What’s in the Wash?

There is unfinished business in the Capitol Gorge Wash. After the Golden Throne hike, only five of the original eight opt to hike the wash, and two out of those five turn back early. So the group decides to return the next day, as there are many reasons to revisit the wash.IMG_1155
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Prior to 1962 when Highway 24 was constructed, the “wash” beneath Capitol Gorge was the only road through what would later become Capitol Gorge National Park. Diversion dams were built along the road, and one can only imagine the amount of rock clearing required after a rain. This must have been one tough road to navigate through soft sediment, curving canyons, and massive boulders.

The first signs of settlers are seen along the walls on what is called the “Mormon Register,” or the more politically correct version, the “Pioneer Register” which contains signatures carved into the walls of the canyon dating back to the late 1800’s.

One of the "tanks" or water pockets that flow into the wash.

One of the “tanks” or water pockets that flow into the wash.

View from the top of the tanks spur trail.

View from the top of the tanks spur trail.

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About a mile into the canyon is a sign indicating “tanks,” or water pockets two tenths of a mile up.  This part of the trail leaves the shade of the canyon behind, and begins a long circuitous route over many steep steps in what feels more like two miles to me, rather than two tenths!

Debbie makes navigating the obstructions around the edge of the tank look easy.

Debbie makes navigating the obstructions around the edge of the tank look easy.

The day prior, Mark has spotted a natural arch that has both a concave and convex side, opposing curves from water flowing over and under the arch. But the lighting was not right for photos on the previous afternoon hike, and only he, Gayle and Bobbie saw it, so Debbie and I want to return. Besides, Mark has decided he needs his photo standing on the arch. But a closer look reveals a steep, slick decent to get onto the arch, and what would potentially be a long fall into a steep stagnant hole below.

Box Canyon Mark surveys access the the arch below.

Box Canyon Mark surveys access the the arch below.

Even those long legs are not long enough to reach.  Hard to see, but the arch is actually the curved shelf one level below.

Even those long legs are not long enough to reach. Hard to see, but the arch is actually the curved shelf one level below.

Bobbie maintains her cool while Gayle and I shriek “NO! DON’T DO IT!!” until Mark either comes to his senses, or gets tired of the women all yelling at him, and settles for a photo instead.

Bobbie watches calmly while Mark explores a route.  He can get down, but can he get back up??

Bobbie watches calmly while Mark explores a route. He can get down, but can he get back up??

A collective "WHEW!" can be heard amongst us.

A collective “WHEW!” can be heard amongst us.

Thank goodness, he settles for a photo from a distance.

Thank goodness, he settles for a photo from a distance.

We continue on down the wash in search of what we have heard to be an old abandoned car. We must cross the barbed wire fence and continue to the point where the canyon opens up, but we finally make it to the car, our designated turn around point. Apparently this was an old sight-seeing vehicle, as the sign painted on the door says “Scenic Attractions entering capitol Reef National Monument.” (The monument received National Park status in 1971.)
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Gayle quizzes our Junior Ranger Bobbie on geology.

Gayle quizzes our Junior Ranger Bobbie on geology.

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There is another side climb past the turn off to the tanks to “secret petroglyphs.” Mark, Bobbie, and Gayle found the secret. Gayle reveals the secret over on her Life’s Little Adventures blog. But for this blog, they will forever remain a secret, as I was just too hot and tired to make the scramble….

My one poor excuse for a petroglyph.

My one poor excuse for a petroglyph.

Trail to the Throne, or Go It Alone?

I awake after my restless boondocking night to see Debbie outside my window walking her dogs, the ever-entertaining Rupert and Elliott.   I have originally announced my plans to do a “solo acclimatization” hike on my first day, but Debbie assures me the group hike will be “doable,” with plenty of photo stops along the way (READ:  Opportunities to gasp for breath, slow my pounding heart, and steady my dizzy, swirling head.)

I am torn.  I have already selected my solo hike for the day, a nice level “wash,” equivalent to a gravel road.   But I think back to one of those “team building” work outings from 20 years ago at Martha’s Vineyard when I sat out the beach volleyball game because I didn’t want to look like a klutz in front of my co-workers.  What do I remember about that day 20 years later?   That I missed all the fun.   I have proven Mark Twain right when he said “Twenty years from now, you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do.”  I am still disappointed that I didn’t join in on the fun that day.  So I decide to swallow my pride and join “The Gang” for the group hike.

View from the Scenic Highway

View from the Scenic Highway

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The trail head is located at the end of the parks Scenic Drive, which meanders 16 miles RT along the edge of the Waterpocket Fold, the buckle in the earth’s surface for which the park is known. A group of Navajo sandstone domes resembling the D.C. Capitol Building, and towering rock ridges known as “reefs” give the park its name. The Scenic drive ends at Capitol Gorge trail head.

"The Castle," a famous park landmark.

“The Castle,” a famous park landmark.

IMG_1362This will be my first hike since Grinnell Glacier three weeks ago, and my first hike with the Box Canyon gang.  We are hiking to the “Golden Throne,” which is only 3.5 miles round trip, but it has an elevation gain of 700 ft.  Still, that sounds ridiculously easy.  But after my pounding altitude headache in the Albuquerque Walmart parking lot 2 nights prior, I am apprehensive.   As we pull into the parking lot for the Golden Throne trail head, I tell Debbie, “I have a knot in my stomach the size of one of these boulders.”IMG_1110

Those aren't ants across the way, they are cyborg hikers.  ;-)

Those aren’t ants across the way, they are cyborg hikers. ;-)

 

Debbie keeps me company on the uphill slog.

Debbie keeps me company on the uphill slog.

Catching up...

Catching up…

The others move at a rapid pace up the steep uphill climb, while Debbie and I share conversation at a slower pace. She even fakes being out of breath occasionally so I don’t feel so bad. ;-) Before I know it, we have reached the Golden Throne, only everyone agrees, it looks nothing like a throne. It is recognizable only by its golden color.

The Golden Throne

The Golden Throne

Overlook of the Scenic Drive below

Overlook of the Scenic Drive below

As we crest the top and see the “End of Trail” sign, I am relieved to see the lunch bags come out, as this means a welcomed rest stop.   It would be interesting to have a time lapse photo at the top, as each one wanders across the top of the bluff, looks over the edge to the vast expanse of canyon below, meanders out on the overlooks,  and takes turns guessing what the “throne” actually looks like.   Answers range from a big bread pudding to a giant recliner with footrest.

Box Canyon Mark and Bobbie

Box Canyon Mark and Bobbie

Jim and Gayle explore the edge of the overlook.

Jim and Gayle explore the edge of the overlook.

Look at the white rock on the left to see Jim on his own throne...

Look at the white rock on the left to see Jim on his own throne…

The trip back down the trail is swift.  As we all reconvene in the parking lot, it seems as if some have not been satiated by the three mile hike.  Someone poses the question, “Want to hike the Capitol Gorge Trail since we’re here?”   I am as surprised as the others to hear myself responding, “Sure, I’m in.”

Sixty is the New…Retired???

As if I don’t have enough going on during the current convergence…dealing with the my little Tracker, the “automotive heart transplant candidate,”  I have also been helping move my 86 year old Mom and 93 year old Dad back down to the farm.  Turns out, they aren’t city folk after all…

Throw in one more simultaneous life-change, and you have the makings of what I have been calling “The Perfect Storm,” as all these things converge during the same week.  Coincidentally, sixty days ago, I could not have known about the first two “storm elements” when I announced my intent to retire Continue reading

Together…Again

There have been a few tense moments here at the Highland Village Hospital.   I have tried to stay occupied outside the “waiting room” by doing a few menial tasks of my own, like changing a couple of burned out blubs in the Winnie, changing out the air filter and cabin filter, and cleaning and washing her inside and out…..just short of pacing as the two “smiling surgeons” keep assuring me that everything is progressing nicely in the lane next to me. Continue reading

We Have a Donor!

I send “email postcards” to friends and family along the way with jokes about towing “The Hearse” behind me for 1,760 miles.   A steady week of blacktop camping has me wandering the aisles to count dead animal heads in Cabelas, trying to sleep while the Winnie’s walls rumble all night in the Flying J advertising “over 150 Truck parking spaces,” and being woken up at 2:00am in the Walmart parking lot so they could repaint the yellow stripes beneath me.   All while working a full 40 hour week.  It was a memorable week, to say the least. Continue reading

Montana, You Were the Best of Times, the Worst of Times…

Life on a Sprinter Chassis is both a blessing and a curse. The rig drives like a dream. Hardly more struggle than driving a regular-sized van. For a solo-RVer, it’s both comfortable to drive and easy to maneuver. But placing an entire 24 ft house on a van chassis also means we Sprinter squatters must “watch our weight.” Not only are we limited in how much we can carry on board, but also on how much we can tow. The maximum towing capacity is 3,500 lbs, fully loaded. Continue reading

A Most Costly Cheeseburger

I awake in Many Glacier Campground to what my boating friends would call a “snotty day.” It’s thick pea soup fog, cold and gray out my rain-streaked window. I have done a “big hike” yesterday, and I have another one planned for tomorrow, so I do not feel guilty for taking a day off and being lazy.

It has now been three days without any internet connectivity, and I am starting to exhibit signs of addictive behavior. Continue reading