Saturday, May 25, 2013

Calf Creek Falls

Got off to an early start this morning, leaving Escalante headed for Capitol Reef National Park.  Jim and Sue Ann had told us it would be a beautiful drive, and, even though it was not that far, that we should take our time and stop at all the lovely places to see.  They were right, as usual, and it was a really gorgeous drive.  Scenery began to change as we left Escalante, and stopped for some pictures of these massive petrified sand dunes along a scenic turnout.  In all my ravings about how beautiful these massive formations of pink and cream colored rock are, I realized that I've forgotten to mention that they were basically petrified sand dunes.  Some of you may know that, but it's something I've learned since we've been in Utah.  Millions of years ago, North America started drifting farther north away from the equator, and consequently this area became increasingly more arid.  Tons of sand blew into this area and over thousands of years, it petrified.  I know I've mentioned that the red colors come from iron in the sand, but also manganese and other minerals help to create the array of colors in these rocks. Anyway, they never cease to amaze and fascinate me--if you've never seen them, I'll wager you'll have the same reaction when you do!

As we continued, we considered several different hikes along the way, but decided on Calf Creek Falls, an absolutely beautiful 6 mile roundtrip hike, from the base campground to a spectacular waterfall, feeding Calf Creek, which then flows into the Escalante River.  Jim and Sue Ann had told us about this hike, and since we had an early start, we knew it was one we wanted to do.  It was so gorgeous, again, constantly changing and different views all around us.  Sometimes we were out on the rock, along the trail in the increasingly hot sun, and then suddenly the trail took us into the shade of cottonwoods, and in places through very narrow passageways through bushes--which all made these spots much cooler as we hiked along the creek.  It was fairly cool when we started out, a little after 8:00, which was nice, as it was much hotter by the time we got back.

Saw beautiful displays of Navajo tapestry on rock faces across the creek and on the canyon walls, along with several displays of rock art, left by ancient inhabitants.  There were also many different rock formations and patterns which to us looked very much like people, all sculpted over the ages by the forces of erosion, wind, rain and other forces of nature.  And when we got to the waterfall, it was spectacular, nearly 200 ft. high, but unlike most of the other waterfalls we've seen--this one sends water cascading down a smooth rock face, covered with bright green shades of algae, and it creates a really beautiful effect.  There's a small pool, where some hardy souls might go swimming, but the water was cold, cold, cold, so we took a pass on that.  Then the water flows out of the pool, tumbling over logs and rocks and down into the creek.  It was just beautiful, so we stopped there to eat a snack and drink more water, before heading back down.  I guess it was almost 10:30 when we started back down, and it was really a lot hotter in most places of the trail than when we had come in.  We met a number of people who were just starting from the campground as we were finishing, and we were glad we had started when we did and not when they did!  Anyway, it was a glorious hike and we thoroughly enjoyed it.  So many of the flowers that had not yet opened up when we passed by the first time, were now wide awake and showing off as we came down--brilliant oranges, yellows, pale and fragile whites, and some lavender and purple too.  Just fantastic!

Had several interesting experiences along the trail meeting folks, as well.  There was a group of folks who looked to be mostly our age or older, on a trip sponsored by Dixie State College, here in Utah, called Road Scholars--we had seen these tour buses several places before and learned that this is a new name for the tours that used to be called elder hostel, since some folks didn't like the name "elder" to describe them!  Road Scholars is a cute name, though, and most of these folks are always nice when we meet them in different places.  Several wanted pictures with Santa, and we had fun with that.  We also met a German couple--you know we just can't pass folks by without engaging them in conversation and finding out where they are from.  We had heard them speaking German, so we greeted them in German, and they asked us if we had been there and where we had been.  When I was in Germany in college, one of the places my group went was with a group of gymnasium students out of Duisburg on a retreat in a tiny village in the Eifel Mountains.  Well, lo and behold, the woman had worked right there!  Neither of us could believe it, since I had never met anyone before, even from Germany, who knew where this tiny village was.

But the most remarkable small world experience happened as we were on our way down.  Met a couple of women who were on their way up, and who were at the tail end of the Road Scholars group. When asking where we all were from, and she said Atlanta, we of course told her we had lived there for over 30 years, but now lived up in the north Georgia mountains.  She said, oh I go hiking up in Blue Ridge, I'm a member of the Benton McKaye Trail Association.  Well, we couldn't believe that, so we asked if she knew our neighbors, Marge and Ralph, and our friends Pam and Richard, who are active in that group.  She of course knew them well and was as floored as we that we had that connection--who would have thunk it!!

After the hike, we drove on into Boulder--yes, there's another Boulder beside the one in Colorado, though this one is much smaller.  But it's a beautiful place and, when we couldn't find the place Sue Ann and Jim had suggested we eat lunch, we found a delightful place called Hell's Backbone Grill--named after the mountain formation of the same name.  It was a great place, and an article in the local paper they had posted it described the staff as Mormon, the owner as Buddhist, a veritable little UN!  The owner grows all her own foods and it was very different and very good, including a wonderful presentation--the black bean soup I had came with a little array of apple slices and strawberry on the plate, with a little purple flower on top!  So sorry I went in without my camera!  But it was a rustic and beautiful building, with lots of flowers and unique plants in a little rock garden in front of the building.

After lunch we headed down the Burr Trail, through massive petrified sand dunes, almost all beige for most of the way, then breaking into some brilliant reds.  This was a great ride, and then we came back to Boulder and headed on toward Capitol Reef National Park.  Part of the ride is what they call the Hogback--the road goes over the top of a knife edge ridge, with no guardrails and virtually no space past the roadway before dropoffs on both sides that made you stomach turn flips--we just had to try not to look down!  Got into Torrey, a little town about 10 miles from the park entrance where we fortunately had made reservations at an RV park which turns out to be really pretty.  Even though Capitol Reef is the least visited national park in the whole system, given that this is Memorial Day Weekend, the RV parks and motels are all sold out.  And when I had called the RV parks in town when we were back in St. George, this was the only place that was not sold out and we got their last space!

We drove around town a little before we checked in, just to get our bearings, and to locate the bookstore where tomorrow they will have the annual cowboy poetry and music fest.  Sue Ann and Jim have some dear friends who live here and are coming to this tomorrow and we're going to meet them, so wanted to find out where it is--all we knew was that it was going to be at a bookstore, and I didn't know what time.  Anyway, Torrey is so small I figured we could just drive through and look for what would likely be the only bookstore in town, and sure enough, we found it.  There's an outdoor stage where I image the festivities will take place, but we're really looking forward to that.

And on the way back to the RV park, I happened to notice a sign that read "Torrey Greenhouse, fresh produce and herbs."  We we drove down, thinking we would find something like a farmers market, since we're always on the lookout for fresh produce.  Well, when we found the place it literally was a greenhouse, and we thought maybe we were at the wrong place--no tables or stands with tomatoes, cukes, peppers, etc. on display.  We got out anyway just to have a look and this young man comes out and answers our querry if he had fresh produce with a hearty Of Course, got lots of greens, lettuce, spinach.  So we followed him into the greenhouse and we told him we wanted some spinach and lettuce.  Again we were baffled, 'cause when we looked around we didn't see any stacks of veggies on tables anywhere, just plants in the ground.  Well, folks, we just stumbled onto the freshest greens we've ever had--he literally just got down and began snipping leaves of lettuce off the plants--about 6 different varieties, dumping it into a plastic tub, asking if we wanted a couple days worth or what.  We just followed him along the rows, pointing out what looked good--he invited us to break off a leaf of any plant we saw and snack on it to decide if we wanted it!  And then he went to the spinach patch and we got a heaping basket of spinach as he looked for the best leaves to cut off.  I mean, it doesn't get any fresher than this!  He washed it for us and he just scratched his chin and said, how about this much for the lot, sound like a fair enough deal to you?  What a trip!  But when we got back to the RV park we had a glorious feast of multiple varieties of lettuce in our salad, and Trisha sauteed some spinach and it was out of this world!  Can't wait to use this spinach in the breakfast smoothies in the morning!  What a find!

Got back here and set up--all the sites have trees and grass and the park borders on a pasture with some cattle and horses, and of course mountains in the background.  Lots of young families with kids here for the weekend and it didn't take long for some of them to recognize Santa.  After supper I was in the laundry room doing the wash and the door opened and about 6 little kids came in--we've been looking all over for you Santa!  So we had a fun time, looking up each child's name in Santa's List and, lo and behold, all of them were on the good list!  They went and got their friends and we had such fun, giving them all pictures.  Of course they wanted to know where the reindeer were, but bought the explanation that they were all resting at the North Pole, saving up their energy for their big night!

On the way here, we stopped at a little visitor information center called Wildcat, in a quaint little log cabin that was built in the 1930's and used as ranger quarters for years, now staffed by an affable chap who was most helpful in giving us maps and information, telling us about various hiking trails and places to see here, and on toward Arches, where we're headed next.  And he had the weather report on the desk that's showing rain and snow at his place for Tuesday!  Apparently the snow has only recently left and I guess it's not done, though it's hard to imagine since today was rather hot.

Anyway, looking forward to our time here.  Here are today's pics:

Some scenes along the road before we got to Calf Creek

Walking from the parking lot to the trailhead, through the small campground--beautiful sites tucked into spaces between trees and rocks
 Heading up the trail

 Lovely Navajo tapestry, across the creek on the canyon walls

See how quickly the scene changes?

This shot of ancient rock art was shot with the telephoto way across the canyon to the far wall--pretty intricate work
 This was the side where the art was
 A grainery where the ancient people stored their corn, squash they grew on the floor below
 Trisha just love cactus!

Some of the wild flowers along the way

Doesn't this look like an Indian princess, with her hair flowing out behind her??
 We were shooting across to the far wall, to take these pictographs--the figures in darkest colors in the right half of the photo--then notices the rock pattern next to it,and thought it looked like either an angel with her halo, or an Indian mother with her papoose on her back!

 Gorgeous pink rock!

 Yet another change of scenery--a grove of reed like plants

The waterfall

 Loved the reflection of the waterfall in the pool

 Refueling before we headed back!  What a lovely spot--shade, sun dappled leaves, a nice log to sit on by the rocks where the creek flowed, the waterfall in front of us--wow!
Headed back down--interesting to see a different perspective when you're going back down a trail, the same scenes can look remarkably different.

Along the Burr Trail

As we're crossing over Boulder Mountain, elevation a bit over 9000 t.

 Groves of aspen, many that are just beginning to get their leaves, with some evergreens interspersed--the contrasting shades of green made for great visuals

At the Wildcat Information Center

 A rustic little shop with lots of Native American flutes--met the flute maker and played a couple of them!

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