Thursday, September 10, 2015


September 5  - 7, 2015

Saturday was my birthday and the thing I most wanted for my birthday was to be traveling again.  I wanted to get out of town early but, as my camera had been possessed by demons at the Alta Vista Petroglyphs back in February, I needed to buy a new one before I set off.  The Best Buy in Walnut Creek was very helpful in helping me choose a camera, but they did not have the one I selected.  The Dublin store was on my way.  I had to make another stop there to purchase the Nikon P610 that had most of the features I desired (60x optical zoom, viewfinder, and WiFi connectivity) without being prohibitively expensive.  I like a good camera, but my travels are hard on them, so I don’t like to spend a whole lot.  This one would allow me to upload photos to my phone and thence to Facebook, which was handy.

Marina del Rey
By noon, I was on the road and headed to LA.  I arrived in Marina del Rey at 5:30 and just had time to get settled on my friend Michelle’s boat before heading off to meet my old friend, Joe, for dinner at Killer Shrimp, my favorite restaurant.  Michelle had been occupied on a sailboat race until late, so Joe and I had a leisurely dinner and caught up until she got home around 11:00.

Sunday, I went for a sail on my friend John’s boat with a big group of friends who had assembled for my birthday.  It was wonderful to see everyone and I felt very popular.  The South Coast Corinthian Yacht Club just happened to be having a party with a live band that evening, which I co opted for my birthday party, since Michelle had asked me to invite my friends because she wanted it to be well attended.  Several more friends joined us for the party, as well as my cousin Ronda.  My friend, Tom, even baked a cake.  It was a great success.

Sailing on Out to Play

Having been a bit worse for wear after the Dark and Stormies at Killer Shrimp, I had not been up to a long run on Sunday morning.  Monday, I was out of excuses.  I got up early and ran from Marina del Rey pretty much all the way to Manhattan Beach and back along the bike path.  I had been training for a half marathon coming up in October and I finally managed to run the whole distance that morning.  I was tired and sore, but proud of myself.  After spending a nice morning with Michelle and her boyfriend, Alex, I hopped in my car and drove straight to Las Vegas.
By the time I reached Las Vegas, I was too tired and sore to even think about gambling or shows.  I stayed at the Excalibur.  Unfortunately, the hot tub closed before I got there, because I could have used a soak.  As it was, I got some dinner and retired to my room.
The Excalibur

September 8, 2015

I got up early, ate some breakfast, and pulled out of Las Vegas just after nine in the morning.  I drove north on I-15 through Nevada and across a corner of Arizona to St. George Utah.  Nevada was desolate, but Arizona was a little greener and Utah seemed positively verdant by comparison.  The road climbed upward as I drove north through Utah, reaching nearly 8,000 feet in places.  It seemed strange to see farmers irrigating hay fields after the drought in California, but the sky was filled with thunder clouds and I could see rain in the distance.  I continued north on I-15 to Utah 20 and then cut across the mountains to Utah 89, which I took to Panguitch.  
Utah Was Green

Red Rock Canyon

Highway 12 Scenery
 I stopped in Panguitch for lunch, gas and grocery shopping.  I stocked up on food, ice and propane for camping and then continued up the highway to Utah 12.  Highway 12 is the route to most of the National Parks in Utah and is very scenic.  I stopped several  times to take pictures in the Red Rock area near Bryce and again to take pictures of Capitol Reef.  Just before they closed at 4:30, I ducked in to the Esclante Grand Staircase Visitor Center in Cannonville where I picked up a map and some advice on hiking.

Escalante Petrified Forest State Park Campground
I wanted to get to my campsite before dark, so I passed on the hikes near Cannonville and headed straight for Escalante Petrified Forest State Park where I had a campsite reserved.  I got there in plenty of time to pitch my tent and blow up my air mattress and still get in a hike through the petrified forest before dark.  The main loop is about a mile up onto the top of the mesa and back.  An additional three quarter mile loop drops steeply down the other side of the mesa before returning to the top.  It is a bit of a scramble, but worth it because the majority of the petrified wood is found there.   The trees were buried in mud and silt and the wood was gradually replaced with minerals over millennia.  The petrified logs are scattered about and still look amazingly loglike, despite being composed of colorful stone.

Petrified Wood
I got back to my campsite well before dark.  The campground was a pleasant surprise.  It was much more attractive than it had appeared on the website.  There were nice restrooms and showers and even a lighted dish washing station.  Even WiFi was available.  I cooked a dinner of steak and beans and munched on raw carrots.  After dinner, I sat in my tent to avoid mosquitoes and worked on my blog until bedtime.

Petrified Log

September 9, 2015

Pictographs in Lower Calf Creek
Desert Varnish
The town of Escalante was named after Father Escalante, but “escalante” means "stepped up" so the name is perfectly suited to the region of stair stepped mesas.  I had a big day ahead of me and didn’t get up as early as I had planned.  I managed to leave the campground by 8:20, but it took me 45 minutes to drive to the Lower Calf Creek trailhead.  The trailhead was inside the Calf Creek Recreation Area, which had a pleasant campground, although no showers.  I took the three mile hike up to Calf Creek Falls.  It was uphill, but not steeply so and would have been quick if it weren’t for the deep sand in many places.  The trail followed the creek.  Along the way were pictographs and other evidence of the Fremont civilization.  I’m sure they didn’t call themselves that but, since they had decamped by the time white folks arrived, we had to call them something.  The scenery was impressive with lots of red rock formations and some impressive desert varnish, a blackish or rusty stain on the rocks caused by microorganisms fixing the minerals found in water running off the rocks.  Scientists believe that it is likely that similar organisms could be found on Mars.  I didn’t feel like I was on another planet, but I did feel like I was in Disneyland at times because the rocks were so fantastic.

Lower Calf Creek Falls
It took me an hour and a half to get up to the falls, since I kept stop-ping to take pic-tures and read my trail guide.  The falls were gorgeous and there was an inviting pool at the base that would have been great for a swim if I had had the time.  Instead, I took some photos and marched back down the trail, returning in just an hour.

Grosvenor Arch
My next stop was the Grosvenor Arch, which was at the end of a road intersecting the highway at Cannonville.  I stopped in the town of Escalante and bought four gallons of water, since the five gallon jug I had brought turned out to be leaky when I tried to fill it earlier in the day.  Cannonville was nearly an hour from Lower Calf Creek and the arch was 19 miles from Cannonville.  The first nine miles were paved, but the last ten miles were dirt.  The road wasn’t bad, but there were some steep hills and one stream crossing that would have been ugly after a rain.  The Mini made it just fine.  I was the only person at Grosvenor Arch, which was kind of amazing, since it is the signature feature of Grand Staircase – Escalante National Monument.  From there, the road continued another thirty miles to highway 89.  Unfortunately, that stretch was closed.  I say unfortunately because the park is immense and I had to drive over 200 miles to reach the spot where that road intersected highway 89.
Dirt Road to Grosvenor Arch

Glen Canyon Dam Visitor Center
It was 3:00 by the time I made it back to Cannonville from Grosvenor Arch.  I retraced my path along Highway 12 to Highway 89.  I drove south on Highway 89 and then followed it east along the border with Arizona.  I drove and drove and drove and still I was in the Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument.  Finally, I reached the border of Arizona and passed into the Glen Canyon National Recreation Area.  I stopped  briefly at the Glen Canyon Dam Visitor Center and then drove like mad down Highway 89 and into the Navajo reservation.  My goal for the evening was the Hopi Cultural center on Second Mesa and I wanted to make camp before dark.
Glen Canyon Dam
Bridge Over the Colorado River

Road Through the Hopi Reservation

The Hopi reservation is an island in the center of the Navajo reservation.  The sun was setting and I needed gas.  Unfortunately, the Hopi reservation was distinctly third world and there were no gas stations in sight.  I started to worry that I was going to run out of gas.  Finally, just as the sun set, I pulled into the Hopi Cultural Center.  The Cultural Center has a motel and restaurant.  It would be an exaggeration to say that there was a camp ground, but there was an empty lot with tracks between juniper trees where one could camp for free.  The employees at the Cultural Center were very welcoming  and allowed campers to use the restrooms at any hour of the night or day.  I pitched my tent in the dark and cooked my dinner.  Oddly, despite the primitive conditions, I still had a data connection.  It seemed out of place to be lying in my sleeping bag and uploading photos to Facebook.

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