Thursday, May 28, 2009

Colorado finally

It feels so so nice to be back in Colorado. The plan was to see the border from the tourist-trap Four Corners Monument, but after realizing that you have to pay $3 just to experience an imaginary line, I saw it a little down the road instead: "Welcome to colorful Colorado". Indeed. Rewind:

The best hitch ever got me from Zion to Kanab. L.B. and I split in Zion, me heading south, her going north. I got a lift from Sam, who was excited to finally meet another hiker and was going to give me a lift to the hwy in La Verkin, which is where I'd get a ride to Springdale, then thru the park back to my bike in Kanab. Once we got to La Verkin, he said he'd give me a ride all the way to Springdale, 20 miles away, if we could switch vehicles from SUV to convertible. Hell yes Sam!!! He had this sweet vintage Oldsombele something or another and we cruised in that to zion. Incredible weather. Incredible. The top was down and Sam says, "It's a holiday weekend, why not just go all the way to Kanab?". I'm never one to turn down generosity, although this was pushing it as it was 90 minutes out of his way, one-way. He was into it, and I could tell that meeting me was fueling his need for adventure. A little bit of drizzle didn't cause us to put the top up, and we cruised past the distusting number of people in Zion for Memorial Day in style.

In Zion I met the owner of the outfitter and got my bike out of his garage, but not after a double shot of espresso from his shop. The ride out of town was incredibly fast. I checked up on flash flood contision (moderate) at the BLM office and filled up on water before backtracking a tiny down the washboardy and very rough House Rock Valley Rd. 7 miles later I was at the Wire Pass trailhead to hike Buckskin Gulch. The clouds were creepy overhead, but I decided to enter the slot anyway. I had seen these clouds before, and they always usually just wind up dropping precip that evaporates before it hits the ground. Not this time. I made it a mile into the slot, working my way thru chokestones and wading in knee-deep puddles, before I got scared by being inside of a slot during the rain. I really didn't want to become "that guy". The guy who went into the slot while it was raining and was killed. That's okay because I didn't have enough time in the day to hike the thing properly. I need a couple of days to hike all the way to the Paria River and maybe down that canyon a ways. Maybe all the way down the Paria to Lee's Ferry. Geez LB was a bad influence....

The next morning showed off it's clear blue skies and I hiked the other direction from the trailhead toward the Coyote Buttes and The Wave. I've linked a pic to The Wave before, and I"m sad that I'm not able to upload any photos at this library of the area. This was probably my favorite section of UT. NO trails other than some crappy cairn work to lead you over and around navajo sandstone that was colored all sorts of pastel colors that reminded me a lot of Bryce: pink, purple, peach, white, orange... So incredible. 2 miles later I got to the wave, which added in red and black to the well as a knee-deep puddle to wade thru. I was the first person out there, so I had the thing all too myself. What a strange strange area. I'll be back, probably when I return to hike the Buckskin, which was also phenomenal.

Took off and made it to Page, AZ that afternoon. First I had to cross Glen Canyon Dam, which was more disgusting than I had guessed it would be. The canyon itself was beautiful, and I find it hard to completely hate the dam and all it stands for because the canyon is so beautiful with that deep blue water sitting in it. Still, there were power lines and support lines and all sorts of disgusting crap destroying an area that would otherwise be an area that could seriously rival the Grand Canyon.....

Page. Page was insanely crowded, noisy, but surprisingly green. It's 2 miles up on a hill that gives a great view of the canyons below and beyond, but sadly this view couldn't save the town. Fixed a punctured tube, made lots of cookie dough, and got the heck out of there under more scary black skies. I made it about 10 miles out of town, and started to realize that the people around here (surely not ALL Navajos) like the following: liquor, littering, and drunk driving. There were shattered bottles all over the shoulder of the road, I"m talking exponentially more than I've seen anywhere else. I weaved through those and tried to find something to ride on out of the way of traffic. This wasn't easy since there was also a 2 foot wide, teeth-chattering, rumble strip to steal 2/3 of the shoulder from me. Sob story I know. At least I wasn't at work... At dusk I found a way thru the CONSTANT barbed wire fences lining the rd onto some private property and hid amongst the desert shrub staring at the remnants of a nice sunset.

My math told me that I needed to average around 88 miles a day to get back to CB by June 1st. To me that was a good excuse to try to ride my first 100 mile day. 100 miles on a mtn bike, with semi-knobby tires, and out of cycling-shape. Since my internet time is running short, I'll just say I was lucky to get to mile 107 and call it a day to a phenomenal sunset. I had planned to ride less, but the noisy noisy disgusting Navajo town of Kayenta made me get the heck out of there prematurely. At least that town has a cool view of some of the rock of Monument VAlley, which appeared to be more beautiful than I had imagined.

And here I am in Cortez, CO after another 100 miles. Thought I successfully waited out a lightning storm under an abandoned gas station only to find it start up again nearby, and it sure was hard to get the fast pace I had imagined when I was already 80 miles into my day! The lightning was fantastic though...I saw at least 15 strikes less than 2 miles away from the safety, at first, of my clear patch of sky.

Durango tomorrow. San Juans tomorrow! And predicted rain. sigh...

Friday, May 22, 2009

Grand Canyon traverse

It's been a while, and I'm still not going to be able to give a respectable update.

Lovebarge invited me to tag along for a remote Grand Canyon adventure, complete with illegal permits and bushwacking, and I knew that I couldn't say "no". We met up in Kanab where I was allowed to stash my bike in the local outfitters garage for an indefinite amount of time, and started the hitch south to the North Rim of the G.C. At Jakob's Lake, the road down to the North Rim is closed until May 15th, and since we were there earlier than that, we had planned to hike a mix of roads and part of the Arizona Trail to get to the Nankoweep Trailhead. We got to the rim quickly, and hiked for a couple of days until we got to the Colorado River. Hitched across the river on a raft. Hung out at the turquoise-colored waters of the Little Colorado River for hours, completely amazed with that beautiful water. Hiked many hot hot hot days near the bottom of the canyon where it was consistently 100 degrees or more. Hopped in the river everytime that we could to cool off. After 6 days of hiking, we got to the South Rim to resupply and experience the zoo that is the South Rim. Surprisingly we hadn't seen very many people for those previous 6 days other than rafters at the river. Now there was an annoying amount of people and RVs and such...but at least we got a shower, clean clothing, and an amazing dinner.

6 more days down in the canyon. A hitch across the river. Hiking across seriously sketchy scree-slopes, off-trail, down beautiful and wild side-canyons. In Saddle Canyon, we were surprised to find some really steep slickrock that we had to negogiate. We would sit on our butts and slide down the rock into pools of cold water that were sometimes chest-deep. Had to carry packs above the head to keep contents dry. A few 10 to 15 foot drops off of huge boulders to get down-canyon.

Great great adventure.

I'll make another post, hopefully with pictures, when I get back to my bike in Kanab on Monday.

Thursday, May 7, 2009


quick quick post from Springdale. No photos, no time.

about halfway done with the trip and in Zion NP. Ran out of food, but luckily there is free shuttle service to the town of Springdale, 1 mile away, which is hiking distance really. Zion is so much more impressive than I would have guessed. I've seen Bryce too. and more stuff. And hiked. Time to get out of here doing trip logistics and get some overpriced food and hike the infamous Angel's Landing Trail. All of the slots are too full with water, so no slot canyons for me on this trip.

Photos and a legit writeup maybe tomorrow if I make it out of Zion and to the town of Kanab to resupply for the next remote remote section of the trip. Details to follow...

Saturday, May 2, 2009

a photo

I'm lazy and don't want to dig the full memory card out of my belongings, so here is the only photo on my current memory card.

Friday, May 1, 2009


oh I hate these rushed entries. I made it to Escalante, UT a little bit earlier than expected. My plan was to stop and camp on Hole-in-the-Rock Road a few miles out of town and zero tomorrow, but grand visions of the splendor of Esclante started to rush through my brain and I just had to ride those last few downhill miles, into a headwind, to town. Well it's not all that great, but I digress...

When was the last entry. Monticello??? Well, I left Monticello and did a lazy 11 miles south and camped on some Forest Service land. It was fun to ride my bike again, proving that my time off in Monticello was a good idea. Just to prove this, I was treated to an incredible sunset, the best of the this mother nature approving of my rest? The next day wasn't so easy...

I went through Blanding, but first in Blanding I went to Edge of the Cedars museum. It was a really incredible museum that spotlighted the ancient Puebloan culture that was prevalant all thoughout this area of SE Utah. The one thing that really blew my mind was a pair of handmade sandles (of course they were handmade, they were nearly 1,000 yrs old). These sandles were just incredible. What else can I say???

So I left and turned West on Hwy 85(??) Why is it that everytime I head west there seems to be wind? are there typically prevailing winds that always out of the west??? onward.....this road was quiet. Much quieter than I had expected. There was absolutely NOTHING on this road for 40+ miles until you get to Natl Bridges Natural Monument, my destination for the evening. But first ...that wind. hill after hill after hill into the hill was the ultimate frustration. I did see a really incredible Cliff Dwelling a mile off the road set in a beautiful alcove. Really incredible I say. Back on that dang road. Well I made it to Natural Bridges after really loving the fact that I only saw one car every 10 minutes. Found a spot out of the incessant wind next to a tourist overlook and read for hours. Waited for the sunset then stealth camped on BLM land just out of the park. The next day I had planned to hike a 9 mile loop hike passing the 3 main arches of the park, but decided to bail after 2 because I was low on food.

Now the riding was pretty good. Less hills. Less wind. Even less cars. The terrain started to get really strange, especially as I did the long long climb up Clay Hills Pass. The hills were colored purple, grey, red, orange...really really really really oddly surprised and felt like it was one of the most surreal places I've ever been to. After the pass there was easy riding out to Hall's Crossing, 60 miles after Natural Bridges, and my resupply spot. Or so I thought. I rolled in at 5:30 to find the stores closed. I'm so lucky that the heat had stifled my appetite enough to save my dinner.

Next morning I woke up, took the ferry across lake Powell to Bullfrog, and bought cookies, chips, and mac-n-cheese. Lots of uphill to get out of the lake, then it finally mellowed out and I was on the Burr Trail. I had been looking forward to this road for a while since I knew it went thru some really remote landscapes. The only views I got for a while were of the Henry Mtns (last mtns to be names in the US), and the Waterpocket Fold. If you've never heard of the Waterpocket Fold, google it. I followed this 100 mile spine pushing up through the earth for a while, then entered Capital Reef National Park. There were strange strange silver cliffs to my right, and that multi-colored Waterpocket Fold to the west. I took a side trip into Headquarters Narrows, which was a really fun hike into the interior of the Fold. I'm not going to write more about that Fold, but I could do an entire entry on how fascinating it was.

So I made it to the legendary Burr Trail Switchbacks, the only time I've seen switchbacks labeled on a road map. They were really really wide switchbacks that looked like a hiking trail climbing a steep mtn. I walked the bike here since the road was loose gravel and corrugated and STEEP. Pushing was good since I was snapping pics every 2 minutes.

I camped somewhere before long canyon. Was amazed by the sheer cliffs in Long Canyon blah blah blah. Then I hit UT 12, what a road. Went through the town of Boulder, which was a really cool rural town. Started the scenic byway, road up 'The Hogsback" which at parts was a really fun ride up on the top of what felt like a ridge, a ridge that dropped away at both sides and there was only enough space to make a two laned road up there. What a fun road. Sandstone dunes.

So I'm in Escalante now, and amazingly met triple-crown hiker trash LoveBarge here. She's hiking the Hayduke Trail right now and happened to come into town for some water purification stuff. Time to buy a bottle of wine for Utah storytelling...

I love Utah. Next up is 3 days of backpacking in Bryce Canyon. Can't wait.