Friday, May 31, 2013

Delicate Arch Hike; Rodeo

Yesterday Trisha and I took slightly different paths.  She needed a break from hiking and going, so we found a spa in Moab for her to have a massage.  We were so happy they had an opening, sine we called on short notice.  Anyway, it was another glorious sunny day, and I felt like doing some more hiking, so Trisha drove me to Arches; first we stopped at the visitors center, where I unloaded my bike and left it.  Then she drove me to the trailhead for the Delicate Arch hike and then came back down to Moab, where she had a relaxing morning, enjoying the cool shade of the campground, talking to a friend back home, and then strolling downtown to the spa.

I hiked up to the Delicate Arch, and it was a wonderful hike.  Just as you start up the trail there is a rock face with some interesting petroglyphs, done by ancient Ute Indians.  Then up the trail, great views going up, lots of hiking across expanses of petrified sand dunes--often called slickrock--where the trail is marked by a series of cairns, put out by the rangers.  Fortunately these are pretty easy to follow on this trail, plus there were lots of people on the trail.  In some places we've been, apparently some misguided people have either moved trail marking cairns, or sometimes build "false" trail cairns, just for laughs, according to one ranger we talked to the other day.  Sad that some folks seem to feel that the only way to get their kicks is at the expense of others.  Anyway, it was a wonderful hike.  On the way up, I met several folks we had seen on other hikes in the last few days--always fun to compare notes.  Saw the German family we had seen the day before at Canyonlands--the ones with whom we were trying to converse in German when my Spanish interfered.  Well, the man first greeted me in Spanish this time!  So we had a delightful conversation, with his wife and daughter speaking German, him speaking a mix of Spanish and German, me speaking German and English--a veritable little UN gathering on the Delicate Arch Trail!!  Just lots of fun.  Met some delightful folks from Norway a little farther up the trail.

Got to the top and stopped to eat a bite and rest a bit.  Lots of folks up there, including a number of pretty small children, which was impressive that they were doing this hike, and one family with the 79 year old mother shuffling along--that was really impressive!!  Anyway, while I was sitting there, looking at the famous arch on one side and looking out over a sheer drop to the other, seemingly on top of the world, I noticed a young family right behind me, with 2 small children, a boy who looked to be about 6 or 7, and his sister, who could not have been more than 4.  They were scampering around, eating fresh cherries, and the little girl was so adorable, with cherry stains all over her cheeks and chin!  As they were about to finish their lunch and go over for a closer view of the arch, the little boy noticed me and his eyes got real big when I gave him a Santa picture.  Then his sister came running over, jumping into my lap, so Mom could take a picture of them with Santa, and the Delicate Arch as the background--really fun!  Then there was this young woman, looked to be an early twenty something, doing a reverse handstand, forming an arch with her body, right on the edge of the rock, while her boyfriend took pictures--her body arch in the foreground, the Delicate Arch in the background.  It was just a really fun, festive atmosphere up there, and the arch is so amazing--different when you look at it from different spots, even just a few feet one way or the other.

Met a nice couple from Indiana on the way down and we had a great visit as we hiked back.  When "arch woman" and her boyfriend passed us on the way down, they were saying it reminded them of when they hiked along the Great Wall in China and this young woman started doing handstands and then walking on her hands along the wall!  Got down from the hike and hitched a ride back to the visitors center with a young couple from Virginia.  They said they were about to move to Columbus, Georgia, and when I told him were I was from he said he'd be up in Dahlonega eventually, I knew he was in the Army, as that's where they do Ranger training, and I guessed right that they were headed to Ft. Benning.   When I asked him how long he had been in the Army, he said, "Officially, just a few days--I just graduated from West Point Saturday." I asked him how he liked his experience at West Point, and he said he liked it a whole lot better now that it was in his rear view mirror!  It was fun to talk with them, they'd just gotten married and it reminded me of when Trisha and I were just starting out  on our life adventure together, listening them talk about what life may have in store for them.

Had a wonderful bike ride for the 4 miles back into Moab, as there's this terrific paved bike trail along the road but totally separated from the vehicular traffic--boy, do I enjoy finding these  bike paths, where you can jut enjoy the scenery and the ride, without having to worry about cars and trucks!  The only hazard I encountered was a young mother, with her small child in a bike trailer, coming toward me on the trail--and she was texting!!  She veered out of her lane and almost ran into me; couldn't believe it.  But I made it back to town safe and sound, just in time to stop by the spa to wait for Trisha to finish up her massage, and we walked back to the campground together.

The folks in the site next to us told us they were on their way to a farmers market in the local park, so we went and it was a delightful setting.  Not too may booths of produce, but some delicious looking tomatoes and greens and radishes, which we stocked up on.  And this one woman had the most amazing strawberries we've ever eaten.  We heard this woman excitedly exclaim as she bit into one and then when we sampled a couple, the same thing happened--it was just this involuntary squeal of surprise and delight at how delicious they were!  So we now have some wonderful strawberries in  the fridge.

Then off to the rodeo, and what fun we had.  It had been probably 20 years since we'd been to a rodeo, and we really had a good time.  It was fun to see all the little kids, hanging on to the fence as the riders came around during the pre-rodeo warm ups just to get a closer look at the horses, and the kids were so excited when some of the riders would stop and let them pet their horses.  Not too many of the pictures turned out, since there was so much movement and most of it was coming across our field of vision, so just got a lot of blurry shots.  I'll include a couple of them from the bareback bronco event, though, just to convey a little sense of how fast paced the action is.  8 seconds is a long time when you're on the back of a big, strong and active animal!  I didn't remember this, but I was actually surprised that more of the riders made it the full 8 seconds on the bareback broncos than the saddle bronc riders.  The rodeo clown was good, too, and he really entertained the crowd.  The brand new cheerleaders from the local middle school were selling programs, and he got them all engaged in some of his routines.  They also had 3 kids events, for any kids who wanted to sign up--the stick horse races, the greased pig chase, and the "mutton busters" sheep rides.  The sheep rides were probably the most entertaining, as they had kids under 10, outfitted with flak jackets and helmets, holding onto the back of a sheep as they let it out of the bull riding chute--it's hard to describe, but seeing these little kids hanging on for dear life as the sheep would come running across the arena was just a hoot!  One little girl made it all the way across the arena before she fell off!  Then the sheep would just go gather at one end of the arena until they all had finished and were herded out to their pens.  Then the classic ending event--the bull riding, billed as the most dangerous sport of all.  It is amazing to see the beating these guys take on top of these huge bulls.  And the clowns and bullfighters are quite impressive, too, as they have the job of distracting the bull after the cowboy is thrown, so the bull hopefully won't stomp the vulnerable cowboy.  Takes a lot of skill and agility, and they're face to face with a not too happy hunk of beef!  Anyway, a great evening, though it did keep us up past our bedtime!!

As we've been sitting here this morning, reflecting on all that we've seen so far, Trisha came across this quote in one of the brochures she was clipping for her journal, and it's most apropos:

Wilderness is not a luxury, but a necessity of the human spirit--Edward Abbey

Some pics from yesterday:

Ute petroglyphs, first shot is the story board by the wall

 The ones in the lower part of the photo are a bit harder to see, as the sun was pretty bright on this part o the rock wall, while the upper part was in shade, making it easier to see the definition

Heading up the trail

Views along the trail on the way up

Delicate Arch

Crossing the Colorado on the bike path bridge on the ride back to Moab

Beautiful little city park where the farmers market was set up--band playing, families picnicking, children playing on the playground, with the mountains in the background--just delightful!

 Some booths were craft wares, some petition sign ups, in addition to the produce


Rodeo:  drill team from Junction City, CO, all using side saddles and dressed in 1800's period costumes, showing the style that women rode back then

The announcer

Bareback bronc rider ready to come out of the chute
 Oh my aching back!

The clown

Doing his Evil Kneval imitation, using a mini cycle, a table for a ramp, and two brave guys willing to lie down at the end of the table

The sheep, after the Mutton Busting
 Kids getting ready to chase the greased pigs
 Stick horse races
 The clown in the barrel for the bull rides, but, unlike the last rodeo we went to, no bull butted the barrel

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Dead Horse Point State Park; Canyonlands National Park

Today we headed for Dead Horse Point State Park to start the day--had heard about this place and really wanted to see it.  It's about 20 miles or so from Arches and it's often called Utah's Grand Canyon.  Learned that it has been the setting for many movies, for scenes that many think were shot in the actual Grand Canyon.  I suppose one reason is that it is much less crowded, but it is really beautiful.  The Colorado runs through it and, since it's much smaller than the Grand Canyon, you get some really good views of the river as it twists and turns along the canyon floor.  The orientation film talks about a scene from Tom Cruise's Mission Impossible II that was shot there, but perhaps the most famous scene was in Thelma and Louise, where they drove off the cliff into the great beyond.  So we knew we just had to see it!

It's still so amazing that we can be so close to so many places here in southern Utah that are in close proximity to each other, but yet are so different from each other.  This was no exception.  It was nice to be in a much smaller place, with many fewer people, and have a little more space.  It was a gloriously beautiful day, with brilliant blue in the sky, red red rocks in the canyon walls, and white snow on the peaks of the La Sal Mountains--just gorgeous!  We drove to the end of the scenic drive in the park, right at Dead Horse Point, to view the canyon.  As the orientation film explained, the Colorado goes through all these twists and turns, or meanderings, in the words of the narrator, with faster moving water going around the turns on one side of the turn than the other, gradually, but continually wearing away at the walls.  There's one place where the river goes around this one section of a butte, making it look almost like an island, and as the narrator explains, one day the river will just eat through it so it won't be there at all.  Fascinating!!  So we spent some time looking at the canyon, and it's nice there where you can walk both the east rim and the west rim pretty easily, and see both sides.

By the way, the name of this park comes from legend, according to the brochure.  Seems that in the 1800's cowboys would round up wild horses in the area and put them on the small mesa, which made a natural corral.  They put up fences, to keep horses from coming down off the mesa, and supposedly a group took the horses they wanted, but left a large number of horses behind, fenced in on top of the mesa, above the Colorado River, but with no access to water, and the horses died.  Pretty crappy bunch of cowboys, if you ask me.

Then we headed to nearby Canyonlands National Park, where the Green and Colorado Rivers cut through the park, dividing it into three distinct areas: Island in the Sky, where we visited today, the Needles, and the Maze.  Island in the Sky is the most easily accessible area of Canyonlands, Needles is accessible, but a good bit farther from Moab, while the Maze is backcountry and much less accessible.  Island in the Sky is aptly named, as it is essentially a large mesa, almost, but not completely, surrounded by the canyon.  You definitely get the feeling you are on an island in the sky when you walk the rim trail here.  Anyway, we did a couple of hikes and really enjoyed it.  It's a park where there are very few facilities, no food or lodging, which means the crowds are smaller here as well.  But it is a very beautiful park, and is one of what we've seen sometimes referred to as Utah's Five Diamonds, or some such similar phrase.  Anyway, we've been to all of them now--Zion, Bryce, Capitol Reef, Arches and Canyonlands.  At Canyonlands we hiked first at the end of the park, which was a relatively easy hike, but with some spectacular views of the canyon, and the trail leads right along the rim of the canyon.  We were joking with another couple about our age that we were glad we didn't come here when the kids were younger, as close to the rim and consequent dropoff to the canyon floor as the trail was.  Shelley would have been consoling Trisha as she tried not to have heart failure while Todd and Jeremy would have been pushing the limits, seeing how close to the edge they could come!!  We then hiked a short trail out to Mesa Arch, the only arch in Canyonlands, but the views through this arch were  really special and unique.  Got back to Moab and visited a couple of the galleries and shops in town, and found a really wonderful shop with all sorts of southwestern art--almost overwhelming there were so many beautiful things here.  It was fun as well to be able to recognize the Acoma pieces they had for sale here, and nice to be able to remember what we had learned visiting there!  There's a rodeo here starting tomorrow, and as we were walking down the street we encountered some of the rodeo cowboys, cowgirls and bullfighters who were all duded up, promoting the show.  At the time we had not decided if we were going to stay here another night, but later decided to do so, so hopefully we'll still be able to get tickets to the rodeo for tomorrow night.  Decided we needed a day to just chill and take it easy--realized we were close to experiencing sensory overload, so it's time to just rest easy for a day.  Anyway, when we got back to the campground and as I was hooking up, the couple in the RV next to us said they had seen us in Zion last week, and asked if they could have their picture taken with Santa for their grandkids.  So we had some pictures and I signed Santa cards for their grandkids, while they told us places in their home state of Michigan we should definitely try to see when we're there later in our trip.  It was nice, too, to be able to share some of our experiences in places they haven't yet visited that they want to see eventually.  Really nice folks, and it's always fun to compare notes about RVing, and to learn what different people from the same state will tell you are the must see places in their respective states.

So here are some pics from today:

Shots as we approached the visitors center at Dead Horse Point

The picture doesn't really capture the color, but we saw these smooth as glass, brilliant cobalt blue surfaces that we thought were water, or lakes, but just not moving at all.  We asked in the visitors center and it's apparently part of a commercial potash mining operation, and they add cobalt to the water for this particular part of the processing of the potash they mine.

Dead Horst Point, like some other parks we've visited, is a habitat for Desert Big Horn Sheep, but we've so far not been able to sight any for real--this is the stuffed one in the visitors center.
Looking down into the canyon

Here is the promontory with the Colorado flowing around the end of it, the one the film narrator said would eventually be worn away by the river's flow

"Mini arch" in a small rock formation along the trail

 Next two shots are looking down on the potash processing ponds, with the La Sal Mountains in the distance.

 The bend in the river

 Tour boat, way below

Beginning views of Canyonlands, from Island in the Sky
 You can see some ATV trails way down on the canyon floor
 The snow covered peaks of the La Sal Mountains
 As a way of giving some perspective, this sole spire in the foreground is 305 ft. tall.

 See how the river has cut these sharp mini canyons over the ages

Multiple examples of God's beautiful creations along the trail!!

That same 305 ft. high spire--you can see how much smaller it is than the fins to the right

 Distance shot and then telephoto of the peaks of the La Sal

 Mesa Arch in Canyonlands, from different angles