Well, it is that time of year again - Fred and Suzi are back on the road, slaving away at their grueling project (and enjoying every minute). This year's itinerary includes the National Forests in Utah, southern and central Idaho, and eastern Nevada. Tough job, hey?!?!
The anxieties and trepidations that were building before our May 14th departure seem to just roll away with each mile as we headed north. We were curious about this thing call Lake Powell so took a couple of days to visit it. Well, it is an enormous, deep blue body of water surrounded completely by desert. As impressive as Lake Powell was, we found ourselves "blown-away" by a float trip down the Glen Canyon portion of the Colorado River. It is said to look like Lake Powell before there was a Lake Powell. Unbelievable!
Our first challenge of the season was getting to Cedar City, UT to start work on the Dixie National Forest. The route we had planned to use, Route 9 through Zion National Park, has a tunnel built back in the 1920s and is too small for our rig. OOPS! The alternative route took us past Cedar Breaks National Monument and some fabulous scenery. We passed by 1,000 to 5,000 year old lava flows and knee-deep snow on the way.
One of the "problems" we discovered with the Dixie is the number of National Parks and Monuments that must be visited. There is Zion, Cedar Breaks, Bryce, and, of course, the newest one, Escalante-Grand Staircase. Remember the commotion that was raised over making Escalante-Grand Staircase a National Monument? One would have thought Clinton was taking land from private ownership and folding it into the Federal inventory. Making it a National Monument only put it in a different budgetary pot. Not that they have used any of those dollars to "improve" the area. It is still delightfully under-developed. We would suggest there are more bathrooms (i.e. vaults) found on the Mall in Washington DC for the July 4th festivities than are within the Staircase's boundary. And the scenery is amazing, fabulous, and awesome, not only in the Staircase but at those other three places too.
Years ago, Suzi was advised by two motorcyclists from Germany, to "roll down your windows and smell the land." Now that neither of us smokes, we have started doing just that and discovering a new aspect of the countryside. A sudden rainstorm at Lake Powell filled the air with the scent of dusty desert soil and ozone. In the mountains, we noticed the difference between stands of spruce and pine. It is hay-cutting time in southern Utah and we could smell the sweet fresh mowed fields even if we didn't see them. The sweet scent of sage, the smell of cattle, coffee, bacon and pine wood campfires, freshly plowed fields - the world is full of wondrous smells.
We ended the month of May in one of the prettiest places we found so far in Utah. It's called Red Canyon. Located about halfway between the town of Panguitch, UT and Bryce Canyon, Red Canyon is one of those well-kept secrets we occasionally stumble upon. The Forest Service has a developed campground, Red Canyon, in the Canyon along State Route 12 and we stayed there for several days. Our camp site was shaded by fragrant Ponderosa pines and Utah juniper and had a 360-degree view of the Canyon's towering deep red walls. The word "beautiful" doesn't do this place justice. Even Tory, our Golden Retriever, enjoyed this campground because the Red Canyon Wash (actually a seasonal stream) was flowing - all of a foot wide and two inches deep.
One of our favorite features of Red Canyon is the number and variety of trails. There must be hundreds of miles of trails. Known as "Butch Cassidy Country," some of the trails claim to be his routes. Other trails are said to follow old Indian paths, while others are newly developed. We hiked only two - a newly developed one, Buckhorn; and the other, Arches, claims Butch as its trail blazing source.
Buckhorn leads out of our campground to a plateau. Anyone who has hiked on Forest Service trails probably knows signing is not one of their major concerns on most trails. Well, we came to an intersection with no sign and decided to continue straight ahead. This way led to about a 100- yard section of trail along a ridge line. The path was maybe a foot wide and the drop on both sides seemed like a thousand feet! We made it across only to learn it dead-ended on top of a tennis court size plateau. Although the view was breathtaking (we are told on a clear day you can see 200 miles and this day was exceptionally clear) we had to go back the way we came - Yikes! Well, it wouldn't have been so bad if the wind hadn't picked-up. However, all-in-all it was worth the thumping hearts and sweaty palms.
Our second hike, Arches, wasn't anywhere near the challenge but was equally beautiful. The first 50 yards was in a ankle-deep sandy wash. At the point where one bears off into a little side canyon, there is the ruin of a stone structure. This is where, it is reported, Butch kept supplies. From here the trail climbs and you begin to see windows - holes carved through the red rock by the elements. Soon the windows become larger and a cluster of arches appeared. The trail leads right up to a trio of these wonders. They aren't as large nor as impressive as some we have seen in National Parks but somehow being able to stand right next to one and study it up close makes these human-size arches more, well, personal.
All in all, it has been a good start to our 2001 season of research. Here's hoping your summer had just as good a beginning.
Suzi and Fred