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Monthly Archives: April 2017

“A hell of a place to lose a cow”…

..is the way Ebenezer Bryce, a homesteader from Scotland characterized the place close to his cabin when asked about what he thinks about its majestic beauty. As an immigrant who came trying to make a living the practicality of the place where he lived trumped its beauty. The canyon, or actually a collection of horse-shoe amphitheaters, is located on Paunsaugunt Plateau in south-east Utah. Its name came from Bryce family, Ebenezer and Mary, who were of the few who had a house here and people started to call it after their name, Bryce Canyon. Bryce was or became a Mormon like most of the one who found their way in Utah at the time.

Bryce Canyon, UT

The beauty of Bryce National Park is unmatched. The explosion of orange under the blue sky, the lines of spires that evolved from eroded walls making way to windows and further to “hoodoos” is spellbinding. Rows and rows of fins or pinnacles create a spectacular maze. In the native Paiutes language Bryce canyon is called “Unka timpe-wa-wince-pock-ich”, translated as red rocks standing like men in a bowl-shape canyon.

Hiking inside the canyon is a unique experience that I zest of doing for many years. Many years ago, I drove one day from the desert into the canyon in the evening ready for the next day hike. I did not plan in detail where I will end up and I was not dressed properly. In the morning I was awaken at 6:00 AM by a roaring engine under my window. I was curious to see who was the idiot who was mowing the lawn so early, but when I opened the blinds I was in shock to see more than 10 inches of snow that covered the ground from an unexpected, for me at least, overnight snow storm. The park, whose rim reaches 9100 feet altitude, got closed and I did not know how to run away to lower altitude with my flimsy pants and clothing and the tiny sedan I was driving.

Walking down into the canyon, Bryce National Park, UT

That day opened up for me a window to the magic world of the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, that I discovered unexpectedly to be, unmistakably, so mysterious. And it is! And what about Bryce? Well, I drove around and hiked at that time through lower parts of Utah and on my way back to the desert I stopped again in Bryce. The park was open and I drove through it on the 12 mile asphalt road but the hike was out of question: all the access paths inside the canyon were muddy, the boots getting deep into the muck and coming out oozing of clay. Since that visit sometimes in late 90s, the beauty of the Four Corner area and beyond somehow kept me away from Bryce. Till now…

The orange world on Bryce, UT

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Posted by on April 16, 2017 in Blog, USA

 

Escalante, UT

Outside Escalante, UT

I love Escalante. It’s a tiny place on a road on which is almost nothing else. But what a road! Route 12 in Utah was built at the end of the 1940s as the only road to cross a complete wilderness. The terrain was so bad that the milk sent by carriages from the farms took forever to reach Bryce and it fermented on the way. A road was partially built eventually at the end of 1940 and latter got extended and paved in the 80s but the place remained still a wilderness; the towns are small and far between, mere villages with several houses, out of which Escalante with its two streets looks really like a town. But the charm of this small place consist in its serene atmosphere and the pristine beauty of the sunny and chilly mornings. You can spend days in a row here and you cannot end the places where you can hike around it. It’s the place from where you can dive into the magical world of the formations that pepper Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument.

The entry to the Pekaboo slot canyon, Grand Staircase-Escalante, UT

In Escalante you are far from the hotels/motels where tourists abound: no Asian kids running loudly, no Indian families screaming in the morning to each other while packing the vans, no French groups admiring in awe the surrounding landscape but still flabbergasted by the fact that the “empty” America can offer, unfairly, so much beauty, no Germans and Swedes who love anything labeled as “nature” while eating their meager breakfast of the motel, waiting longingly for the Indian manager of the motel, hoping that miraculously he will be able to bring some salmon, brie or prosciutto from behind the counter instead of the stale bread. In Escalante there are none of these people and all you can see are climbers ready for another day of exploration through the slot canyons of the teeth-rattling “Hole-n the Rock” road, the first route taken by the colonists trying to reach the Four Corner area. You can see these climbers in the chilly morning waking up at the “Outfitter” campground, preparing their morning tea or coming out of the two motels walking slowly on the empty road to the one of the few breakfast places in town. Around 8:30 AM they pack their gear in huge trucks made to navigate the tilted and rutted dirt roads of the wilderness, and they start moving towards the slots where they will climb all day. When they talk in the evenings about “an easy and pleasant hike” it is about a 4-5 hour hike to a local waterfall that represents, for many of them, just a day of rest. But all talk happens to one eye to the sky and another to the weather forecast trying to spot the slimmest trace of rain that would flood the canyons and endanger their life.

Inside Pekaboo full of water, Grand Staircase-Escalante, UT

I did not have specific plans this time in Escalante. I just wanted to come again and and enjoy this heartfull place. I was planning for a hike into Zebra and the Tunnel, two slots easily accessible by my regular sedan but I was told by the rangers that the water in Zebra was reaching the chest level right from the start. So we changed planed and settled for the classical day hike in Pekaboo and Spooky. Pekaboo was also full with pools of water and we had to hike it barefoot, making it way harder to navigate while climbing its wet walls.

 
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Posted by on April 15, 2017 in Blog, USA

 

Hobbit Land

Robbers Roost Motel, Green River, UT

Green River is a town left behind by the traffic on the Interstate. Once a booming town, now its historic part is almost a ghost town with all the new hotels built far from its old center. The only motel still standing in the old town is Robbers Roost, a sign that the legends never die.

Little Wild Horse Canyon, UT

Relatively close by, in the San Rafael swell is one of the best hikes in the area: the 8 mile loop that goes through the Little Wild Horse Canyon, a spectacular slot canyon, and comes back through Bell Canyon. The Little Wild Horse Canyon is about 3.6 miles long out of which about two thirds were formed by the slot, flooded in one place. It is one of the longer slot canyon in which you can walk with no climbing or jumping that I hiked in.

Goblin Valley State Park, UT

Just at the Little Wild Horse Canyon access road entrance is the magical world of the Goblin Valley State Park, a miraculous realm of formations that would be expected to be found in the wizardry world of the Hobbit rather than the state of Utah. You watch mesmerized from the top the multiform that pepper the valley and you cannot stop walking down in the valley through the formations, all resembling mushrooms whose hats melt under the rain creating other mounds out of which other goblins would raise.

Goblin Valley State Park, UT

 
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Posted by on April 14, 2017 in Blog, USA

 

Arches

North and South Windows, Arches National Park, UT

Moab was mobbed. From a quaint little town it became the hub of adventure in all the surrounding canyons. Each empty lot now rents ATV or Jeep Wranglers that could be seen coming in convoys on the routes going out of town. The hotels and motels are almost full charging rates that are exorbitant for their class. But the town’s location is for sure a major drawing card and the park that is more sought for is Arches National Park, just 5 minutes out of town.

Double Arch, Arches National Park, UT

When the national parks are mentioned, Arches comes in the first breath with Zion and Bryce. It’s a large park, easily accessible by car with few hikes but many sights.

Landscape Arch, Arches National Park, UT

The hike to the Delicate Arch was a pleasure in almost sunset with few people coming and crowding around the arch. This rarely happens, but the park was doing major renovations to its roads and wanted all cars out by 7PM. So everybody was rushing to climb the steep hill to the arch and get back in time to the parking lot not to have their cars towed.

Delicate Arch, Arches National Park, UT

 
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Posted by on April 13, 2017 in Blog, USA

 

The needles holding the sky

Newspaper rock, Canyonlands-Needles, UT

Part of the large wilderness in south eastern Utah, Canyonlands National Park is covering the entire eastern part of the state. It’s so large and relatively inaccessible that even today there are no roads that fully transverse the park creating a large area that must be bypass either on the Interstate 70 in the north or in the Navajoland in the south. The roads that come from either east or west are sort of deflected by this wilderness.

Chesler Park Trail, Canyonlands-Needles, UT

Because the numerous canyons that cross it, the park has three separate areas, unconnected to each other. The western side of the park, The Maze, the one closer to the Robbers’ Roost, the hideout of the Wild Bunch is still almost as wild as in the old days. To get in this area you need to camp and the access is limited only to 4X4 vehicles. On the eastern side there is Island in the Sky, its northern side, very much visited being the closest to Moab. Its southern side, Needles, see fewer visitors but the hikes are spectacular.

Chesler Park Overlook, Canyonlands-Needles, UT

You can deep yourself into this forest of needles, colorful peaks that look like holding the sky, and hike among them by climbing boulders surrounded by tall red walls of sandstone. There are all sort of formations and even some arches on the hike that brings you in about two hours to the Chesler Park Overlook on top of an amphitheater where you are surrounded by needles as far as you can see around you. Back on the park road short hikes on slickrock done at sunset are almost an invite to meditation with the red rock lit by the glowing orange light and the snowed capped La Sal mountains in the background.

“Island in the Sky” with La Sal mountains in the background

 
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Posted by on April 12, 2017 in Blog, USA

 

Robbers’ Roost

Dead Horse State Park, UT

Robbers roost was an area in South-Eastern Utah where during the end of the 19th century bands of thieves were rustling cattle, stealing horses and robbing banks and trains. Out of the many who roamed this area the Wild Bunch gang formed by Butch Cassidy and Sundance Kid had a hideout through the formations of the current Canyonlands National Park, somewhere in the Maze.
Beside their most famous partners romanticized in movies some of the actors involved in these robberies were Flat Nose George and the Curry boys, Elzy Lay, Gunplay Maxwell, the McCarty boys, Peep O’Day, Silver Tip, Blue John, and Indian Ed Newcomb.

Mesa Arch in Canyonlands National Park-Island in the Sky, UT

The huge area remained even today a wilderness, many areas being converted in national parks, from the parks close to Interstate 15, Zion and Kolob Canyon, through Bryce and Escalante, to Canyonlands all the way to Moab.
If you hike in this area it is of no surprise to understand why these guys were able to find a safe haven in the area, the intricate landscape of needles and buttes, canyons and river gorges being ideal for a hideout.

Shafer Trail Drive in Canyonlands National Park-Island in the Sky, UT

Canyonlands National Park is one of the parks in this large swath of land that it has three separate areas that could not be connected between them. Located on top of the mesas and overlooking an submerged and eroded landscape, Island in the Sky is the largest visited area of the park, being also the closest to Moab, a town that became recently a Mecca for hikers and climbers. Close to this side of the park is a small but charming Dead Horse Point State Park.

 
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Posted by on April 11, 2017 in Blog, USA

 

From California to the South West

Old gas station on Route 62 in Utah

From LA to Moab is about 10 hours drive coming up on Google maps, quite a long drive. But at least for me, driving in this area is a pleasure in spite of the fatigue that get installed after a while. You come out of the crazy traffic of LA, cruising through towns that were once highlights on the once famous Route 66, till you reach the Mojave desert, stop for a bite to eat in Primm, NV and continue to Vegas where you can spend the night and in the morning you continue through the Virgin River canyon til you see the white Mormon temple of St George, UT. Off the highway the landscape changes and you encounter old gas stations or convenience store, some looking like taken from an archival movie.

Cathedral Rock, Capitol Reef, UT

We entered this time the amazing world of the canyons through Capitol Reef National Park. No matter how many times you have visited a park, it’s all new when you reach it, especially with the sunset light creating the magic that throw a spell upon the visitors who congregate at sunset viewing points like in a religious gathering.

Panoramic Point at sunset, Capitol Reef, UT

 
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Posted by on April 10, 2017 in Blog, USA