Saturday, June 30, 2012

Fiery Furnace Hike - Arches National Park

Roger here...  First a disclaimer.  I am not sure that words and pictures can convey how much fun this hike actually was.  If you ever plan to visit Arches National Park, and are reasonably fit, you have to do it.  It is a ranger-led hike that requires reservations, so plan ahead.

A couple of years ago I read Howard and Linda Payne's blog about this hike.  At that time, I knew that it was something that I wanted to do.  As soon as we arrived at Arches, I went on line to reserve a spot.  We were in the area for two weeks, so I did not foresee a problem.  I was wrong.  All the reservable spots were booked for the next three weeks.  Very disappointing.  When Dianne and I were at the National Park Visitors' Center on our second day in Moab, I decided to check to see if there were any cancellations.  I was thrilled to find out that due to the popularity of the hike, they had added additional walk-in hikes on the weekends.  Dianne was concerned about walking on ledges and opted to stay home with the dogs, but I eagerly bought a $5 ticket for yesterday's 10:00 a.m. hike.

The hiking distance was only two miles; however, the time required was three hours.  The hike would not be ending until 1:00 p.m. so I mentally prepared for a warm adventure.  Adhering to my usual compulsion for arriving on time, I arrived a half-hour early with plenty of water, my stylish shady hiking hat, and five gallons of slathered sunscreen.  Surprisingly, several hikers arrived before me.  I quickly made friends with a young couple from Golden, Colorado.  I snapped a picture of the Fiery Furnace from the viewing area while we all waited for our guide, Ranger Mike. 

The Fiery Furnace area is a series of tall fins, arches and pathways.  The entire area is a maze with endless options for walking, crawling and climbing.  It would be very easy to get lost without a guide.  We had a good one.  Ranger Mike made sure that we had the correct shoes, the right amount of water, and a positive attitude before heading into the maze.  He instructed us to always follow him in single file.  He assured us that he would demonstrate the techniques for conquering the obstacles along the way, and that he would be there to assist.  He relieved our concerns about the heat by informing us that much of the hike would be in the shade of the tall formations and by assuring us that there would be frequent stops for rest and water.  Off we went.

After scrambling down a rocky area, we walked for a while on the ever-present red sand.  (I am not sure that my hiking shoes will ever return to their original color.)  We soon found ourselves entering a narrow (not as narrow as things would be later) space between two towering fins.

Picture-taking was a little tricky.  Finding something to photograph was simple, but getting the camera out while walking in a group, and ensuring that I was not going to trip on a rock was sometimes a challenge.  Because the shots were often taken while walking, they are a little blurrier than I would like.  It is what it is.

We spent a lot of time looking straight up.  The formations were ever-present.  There were many areas where vertical columns dominated the view.

Clambering up slickrock, and a fair amount of climbing over boulders (often with footholds chiseled into the rock) was the order of the day.

Ranger Mike led us under an arch (Walkthrough Arch) and into an amazing space that was surrounded by towering walls on three sides with the arch serving as the only entrance/exit.  (Or so it appeared.)

After a quick discussion of how the arches form and the qualifications of being an arch, Ranger Mike asked us to point out the three arches in the alcove where we were standing.  Two of them were obvious.  The third was not.  A ten-year-old girl eventually pointed upward and said, "Is that it there?"  It was.   You can see it just above the ledge on the left side of the above photo.  

Guess what?  Instead of walking back under Walkthrough Arch, we all got to climb up a ledge, remove our backpacks, get on our knees, and squeeze through the miniscule arch.  What fun!  The photo to the right shows us lined up on the ledge.  The opening photo for this post shows people at both ends of the process.

After squeezing through the arch, we continued to walk along ledges (not too high) and scramble up slickrock and boulders.  All the while, sneaking upward looks at the scenery and simultaneously watching our footing.

Soon Ranger Mike congratulated us for completing the first half of the hike and informed us that the second, more difficult leg was just ahead.  We would be leaping over crevasses (not too deep), crab-walking, walking with our hands, leaning over crevasses, etc.

Here we are leaping over a crevasse.  In the photo below, we are walking along a ledge.  (Notice the downward pointing faces of people who are carefully watching their step.)

In the photo below, we carefully walked down the slickrock to chiseled footholds in the rock.  We then fell forward over a crevasse while placing our hands on the opposite side.  In order to get through the narrow slot, we walked with our hands, while seeking footholds with our feet, all the while leaning over the crevasse.  It sounds a lot more difficult than it was.  The crevasse was not very deep, but there was no place to get a foothold on the bottom as the rock faces formed a "v".  It felt great to discover that a scary-looking maneuver was really pretty simple.  Peer pressure also helped.  The photo above and to the right shows Ranger Rick demonstrating the proper technique for exiting the slide by sitting on a ledge, and putting all four appendages (feet and hands on the same side).  

We made a couple interesting stops between our acrobatic feats.  Ranger Rick told us that the circular depression on the left teems with life after a rain.  Eggs of fairy shrimp hatch in the water and go through an entire life cycle in a two-week period.  Toads also live here when there is water.  Evidently, there is usually water in this tank, but it has been dry during the long drought that is plaguing this part of the country.

We stopped under a striking double arch for some rest and a gulp of water.

We walked past the Kissing Turtles Arch.

After a few more leaps and additional hand-walking, we all sat down in a shaded area.

Ranger Mike asked us to find an arch from where we were sitting.  Look up!  Look up and see Surprise Arch.  Wow.

Before hiking out of the Fiery Furnace, while sitting under Surprise Arch, Ranger Mike took a few minutes to talk about how he became a National Park Ranger.  He told us about his passion for our National Parks and his particular love for Arches National Park.  Ranger Mike is about the age of our two daughters.  I thought about them as I listened to his story.  

You get to know people pretty well in a short period of time when you do something like this.  After goodbyes from my new friends from Colorado and another couple from Austin, TX.,  I headed back to the car for the trip back to the motor home, which turned out to be an adventure in itself --- another story.

The next post will cover a hike with the dogs and a night cruise on the Colorado River.

Dianne here:  The pet photo of the day is Charlie the cat laying on a piece of tracing paper from my Sudoku endeavors.  Laying on crinkly sacks or paper is one of his favorite things to do!

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Arches, Doggie Shoes, + Laundromat Drama

Double Arch
Hi all, Dianne here.  We drove the short distance from Capital Reef to Arches and are set up in Moab for the next two weeks, to visit the parks in this area. 

Before I update you on our visit here, I just have to relate my laundromat experience in Moab this morning.  I usually don't mind going to the laundromat.  A few weeks ago, at a laundromat near Zion, I even ran into a fellow blogger, RV Sue and her Canine Crew, and we had a nice chat about future travels, etc. as we did our laundry.  Today was a much different experience!  The following photos were taken surreptitiously with my iPhone. 

It will give new meaning to the caution sign, and I guarantee it will give pause to my RV'ing friends who depend on laundromats as they travel.

I entered the laundromat at about the same time as a handsome, nicely-dressed man, and went about my business filling my machines.  He looked like the type who wouldn’t be caught dead washing his own clothes in a laundromat.

My first clue that there might be something amiss was when suds started roiling out of the floor drain and spreading across the floor.  (They had gone back down by the time I took this photo).  Take special note of the rock in the suds photo.  I walked around the bank of washers to check on mine, to be sure they weren’t causing the problem, and noticed the man who entered when I did had way too much (brown) suds in his washers, plus a lot of gravel and rocks on the floor in front of them. 

My washers were done at about the same time as Mr. Clueless, and I gaped in astonishment as I saw him remove gravel- and concrete-laden canvas tarps from his washers (the tarps had obviously not been shaken out before putting them in), and move them to a couple of dryers (still not shaking them out). 

 Let me tell you, those dryers sounded like rock tumblers as they struggled with his mess.
When my first dryer was finished, I hurried to claim the folding table, knowing that he would no doubt put his filthy tarps up there if he got the chance.

As he removed the tarps from the dryers, he spread them out on the floor and tried to pick off glops of dried concrete. 

The gravel and rocks were all over the floor, to the point that I had to be extra careful not to drop any of my laundry, and I crunched around every time I moved my feet as I folded my things.  Oh, and by the way, the photo of the gravel is after he had gotten a shovel and dust pan out of the bed of his pickup to scrape up most of the mess.  This was just a fraction of what was left behind!

The other folks (mostly out-of-town RV’ers like me) who were in the laundromat at the time were also speechless and shaking their heads.  I am e-mailing these photos to the laundromat to alert them.  I think it was a local guy (he had a very nice truck with a Utah license plate).  I think from now on I’ll only use laundromats with attendants on premises (if possible), and you can be darned sure I’ll carefully check washers and dryers before I use them!  Enough laundry-day drama; back to the blog:  

We knew when we made our reservations in Moab that it would be very hot by the time we arrived.  As it turns out, it’s so hot everywhere right now that we might as well be here with the low humidity.  It may be 105 degrees, but at least it's a dry 105!  After we got parked and hooked up, we took Bandido and Tequila for a quick pee break on the dog walk, only to discover that the sand was so hot it was burning their paws to walk on it. 

That just wouldn’t do, so we made a quick trip into Moab and bought doggie shoes for them, as well as two cooling vests for them to use when hiking in the heat.  As you can see, Tequila is not too sure about the shoes!
Not Amused!

Neither is Bandido!  We were careful not to laugh at them as they tried to walk, and bribed them with treats to get them to take a step.  You’ll be glad to know that both dogs did get used to the shoes, and now walk with confidence in the hot sand.  

Roger here... We celebrated the pups' success in mastering new skills by having a tasty dinner at the Moab Brewery (without the dogs).  This place has eight different microbrews.  I only had one.

On the Dog Walk at Spanish Trails RV Park
Yesterday we set our alarm for 6:00 and got an early start to visit Arches National Park before the heat got into triple digits.  We took several short hikes to see some of the arches.  Here are photos with captions:
Landscape Arch
North Window and South Window
Balanced Rock
Skyline Arch
We started down the trail through Devil's Garden to Double O Arch, but I wimped out when I saw the steep slickrock I'd have to scramble up:

Roger, the intrepid one, went on up to the top, but when he found out from other hikers that it would be another mile to get to the Double O Arch he turned back, but not before befriending some Asian Indian children who were proud to show him the snake they saw and photographed on the trail.

Roger wants to describe this photo himself, and our eventful trip back to the RV.

Roger here...  There are lots of strange, interesting, humorous, and frustrating snippets in this post.  However, the most disturbing to me is that my wife of almost 40 years, may be an alien!  Dianne took the above photo.  You know how a vampire reflection never shows up in a mirror?  Well, I am concerned that we humans can only see the true images of aliens from their shadows.  We will be traveling through Roswell, NM on our way back to Texas in the fall.  Is this a coincidence?  You can bet that I will be watching Dianne very closely, when we get to Roswell.

In another matter, on the trip back to the RV park from Arches, we had an interesting (frustrating) experience.  Road construction --- directly in front of the RV park entrance.   The road crew had just laid a fresh patch of asphalt that we could not cross.  We were told to come back in 30 minutes.  When we returned, after a frustrating drive to nowhere, knowing it was time for the dogs to pee, we saw a motor home being turned away.  Crap.  I followed the motor home to a nearby Shell station and talked to the occupants.  They had been told that it would be another hour!  Crap.  After filling up our tank, I walked over to make friends with the female flag person at the intersection.  She agreed to let me cross because our car was so small.  There are advantages to owning a cheap car.  

This morning, we got another early start and took Bandido and Tequila to the new Moab off-leash dog park.

The “kids” had a lot of fun running and chasing each other in the red sand.  It's a large park with shade trees and benches.  We were there by 8:00 and it wasn't hot yet, so we let them cut loose for a bit.  

Bandido fetched balls over and over, but he got pretty tired of getting sandy, red dirt in his mouth every time he picked up his ball.  He decided to wash it in the water bowl (his Retama friends have seen him do this in Texas).  He misses his Texas grass!

Roger here, again....  I was wounded at the dog park :-(.  While showing Tequila the way to the water bowl, a hornet stung me in the ankle.  Ten hours later (and lots of benedryl lotion, and ice), it still hurts like the devil.  My ankle bone is visually non-existent.  Hope it is better by tomorrow because we are taking the dogs on a dog-friendly hike in the morning with all their new paraphernalia. 

The pet photo of the day is a very short video of Bandido and Tequila learning to walk in shoes.  Charlie the cat took advantage of Tequila’s hesitation and ate the dog treats before Tequila came out from her hidey-hole under the chair to get them.   Roger again (one last time)...  I often skip downloaded video clips when reading on the internet.  Please don't skip this one.  Dianne did a masterful job making this one hilarious.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Last days at Capitol Reef

Roger here.... I promise this post will be shorter than the last one.  After our day-long Jeep trip, we decided to rest for a day, maybe even eat at a couple of the local restaurants.  We lazed around during the morning, made a quick trip back to Fruita to buy a gift, then stopped at Slackers in the town of Torrey for lunch.  We were intrigued by the sign that advertised it to be one of the top 10 drive-ins in Utah.  

For my friends in Pendleton, IN, Slackers reminded me of a very upscale Jimmie's Dairy Bar.  The outdoor seating area was pleasant.  It even had a backyard-style playground.  Dianne had a fish sandwich.  I had an Outlaw Burger (in honor of former area resident, Butch Cassidy).  We both had milk shakes.  It was yummy.

After lunch we bought a few groceries at the local general store and spent the afternoon lounging under the tree at our campsite with our dogs.

Suppertime!  There are several dining options in Torrey.  At least one of them is very expensive.  We were more in the mood for a local, family run place.  Thanks to a recommendation from Chuck and Geri (work campers who we met at the Zion River Resort), we opted to dine at the Capitol Reef Inn and Cafe.  Recommendations from friends seldom disappoint.  This was a very comfortable place with excellent food.  Dianne and I both had the rainbow trout that others have recommended.  What a delicious meal.

Earlier in the day, Dianne hinted that she wouldn't mind driving into the park at sunset to stroll a couple of very short trails.  Both trails (the Sunset Trail and the Goosenecks trail) left from the same parking area and were nearby.  So off we went.

Unfortunately, we lingered a little too much over dinner and missed some of the lighting we had hoped for, but the scenery was spectacular, nonetheless.  The leisurely stroll turned out to be a scramble up the trails to get to the viewpoints before sunset was completely over.  The opening photo for this post was taken during our stroll on the Sunset Trail, as were the photos to the right and below.

The Goosenecks trail led us up a short sand and slickrock pathway to the edge of a gorge overlooking the Fremont River.

As you can see, the river winds around like a slithering snake (or a gooseneck), far below our vantage point.

Darkness was falling and we needed to negotiate the trail while we could still see.  Back at the parking area, I noticed that one of our tires looked a little low.  It was 10 psi lower than it should have been.  I had been adding air to this particular tire for a while, about once a week.  I should have checked it before leaving the campground.  I usually do.  So, in the early darkness we made a mad dash back to Torrey.  I remembered a sign at a gas station in town and decided to fill up the tire at the station rather than driving the few extra miles to the campground.  It has been two days now, and the pressure is still where it should be.  Must be a very slow leak.

Yesterday, we packed up the dogs and drove to the Lower Calf Creek Falls Trailhead, a little more than an hour south of here.  It was a beautiful drive back over Boulder Mountain. 
All the loose cattle were still there.  We picked this hike because there is a pool underneath a 128 foot water fall that the dogs could swim in.  It was 79 degrees at the top of the mountain.  By the time we arrived at the trailhead, it was 86 degrees - not too bad, we thought.

We scrambled up some slickrock, and soon we were overlooking the green growth surrounding Calf Creek.  A little further down the path, we hiked through all those plants.

The innocuous-looking walking surface was soon to be a problem, but not yet.

The first of many water stops.

As we trudged through the sand, Bandido was the first of us demanding to turn back.  He trotted to every shady spot, dug in the sand, and laid down.  Tequila soon joined in the protest.  She was holding up her front paws --- first one, then the other, then plopping over in the sand.  We thought she had a thorn, then it dawned on us.  The sand.  The sand was too hot.  It was burning their paws.  Despite the fact that we had walked 2.25 miles of the three-mile (one-way) trek, we turned back.

We took long stops in the shady spots to give the dogs water and get them off their feet.  You can tell that they were miserable.  This was meant to be playtime in the cool water.  We felt so badly.  (Dianne here:  You'll be glad to know that their paws were not burned; we evidently turned back just in time).

We found access to the creek on an offshoot of the main trail.  The dogs spent about fifteen minutes in the water.  It really did help to rejuvenate them for the final stretch back to the shady trailhead.  The water probably felt good on their feet.

One more stop in the shade.

Whew! We made it back to the shady picnic area, had lunch, drank more water, and piled in the air-conditioned car.  (By the way, the car thermometer registered 98 degrees.  The temperature rises quickly here.)

We are heading to Moab in the morning where it is even hotter.  We have some serious thinking to do before embarking on any of the dog-friendly hiking trails in that area.  We may be getting up at the crack of dawn before there is any heat.  I may forgo getting cleaned up until after the hike.  Dianne may delay putting on makeup until after the hike (when hell freezes over).  We may buy some doggie boots in one of the outfitter stores.  We have already found three places that carry them.  We may just stay in the air conditioned motor home :-).  We'll see.

The Pet Picture of the Day shows Bandido getting a well-deserved drink of water.