Sunday, November 19, 2006

The Belated Expedition Post: Featuring links galore!!! Check out the trip photos on my sidebar!

I added a Flickr badge on my sidebar. I left detailed comments on each shot, so they have mini blog entries, so to speak. Make sure to click on them and read. I will be adding more as soon as December rolls around. I hit my limit, and so couldn't add them all.

What of that trip? Well, I will tell you. But, not after I get a chance to ramble a little.

My buddy "Wino/Einar" (the guy who wouldn't push me off a cliff) and I wanted some things to do in the desert again. The kind of things that we did with my ancient best friend "18-Hole" in "A Springtime Story". Wino, Einar, whatever I feel like calling him, has been my best friend for almost twenty years. We have explored caves, abandoned mine shafts, and all types of wilderness. We even crossed a pipeline that spanned the distance of a deep ravine when we were skipping school with our fellow, best, compadre in arms, The Trampoline Kid. That almost ended up in us decorating the creek below with our beautiful corpses, but we prevailed. The Trampoline Kid was our wild monkey boy of the bunch, who once free-climbed Dead Man's point (200 foot cliff) without giving it a second thought. I was the leader, always deciding the way we should go and how to get there. Wino was the one who always had the cool gear to make me and The Tramp jealous.

Well, the Tramp got married first at 24 years old, then Wino followed at 25. Tramp didn't get away as much, but Wino had a more free situation, and in fact his wife encourages him to get out and hit the trails with me. So, Wino and I have kept the expeditions going. Check out these photos, here to get an idea why Utah is your best choice for desert expeditions.

This year we were winging it. He is a very busy man, both with his family and his profession. The initial plan was to just do the old standby Moab trip and ride our mountain bikes on the Slickrock trail, Porcupine Rim trail, hike the Needles trails, and explore the Fiery Furnace in Arches. He left the planning to me, because he had a big business trip that would tie him up. I opted for something not Southeast, Utah. I went for that lesser-known, unmolested gem in South Central Utah: Escalante.

Neither of us had been there. We'd been everywhere else but there: Zion National Park and Narrows, Bryce Canyon(not together), Canyonlands, Needles, Arches, Lake Powell (not together), and Cedar Breaks. Escalante was the trip we needed to give us new life and discovery.

The drive down saw a change from suburban, urban, rural, steppe; forested mountains, riding high plains over 8,000 feet above sea level, numerous peaks towering over us (nearing 12,000 feet above sea level), and then the red rock and Navajo sandstone of Torrey, the entry into
Capitol Reef National Park. It was a turn down highway 12 in Torrey that we climbed out of red rock country into high mountain pine forests and aspen groves, then back down into the sandstone welcoming sign of Boulder. The 30-mile span from Boulder to Escalante was outrageous. One part of highway 12 runs along the spine of a ridge that drops hundreds of feet either way. It is something else. Once you get near to Escalante, you get a sense that all this wonder is yours to behold, but may come at a steep price if you don't respect it.

Man, Escalante is destined for raping once people find out how amazing it is. It is sad, but true. I had an idea of a small part of the wonders there, but I had no idea how vast, convoluted, and rugged this area was. There is plenty chance to find a virgin canyon here, trust me. If I could, I'd want to live there for a while, just to get a chance to explore as much as I could.

We had heard that all of Wayne County was in a state of disaster, but we decided that we'd go down anyway. Hanksville was pretty much FUBAR from floods. Well, we thought that seeing as how Hanksville was in the upper East corner of Wayne County and we'd be in the lower part, that somehow we would not have problems. Wrong!

We had to do the motel thing because of flash flood danger. Better to be stranded in BFE in a motel, than a canvass-wrapped corpse floating down to Lake Powell. When we headed out with our initial plans to hit some slots, we found out that most spur roads had been wiped out from the floods. We found out that the Burr Trail road out of Boulder was open, but that all its spurs were closed. I knew that Little Death Hollow and other extreme gultches and slots were now not accesible, so I convinced Wino that Upper Muley Twist trail in South Capitol Reef was our best bet. It was about 60 miles down the Burr Trail to this twist. The spur was washed out, so that added a total of six miles to a nine-mile hike. We did it no sweat.

Upper Muley twist gives you a chance to see more geological formations of differing varieties in such a short span than I had ever experienced. You go from open washes, canyons, to ridge lines where you can see hundreds of miles in every direction. You get to see the massive geological phenomenon, the waterpocket fold. It runs over a hundred miles and is like seeing an open wound in the earth.

After trying to help some ladies find their lost husbands, we ventured onward, did the loop, and headed back in the dark. Can you believe that we overshot our turn off? Hell, we could have been lost for good. I started to feel the changes under my feet. I couldn't remember the ground going from a soft to hard transition near our turn off. The canyon walls were closer together, even though all I could see was that it was blacker. We turned around and it took us awhile to get our bearings. Wino and I did find our turn off, and it was back to trying to get his Outback out in one piece, which involved some ace spotting and trail building by moi!

Along the way back, we saw many flat bed wreckers hauling out SUV's that looked like they had been through a crusher. These cars were packed full of mud, and I can only imagine what would've happened if there were people inside. These wrecker guys were asleep in their cabs (they actually had sleepers on these trucks) having a ton of work to do, but running out of day light to do it in. We made it out and managed to not hit the hundreds of jack rabbits that were making their home on the road. We saw one jack jump five feet straight up in the air. We must've scared the duece out of it.

Wino and I were getting pretty hungry. We made Boulder a quarter to ten. Escalante was 30 miles away and we would not be able to get to a cafe before closing there. Faced with the possibility of being gas station gourmets, we searched the one-horse town of Boulder and I spotted something off into the distance, a retreat of sorts with a hip restaurant. Little did we know that we'd come across a high falutin' joint: Hell's Backbone Grill.

We walked in this Zagat, four-star rated, restaurant dirty and smelly. The materdei ignored us for a considerable amount of time. I wonder why? Eventually, she came up to us and asked if we had reservations. We both said hell no, and that there were empty tables--our money was good as anyone else's. She allowed us in and gave us the wine list. Neither of us drink, so that was not too useful. We sat down next to some of the coolest 50-something dudes, who were taking their kick ass touring bikes (Honda and Triumph) from Denver, through Utah, and down to their home in Dallas. They recommended the meatloaf. They knew what they were talking about. This Grill uses all locally grown produce and locally raised/butchered meats and is all prepared in Southwestern style cuisine.

Between the exotic meatloaf (yeah, it tasted like nothing I'd ever equate to meatloaf, for sure) and the various side dishes, we conversed with the wine happy Texan bikers and had a time. It was a damn fine way to cap off a long day of hiking. I can't wait to see my Visa bill.

Stay tuned for part II.


Anonymous said...
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goldennib said...

Wow. Sounds like a major expedition and adventure. Very exciting. You manly, man, you. I'm impressed. And then to hang in a 5 star restaurant? Cool.

Clearlykels said...

always take the recommendations!

Looks like a great trip. Fun photos!!!

blog Portland said...

Why is it so easy to picture you precariously hanging from a sheer cliff face, a la Tom Cruise in MI:2?

Karyn said...

The testosterone is palpable. Can't wait for the next installment!

Sun Follower said...

I need to print this one out!!

Outdoorsy Girl said...

Can I just say how happy you made me by sharing this?! I have been waiting for this post! :) I absolutely loved looking at the pics.! You have some really great shots there. Muley Twist was one that was on my list to do the first time I made a trek down there. Never did it, though. At least now I know what I missing...and now I HAVE to do it! Your shots from Peek a Boo and Spooky brought me back to the summer when I was there.(Not that it was that long ago, but I always love to travel in my mind when I can't do it in body) I climbed the reverse route of what you did. And yes, that was is much easier. But I don't care what you say... Climbing up into Peek a Boo WAS least for a 5'6" southern girl unaccustomed to slick rock who is also double-jointed with easily twistable ankles! Just ask my knees. :)

Can I also say just how CRAZY you are!? There is NO WAY you'd find me treading cold, muddy water in a slot canyon! I'd lecture you about your dare devil antics if I didn't think you were sooo damn cool for being able to pull it off. ;)

I also don't think I would have had the guts to climb that slick rock cliff up to that arch, either. Maybe. But probably not.

I am totally impressed. You kick serious adventure ass in my book!

Okay, so I will stop now or else I will go on forever talking about Escalente. Gotta save some room for your other fans.

Plus I am in the mood to go plan another adventure now.

Mayden's Voyage said...

YOu are one heck of a guy...sounded like a fun vactaion- except it made me tired just to read it :)

I can't view the pic's- but I'll keep trying. I hope you have a great Thanksgiving :)

cindra said...

You are insane, and exciting, and fun, and I'm so glad you share all this! What a stud. And what a tease...I wanna see all that stuff...but I'm definitely not as brave as you are.

cindra said...

AND...I'm am FREAKING out over the photographs at flickr! It's a geological heaven! I looooooove the photos. I waited so long and it's even better than I imagined. I so wanna go there. Wow. Thanks so much for sharing, you crazy man.

Scott said...

God, send me an invite next expedition buddy. Looks amazing.


Jules said...


vera said...

excellent!! i need to try some gourmet meat-loaf...
loved the photos. a very impressive adventure, grunto.