Thursday, May 23, 2013

Hole in the Rock

Today we rented the jeep to drive Hole in the Rock Road, to see where these hardy souls took their wagons.  Once you leave the highway on the road, the pavement ends.  It's gravel for a short way, then just dirt and rocks.  The woman at the rental place on Tuesday tried to talk us into renting a Commander--sort of a glorified ATV, but it only had a windshield up halfway, the sides were just mesh and she said she could also rent us goggles and bandanas to wear over our noses and mouths, like outlaws!  I think the main reason she did this was that the jeep was rented for yesterday and she wanted to rent out another vehicle.  So glad we opted to stay another day and get the jeep.  As we turned onto Hole in the Rock Road, we were behind several other vehicles and the dust was so heavy at times that I had to slow down and let them get a bigger lead on us.  So, we were very happy to have the jeep so we could keep the windows rolled up and use the AC when it got hot.

Jim and Sue Ann had told us to be sure to stop at Devil's Garden to do some hiking, and was that ever a great tip.  You could not see these from the road, but the place was filled with hoodoos unlike any that we had seen thus far.  While the hoodoos in Zion and Bryce were quite jagged and rough, these were almost completely smooth--looked like someone had shaped some big figures with a spatula spreader like icing on a cake.  And they were lovely shades of beige and red.  We really enjoyed that!

Then we headed on toward the actual Hole in the Rock, but stopped first at Dance Hall Rock, about 15 miles from the hole.  This was where the group set up sort of a base camp while they waited for other families to join them, until they had the full contingent of the expedition.  The men would go on to the hole to work on blasting out the path, and then in the evenings they would play music and dance.  The storyboard explained that they happened upon this great big red rock, with a big concave indention, making a natural theater type setting, with wonderful acoustics for singing and fiddle playing and nightly dances.  Hence the name.  They stayed in this location from November, 1879 to January, 1880, and then set out to cross the Colorado.

Several observations:  the road as it exists today did not exist back then.  Even though the road is extremely rough and very slow going and bounces you all around, we commented several times on how much easier it was for us than it had been for the expedition members.  I mean, they were just going overland--through rough scrub brush in places, fields of rocks in others, and wide plains of solid rock in other places.  And this was in the dead of winter, and I imagine that the big rock surfaces were mighty slick when wet.  The story boards and the video we saw Tuesday at the Heritage Center said that for the entire expedition, including much more travel even after they crossed the Colorado, no one died, which is amazing when you think about the harsh conditions they faced.  And two babies were born.  Trisha was shaking her head over that thought as we bounced along, sometimes nearly hitting the roof of the jeep!  As I recall from history classes, many times when settlers took off for unexplored territory and they encountered extreme difficulty, they simply gave up and turned back.  After seeing this setting, it would not have surprised me had this happened here.  But no one turned back and they overcame tremendous obstacles to reach their destination.  Just amazing.

When we finally got to the Hole in the Rock, we got out and hiked over to the cut through which they took their wagons--the hole.  Well, let me tell you, folks, there simply was no way any picture, any description from our friends who had been here or even our imagination could have prepared us for the feeling we got when we got to the precipice of the almost vertical drop down through the rock to the bank of the river.  And no matter how many pictures I show you, trust me, they don't even come close. It was so narrow and so steep, it's just hard to fathom how 83 wagons, horses, men, women and children made it down that hole with no one getting killed.  We had been told you could hike the mile or so down to the river and back, but after we had gone just a little way down, we knew we were not going to attempt that.  So we came back up and sat on the big expanse of rock at the top of the hole and had a bite to eat, just marveling at how these folks did what they did.  And the two paintings I posted last night?--they didn't come close to showing how steep the decline actually was.  I can't believe the horses didn't just revolt!  Had always heard that if a horse encountered something too steep or too dangerous, it would just balk and not move.  If there ever was a place for balking, this was it!  But they all made it down.

So we headed back, hoping to see some other places on a side road we had been told about, but the ride was so rough and we were getting bounced around a lot, had to go even more slowly coming back, not wanting to push Trisha's back over the limit.  She had spent so much time in physical therapy and working on machines to alleviate the cronic back pain she had for so long, that we didn't want to undo all that.  So, since we also had a deadline to turn the jeep back in or get charged for another full day, we just decided to head straight on back.  We did make it back in time, but not by too much.  As tiring and dusty as it was, it was a great experience and we're both very glad we did it.

Before we came back to the campground I drove to the red rocks I had seen last night on my bike ride, to show Trisha and to take some pictures.  This was around 5:00 and the sun was still pretty high and bright and I'm not sure the pictures got the clarity and definition I had hoped.  But we came on back and had an early supper, played some cards and then Trisha did some knitting and reading while I took a long bike ride, again back out to the same area as last night, lovely riding the back roads, no cars, just lots of cows looking up at me like I was crazy and several mule deer, all in the shadow of the mountains; just spectacular scenery and a great place to ride.

Here are today's pics:

Just as we turned off the road into Devil's Garden, the guy at the jeep rental place had told us to look up to the right for the "man and the lion."  Looks pretty much like that, huh?
 As we got out and began hiking, these are the hoodoos we came to, so completely different from anything we'd seen thus far.

 Love these layers!

 Under a natural bridge that one day will erode away, leaving just two unconnected hoodoos.
 Lots of cozy little alcoves!

The longer you stare at these formations, the more and different things you see--here looks like a face with an incredibly big nose!
 See the man with the farmer's tan and a smirk on his face?
 The Fab Five!
 Hey, that's no hoodoo, that's my bride!  Told you there was all sorts of beauty in these parts!

 Looks sorta like my last dental X-rays!

Dance Hall Rock

 Trying to give some sense of perspective on how big this is

These beautiful fucia cactus blossoms never cease to amaze me, with their brilliant color in the midst of the arid desert.
 Splashes of red, as if the artist was shaking paint off a brush.
 Just thought these were cool!

Mr. Bull was singularly unconcerned that we were on the road--and given his size and obvious strength, I said the only thing advisable in the situation: "Anything you say, sir!"
 The coolest thing about this picture is the reflection in the side mirror!
 Along the road between Dance Hall Rock and the Hole.

 Mama cow trotting across the road, with her calf trying to keep up.

 At the Hole, there's our ride for the day.  Here, as you first approach, the gap seems quite wide--until you get close!

Looking down the Hole, as a hiker eagerly took off down toward the river.
 This was as far as he got before he came back up!
 Tried to get a perspective on the drop, but to no avail--there was even steeper drop past this ledge

 Just think about wagons going down this cut!

 Since the dam was built, the water level is considerably higher than when it was at the time of the expedition.

Here are some pics of the lovely red rock I found on my bike ride.  The rock is actually much redder than it appears in these photos, since the sun was so bright when I took them.  In any event, up close it's quite beautiful, with all these intricate swirl patterns.

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