Sunday, April 20, 2008

A Land of Extremes

We are in for a day of visual and physical extremes that are awe-inspiring and startling in their intense temperature and landscape changes, take a look:

A Kane County sprinkler left on over night freezes everything in site. It's a beautiful sight and we're intrigued as we see this practice over and over as we travel north from Kanab on U.S. Highway 189. Certainly, there is a purpose, other than providing us a picturesque view, but I haven't a clue as to what it might be. Though a sunny morning, it is quite cold and we're running the heater and taking photos from the car windows.

Through here, we also spy two more of the quirky dummies in police and sheriff's cars. It does work! Dave is slowing down immediately as we spy the first. Though we had just seen one last night, it didn't occur that it might also be happening some 30 miles to the north. He, of course, slows down again when we see the second. Yup, it was a dummy. A few miles later, another.

We are wowed once again in Bryce Canyon as we view the thousands upon thousands of towering red spires, called "hoodoos," which have been formed over the eons when ice and rainwater wear away the weak limestone. We are wearing jackets, but it's not uncomfortably cold, even though snow shows up on many of its towering spires.

We continue our journey along Scenic Byway 12 to Cannonville, where we travel south through town in search of the ghost town of Georgetown. All along here, there were once a number of Mormon settlements. However, a lack of water, and too much water (during flash floods) did them in. Of Georgetown, there is only one small cabin and a cemetery. The side road to the cemetery provides more views of a crumbling house and this old truck, obviously caught during a flash flood many decades ago. This whole area is dry and desolate. We are peeling off the jackets and pushing up the shirt sleeves as we trod through fine sandy soil and turn away from the many dust devils that seemingly appear out of nowhere.

Returning to Scenic Byway 12, we begin to see numerous "patchwork quilt" type views at the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument. This vast wonderland, which covers some 1.9 million acres, not only provides scenes of the multi-hued Kaiparowits Plateau, but also rugged cliffs and canyons. We feel as if we've landed on another planet in this remote and strange looking region. In fact, it is so vast and remote, it was the last place in the continental United States to be mapped.

Continuing our journey, we soon come to Boulder, where we visit the Anasazi State Park Museum. Here, was once one of the largest Anasazi communities west of the Colorado River and the most northern of all the Anasazi communities. Excavations have revealed that there were once more than 100 structures here. Partial excavations can be seen at the site as well as numerous artifacts and a recreated structure.

Onward north over Boulder Mountain, we are unprepared for the quick rise in elevation and are astounded by the amount of snow still lying in the meadows. Boulder Mountain exceeds an elevation of 11,000 feet and is the highest timbered plateau in North America. As you can imagine, by this time, our jackets are back on, the heater is running in the car, and all photos are being taken from the windows.

We're relieved to be off that freezing cold mountain as we near Torrey, Utah where Highway 12 ends and we head eastward on Highway 24 to the Capitol Reef National Park. Once again, my neck is craning toward those towering red monolithes and huge dome formations as we head for the ghost town of Fruita, located in the midst of the national park. This old Mormon settlement, though surrounded by vast wildneress and desert, was an oasis in the midst, where fruit trees and crops flourished along the Freemont River. Settled in the early 1880's, people actually continued to live here until 1959, some 14 years after the town was absorbed by the National Park. Though many of the buildings that once supported about 10 families were razed, the site still displays its old schoolhouse, a home, a barn, a few outbuildings, its beautiful orchards and some horses.

And here, comes my adventure for the day. For some strange reason, animals tend to be attracted to me - usually in a good way, but not always. I have numerous bizarre stories during my life time, from a quiet bear I was amazed to find sitting behind me as a sat unmoving on a swing in the New Mexico mountains, to a monkey flying across a cage in a zoo to display an obscene physical gesture, to horses and cattle that cross fields towards me as I get out of the car. On one occasion as I watched buffalo behind a chain link fence with dozens of other people, the chief male of the herd came blasting across the field to ram the fence right in front of me. Even when I moved, he would continue to blast that fence at where ever I stood. In any event, I've never had problems with horses. They tend to search me out, and come pleasantly to me, but not in old Fruita. Just after we parked the car near the corral, a white horse made a beeline to me. I reached out and petted him and talked to him for a little while, when suddenly he bit me on the arm! I was so astounded, I didn't even scream. Just pulled away and Dave said my eyes were as big as saucers. Don't go near the white horse.

We then continue on to take an additional Scenic Drive through the park that provides access to the Capitol Gorge and several other areas. We take the Capitol Gorge spur road into the canyon, along a historic path where the hardhy pioneers once traveled. At the end of the road, a trail leads back into the canyon that will provide peeks at petroglyphs and the Pioneer Register where early travelers recorded their passage on the canyon walls. Though it was a two mile round trip hike, it was worth the trip.

Though a great day, it's been a long one and we are anxious to find a hotel. Continuing our journey on Highway 24, we are hoping to stop in either Caineville or Hanksville, but, yikes, these are pretty much ghost towns. We spy just one or two seedy looking ma & pa typelodging facilities, but there are no restaurants and certainly no wi-fi. Arrgh, another 60 miles. And, we find ourselves in yet another place that we are absolutely sure is on another planet. As the sun is waning, we drive through miles and miles of what looks like huge piles of gray sand looming from the desert floor.
Finally, Green River, hotel, and delivery pizza!

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