Thursday, June 23, 2011

2500 miles and counting.........

Today marks my 26th day on the road and my odometer has clicked off just over 2500 miles. Maybe my standards are getting a bit low (or my stench unbearable) but a shower was an absolutely divine way to start the day!

Now before you go and say that the shower looks gross consider that is smelled clean. I talked with the owner of the motel and that he had recently purchased the place and was starting to make upgrades. He then told me a few stories of when he backpacked in Africa and fought off a baboon with an ice ax......not sure why he had an ice ax in Africa? Nevertheless I had a good time listening.

Although the day was cool I loaded up the cooler with ice and headed up to Hells Backbone. I climbed the road to 9000 feet above sea level where it was lightly raining and a few random snow flakes drifted down.

This is the Hells Backbone bridge. As you can see its a long way to the canyon floor below on either side. This road was the first automobile route connecting the towns of Escalante and Boulder. Until the 30's the only way to get to Boulder was along a rough and rugged wagon trail. When president Roosevelt announced the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) the town jumped at the chance to get a road built. The road was completed in 1933 and served as the towns lifeline to the outside world. The road climbs high into the mountains between the two towns. Because of its location the winter snow often blocked the route and travel was redirected to the old wagon roads. It wasn't until 1940 that an all weather (highway 12) was built. Once highway 12 was built the town of boulder was no longer isolated as it was in the past.

A section of "rip gut" fence in boulder. The residences here were so isolated that they had to construct fences with what local materials they could find. Store bought fencing was just too difficult to obtain. Boulder town was so isolated that they were one of the last areas in the United States to have mail delivered by mule train. Now only two such routes exist, both in the Grand Canyon. Also interestingly enough the town didn't get electricity until 1947. The homes in Salt Gulch didn't receive power until 1953! A reminder of the remoteness and ruggedness of the landscape here.

Heading down the Burr Trail towards the Waterpocket Fold. The Burr trail was built in the 1880's as a route to move cattle from boulder to winter pastures near the Colorado River.

I made a quick side trip to the Wolverine Petrified Forest. (no the standing isn't petrified.....I just thought it looked cool) The ground in the washes here is littered with bits of petrified wood from trees that lived here 225 million years ago. During this time the region was much closer to the equator and was covered in a wet sub tropical forest. The hike from the trail head is about a mile long and it leads you to large petrified trunks of ancient trees. I started down the wash when I stepped on a cactus......went strait through the sole of my boot in several spots. I couldn't get one spine that was lodged deep in my flesh without the aid of tweezers. So I hobbled back to the Jeep.

And for a public service announcement about visitor registers. It may seem trivial to sign in and out but it could save your life! Something as simple as sprained ankle miles from the trail head could suddenly turn into a life threatening situation. Without signing in and out there is almost no way of knowing how long a vehicle has been at the trail head, how many were in the group or where the occupants disappeared to. The desert doesn't care who you are, if you are unprepared it can and will take your life.

I hobbled my way up to the overlook above the Waterpocket Fold. The view and geology here is amazing! The fold is a series of reefs that stretch for 90 miles from north to south. The fold is also home to the life sustaining waters of the Fremont River.

I headed down the Burr Trail switchbacks and made it north to the southern most campsite in Capitol Reef National Park. I pulled up to the cedar mesa campground and made camp. I hopped into the tent to exhausted to even make dinner.

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