Utah, 2012

I've been going to Salt Lake City every January for work for quite a few years, and only made it to Utah in the summer once for Convergence. I've wanted to see red rock country in person rather than just flying over it, so I joined forces with my sister to camp out, mountain bike, and hike in southern Utah, with bonus eclipse viewing and Vegas show watching.

Saturday May 19, 2012

Boston to Las Vegas to St George

I had an early afternoon flight, so I had time to putter a bit at home before leaving for the airport (I love flying west). I took out the trash, printed my itinerary, returned and picked up library books and then grabbed a taxi to the airport. I ended up putting my multiday backpack inside Dad's old duffle bag again. Still sick, have drugs with me and tissues and suffered from insomnia last night (went to bed at 2, and woke up at 8am instead of 9:30am :/ ). As I tried to get the free checked bag that my Star Alliance silver membership should get me, the automated kiosk kept wanting to charge me. I waved my Aeroplan membership at a clerk and he voided out the charges for me. I kept getting asked if I was military, nope, it's a Canuck duffle bag that's probably older than I am. :) I got it down to 45lbs with a pretty full tote bag for my carry on. The security line was alternating between having to go through the xray and the metal detector, I didn't say anything about opting out and got waved through the metal detector - score! :) Wrote for a bit after got to my gate, then went off to find a bathroom and some food before seat competition gets fierce. The plane isn't here yet, 1 hour before boarding.
I walked to the other part of the terminal and got a very filling buritto bowl (herbed chicken pieces were nice) and went back to my gate to eat. It was a fast boarding process once it started, though I was in group 7 (used to be in 4 with silver status). We ended up leaving early. A sleeper/reader lady was next to me in the middle seat with her man in front of her, but they didn't request to swap seats thankfully, I like my window. I got up once, took water, OJ and tea to drink. I found out when I went to fill up my bike water bottle that I'd carried empty past security that it was growing stuff and I couldn't completely clean it out. :/ We also had a medical emergency on the flight, a guy a few rows up fainted maybe and used up the plane's supply of oxygen. The flight attendants got a nurse and a doctor and a tie when they went down the aisle requesting stuff, and we had to sit until the EMTs got him off the plane (he walked) in Houston (no rerouting of the flight). No seat arm radio, they had DirectTV for pay, it was teasing me with the cross fit games (omg, amazing people). I had enough time in Houston to get a parfait from a bagel place, water, and a slice of coffee cake. I got food all over me as I ate at the gate. :/ There were lots of different accents in the voices around me, some familiar faces from the Boston flight. Once we boarded, I was thankful that the tall guy sitting next to me stayed contained in his seat. I finished my book 20 minutes before landing in Vegas. Each flight I had to take a bathroom break to blow my nose a lot, but my cold seemed to be calming. Just gazed out the window as we landed in Vegas, half an hour early.

I walked from our arrival gate of D52 to D26 where Sue's flight was coming in and she came out from her flight from Seattle soon after I got there. Out to the baggage claim area, and I found the kiosk to get my voucher converted to another voucher for Cirque du Soleil (have to go to NYNY to get an actual ticket the day of the show). Our bags came out quickly and we schlepped them to the shuttle to the rental car building (oh, familiar, it's where kest and I picked up the truck to drive to Park City for Convergence). We were given a Ford Expedition, 2013 model with scary modern features (just need to be holding the key when you open the door). I managed to stay awake for the drive to St. George. I15 past the Strip, it was dark when we started. It was 2 hours to St. George, but 10pm turned into 11pm as we hit the Utah border. We just made it to the Chalet as the blinds went down, but despite catching them, our reservation was lost and they were full. :/ The father called the wife who called the sun who phoned around to find us a room (apparently there was a marathon that weekend). We drove over to the Clarion Suites, it was $81 with CAA (rather than the $55 at the Chalet :/ ), but it was a nice room and included breakfast. I took a shower, wrote for a bit, then hit the bed. 12:50am here/now, set the alarm for 9am.

Sunday May 20, 2012

St George

Woke up on my own at 8am, not happy about it. I dressed and went to the breakfast room. They had a make your own waffle station, had one with maple syrup and strawberry jam and blueberries, yay. They had weak OJ and substandard tea though. I walked past the pool on the way there and met Sue on the way back (our room was at the far end of the complex). I read the solar charger instructions since I'd just bought it and packed the whole thing up unread. Packed up our stuff and got it back into the truck, no rush, checked out at 9:30. We got the location of a grocery store and Dick's Sporting Goods and set off across town to stock up for camping. I'd packed a lot of food (hadn't used it all up on previous camping trips), but we needed to get lots of water for our desert odessy. We went to the grocery to get food first. We picked up 3 huge things of water (5 gallons each maybe?), Sue got quinoa etc for making a meal from scratch, and we also got a big bag of apples and some bagels for making sandwiches. We passed on pancake mix since we couldn't find one that called for just water. I also picked up another box of tissues, my cold was being annoying. From there we went to Dick's and got white gas, but failed to find simple matches/lighters or duct tape. We stopped at a gas station and Sue found both in the convenience store. Flying to camp is always annoying in that I have to source fuel and fire for the stove. Sue was adamant about not camping without duct tape so I was willing to go along with it. :) Groceries were about $60, gas was $14 to top up.

The directions I had to Snow Canyon campground didn't reflect road changes and construction, we ended up driving to a dead end and turning around to go back to the turn we'd missed. There was a neat art installation in the middle of a round about, large boulders and bronze wild horses + a man on horseback. The cliff faces were really red in the sunshine, with a bright blue sky over it all. We paid a park entrance fee and then got a refund when we told the lady at the gate that we were camping (apparently the site fee included a park fee). We pulled up to the campground office at around noon and asked if we could check in early, it was no problem since the people who'd reserved the spot for the previous night never showed up. There were lots of red ants all over our site, but I was able to get my brand new one person tent up with no problems and no ants getting in - I had completely failed to try setting it up before then, but the single forked pole was incredibly easy to use. I didn't even put the fly on, zero percent humidity plus hot temps made it unnecessary. We made ourselves a quick lunch at our picnic table, bagels with peanut butter and an apple each, then switched into hiking mode. I had asked at the office if there were any snakes in the area and the staff delighted in the scared face I made when they teased me with the scads that were around. Hrmph. Sue and I drove up the road a little way to the head of the Lava Flow Trail, there were very cool black rocks in between red and white sandstone cliffs. I climbed down into the first lava tube cave (behind a family passing a toddler from hand to hand at the various levels of the climb). I didn't have a light, so I just went to the big room. It was very cool, and chilly too. :) We walked on and detoured to an overhanging bit of cooled lava to get some shade (it was probably around 30C, we had full camelbaks with us plus hand held water bottles I think). A guy followed us down into the depression and asked us if this was the next lava tube cave, nope, it was further along the path. This one was much rougher with respect to the rocks, but not nearly as steep (I'd had to use my hands to balance myself going into the first one). An older guy lent us his flashlight and his son gave us another since two in their group had turned back (looked like the wife of another son didn't have hiking shoes on, just sandals). Son 1 was crawling into tiny lava tubes, Sue and I just explored the cave areas where we could walk upright. We sat for a bit fairly far back where we could just see the light coming in from the entrance. From there we went on another path to the sandstone petrified sand dunes, we had a really nice view across the valley/canyon, but it was really hot with the sun bouncing off the rock. We walked slowly back to the truck, missing the lava tube turnoff in my heat induced misery. The truck's AC didn't get enough of a chance to cool us off before we made it back to the campsite. Instead of a silent family at the other half of the double site where we were, four loud guys had moved in. :( I sat for a bit at the table, and then we both ended up lying in our tents to rest for a bit, with me writing. My nose was still running, but it was starting to calm down. We could hear every word the guys said of course, I think they forgot that tents aren't sound proof. :)

Sue went off to shower, then she made us supper: quinoa with pine nuts, chicken bouillon (using a whole cube was a bit strong, should have dug out my swiss army knife to half it), and raisins. It was good and easy to do over a campfire (she picked it up on a canoe trip I think). I cleaned up and dumped the wash water at the grey water dumping station near the office. Walking back to our site, a guy in an RV had a metal eclipse viewer, I was jealous. :) I got out my DIY cardboard + tin foil quick and easy viewer made from my old cardboard visitor parking passes. :) I set up near a tree so that I could sit in the shade yet have the pinhole in the sun. Then as the angle kept changing, I had to move by the truck so that the tree leaves weren't in the way. I looked but didn't see crescent shadows like I've seen pictures of; I also took pictures of the same cliff past the campsite but the camera kept auto correcting the exposure so you couldn't tell that it was dimmer. :) A small burrowing mammal came out of the ground near our tents, despite it not being all that dark. I saw the eclipse from just a bit of shadow on the sun, to the moon covering a quarter of the sun, so most of it, to centered with a ring of light around it. Exactly then, the sun dropped behind a cliff, it was perfect timing. The guys as the next site had driven off to find the perfect place from which to watch it, but I was content with sticking close to "home". It was hard to get photos of the pinhole projection, but I could see it clearly. Sue let me wear her watch because I kept asking her what time it was. :)

It was only 8pm then and we had a bit more time before the sun went all the way down, so Sue proposed another hike. This is why we travel well together. :) We walked from camp to 3 pond/hidden pinyon trail and followed it. I saw prickly pear cactus and lots of yucca, as well as crazy layers of sandstone and scooped out ledges. We made it to a mini overlook where we could see lots of the valley, and then headed back. We took a different way to camp, we got to climb through a slot canyon. I got my shower stuff together while Sue hit the bath house to clean her teeth, then I went to take my last shower until Vegas. I had perfect timing, going into the empty shower stall just before a lady came out of the bathroom looking to go in there. Sun warmed water, steamy in the room. I had to keep a chain pulled to keep the water flowing. It was pitch dark on my walk back to my tent, I saw a planet rising behind the bluff. No cell signal, it was kinda nice to be cut off. Nice temperature with the sun gone, off to sleep. The guys next door seem sedate, at least they stopped chopping wood for the fire. Quiet hours start at 10pm anyway.

Monday May 21, 2012

St George to Moab

I didn't sleep too well, something bit me on the butt when I was sitting on a log watching the eclipse, and it was stinging so badly that I could only sleep lying on my other side. I started off on top of my sleeping bag, but then got in and zipped it up as it got colder. I was a tiny bit cold, then had to pee urgently and had to get up. Bonus: the stars were amazing! I had put my earplugs in but they just let me hear my own loud breathing (stupid cold), and then I had a nightmare of someone saying I was responsible for something, standing over my tent and sentencing me to death. My eyes opened at about 6am when it was getting light, but I dozed until 7:30am. Had granola, apple, and tea for breakfast and struck camp. I dumped out our garbage bag into the bin and enjoyed the shade of the cliff behind us.

I think we got on the road at 9am. We gassed up in St. George in preparation for the long haul to Moab, then it Interstate 5. We had a bit of a debate about the lunch stop, we hit Beaver too early at 11am (it was where we'd found the good diner on our massive group drive from Vegas to Park City). Then we turned onto I70E and saw signs for last services for 110miles! My phone said that Mom's Cafe and a Mexican place were the only good places to eat, so we picked Mom's. It was right at the single stop sign in the tiny town of Salina. I had a good fish burger, but wasn't a fan of the fries, and didn't have any room for their famous pie. The ice tea was good and came with a free refill. There were down home humour books on all the tables. The landscape was amazing and was changing with every turn of the highway. The 110 mile stretch had lots of canyons and viewpoints (the land was probably too broken to allow a town to develop). Approaching Green River, the road snaked down between 2 cliffs, it was very dramatic. Making the turn to head toward Moab off the main highway, it was a 2 lane road, with more construction, but fast. We drove past the entrance to Arches National Park before hitting the town.

We went straight to Chile Pepper Bikes, we had to get there before 5pm I think so we could get our reserved mountain bikes before they closed. The guy explaining the bikes was a bit snippy, he wanted to give his spiel without interruptions. It was hard to get the bikes into the truck with all of our gear, we had to rearrange things and put down the 3 back seats. Sue and I were also getting snippy with each other, I was getting hungry and we hadn't made a decision on where to camp yet for the next 5 nights, so that was stressing me out. Sand Flats had lots of camp sites but it was down a sandy road that was in danger of flooding (and would void our rental agreement on the truck if we went off road). We went to the visitor center to get maps and more info. There were a couple of almost urban campground options but we decided on Horse Thief Campground off of 113 from 191, it wasn't as far as I thought, but back past the entrance to Arches, and up onto the plateau toward Canyonlands. We drove around the loops of the campground trying to find the perfect spot (very few were taken), I wanted one with good shade (the camp host tried to help us, but he wasn't clear on where the shady one was). We passed up on next to the road in favour of one on the back loop with a few trees around the tent site. I got water boiling and made boil in a bag rice and lentils for dinner. There was no water dumping site at the camp ground, had to spread it around. It was really bare bones, a fire pit and a table at our site, a pit toilet a few spaces over and a garbage bin outside the grounds. Okay, not like back country camping, but zero water, not even a tap to fill our bottles from. I always get really nervous about having enough water, I think we even stopped at the grocery store next to the bike shop to get another thing of water. If I believed in reincarnation, I'd suspect one life ended due to dehydration. :)

I got my tent up and this time put the fly on for good luck (and shade). We ate at the picnic table and got ready to take a shake down bike ride at around 7:30 or 8. We put the wheels back on the bikes, got my camelbak packed (put the first aid kit in there this time). I put my hat on under my helmet for the brim, and brought my head lamp just in case we were caught out by the sunset. Sue tried to give me some tips, feathering the brakes is better than yanking on them, look where you want to go. The shifters are a bit odd, she insists I should press them, it's easier to press them. We biked back out along the camp access road, half a mile to 113, then turned right to head to Mineral Spring Road. Sue wanted to try for a different one but we were short on time and I was only feeling half hearted about biking at that point. We biked up an incline, then down the other side, took some pictures of the sunset, then headed back. It was almost dark by that point, but after a quick bathroom break, we got the seats in the SUV fully down and the bikes in the back with the wheels still on, ready for the morning. I wrote up the day by candle light and was in bed just before 10pm, all tired out. I had to add a bit of air to the sleeping pad and pillows, last night the hot air compressed and they got too flat to be very comfortable. It was pretty hot today, and will be hotter tomorrow, then it will begin trending down.

Tuesday May 22, 2012

Moab

Deadhorse Point: 9 miles of biking, 1.5 mile hike
Canyonlands: Mesa Arch hiking trail 0.5 miles, upheaval crater dome, 1 km

I slept better, and didn't have to make a trip to the bathroom. It was a bit chilly, I ended up wrapped in my sleeping bag. I got up at 6am, got breakfast ready and tea water boiled while still in my PJs - ah isolation. :) Sue was up a bit later. I got into my bike clothes, ate granola at camp, but drank my tea and ate an apple while in the truck on our way to the bike trails. We went just up the road to Dead Horse Point State Park, passing Gemini Bridges along the way (where Sue had wanted to bike last night, but the trail description had sounded too advanced for me).

There wasn't anyone at the gate kiosk at 7:30am or so, and since we only had a $20, we put that in the envelope with a note that we'd stop for our $10 in change on the way out. :) The main visitor center wasn't open either, there was a staff member checking the bathrooms, but she directed me to the hiking trails when I asked her about the bike trails. Asked some others up on the open deck above the canyon, nope. The trail map on a board in the parking lot was confusing, at too large a scale, so we couldn't see where the bike trails started. Finally, at 8, with the bikes ready to go, the shop opened. I got a trail map and directions to the other end of the parking lot than where we came in and parked at. I rode a practice turn in the lot along a curved line, looking where I wanted to go and felt fairly confident that I was ready to head out into the wilderness. We were just going to do the short loop but we reached the cut off point on the long loop so quickly that we decided to do the full 9 mile big chief loop. There was some deep sand that defeated me and some steep ups, but I rocked the curves and the climbs and the down hills (feather *both* brakes, not just one). It helped that no one downward section lasted long enough for me to build up panic inducing speed. Gorgeous scenery, red and white rocks everywhere as we followed the canyon rim out. I got to ride on sandstone, it is really frictiony and fun to ride on. We stopped at the turn around point in the loop and ate our Clif bars overlooking the drop down into the canyon. The second half of the loop was much shorter, flatter, and less scenic, as it cut across the mesa through scrub rather than winding along the rim. We ran into the only other bikers we saw on the trail when we were almost back to the parking lot. We were hot and sweaty by this point. We put the bikes back in the truck, used the bathroom, and looked around the shop some more, taking advantage of the air conditioning. I tried to buy a book on mountain biking in Moab, but I'd forgotten my wallet in the car, then when I came back, some kids from the camp ground were buying ice, then someone else was at the cash buying something. I finally forked over my cash, put the book in the truck, then we did a hike out to the other side of the point. The canyon rim there was gorgeous, but vertigo inducing. There were lots of splits in the rock, and vertical red faces across the canyon also showed the natural fault lines in the rock. We could see the river below us at points, green and bendy. We headed back to the visitor center and Sue got us smoothies from a tiny kiosk. We drank them on the shaded porch, looking out over the canyon rim and down to the river. There were lots of Quebeckers, and I head Chinese and Japanese tourists as well. We took a good long rest to avoid the worst of the heat, at around 11am or so. The loop took us about 2 hours on the bikes. Then we walked out along the improved paths to the point, over the skinny neck where they coralled the horses. There were more people there, including tourists eating their boxed lunches under the shelter. It was windy and there were nice views, so we decided to have our bagels with peanut butter there since camp would be hot. An antelope squirrel / pica? investigated us, Sue was worried that it would run up her leg but it just darted around looking for crumbs. :) Took lots of bathroom breaks to off load all the water I'd had during the biking and hiking. Finally headed back to the truck for good, stopped at the entry kiosk to get our $10 change and popped back to camp to change out of our sweaty biking clothes.

From camp, we drove to Canyonlands National Park, just past Dead Horse park. It was also $10 per car entry fee, with park map included. We did the right side lookouts over awesome broken country, lots of buttes. We did the hike out to mesa arch, you could see mesas through the natural stone arch. It was hot, just around 2pm. The theory was to mostly stay in the car with the AC keeping us cool, driving around to the view points. We went to the grand view point and passed on the 1 mile hike there as it was over rock with no shade. We thought to look for a place to watch the sunset, so we went off on the other Y branch to check out the Green River overlook. Missed the turn off somehow and then were all of a sudden at the Wheel Rock and Upheaval dome (I'm team meteorite on the origin story debate). We did the 10 minute hike up to the first view point, it was very windy - one guy lost his hat (and climbed down to go get it!). Sue saw him later at the campground. There were patches of grey and yellow rock down in the crater, could see the rim all around it. Hiked back down to the truck, with a younger crowd jogging back down - Sue saw them pile quickly into a van and drive quickly away, they must have been on a time limited tour. It was close to 6pm then, we got back to the gate just at 6pm. There were no sources of water there, just one fountain at the visitor center, and only pit toilets (but very clean).

Back to camp. I was feeling off every so often as the heat got to me. Sue was getting headachy as well. I boiled up rice and put lemon pepper tuna on it for dinner (fast and filling). Cleaned up with high wind gusts (well, okay, technically medium wind gusts) blowing sand everywhere. We grabbed our cameras and headlamps and $12 each and paid for 2 more nights, happy with our camping location. We walked out the trail from the end of the camp loop, pu to the ridge to watch the sun set (not feeling up to driving back to any overlooks). It was setting behind a cloud, so it ended up being a good thing that we didn't go through a lot of effort. Doubled back since we couldn't see any sign of the trail looping back around at the expected distance (maps not to scale I guess). I was able to get some pictures of the crescent moon and what was probably Venus near it. We couldn't get any cell signal in camp, so we planned to go into Moab so Sue can call Jake for their anniversary tomorrow. Hopefully I can post a "still alive" update, charge the phone battery and maybe pay for a shower. :) The truck could use some gas too. Back in camp, I struggled to light the candle lantern with the wind fighting against me. Finally got it lit inside the truck and brought it back out to the picnic table. Sue went to bed at 9:30, i finished writing up the day and then headed into my tent. Aiming for waking up at 6am tomorrow and getting on the road in an hour.

Wednesday May 23, 2012

Moab

I had to get up to pee at around 4am, and again I got the lovely camping bonus of a clear view of the Milky Way. I got up for good at 6:30am. Before I came out of my tent I changed into my long biking pants and my purple long sleeve exercise top. I was able to quickly get breakfast going, cleaned up and got on the road in exactly an hour. We drove down off the plateau for the first time and went right to drive for a couple of minutes on the road into Moab, turning off at Bar M/Moab Brand trails. We got the bikes out of the back adn were on the trail by 8am I think, there were only a couple of other cars in the dirt parking lot at the base of the low hills. We passed two couples on the trail before coming back via EZ and Lazy (green trails). It felt like the rocks were placed to make things harder. Deeper sand here as well, I missed a few climbs. Then I wiped out on a sandy downhill corner and landed on my left knee. It was a bit of a shock, I shed a few tears, and used the whistle that Sue gave me to let her know that I was delayed. I got up and kept going, but felt like my brain wasn't in it. Then I wiped out again on rocks and bashed my right knee (abrasions and a bruise) and had a crying fit (mostly due to thinking 'crap, I might need surgery!' since that was the knee I'd wiped out on during a rainy urban ride and it had a stretched ACL). I used my first aid kit to clean it and put on a bandaid and Sue got me up and walking with my bike. We were almost done Lazy, she rode (at my insistence) to the parking lot to put her bike away then walked back to meet me. I was able to limp along and ride on the flat parts, the injury was nothing too serious (though I may have stretched the ACL more and typing this up a year or so later, the spot that was abraded didn't get full feeling back for about 11 months). I told her I was okay to ride along flat runs and encouraged her to get her bike back out and do another run. I rode along the gravel and dirt road to Bar M loop with her, up toward 113. She went off to do the loop proper, while I rode back adn did the paved bike trail to 113. Huge headwind, thank goodness for the spinny gears! I saw squirrels, lots of flowers, some road bikers. Hit the end of the trail and doubled back, going back to the car. Sue had left me a dust note saying that she was going to do the other half of the loop since she got back well before our agreed meeting time of 10:45am. She guessed 11:10am, but it was 10:10am. I aimed to get back by then and left a dust note that I was riding to meet her at the other end. I went out and back, read signs, no Sue. She ended up meeting me at the parking lot turn off as she'd gone the other way than I'd thought (the trails were a bit confusing).

We got the bikes into the back of the truck and each ate half of a peanut butter bagel. We drove into Moab proper and stopped first at the grocery store. We bought more bagels and on Sue's comment that frozen veggie make good ice packs, I picked up a packet of frozen blueberries. :) Also grabbed some tissues as my nose was running. We gassed up the SUV and then stopped in at Eklecticafe for food. Sue talked to Jake and I posted a short message to my online journal to let people know I was still alive. :) I had a good breakfast burrito and had some of Sue's greens. We sat outside in the shade, a biking family was next to us, and I kept the frozen blueberries on my knee.

From there it was time to head to Arches. We stopped at the visitor center first to top up our water containers. I had put my knee braces on after my crash and kept the right one on for compression. Then we headed to the Park Avenue view point, Courthouse Towers, and the Organ. We walked around half of the balanced rock (it looked stuck on with clay). I could see north and south window from the main road, but we didn't take that turn off. We did the Delicate Arch (most iconic of the arches) upper viewpoint hike instead of the longer arch access trail. It was still pretty far, we were across a canyon from the arch (very steep drop, I was down on my stomach to inch closer). There were some steps and jumping, my knee was still a bit stiff. There was a fairly large family (parents plus kids) that would stop blocking the way and they had a sing along at one point, I was getting cranky with them. There was another quartet on the trail that were all smokers. :( I got a bit of vertigo on top of the view point and stayed back. Went down to check out the easy access lower view point, the arch looked tiny from there! Next we went to the Fiery Furnace overlook. It clouded over while we were there and the light got really flat, pictures weren't doing the scene justice. A ranger was leading a tour down into the canyon ($10 each, 3 hours leaving from the visitor center). It was the same woman who we talked to at the gate who gave us good tips on what to see. From there, we headed to sand dune arch parking area. I got out my hiking poles there and they were useful, lots of sand. Sand dune arch was amazing, it was hidden away (like Petra) down narrow cliff lined trails, we had to do a short scramble to get to it. Then we did our long hike, across the plain with long grass growing from the sand. I was thankful for the clouds and the wind that kept the temperature from over heating me. We hiked over to Broken Arch (it was just cracked), then did a long circle past bonus Tapestry Arch to Devil's Garden campground (full, mostly RVs). We used the rest room there, at around the 2.5 mile mark, and I dumped out the sand I'd accumulated in my shoes so far (was still wearing the trail running shoes I'd been biking in, mostly mesh on the uppers). We walked through the amphitheatre, where they give talks, to Skyline Arch and then back to the truck. That loop took us about 2.5 hours. We saw four guys going off to a back country camp while we were crossing the plain.

We drove back to our camp site, making a quick second stop at the Park Avenue view point to capture the sun on the rocks. Sue's tent had blown over - she didn't stake it down - taking a rock with it in the wind gusts. We got it sorted out, staked down more aerodynamically and I gave her my two extra stakes for super stability. I got out the cooking stuff and she made rice with salmon. We had the blueberries for dessert, but they were a bit squishy from melting on my knee most of the day. I made tea after. My knee was stiff, I took 2 ibuprofen. The temperature dropped a bit, she lent me her wool beanie and I put on my wool sweater, it was forecast to get down to 48F that night. I also taughtened my fly to stop it flapping in the wind. There was a crescent moon with Earth glow in the dark parts again. 9:15pm. I stayed up late enough to pee after the tea I'd consumed, then brushed my teeth, got ready for bed, then used the pit toilet one more time to try to avoid a midnight trip to the loo. :)

Thursday May 24, 2012

Moab

We had a bit of a later start this morning, up at 7am I think. It was a cold/chilly windy night, I ended up closing myself into my sleeping bag, and got up to close the top vent in the tent too. I was okayish until false dawn when I had to get up to pee and couldn't really fall back to sleep after that as it was getting light. Slow start with breakfast. I'd left my bike shorts liner in the car and was puttering about my jammies. We drove out and down from the plateau and turned left to head to Klondike Bluffs biking area at around 9am. There was a short rough road to the parking area, a gravel lot where we ended up beside a guy in a green military style camper (with a mountain bike). I forgot my water bottle, just went out with my waist mounted camelbak with 1.5L. It was a bit chilly still so I wasn't too worried about over heating. I had on my Yellowman thin long sleeved underlayer and a black short sleeved sport top over it. Clouds and wind, but not too much dust being kicked up at least (there was only one slow moving ATV on the trails we hit). Did a 2.8 mile ride on the rough gravel road to the upper parking lot (we didn't want to risk the rental on it), then from ravel road to 4x4 sandy trail (had to walk the bike for a bit, there was a sign advising it). Sue split off to do Dino Flow and we agreed to meet at the other end of the area at about 10:15am. I did Copper Ridge 4x4 track (easy if sandy), then Jasper West. I almost turned back, I had to walk through sand a lot. I saw two other casual bikers on the 4x4 trail otherwise didn't see more than 3 other serious bikes rolling (2 women were walking through the wash on the way out). I kept on, and was rewarded with the sights of gorgeous green cliffs and more rocks and then sand as I kept going. Agate Midline trial was better, I only got off and walked due to fear/caution a few times though they changed the trail rating from easy circle to circle plus intermediate square. I spotted a deer in the distance and then encountered one on the trail and had to stop and wait for it to meander off, I think on Vido. I went a bit faster when I saw that the time was already 10:05. I got to the trail head about 5 minutes before Sue. I got some pictures of her blasting in to meet me. :) The terrain was a mix of flat and hilly, near that end of the trails it was a down slope coming out from between hills.

We rode the Agate Midline together then got onto the 4x4 trail. It was fun because it was double track, we we could ride side by side when it wasn't too sandy on either track. I ran out of water as we were walking our bikes out of the wash, but lasted until we got back to the truck (we'd been keeping the extra water jugs in the back). We loaded up the bikes and scarfed down a bagel with the water.

We drove into Moab and returned the bikes to the shop from which we'd rented them, with me breathing a sigh of relief when they took them back with no extra charges - they were just dusty and maybe a tiny bit dinged up from the gravel. Used their bathroom to take the chamois off from under my bike shorts. We stopped in at the grocery store nearby again to grab some yoghurt and juice and some money (I apparently got the last cash in the ATM, at least according to the complaints of the guy who used it after me). We ate at the picnic table outside of the grocery store, we didn't end up eating inside very much at all on this trip. :) Then to the station to top up the gas tank, and walked to a book store for Sue, then drove back to Arches National Park for another wander around. My hip was a bit sore, but my knee was mostly okay. *whew*

We stopped in at the park visitor centre where we asked about the hiking passes for the Fiery Furnace area - they were only $4 each with a required video to watch and a short verbal quiz afterward. Sold! We had to promise to walk on rock or in sandy washes, be quiet, walk 3 feet or more from the base of plants (large shallow root systems), and stay off the dunes. They didn't have a map so we were told to be careful not to get lost, rescue could take three hours to get to us. *gulp* Still determined to go in though, so we drove there and double checked the stuff we were going to take down with us. The first path we took almost stopped the adventure before it started, we couldn't find a way down. We ran into four people coming back up that path who said that they'd been hiking 2 hours and gave up - no GPS signal either). Then we took the other trail to the right of the parking lot and that got us down on to rock and onto a wash. We followed the wash and it kind of petered out. On the way back along it, we spotted a way over the rocks to one side of the trail. We didn't go very far at all, it was quite hot down in the canyons. It was very pretty though, with the towers having layers of different coloured sand so that they almost looked like candy corn. It was very quiet until we ran into another group of people exploring. Saw some very neat sandstone formations, tiny towers that were worn away by one of the rare rain falls. I kept glancing along our back trail and taking mental and photo notes on how to get back out, it twisted and turned a lot and we were down well below everything, the horizon hidden behind folds of rock. We were able to back track and get out with no problems, I didn't miss a turn on our return. As we came into the parking lot, we saw the ranger led tour forming up for the 3pm drop in. They go in for longer and see a lot more, if we'd had more time I'd have been tempted, but to be honest I was worried about the complete lack of bathroom facilities in there with all the water I'd want to be drinking to stave off dehydration!

From there we headed to Delicate Arch again to do the 3 mile hike to get to the arch itself. The trail started off in scrub, with an old house and petroglyphs on the rocks that we checked out on the way back to the truck. I left my hiking poles behind as we were going to be walking mostly on rock and they get a bit annoying clicking along. There was some shade but it was mostly up, up, up. There were lots of people on this trail, some in surprisingly inappropriate clothing (dressed more for town than hiking). The ledge and the top bit were scary, with a sharp drop off and quite narrow. Then we came over a ridge and saw the arch from the other side than we'd been on before, framing more sandstone formations receding in the distance. People were mostly good about being quick ducking into the arch and out again so that everyone could get their pictures. It was definitely worth the climb, and we hung out for a while enjoying the scenery. It was a quicker trip back down, though my knee was a bit shakey on the slick rock parts. I felt the heat a lot. :( Had more water and used the pit toilets there before driving to the Windows spur road. Climbing up to the cave of coves was worth it after an inconclusive stop at the garden of eden. Then we went to the double arch and both of our cameras died at the same time! I had to climb up further into the arch's base to help Sue climb down, it was pretty steep (and windy). Back in the truck there was no sign of spare camera batteries, though I'd been sure that I'd put them in at some point.

Next up was Hidden Tower arch and North and South Window and back around to the car before I remembered the camera in my phone. Ooops. I think I ran back a ways up the trail to get a shot with the sun starting to set. I made Sue a peanut butter bagel for her to eat on the drive, but she wasn't feeling well (it might have been the melted blueberries we had again for breakfast). Back at the camp, I made her some mint tea and found out as I was cooking supper that the unlabeled food packet was an eggplant curry. I warmed it up and boiled some noodles for my dinner. We'll be breaking camp tomorrow. Sue's okay with hiking at the Devil's Garden turn out in Arches before we drive to Panguitch. There was a crescent moon with Earth glow again - I had dinner in the dark as we saw most of the sunset at the Windows arches. It was breezy and less than 20C, not as bad as the night before though. While star watching I spotted a satellite racing across the sky. Finished up writing and headed into my tent at 10:45pm.

Friday May 25, 2012

Moab to Panguitch

We had a slower start this morning, I woke at 5:20am with false dawn but was able to get back to sleep(ish) until 7am. It was very windy. Sue felt better, but she ate her granola in the car to get out of the wind. I ate at the picnic table after packing up the site. We helped each other with our tents as it took two people to wrestle them down against the wind. I gave our leftover camp stove fuel to some new neighbours at the camp ground (there was lots of turn over at Horse Thief Campground). We were out of the camp ground by 8am I think, stopping briefly to chuck our bag of garbage in the huge container just outside the fence.

Back to Arches, milking that 7 day pass for all it was worth. :-) Honestly it's the best National Park I've been in, it really was worth going back that many times and we didn't even do everything. Stoped at the fault sign to take pictures showing the windy road climbing up into the park. We stopped at the visitor centre again to try and plug in Sue's battery charger, but they wouldn't allow it (due to new federal building regulations post 9-11). I washed my face in the bathroom there and brushed my teeth too. We filled up our water bottles again as well. We also dropped back in to the Windows to take pictures with our newly battery enabled cameras - there weren't many people at the double arch this early, but a couple asked us to take their picture. Then we were back onto the park roads (usually richly populated with rental RVs) to Devil's Garden. It was neat to see the park in morning light after only coming in the aftenoons before this. I missed a sign and walked the wrong way around the loop to hit up a pit toilet before hiking (there was one at the trail head), and then to add insult to injury, a sports car screeched up as I was about to get there and the driver ducked in before me. Back around the loop to meet Sue and hit the trail, and we walked right into a wind tunnel to start, with a funnel between two walls of rock. After that we negotiated hills and plains and rocks to see various arches along the trail. There was a German couple tramping off trail to take pictures of flowers and after the drilling in trail stuff we'd had the day before, I had to restrain myself from yelling at them - no rangers in sight, budget cuts. :-( It was very windy (sensing a theme?) to the point where there was an alert, and all the blowing sand made it evident why. Tunnel arch was neat, very flowy. There was a nice view from Pine Tree arch. I loved Navajo Arch, it was like Sand Dune Arch in that it was hidden away in a pocket valley, and it's colour and the light illuminating it were great. Landscape Arch was a bit filled in (it had partially collapsed a while back, pictures on placards as someone had serendipitiously snapped a picture as the rocks fell), not as impressive. I made it up to the ledge, it was a bit exposed, but I got up. We crossed a hot plain then a windy narrow high ledge and I wimped out after going to my knees to avoid being blown over. Sue pressed on to see the Double O arch and took my camera to take some pictures for me. I waited for what seemed a long time - I started to worry that she'd been blown off a ledge, watching for people I'd seen go out coming back - it was a dead end trail. I tried to distract myself with the scenery at the base of the ledge, there were lots of rock spires with interesting striations, but it was hot and windy and I was dreading having to brave the scary ledge to go look for her. Luckily there were lots of people around so I reassured myself that someone would say something if they saw me waiting. I was very relieved when I saw Sue making her way back along the ridge, even though she had to crouch a few times to stabilise herself against the gusts. We headed back to the truck a lot faster than the outward trip, not taking any arch detours, but we were still hiking for 3 hours. We had to bundle up for the last wind tunnel, Sue had her long sleeve over shirt off and tied around her nose and mouth, I was able to use my long thick eyelashes to filter out the sand and she held on to me to let me lead her out. It wasn't completely obscure but the sand was very irritating on the mucuous membranes. We drove out of the park for the last time and hit the road to Panguitch.

We gassed up in Green River - really regretting renting the SUV for anything other than transporting the mountain bikes. We also got gas in Ritchfield when we saw it for sale at around $3.75/gallon. Lots of wind on the road too. We gassed up in Panguitch as well. *sigh* Our reservation was okay, and the room was ready for us. We ferried everything out of the car up to our second floor motel room (outside stairs) so that we could repack for our flights. We got a bit of rain as we pulled into the Purple Sage motel's parking lot, and also saw some hikers that we had encountered in the Devil's Garden at Arches. Panguitch was a reasonable stopping point on the way back to Vegas, so not too surprising, but still neat. It was a bit expensive, the other hikers didn't stay, but it had good reviews online. I had both a bath and a shower to get the days of dry camping off of me, but thankfully baby wipes and desert air didn't make me sick of my own stink. :-)

After we were town presentable, we headed out to the Cowboy Steak and Smokehouse. There was a country singer up on a stool, strumming a guitar. We had a bit of a long wait, we wandered down the street and I was a bit horrified at the "cowboys and indians" stuff around. Took a picture of Sue in the "jail". The town had a lot of scarecrows up for some sort of event or festival. Back and got our table eventually, and had lots and lots of food: 1/2 chicken, a yam, coleslaw, strawberry lemonade (they didn't have a liquor license so no return to civilisation cocktail for me), and a slice of blueberry pie. After dinner we headed back to the motel to pack up. I entered my Fitocracy workouts to log all the biking and hiking (two more to add before the week grace period expires). Wrote up my travel diary and was still awake at midnight, but fell into bed soon after (omg a bed!).

Saturday May 26, 2012

More rain this morning, we hit up Floy's for breakfast after running to pack the truck up with our stuff. Another windy drive today. We cut through Zion National Park, the most expensive toll road I've ever been on - $25 for less than an hour. We did get to go through the tunnel and see the soaring sandstone cliffs, but we didn't stop except for traffic. We returned the SUV at the Las Vegas airport rental place (time change!), and I saw Sue off on the airport shuttle to catch her flight. I picked up my tiny rental car (the woman renting me the car looked me up and down when I said that I didn't have a car (insurance), and said that I looked in shape from all the biking I do) and drove to Terribles to grab my cheapo hotel room for the night. I kept getting turned around in Vegas, despite using my phone for voice directions. I was a bit overwhelmed by going through the casino to my room, especially with having to request a luggage cart to get my duffle etc to it, plus, the hallways were disorienting. And add in the smoking and I was longing for our waterless camp site in Utah. I eventually managed to drive to the post office to mail the post card that Sue and I wanted to send to our parents. A woman came in and reported that her purse had been stolen from her car in the lot while I was there. :-( It was a fairly remote area, I was happy to leave and head out.

From the post office I drove over to NYNY to exchange my Cirque du Soleil voucher for an actual ticket at the window there. Got a bit lost on the way back, but made it back to Terribles to change for the Zumanity show. And drove back to NYNY. One nice thing about Vegas: free parking at the hotel/casinos. I had a drink while waiting for show time, seem to recall that I had to school the bartender on a basic cocktail recipe. I wasn't 100 percent impressed with the show, the sexiness part was overshadowing the physicality of the performers - granted I'm a bit spoiled by knowing a lot of circus performers in Boston and having attended a lot of shows now. Even with the GPS navigation I missed a turn on the way back. Packed up the last of my stuff for the plane ride tomorrow and was in bed by 11:30pm (hit the early Cirque show).

Sunday May 27, 2012

I made a few trips to fill the car with the stuff in my room since I didn't feel like requesting a cart. I moved the car closer to my room after the first trip and was done fairly quickly. I drove around the airport to get gas to avoid an extra charge (the tank needle had barely moved, but still), and returned the car no problem. Had a fast and easy shuttle ride from the rental building to the airport proper and lucked out in getting a metal detector rather than the full body scanner. Grabbed a buritto to fill my empty stomach and ended up gate checking my backpack, after paying $25 for my duffle bag. :-( I'm no longer a top tier customer with the new system, so no more free checked bags. I was glad to get home and to my own bed after so much camping and so many cheap hotel rooms.

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