Monday, June 28, 2010

2010 Road Trip, Dio Cetiri, Utah

Part Three, The Beehive State

June 8.  The morning in Baker, Nevada proved to be much less windy and much less lonely than the evening before.  Pairs of birds sang from a nearby ditch, another pair from the picnic pagodas, and even more from their hunting grounds in the fields.  Suka and Harvey found a tiny horny toad to play with and Suka demonstrated the 'soft jaw' capabilities of Chesapeake Bay Retrievers by picking the little guy up and carrying him around for a while, then spitting him out without a scratch or a squish.  Harvey surely wouldn't have been so gentle.  

Just across the state line, Utah was just more desolate desert.  To really make a point of how harsh desert life can be, a dead cow lay in the sand near the road, not a drop of water in sight, picked completely clean by vultures except for it's skin and grassy stomach matter.  The unfortunate cow, despite being just a shell of it's former shelf, still lay in the position it died in, upright with it's head leaned gently against it's foot.  Maggots had been left to finish up whatever they could, and i'm sure eventually some lone coyote will lope by and drag away the hide or a bone.  It was sad to see, but also I feel very lucky to have had a little window into the 'circle of life'.  So often we find a dead animal or a bone, but rarely do we get to see first hand what happens during the process of decay, especially when scavengers like vultures are involved.  It was a real 'National Geographic moment'!

We stopped in St. George for $2 showers at the rec center, then lathered up with sunscreen and drove on.  We reached Zion National Park at 3.  We weren't sure if our parks card had expired or not since 'June' is a relatively vague expiration date, but the gate man didn't seem to care, or he just didn't notice.  The road through the park didn't open until 4, so we spent the hour walking around in the scorching sun looking at lizards and cacti, and slowly dieing of heat exhaustion.

The drive through the red cliffs and canyons was worth the wait.  The road was narrow and dangerously curved around everything it possibly could, but Shaun and I couldn't keep from cranking our heads sideways to try to get a good look at the rock walls towering above us.  It was amazing and beautiful, but there was absolutely no place to stop along the road, so it was impossibly to get any good pictures.  

We drove through Jacob Lake and spent a gorgeous evening camping in the Kaibob National Forest, with a warm breeze swirling the delicate honey smell of fresh flowers all around us.

And of course... the photos!

Saturday, June 26, 2010

2010 Road Trip, Dio Treci, Nevada

Part Three, The Silver State

Everything in Elko Nevada is closed on a Sunday.  I found out that Elko's cowboy poetry gathering is in January.  For some reason I thought it was in August.  Good to know.  
Since there was nothing we could do in town (laundry, use the internet, buy a climbing guide, get a map at the chamber of commerce...), we attempted to satiate my craving for tacos at a little Mexican restaurant (amazing ceviche!, but still craving tacos), then drove out of town a few miles to Lamoille Canyon.

The canyon was gorgeous and the mountain peaks still snow capped although it was well into the 80s on lower ground.  A small stream cut directly through the canyon, although with the warmer weather, it wasn't so small.  We camped on the hill above it, surrounded by cliffs, and waterfalls.  Cool air rose up from the stream, and a cool breeze brought more fresh air down from the mountain tops, but it was still plenty warm after the sun went down, so we stayed up late playing cribbage, reading, and listening to all the water around us.

As the sounds of the day started to die down and we settled into our nighttime routine, we laid in the tent and listened to sounds like thunder, rumbling the walls of the canyon around us.  It was more of a feeling than a sound.  So low and powerful, like the grinding of teeth.  I was reminded of being a kid, sitting under a bridge on a dirt road when a car drove over.  The rumble was so low and completely surrounded us.  The creek was so full, and moving so much water, that huge boulders were being shifted in the creek bed.  All through the night, I laid awake listening to the rushing water grind the rocks through the canyon.

In the morning we drove the twenty miles back to Elko to buy our climbing guide.  As it turned out, the only store in town that sold it had randomly decided to stay closed that Monday.  We found a limited amount of information online, but enough to allow us to climb at least a couple routes.  So we headed back to the beautiful Lamoille.  

We got our climbing gear together and drove up the canyon to find our cliffs, but something didn't want us to be there, either.  The canyon just a mile up the road from our camp had been closed.  Rangers were suggesting that people start evacuating and moving on to other locations.  Apparently landslides were starting to happen further up the road and were threatening to block the already raging creek.  If a landslide blocked the creek, then blew out, huge flash floods could come racing down the canyon from wall to wall.

There was rain in the forecast for the next couple days, and with the powerful display of the water moving the boulders, a flood warning was all we needed.  There would be no climbing in the Lamoille, then.  We packed up our camp and, greatly discouraged, drew a line straight down our map to Arizona.  

We drove through the desolate, but beautiful heart of Nevada to Eureka, an ancient historical mining town, but were disappointed to find the surrounded hillsides stripped and cratered.  Apparently mining was still happening in Eureka.  

We drove the Loneliest Highway, and found it to be pretty lonely.  We stopped at Illipah Reservoir to soak the dogs, and found it to be equally as lonely.  In Baker, on the border of Utah, we filled up our water and pitched the tent in the wind, in the dark, in the desert.  The wind was blowing so hard that we set up the tent between the car and a fence, tied two lines to the car, two lines to the fence, and another couple lines to some rocks that were near.  We went to sleep and the tent didn't budge.

Hopefully the Southwestern corner of Utah wouldn't be as lonely or as desolate as the Lonliest Highway in Nevada.

Pictures here!

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

2010 Road Trip, Drugi Dio, Idaho

Part Two, The Gem State 
(and a little bit of Utah)

The drive out of Wyoming was for the most part uneventful.  The scenery was gorgeous, it was a sunny day, and it was pretty quiet in Southwest Wyoming, aside from some good laughs  and a few groans over making way too much hummus for two people to eat. 

We had to drive through the tippy top corner of Utah, so we stopped at Bear Lake to water the dogs.  A few raindrops spattered on us, but the rain blew over, and the dogs had a great time running on the lake shore, chasing birds, and playing fetch.  They had so much fun that, hours later, after we stopped in Lava Hot Springs, Idaho, soaked in the world famous springs, and took two showers each, the dogs were still sleeping.  Of course, by that time, it was rather late.  Opting not to pay for KOA campsite, we drove on into the night, and eventually pulled into some unmapped, small town to sleep in the car for a few hours.

June 6th we arrived in Almo, Idaho bright and early to get our climb on in City of Rocks.  The landscape was amazing and the rock formations unbelievably rugged and expansive.  We were happy to be following part of the California Trial and it was impressive to see settlers' names written in axle grease still clinging to the rocks.  
We drove around the City, ate breakfast, hiked a bit, and drove around more, but we soon realized that, for the height of the rocks we meant to climb, our guide book was rather incomplete.

As it turns out, there was just so much to climb there, it was impossible to give adequate description of whether the routes were bolted or what kind of gear we needed to take for protection.  Also, almost all of the routes require two ropes to rappel.  Since the guide didn't specify the heights of the routes, Shaun and I didn't feel comfortable climbing with just our one rope.  We decided to camp on BLM land close to the City, and give it another shot in the morning, since a friend from Bozeman, who had experience in City of Rocks, was planning on meeting us to show us around.

Morning came, and the rocks were still as massive and foreboding as they were the day before.  We hiked to a few routes we thought we could climb, but were still just as intimidated as we were the day before.  We read through our guide for the 20th time, but it was still as incomplete and vague as it was the day before.  And our friend with the second rope wasn't coming like he said he was the day before...  
Feeling pretty down, and having completely lost our climbing mo-jo, we decided to pack up our camp.  Even though we had finally hit on good weather, something in Idaho just didn't want us to be there, and we felt that we needed to move on. 
Besides that, I was having a killer craving for tacos, and Almo, Idaho just didn't have a Taco Bell, or for that matter, any restaurant of any sort.

On to Nevada.  Into the desert.

Photos of Utah and Bear Lake in THIS album.
Photos of Idaho in THIS album.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

2010 Road Trip, Prvi dio, Wyoming

Part One, The Equality State

The waters were unpredictable there for a while, but the ship has landed, run aground a mile above sea level in Prescott, Arizona.  I know it's been quite a while since my last post, and quite a lot has happened to fill that time.  Although the road trip was not as epic as planned, due to some unforeseen weather, car trouble, and limited cash flow, we drove through 5 states, had some really great times, and saw some amazing landscapes.
We ended up setting sail out of Bozeman around 8:00, the evening of May 27th.  We made it all the way to our campsite between Hoback Junction and Alpine Junction near Jackson Hole, Wyoming, but we found the gate locked and slept in the car until morning.  We woke up the camp host bright and early to let us in and had a wonderful sunny day to ourselves.  The family and 'crew' started showing up later that afternoon, and throughout the Memorial Day Weekend, there was definitely no shortage of campfires, marshmallows, rain, rafting, and fun!  There was however quite a panic that Friday when we lost Suka.  He went for a nice little swim in the rapid waters of the Snake and we found him a few hours later a couple miles downstream, wet, cold and scared, but just fine once he jumped in Shaun's arms.

The morning of June 1st found us alive and well in the Lander, Wyoming's city park.  We used a good part of the day doing laundry and sneaking into NOLS for showers.  A couple games of cribbage got us in the mood for beer, and a couple pitchers of beer got us in the mood for spending the entire night with the locals at one of our favorites, the Lander Bar.  (We love you Lander locals!)

The next day we attempted to climb world-renowned Wild Iris, but the snow drift was still too high to get to the cliffs.  We drove back through town and set up camp near the climbing in the Sinks Canyon.  The big plastic port-o-potty near the campground was the cleanest, brightest, and nicest bathroom I'd used in at least a week, however an unfortunate splash of Liquid Blue Chemical left me traumatized for the rest of the day, fearing that some of the more delicate parts of my body would be rendered un-usable due to chemical burn.  Luckily, none of my skin was eaten away, and everything is just fine.

We eventually got some climbing in.  Shaun took  to calling me 'Pack Horse', since I insisted on carrying all our gear to prepare for my school pack trip this fall.  We ended up only climbing 5 routes over two days, squeezing in between the top ropes the NOLS group had placed on almost every climbable surface. (no-no.  Bad climbers.  Be good and share!)  The climbing was good and the views were amazing.  We were having fun, but we weren't necessarily having a great time.  We felt a little uneasy and it seemed that something (the poor weather or the NOLS ropes?) was hinting at us to move on.  So we packed up camp, indulged ourselves at the downtown bookstores and outdoor store, consumed a salad and mas cerveza at Lander Bar, broke a bag of rice all over the car, and shared a 'World Famous Chokecherry Shake' on our way out of town. 

Next stop... Good climbing and good weather in IDAHO!