the ride to it is fantastic.  The mountains and canyons have the most vibrant striated  coloration that I have seen anywhere, as good, if not better then the Painted Desert area in Arizona. 

Our BLM campsite

View along route 585 to Paria

The reds were so vibrant

Great views in all directions
Friday adventure was again down route 700 to the "Wire Pass" trailhead.  The Wire Pass trail takes you down a wash into a slot canyon which narrows down to two feet across.  We made it about half way through the slot canyon before encountering an obstacle that turned up around.  There is a drop in the canyon floor of about 7-8 feet with a tree limb to assist you getting down.  Of course on the return trip out of the canyon you must climb up.  Twinkles said no way was she going down that, I didn't like it much either, looked like an unnecessary risk.  The light, limber 20-30 year olds would be able bound up and down this with glee.  It was age discrimination at it's worse !  I was a beautiful trail however and almost worth the humiliation of defeat.  After that we drove to the opposite end of the trail at the "Buckskin trailhead" and hiked it for a few miles through great sandstone mountain terrain, lots of wildflowers.  We saw our first real rattlesnake of the year and then another equally large, but no rattle, snake.  It was another long exhausting hiking day.  

View form the Wire Pass Trail

Going into the slot canyon

Our stopping point, seems you had to either jump or
slide on your butt down the slippery log to get down

Such contrast between the rock and the vegatation 

The rocks were very interesting

The valley was covered with blooming flowers

The second snake retreating
That's it for the Glen Canyon and Grand Staircase-Escalante areas for now, Saturday we pull out and head 40 miles to the town of Kanab, Utah. A couple of days at a full hookup campsite will be nice before going into Bryce Canyon.

Happy Easter to all,
Twinkles and Slick 


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