Friday, June 30, 2017

June 2017 monthly ski - RMNP Trailridge Road snow patch

Trailridge Road in Rocky Mountain National Park is a much appreciated go-to ski for June. It didn't disappoint us: almost warm, breezy, easy hike to corn snow patch - we even got a close-in parking spot.

the tundra rolls right to the sky 
reminds me of old gunslinger pictures

we get great clouds in the Rockies

N bags his June ski
go N, go!
I did not photoshop out my poles. really. why would anyone do that?

O say can you see
just a dollop of corn snow

O nabs June
T gets the dramatic backdrop

hero shot

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Visiting the new Bear's Ears National Monument - Wow! post7

Our thoughts turn to the way home - we take roads North through the highlands of Bear's Ears National Monument.

Our route in a nutshell: follow FR088 and when it turns into Road 107, keep following it.

It's the boonies and some of the roads have multiple names so I'll write it out:
Take Elk Mountain Road up from Hwy 95, turning onto Gooseberry Road to stay high, winding past vistas and what looked like great dispersed camping to either side, skirting the top edge of Dark Canyon (VERY dangerous when wet!), turning into Bridger Jack road AKA North Cottonwood Road AKA Road 107 (Google calls it the Beef Basin Rd), skirting the top of Salt Creek and finally descending all the way back to Hwy 211 (AKA Park Highway).
Whew! From there it's a short drive to Newspaper Rock and then 1 1/2 hours drive to Moab.

IMPORTANT NOTE on the route: there's a potentially deep creek ford just before you hit Hwy 211.
So if you're doing the route South-to-North like we did, there's a possibility of being trapped at the ford, just a stone's throw from the paved road.

so THAT's where all those shots came from

typical scene on the Elk Mountain Road
Dark Canyon. pop quiz: this photo shows a feature that indicates cattle have been grazed down at the bottom - probably starting many decades ago. what is that feature? go ahead and click for the big version

looking South East into one of the upper drainages of Cottonwood Creek
big gorgeous clouds 

Daddy's taking pictures while driving!!!! (just kidding)

skirting the rim of Salt Canyon (an excellent backpack trip in Canyonlands National Park)

camp. note the old cottonwood on the rim about 15 vertical feet above 

more than meets the eye. #1 see that sand cliff behind? it's about 15 feet high. most of the valley bottom is up at that level - a big flat expanse. #2 see that stuff hung up on the tree, right over the creek? it's flood debris roughly 6 feet above the current creek.
#3 from the rim above you can see an old cottonwood at the upper level (many more huge dead ones out of sight behind the camera) and a bunch of young ones down in the lower area. this pattern is no accident. it's produced by Arroyo Subsidence and you see it all across the West where cattle have been grazed. cattle trample creeks and overgraze the plants that stabilize the banks. floods then rapidly cut down into the creek beds and the entire water table lowers to match. the result is this: where once there was a broad well-watered, fairly flat bottomland, now there's a wide, bone-dry bench above a deep, narrow-cut creek. this is not the natural way things erode. it's unbelievably common, but it's not natural, it's cattle.

So the answer to the Dark Canyon pop quiz is arroyo subsidence - that telltale red line of sand cliffs down at the bottom of the canyon.

the kids love playing in sand. umbrellas just make it better

Did I mention that it poured on us? When it started it was almost comical - each raindrop made a little puff of dust, almost like a tiny explosion. Very Zen. Here's the YouTube video

singing in the rain
Newspaper rock. I LOVE modern photography. this panel is insanely hard to photograph because of it's size, minute details, and how close you are to it (and because I don't carry a ladder, I guess). but my iPhone's panorama mode scooped the whole thing in, no problem at all
a detail of the wackiness on this panel. across the top: sheep, flying squirrel, bear prints, bison, bear prints, elk, shaman. deer hoof prints on left side. check out that guy in the middle with power lines squiggling from his head. horses (and wagon wheels - see main pic) are fairly modern.

Our verdict on Bear's Ears: WOW!

Our one suggestion: Think ahead in years and try to imagine one big thing that would make this National Monument a great park...paving the Bridger Jack and Elk Mountain roads. We know that's a controversial thing to say but we believe current political events overwhelmingly support the idea that poor access leads to poor protection (and invites outright attack). Doesn't this park deserve (essentially one) real road? There are lots and lots of dirt roads here and they're all horrors when wet - a person could be stuck for days and days. So we recommend a little pavement...

We're going back in Fall to the lowlands near Comb Ridge. Cooler and no biting flies - sign us up!

Here's a short editorial about Bear's Ears that hits the current-politics-nail on the head:

Visiting the new Bear's Ears National Monument - Wow! post6

Bluff was a nice treat but it was time to start exploring North. We took the tourist route back up: through the Valley of the Gods and up the Moki Dugway.

pleasant sightseeing from the car in Valley of the Gods

Then we hopped over to the Fish/Owl trailhead and did the barely 1/4mi walk to the kiva at the top of Owl canyon.

Owl canyon

little tiny kiva ruin (I think we're starting to get spoiled)
back to 7500ft for camp

campfire and a movie—I mean book

Visiting the new Bear's Ears National Monument - Wow! post5

A bright and sparkly morning...

the morning bed-head contest

big blue sky

Monument Valley in the distance

We went back down to the Kane Gulch Ranger Station and stumbled into our day's Anasazi adventure: Moonhouse. This is the good stuff. Only 20 people per day allowed. A serious scramble down one side of a valley and up the other side. A bunch of buildings; one with a corridor you can actually go into. Corridor??? Yee-haw!

Moonhouse ruin

Major ruins like this one have ammo boxes with a write-up of the ruin in them. They're always worth a read. Click these for bigger versions.
Moonhouse is a late period structure with a stick-and-mud wall construction of the inside rooms that was obviously much faster and easier to make than foot-thick stone walls. It also has a stone outer wall with a hallway inside and separate rooms off the hallway.

We have never seen anything like this before in our Anasazi ruin hunting. What a lovely surprise!

up into the main structure's hallway

dark rooms. thick looking smoke marks on the ceiling
walls between rooms -woven sticks covered with mud
inner room with painted decoration

looking + not touching + not going inside = excellent Moonhouse behavior

this decoration appears fairly often in this area. clan mark?

a granary further along the rim. there was lots more that we didn't have time for on this trip

back we went...

pool day!

We were hot and dirty. Time to check into civilization for a shower, email, Deuce orders and the pool. Our favorite spot for that: the Recapture Lodge in Bluff, UT.