Sunday, November 25, 2007

Utah, less popular areas

While in Utah this October, I spent more time exploring less popular area, areas outside National Parks and less traveled areas of Parks. I've mentioned Escalante/Grand Staircase National Monument as an area I want to explore more. Another area I stumbled upon was Cedar Breaks National Monument. Because of its elevation, (over 10,000 feet) there was snow when I was there and I didn't spent a lot of time at the monument but I would like to go back especially if it is warm at lower elevations. There were some trails I would have liked to take.

I found another area by accident, I left the Interstate at Parowan to go to Brian Head. I gave that up due to snow and steep road but turned off at a road to Yankee Meadows. On the was was a very attractive local park with beautiful views and some trails. One particularly beautiful formation is Vermilion Castle, shown below. Several trails led to closer views but I didn't take any this time since the day was late.
I didn't do any exploring in Glen Canyon but I did see trails and roads I would have liked to explore. Again, something for my next trip.

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Saturday, November 17, 2007

Capitol Reef NP and nearby area

When I was in Utah in October, I spent some time hiking and exploring in and around Capitol Reef National Park and Escalante, Grand Staircase National Monument. On my previous visit I had basically driven through without spending much time. This is definitely an area I could spend a lot more time exploring, both inside the Park and nearby. Going by the main road, the visitor only sees the very northern tip and misses a lot of country. This is an area I will allot more time to exploring in the future.

I stopped at the pullout where the Escalante River trail crosses highway and walked south along the river until the trail crossed the river in a spot a little too deep for me to feel comfortable especially as storm clouds were still hanging over the mountains. Near the highway was a granary and another hiker said he saw pictographs. I couldn't go looking for them as the trail was on private land.

I took another trail south of Boulder off the Burr Trail road, the Lower Deer Creek trail. Very nice and scenic. I saw one spot where a recent flood had deposited a load of debris not far from where I was hiking. I watched the storm clouds more closely then. Not many other hikers on this trail. Later, looking at a map I realized there are lots of good trails in the area to explore, I wish I had spent more time there.

The next day I went into Capitol Reef and took the usual trails, Cohab Canyon and the trail just off the highway, Hickman Bridge. Both were crowded but interesting and offered some good views of the surrounding area. I didn't take the scenic drive because of continuing storm clouds in the area and the possibility of floods. The warnings by the rangers and at the Visitor center were effective especially after seeing on the previous day the results of a recent flood.


Monday, November 05, 2007

Zion NP hiking

I only hiked 2 trails in Zion this year. I wanted to avoid crowds and I wanted to go to areas I hadn't been previously. I hiked the Lee Pass Trail, from the Kolob Canyons area and the Hop Valley trail from the Kolob Terrace road. Both trails were easy to follow and well marked.

I hiked about 4 miles into the the Lee Pass trailhead, I went a bit past the first camp area. This was a beautiful trail with lots of varying scenery. I wanted to continue hiking but remembered I had to climb up out of the valley floor on my way out and didn't want to wish I had stopped sooner. Basically the trail leaves the road and descends into the valley along Timber Creek which was dry. On my way down I met 2 hikers going up, sweating and breathing heavily. Once in the valley the trail winds along with the creek for a few miles. I did not see any larger animals but saw tracks probably of bighorn sheep. This trail wasn't crowded but I did met or was passed by several hikers. It was a beautiful day and the warm breeze after about 10am making for a great hike.

The next day (9 October) I went up the Kolob Terrace road and hiked a ways along the Hop valley trail which connects with the Lee Pass although I did not get even close to the the trail connection either time. I would have also liked to see Kolob Arch but wasn't able to go that far in a day. I didn't see anyone else on this trail which was as far as I went flatter than the Lee Pass. Sagebrush and rabbitbrush and probably other types of brush were blooming and quite abundant making my allergies act up. I gave up after about 3 miles because even with antihistamines, I could barely see. I must go back in the spring, there were several other trailheads on the Terrace I wanted to explore.


Thursday, November 01, 2007

Canyonlands NP hiking

The most interesting hike I took on my visit to Utah was in the Needles District of Canyonlands NP, the Chesler Park overlook. I did not do any of the loops, I didn't have a topographic map and wasn't sure how difficult the loops would be so opted to hike in and out. The trail was well marked with good signs at trail junctions and cairns well placed, also enough hikers that if I got lost I could easily find someone to put me back on track. An interesting trail for someone used to mountains and forests. I liked the narrow passage in one spot, barely big enough for a backpack to pass. Weather was great, sunny but not too warm and a nice breeze. I had fewer difficulties than last year following the trail but still ended up circling around the last cairn I saw a few times, even on the way back. I met a couple who were concerned I was hiking alone and who offered to let me tag along. Very nice but they were doing a loop and were faster hikers than I am.

The next day in the Island in the Sky section, I hiked the Neck Spring loop. Weather was turning, with some rain and hail and I didn't meet anyone else. The trail was easy to follow but also had side trails I was concerned about becoming sidelined on. It would have been hard to become too lost but easy at times to lose the main trail. I also didn't like having to walk along the road at the Neck with traffic at the end. I was also concerned about lightning and was glad to finish the trail when I did.