Craters and Taters

August 26 - September 1, 2009 Craters of the Moon National Monument, ID

No lunar travel required.

A 360 view from the peak of Inferno Cone:

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A lot of Craters of the Moon National Monument is lava rubble. Most of the volcanic debris is charcoal in colour, but some areas are rusty or a range of pinks, purples and oranges.

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"Spatter cones" formed as volcanic eruption petered out and spattered lava around the vent openings.

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Dwarf buckwheat dots the black expanse of Devil's Orchard - a dazzling contrast.

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The entrance to a lava tube cave.

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An 800 foot 'trail' zigzags through a lava tube cave. "Skylights" (collapses in the ceiling) illuminate the cave, but flashlights are highly recommended. The Indian Tunnel Cave Trail is not for cautious folk. Trail description: "If you are willing to scramble over (large rock piles) and (suck in your stomach to) climb through a small opening, you can exit this cave ... (through a barely big enough vent)."

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The wall of the exit vent:

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We stayed 18 miles away in Arco, ID. Arco is wee, weird and quiet, best known (actually, hardly known) as the first town to be lit by atomic power, but we like it best for the smoked baked potatoes at Mountain View RV Park. We also enjoyed the campground's free breakfast, but happily payed a little extra for the sweet potato pancakes with pecans. Yum! The coffee is weak, but I think the mini-golf makes up for that. :)

Also, Arco has a distinct landmark in Number Hill (I'll find my photo...). Local high school graduates have scaled this almost-mountain every year and painted their graduation year large enough to see for miles around.

Craters of the Moon National Monument is less a destination than a side attraction, but you won't see another place like it.

-P

Craters and Taters

August 26 - September 1, 2009 Craters of the Moon National Monument, ID

No lunar travel required.

A 360 view from the peak of Inferno Cone:

L1020413

A lot of Craters of the Moon National Monument is lava rubble. Most of the volcanic debris is charcoal in colour, but some areas are rusty or a range of pinks, purples and oranges.

L1020475

"Spatter cones" formed as volcanic eruption petered out and spattered lava around the vent openings.

L1020430

Dwarf buckwheat dots the black expanse of Devil's Orchard - a dazzling contrast.

L1020433

The entrance to a lava tube cave.

L1020474

An 800 foot 'trail' zigzags through a lava tube cave. "Skylights" (collapses in the ceiling) illuminate the cave, but flashlights are highly recommended. The Indian Tunnel Cave Trail is not for cautious folk. Trail description: "If you are willing to scramble over (large rock piles) and (suck in your stomach to) climb through a small opening, you can exit this cave ... (through a barely big enough vent)."

L1020459

The wall of the exit vent:

L1020467

We stayed 18 miles away in Arco, ID. Arco is wee, weird and quiet, best known (actually, hardly known) as the first town to be lit by atomic power, but we like it best for the smoked baked potatoes at Mountain View RV Park. We also enjoyed the campground's free breakfast, but happily payed a little extra for the sweet potato pancakes with pecans. Yum! The coffee is weak, but I think the mini-golf makes up for that. :)

Also, Arco has a distinct landmark in Number Hill (I'll find my photo...). Local high school graduates have scaled this almost-mountain every year and painted their graduation year large enough to see for miles around.

Craters of the Moon National Monument is less a destination than a side attraction, but you won't see another place like it.

-P

Recent Utah Hikes

Capital Reef NP - Cassity Arch Hike This is a wonderful hike in the area Butch Cassity and his men hid from the law. The views along this trail are breathtaking. It is a strenuous hike.

Capital Reef NP - Capital Gorge Hike

This is an easy hike along the floor of the canyon where the Mormon pilgrims carved there names into the walls of the canyon in the late 1800s and early 1900s.

Escalante SP - Petrefied Forrest Hike

This is a moderately strenuous hike that leaves the campground and ascends to a great view of the town of Escalante and many large petrified tree trunks.

Escalante National Monument - Devil's Garden Hike

This is an easy hike around the hoodoos and formations. See the upcoming photo gallery for images from this magical place.

Bryce NP - Queens Garden Navajo Loop Hike

Sorry for the poor quality of this Google Earth image. There must have been a fire when the Satellite took these photos since smoke covers the entire Bryce area on Google. But this hike is considered the "world's greatest three mile hike" and we would have to agree. After a steep decent into the canyon floor you have wonderful views of Bryce from below. The steep ascent out of the canyon makes this a moderately strenuous hike. Well worth the effort. -L

Grand Staircase Escalante & Hwy 12

August 5-9, 2009 If you're reading in sequence, this is what awaited us after scaling Muley Twist:

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... Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument: part painted-desert, part bold plateaus, part layer cake of time. Grand Staircase Escalante is so named on account of the multihued layers of sedimentary rock in white, pinks, oranges, purples, blues, etc. Lloyd posted a gallery with better photos.

An interesting fact (maybe?): "The Monument was declared in September 1996 at the height of the 1996 presidential election campaign by President Bill Clinton and was controversial from the moment of creation. The declaration ceremony was held at Grand Canyon National Park in Arizona and not in the state of Utah. The Utah congressional delegation and state governor were notified only 24 hours in advance. This was seen by many as a transparent political ploy to gain votes in the contested state of Arizona. That November, Clinton won Arizona by a margin of 2.2%, and lost Utah to Republican Bob Dole by 21.1%."

From Torrey through Boulder en route to Escalante, Highway 12 is a stunning drive...

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... if a little bit scary in a big bus when there are no lines, no shoulders, no guard rails, but so many sheer views down, ...

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... followed by a lot of up.

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-P

Blanding, Natural Bridges & Abajo Mtns

July 3-7, 2009 We were in Blanding for July 4th and though we didn't partake in the festivities, we took in most of the show from our campsite: a long and impressive fireworks display, especially for a small town (pop. ~3300), and some rowdy tunes from the rockin' band and loud crowd.

A 9-mile loop circles Natural Bridges Natural Monument park. Water and time have cut two canyons and three large bridges out of sandstone.

Canyon view:

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Short hikes are required to view the bridges. A steep hike including a ladder descends to a viewpoint overlooking Sipapu Bridge, the second largest natural bridge in the world. You may remember the word "sipapu" from prior posts, a Hopi word that means a gateway for spirits or "the place of emergence".

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A nice find along the trail - the last of the prickly pear cactus blooms:

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A 1.2 mile return trip hike of switchbacks, stairs and slickrock swings by Owachoma Bridge.

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Since Natural Bridges National Monument can be toured in a day, we had more time to explore the Blanding area. The owner of Blue Mountain RV Park suggested the Abajo Mountain Loop Trail. A single-lane dirt road navigates Abajo Mountains, part of the Colorado Plateau, for 43 miles meant for high clearance vehicles. We were told "abajo" means blue in Spanish, but others say "low". Whatever it means, we enjoyed a peaceful, albeit bumpy, ride through the mountains.

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If you want a dining recommendation, The Peace Tree Juice Cafe is the cool place to refresh. The Blanding location features local art for sale and also art from recycled material like metal. If you find yourself in Blanding, Monticello or Moab, you can find The Peace Tree. We know firsthand that Katie and Lisa make delicious paninis, breakfast burritos, smoothies, and americanos.

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-P

Canyon de Chelly, AZ

June 29, 2009 - July 3, 2009 Just outside of Chinle, AZ, where the livestock roam free (and not everyone's happy about that because "tourists don't know and they hit them all the time"), ...

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... a magnificent labrynth slashes the land.

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The South Rim of Canyon de Chelly, a 37 mile round trip, offers several outlooks at elevations of 5,500 to 7,000 feet above the canyon floor. The North Rim, with fewer lookoffs, runs 34 miles round trip.

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About 50 Navajo people live in the canyon. They farm corn, alfalfa and peach crops around their traditional log hogan homes or sell art and crafts like painted replicas of pictographs, carved replicas of petroglyphs, and jewelry to visitors who venture down into the canyon by hiking trails or guided Navajo Jeep tours.

We hiked 500 feet down into the canyon (2.5 mile round trip) on a steep, zigzag trail following three horseback riders then crossed Chinley Wash...

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... to the White House ruins. Ancestral Puebloen people built and occupied the dwelling about a 1,000 years ago. Petroglyphs are easy to spot all around. White House is the only self-directed hike permitted.

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A little (non-venimous) corn snake came out to inspect us.

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One of the most impressive sights in the canyon, perhaps, is Spider Rock, an 800 foot sandstone spire where Canyon de Chelly and Monument Canyon meet.

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We stayed at privately owned Spider Rock Campground, which turned out to be as tranquil as it was rustic. We dry camped for five days, woke to the lilt navajo flute music every morning, lolled under the awning every sight-see free moment, inhaled the soft sage and juniper scented breeze, watched Howard (the owner) and a friend build a hogan, and also borrowed Howard's dog, Boy, whenever we could, and for a 3.5 mile hike along Cherry Canyon that begins and ends at the campground. Boy was such a sweetheart we didn't even mind that he slowed to half-time in every single shady spot as we braked behind him in the searing sun.

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We highly recommend a stay at Spider Rock Campground if you want space and quiet, or maybe a night in a cool, dark hogan.

Tip: You can find sweets, refreshing iced drinks, and a seat under an umbrella at Changing Woman Cafe near the Visitor Centre.

Peace

-P