Posts Tagged ‘fire’

Wending our way through the Canyons

4th February 2011 by Helen

 

After our visit to the Island in the Sky we hung around Moab for a few days largely because the weather forecast had been for so much more cold weather.  With our water tank already frozen there seemed little likelihood of it defrosting anytime soon and it’s not only tedious having to defrost all your water for cooking, drinking and washing, it’s not that sensible to be camping out in isolated places when temperatures are below -15C.

Moab itself is a bit of a one horse town.  Because of the vast areas of canyons in this area it caters mainly for the summer tourist industry.  This time of year many of the stores that rely on a tourist presence are closed.  There remains open the usual plethora of fast food joints, along with a much recommended Moab Diner.  Jim, the man we met at the rest area when we first arrived in Moab recommended it to us and I’m ashamed to say we left it rather too long to try it.  Would happily have spent more time there.  Liver & onions, roast beef dinner – much better than the fast food stuff, and just as cheap if not cheaper.

rest area at night

rest area at night

Wednesday (2nd February) we debated long and hard where to camp tonight.  Should we return to the delightful little campsite we’d discovered previously, William’s Bottom, or opt for a cab sleep at the rest area just south of Moab.  If only we could combine the two – the beautiful scenery and peace and quiet of William’s Bottom, with somewhere to sit in the warm and facilities to have a warm wash in the morning of the rest area.  Eventually the rest area won, but it was a close call.

Kane Creek Road - the view ahead

Kane Creek Road - the view ahead

Thursday (3rd February), with the weather forecasts improving, we stopped in Moab to fill up on breakfast and fuel before setting off for the canyons again.  This time we are taking the 4×4 off-road route down through the canyons, starting off along Kane Creek Road and following the line of the Colorado River, before turning on to Lockhart Basin Road. 

icicle along the road - Kane Creek Road

icicle along the road - Kane Creek Road

Why am I here I wonder?  Heights are not my favourite thing.  I peer out of the window to see huge massive drops one side or the other for much of the time (Paul thinks this is a bit of an exaggeration).  Paul is driving oh so sensibly.  We are not racing madly round corners or doing anything daft but it suits me well to be peering carefully at the map and the GPS screen, comparing the two so I know exactly where we are, and negating any necessity to look at the scenes outside the window.  At other times I’m quite happy walking along taking photos of Paul driving, or the scenery from the vantage point of terra firma.

Here we are at Hurrach Pass

Here we are at Hurrach Pass

One of the marvels of this place is the lack of thoughtless desecration.  When we came across an abandoned beaten up camo style painted old caravan that had obviously been dumped in the canyon it was quite a surprise.  And I’ve seen no more than maybe half a dozen empty bottles or cans over the whole of the drive through this canyon.  There seems to be a pride here in looking after the land.  When graffiti does appear (such as at the rest area we visited), there’s someone around who will clean it off pretty quick.  What is evident however, is that any sign or marker (or abandoned old caravan), is used for target practice.  We’ve seen bullet holes in pretty much anything that’s not moving.  On the Pony Express trail many of the signs had bullet holes, as did an isolated mail box sat right on a T-junction, and all the signs at the Bonneville Salt Flats, to name just a few.

morning campsite - Lockhard Basin Road

morning campsite - Lockhard Basin Road

But back to today’s story.  Finally, the day is drawing to a close, signalled by a setting sun.  We are still well and truly in the middle of this canyon.  We are not legally allowed to camp anywhere along this road but there is no way we want to continue driving in the dark so we set up camp anyway.  Far enough away from a cliff edge to keep me happy of course.

Friday (4th February) we woke to beautiful sunshine again.  Frozen water, but beautiful sunshine.  Paul cooked up a luxury breakfast of bacon, eggs, sausages, mushrooms and tomatoes, while I slowly built up my resistance to the cold air outside my nice warm arctic sleeping bag.  We again admired the scenery here in the canyons before setting off.

Once again we are startled by the magnitude of the canyons.  We debated the geological history, the marvel of the creation of the canyons over such a vast region, the height and depth of them, the wonder of the layers of rock that have been a part of their formation.

firepot cookin - Indian Creek campsite

firepot cookin - Indian Creek campsite

We saw a few small rodents (a bit like voles or marmots, not sure exactly, they run so fast), the first creatures other than a few birds we have seen since entering the canyon.  Later we saw some deer tracks, and possible some cattle tracks.  And that’s pretty much it on the animal side.

By the middle of the afternoon we had reached the end of this stretch of road and arrived at the Visitor Centre in The Needles National Park.  Paul in particular was disappointed to learn that parts of the road he had wanted to drive are closed.  Elephant Hill had been recommended as a good piece of off road driving and a definite must for anyone visiting the area.  Except the park authorities say it is too dangerous still as there is still some snow and ice on the road.  With that section of the road closed it effectively cuts off the whole road and so we turned back to camp at a lovely little campsite we’d just passed, called Indian Creek campground.  Rather like the previous one we stayed at it’s quiet and peaceful, this time with a small brook running nearby.  The surface of the water is all frozen over but we could hear the water running underneath.  Paul got a good fire going in the fire pit that we used to cook up a stew for dinner. The stars came out and littered the sky with sparkling lights.  And so another cold night began.

 

Campsite – Indian Creek campsite – Indian Creek Reservation

Distance travelled – it’s taken us two days but we’ve covered about 90 miles since leaving Moab

Serendipity

23rd January 2011 by Helen

Serendipity – That really is going to have to be the title of a book about this trip.

taken from Antelope Island, Salt Lake

taken from Antelope Island, Salt Lake

We had planned to leave Antelope island today and ‘camp’ in a rest area on the way back to Salt Lake City tonight so we could hit the Mormon family history centre to look up Paul’s granddad who ran away to Africa when he was a teenager, before heading up to America and the gold rush in his 20’s and 30’s, before returning to England to raise a family.  However, we don’t have enough information about him yet (like his first name and his date of birth – a bit critical really), and this island is such a lovely place we decided to stay another night.

Jack-rabbits a-bound on Antelope Island

Jack-rabbits a-bound on Antelope Island

And so it was we took a walk around the northern end of the island, across the beach of the rare oolitic sand, took lots more photos of the snow capped mountains that surround this valley, perused the information in the visitor centre where I replaced the map of the Western States that had been stolen, saw some more jack-rabbits leaping across the rocks and grass, peered through binoculars at the grazing bison, and finally returned to our campsite to cook up some dinner.

Antelope Island, Salt Lake

Antelope Island, Salt Lake

One of the reasons for staying an extra night was the temptation to make use of the fire pit and have a burning log fire we could cook over.  We’d found some partly burned logs in the fire pits as well as having some wood of our own on board ready to burn.  Paul did the man thing and got a fire going, laid out the chicken on the grill, and started to cook the beef I’d already chopped up and put in the saucepan.  Some of the logs were a bit damp and not burning so well, so Paul added the special shop bought log we had with us – guaranteed to burn for three hours.  The flames leapt high around our chicken pieces and saucepan and so we had char-grilled chicken for supper.

The island had been quite busy today and a few people had driven slowly past while looking at our set up.  Occasionally one would stop and ask if they could take a photo.  Then right towards the end of the day another couple stopped (Buddy & Linda).  They were very keen to know about how our tent worked and we got chatting a bit.  Then the serendipity bit.  Would you know it, they had on board some spare maps of the very places we want to go and so we have now replaced most of the maps we lost in the theft in Salt Lake City.  Just need Mexico now!  They also gave us some much appreciated fresh fruit, grapefruit from California!!

Soon after darkness fell again.  The sky was clear of clouds and the stars hung in profusion above our heads before we hit our pillows for the night.

Campsite – Antelope Island

SLC Departure

22nd January 2011 by Helen
The Griggs family - thank you for being so welcoming

The Griggs family - thank you for being so welcoming

It has to happen sooner or later.  We have to move on.  We wouldn’t be travelling otherwise.  It’s always sad and difficult when you’ve got to know people well.  We took photos with Tom and Jen and the kids, played with Lexi the dog, couldn’t find TC the cat, and waved goodbye.

Way back in Mongolia, I recalled the words of my first ever 45 rpm record, back in about 1970 – Lee Marvin’s “Wandrin’ Star”.  Strange to think he sang, “Do you know where hell is, hell is in hello, heaven is goodbye forever, it’s time for me to go”.  We don’t think that’s true.  We’ve enjoyed meeting so many people and we sincerely hope we will be able to keep in touch with them over the coming months and years.  Having finally braved getting myself a Facebook account, that might even be easier now.  So thanks to Tom & Jenny for all your help and for putting up with us for so long, to Bill & Monie (did I spell that right?), for all your help with contacts and parts, and the rest of the local LR club for welcoming us, and again to Pete & Laura for being our first introduction to Salt Lake City.

No wonder the professional photographers were lining up for this scene

No wonder the professional photographers were lining up for this scene

And so it was we headed first a little north towards the big salt lake after which Salt Lake City is named.  Second only to the Dead Sea for salinity only the brine shrimp and brine flies can live in its waters.  The birds love it though and feed on the shrimp and flies to their hearts’ content.  Salinity levels vary between 4% and 28% depending on seasons, depth, evaporation, and such like.  The lake is fed by four major rivers but with no outlet other than evaporation the minerals brought down to the lake are left behind. As the river waters enter the lake there may be some ice forming on the surface in winter but it will always be thin due to the concentration of salts below.

We followed the road from the Interstate to Antelope Island, named after the first animals seen by early explorers of the island.  The ground is largely rock and sand.  The sand here is unusual – oolitic sand it is made up of tiny spherical balls where minerals grains or brine shrimp fecal pellets are coated by concentric layers of aragonite, a form of calcium carbonate, rather like the formation of pearls.  There are few natural trees on the island, which has a mountain range running down the centre.

Sunset over Salt Lake, Utah

Sunset over Salt Lake, Utah

Being on the island is an exercise in contrasts.  On the one hand the land is very barren, despite some 40 freshwater springs.  There are few natural trees, a mountain range running down the centre, bison and antelopes grazing, and jack-rabbits, to name just the animals we saw, as well as oodles of bird life coming and going throughout the year – we saw mainly magpies and some smaller birds in the distance we didn’t identify.  The views across the lake towards the mountains are spectacular and almost free of mankind’s influence.  However, if you look carefully you can see the lights of the city nestling in the foothills of the mountains.  At the weekends there are plenty of visitors with their cars touring the island.  Bridger Bay, where we camped, is one of the designated campgrounds and although it is classified as ‘basic’ by US standards, there are plenty of facilities.  Each camping spot is marked by a picnic bench and fire pit with side table for food preparation.  Behind or to the side of each campsite is a small tree that has been planted.  Vault (ie non flushing) toilets are strategically placed within the campsite area and a large trash receptacle is off to the side.

Once darkness had settled (and the temperature dropped) so the quiet of a non-occupied place replaced the noise of the occasional traffic and a peaceful night was had by all.

Campsite – Antelope Island, Salt Lake, Utah

Distance travelled – 30 miles