July 1, 2008

Pole Creek Sink

With thunderstorm likelihood increasing with altitude for today, we opted for a relatively low ride starting at 7800 feet. We drove north from Neola, crossed the Lower Uinta Canal Bridge, and drove through Indian land until we crossed the Forest Service boundary. Just past there, we found a good pull-off for truck and trailer. Lupine and penstemon have turned the ground blue at that altitude, with the predominant yellow flowers of a few weeks ago fading away.
Our destination was Pole Creek Sink. We rode mostly on the road, giving Daisy a swim and the horses a drink when we first crossed Pole Creek after about 3 miles. The ride went through the Neola fire burn area, although the burned spots are patchy. Where the trees are blackened and dead, the grass is lush with wildflowers and new life. Grass grew over 2 feet high, columbines were in bloom, and we saw nice displays of lupine, mountain bluebells, and a whole area covered with western bistort.
We also noticed areas among the aspens where the ground was covered with what looked like cotton. We assume this cotton-like substance contains aspen seeds.
The sink was amazing. A couple of caves were above the water level, apparently where water used to go through when the level was higher. Now there is a deep pool into which much of the water flows for a tour underground. Above the sink, 3 branches of the creek cascade downward, joining as they enter the sink.
On the way back, we took a side path up Big Bend Hollow, adding a few hundred foot climb to the ride. The sky was turning progressively darker, with lightning and thunder in the distance.
Instead of following the road home, we rode mostly off the beaten path in the cover of aspen trees, where we found a series of beaver ponds we had missed on the way up. The creek (apparently fed to aboveground life again by springs below the sink) slowed as it went through these pools. One of a beaver pond’s functions is to hold the water so it can soak into the ground, nourishing the adjacent trees and flora.
We passed a campfire ring where campers had neatly thrown their beer cans and used shotgun shells, and another where campers had emptied the ring, throwing the empty glass cans and bottles outside the ring. Perhaps both groups were just trying to be environmentally correct. the first ones didn't leave their trash lying around. The second group thought leaving stuff in the campfire ring was tacky, so they just threw it out. Uhmm, okay. I guess both are acceptable in redneck camping etiquette.
In spite of the ominous-looking sky, we only felt a few raindrops.
We found a few thistle plants near the trailer for a special treat. Mischief and Boss bare their teeth to avoid the pricking their lips and just nip off the flowers. Strangely enough, they seem to favor thistle blooms, even over grass.
The ride was an easy 8.5 miles, about 1200 feet elevation gain.

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