Thursday, September 27, 2007

Last Utah Hike

Monday we went on our last long hike in southwestern Utah. We drove to the south end of Bryce Canyon National Park—9,110 feet above sea level—and hiked the Riggs Spring Loop, an 8.8 mile hike through the forest. The trail drops 1,600 feet from Rainbow and Yovimpa Points, passes three backcountry (undeveloped) campsites for backpackers, and climbs back up 1,600 feet. We had hiked the loop twice two years ago when we volunteered at Bryce Canyon. This year we haven't been doing as much hiking (our volunteer work is outdoors and at times very physical) and we haven't been living at 8,000 feet. So the hike was difficult and exhausting, but worth it for two 64-year-olds.

We saw so much wildlife on our drive there. We saw three flocks of wild turkeys, totaling about 75 birds, three groups of mule deer and several small herds of pronghorn and we watched a coyote hunting in a meadow. While we ate lunch, several cows were grazing in the area and one came over to see what we had to eat. What a wonderful day! Oh yes, we started our hike at 37 degrees and ended it at about 51. Fall has arrived.

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Friday, September 21, 2007

We Need a City Fix

        We're ready for an urban fix.  We are really in the middle of nowhere.  No cell phone service.  A thunderstorm put out the regular phone service for about 24 hours.  We are 9 miles from a store where we can buy a bottle of milk, 14 miles from a small grocery store, 22 miles from a garage where we can get the truck serviced, 41 miles from a dentist or larger grocery store, 105 miles from a Wal-Mart. 

        Tuesday, on the way to Panguitch (41 miles) for groceries, we stopped at the only national chain restaurant in two counties—Subway—for lunch.  We will leave Kodachrome Basin State Park in 10 days.  After spending a few days at the North Rim of the Grand Canyon, we will drive on to Flagstaff, AZ.  Not a really large city, but a city, nevertheless.  We are looking forward to that.

        To cope with our small (8 cubic feet) refrigerator and the distance to a store, I have begun to mix up dry milk for us to drink.  Back when our sons were young, I mixed dry milk with whole milk to save money.  Today I do it to save on gas.  Since we drink skim milk all the time anyway, it tastes just the same.  We save a little money on milk and more on gas.

        After meeting the camp hosts at Cedar Breaks National Park, I decided to try making my own yoghurt.  All I need is dry milk powder, water and a tablespoon or two of yoghurt starter.  It tastes good and means I don't have to plan how many containers to buy each time we go to the store.  I am flavoring it with Splenda and cranberry juice or Splenda and vanilla.  It tastes just fine with my cereal in the morning. 

        We enjoy spending part of each year in the country—where the skies are dark so we can see the Milky Way and other stars, where there are no sirens and very little traffic, where we can hear the coyotes at night.  But this isn't where we want to live all the time.  We are looking forward to getting into a city, especially for cell phone service and fresh vegetables. 

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Saturday, September 15, 2007

Fall Is Coming

This morning when we reported for work, the park ranger was catching a hummingbird that had flown into the Visitor Center.  He covered it with his hat, then carried it between his hat and his hand to the door, where it flew away.  A few minutes later he asked, "Do you like bats?"  In the evenings, bats fly around the Visitor Center eating the bugs that are attracted to the lights there.  One of the furry brown animals decided to spend the night in a corner outside the front door.

        Those events may not tell us fall is coming, but the weather sure lets us know.  In the past week, we have had morning temperatures in the low 40s and high 30s.  The afternoon high is still in the 80s, but we haven't seen 90 for a couple of weeks.  And by 6 pm, it is cooling down and very comfortable outside.  The temperatures are great.  This is our favorite time of the year. 

        The campers know it is fall, too.  Kodachrome has been busier this week than it was over the Labor Day weekend.  We still see lots of international visitors.  It is amazing how many Europeans come to the United States, some of them year after year.  We talked to a couple from Germany who has been here 14 or 15 times for their holidays.  This campground is really off the beaten track, 20+ miles from Bryce Canyon National Park, over 100 miles from Zion National Park.  Yet we see many international visitors in tents and in rented RVs.  We also see more older Americans, traveling after the height of the summer vacation season.  Friday the campground was full for the first time since we arrived in the middle of August.  Many of the campers are Utah residents who know this is a comfortable time of year to come to this desert campground.

        The only time we find these temperatures uncomfortable is first thing in the morning.  We have a small Kawasaki "mule" to get around the campground and it doesn't have a windshield, doors, rear window or heater.  When the temperature is 40 to 50 degrees, the wind chill at 20 mph is uncomfortable.  But it sure beats working outside in full sun at 92 degrees.

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Thursday, September 13, 2007

Grosvener Arch

Sunday we drove to Grosvener Arch, about 12 miles south of Kodachrome on an unimproved dirt road. The Cottonwood Road was built in the 1960s when power lines were run from the Glen Canyon Dam north to this part of Utah. It is impassable when wet and a real washboard when dry. Many tourists see the road on maps and think it is a quick way to reach Page, AZ, and the Grand Canyon. It may be the short route, but the maximum possible speed is 20 mph, meaning it takes at least two hours to drive the 40 miles.

Grosvener Arch is quite impressive. We were surprised at the number of cars that drove up to view the arch as we ate our picnic lunch. We enjoyed sharing our meal with a friendly Scrub Jay.

For years we have enjoyed the desert southwest, making numerous visits to Taos and Santa Fe, Canon City, Mesa Verde and Utah over the years. This year we are able to spend eight to 10 weeks in this environment and really get to know its beauty. There is sage brush everywhere, as well as Rabbit Bush, Utah Juniper and Pinon Pine. Most of the stone outcroppings here are tan and white, with a sprinkling of pale red. In other areas, there is more dark red and purple colored rock. The country doesn't have the rich greens of eastern forests, or the towering pines of mountain areas. But it is beautiful with its muted colors.

We saw miles of sage and stone landscape as we drove up and down Cottonwood Road. The longer we drove, the more we appreciated the beauty of the landscape. After we left Kodachrome, we only saw one building—an outhouse at the picnic area by Grosvener Arch. It is truly remote country. What a pleasure to be able to get to know it a little in our time here.

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Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Trail Repair

We spent most of last week repairing damage to the Angel's Palace Trail at Kodachrome Basin State Park. The heavy rain of the previous week, which had cause so much damage on the Nature Trail and in the campground, had also damaged the hiking trails in the soft sand found in this part of SW Utah. First, we worked on a bridge over a dry wash that had been badly damaged when the rainstorm filled the wash with rushing water two to three feet above the bridge. We really wish we had gone out to see what was happening during and right after the rain. It must have been impressive to watch. We gathered stones out of the wash to build a base at both sides of the bridge, then brought in dirt and gravel—road base—to cover the rocks. That meant shoveling the base into our Kawasaki Mule then dumping it at the bridge and shoveling it where it was needed. We also built up rocks at two corners of the bridge to prevent run-off from separating the bridge from the sides of the wash.

Next we filled in a run-off channel in the center of a steep part of the trail, and then we rebuilt the trail-side in two places where logs which had been set with rebar had failed to keep the trail from eroding away. We dug out the side of the trail, then gathered rocks—some as heavy as 80 to 100 pounds—to provide a base for the trail. Then we shoveled in dirt and tamped it down by walking back and forth numerous times.

This work is difficult, back-breaking, and very rewarding. We really feel like we accomplished something last week that will make a difference for hikers—at least until an even worse rainstorm occurs. We also feel good that we are able to do this kind of heavy work at the age of 64. Our weight training and cardio workouts really pay off.

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Monday, September 03, 2007

Photos of Kodachrome Basin State Park

Our host site at Kodachrome

Shakespear Arch

Kodachrome skyline

One of 47 stone chimneys in the park
Partridges that live in the park

Life is Good at Kodachrome Park

What a difference it makes to have our refrigerator working again! Finally, the part came in and Shane was able to install it. Then he came into the trailer and slipped in the fuse for that circuit—which caused a spark. We all groaned. That is what kept happening when the refrigerator went out. But John noticed that the lights on the fridge control panel were lit, then Shane checked the fuse and it hadn't blown. Now we have all our food in our own refrigerator, rather than spread between a small, borrowed refrigerator, an ice chest and the Visitor Center kitchen.

Other good news is that we have moved into our permanent host site at Kodachrome. Early last week we had three rainstorms here, one a real downpour. Our newly-made site turned into a sea of mud and we were tracking it in all the time. This site, however, is crowned and covered with gravel and has numerous Utah Juniper trees for shade. It is great and will make the next four weeks very pleasant.

This is the cleanest park we have ever been in. The picnic tables are washed after each camper leaves, the fire pits and grills cleaned, the gravel and dirt raked and the concrete pad under the table swept. The restrooms are spotless—cleaned each morning and each evening.

Because of this standard of maintenance, the rainstorms created a lot of work. The rain and run-off caused erosion and brought mud cascading across roads, the paved nature trail and campground table pads. After the mud dried, roads, trails and pads had to be chipped—much like you chip ice—then shoveled off, then swept clean. Four of us worked hard and long to clean everything for the Labor Day weekend. Now, whenever we see clouds in the sky, we pray—please, no rain!

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