May 14, 2017

Almost Spring in the Grand Canyon

Steve wanted to ride along the North Rim of the Grand Canyon before the summer heat.  Our trip on May 4-6 may have jumped the gun a little.  Since the road from Jacob Lake to the North Rim is closed until May 15, we had to enter by back roads, which still had both snow and some fallen timber blocking the way. 
Steve was prepared with his chain saw, so that took care of clearing the roads of trees, but we did have to stop earlier than planned due to snow. We camped about 3 miles from the Grand Canyon border.  From there, we rode along a dirt roadway through the forested Kaibab Plateau. 
The park entrance, above, was blocked by a gate to prevent cars from entering.  Horses are allowed in at any time of year, and going around the gate was no problem. 
We encountered a lot of snow and more fallen logs, but most obstacles were easy to go over or bypass. 
The horses were able to walk on top of the compacted snow in the morning.  By the afternoon, they often sunk into the snowbanks up to their knees. 
We saw several Kaibab squirrels scampering in the trees beside the road.  The silhouette of one is shown in the photo above.  They have an all-white tail, cute little ear tufts, and live only on the Kaibab Plateau on the North Rim, in an area of about 20 by 40 square miles.  They are a sub-species of the Abert squirrels found on the South Rim, which are similar but do not have the distinctive tail.  The Kaibab squirrels became isolated on the Plateau after the last Ice Age.  This squirrel is uniquely adapted to living in the Ponderosa pine forest, since its most significant food source is the seeds within the Ponderosa pine cones. 
The Ponderosas are huge trees, as you can see in comparison to Steve and Sugar standing beneath one (I inadvertently cut off the top!)  The tallest one recorded is 235 feet in height.
We passed by this little waterfall below Kanabownits Spring,
then stopped to give the horses a grass and water break at a pool downstream.  The aspen trees in the background have not leafed out yet, but much of the grass is already green.  This is at about 7400 feet.
The above viewpoint looks into Crystal Amphitheatre. 
Nearby, a big yucca plant grows amongst the sage and pinon pine.
We rode to Point Sublime, 18 miles from our campsite, a 36 mile ride round trip.  The view was well worth the travel. This is one of two places Wesley Powell, early canyon explorer, took landscape artist Thomas Moran to paint the canyon.  He presented a composite of the views in his famous painting, "Grand Canyon of the Colorado".
Right on the rim, this claret cup cactus displayed its beauty.
5000 feet below and 5 miles distant, one can see Crystal Creek Rapids, one of the most challenging rapids for summertime Colorado River rafters.
On the horizon, well past the canyon, we spotted the San Francisco Mountains located north of Flagstaff, AZ and 70 miles from this viewpoint.  Seeing them is the hallmark of an exceptionally clear day. 
On the way back to camp, we trotted up on a small bison herd.  All but one ran away.  One young one was lying in the road.  We thought he must be sick or injured.  We tried to tippy-hoof past him, since steep banks and forest made a circuitous route impossible.  To our surprise, causing the horses to nearly jump out of their hides, the lone bison leaped to his feet and ran away as soon as we had cleared him by a few feet.  Fortunately, he had no interest in charging us.  The bison in the Kaibab are really beefalo, heavily interbred with cattle, so they are neither as large nor as wild as the bison in Yellowstone. Still, that was a bit closer encounter than was comfortable. 
On the way home the next day, we stopped to let the horses stretch their legs on a byway marked as the Old Spanish Trail.  The spot was so lovely, it deserved a photo. The horses enjoyed a few extra minutes snacking on rich grass and dandelions.

April 30, 2017

Travels in Southern Utah

We recently complete a 50 mile endurance competition starting at Mt. Carmel Junction and traversing the countryside surrounding Zion National Park.  The above photo is taken at Mineral Point, above a branch of the Virgin River.
Also in April, we traveled to canyon country just outside of Bryce National Park, riding trails through Casto and Losee Canyons.  The reddish hoodoos are typical of the area's famous Claron formation.
Note the tiny window in the red rock fin.
This streambed showed an abundance of small pockets created by erosion.  We found running water in one canyon, enough to provide a cool drink for the horses and a swimming hole for Daisy.
In front and to the left of Steve is a Great Basin bristlecone pine, Pinus longaeva.  At this latitude, we see them at 8000 feet or above, in high, windy, dry locations subject to cold winters, where they are best able to compete.  Bristlecones grow very slowly and some are estimated to be thousands of years old.  The needles can stay on the trees for up to 40 years.  The thickly needled branches resemble bottle brushes. The tree seems to prefer the dolomitic white colored soil shown above.  Limber pine and Ponderosa pine also grow in the higher areas.
  The views were impressive.
The weather was 60ish and sunny, with just enough wind to keep the horses cool.  We couldn't have ordered up a better day to explore these colorful, unique canyons.

April 19, 2017

Goat Park

On our third day in the San Rafael Desert, Daisy was tired from the previous days.  She didn't protest when we left her at the trailer.
We rode on an old two-track down Goat Park.  Above, Steve checks his GPS.
Boss's ears pricked up as he saw something moving maybe a quarter of a mile ahead.  That alerted me to this group of donkeys.  We rode very close to them before they ran away.
We rode along the rim of Blue John Canyon, checking for water where we had seen small pools before.  Surprisingly, in spite of a rainy spring, we didn't find water in the usual places.  We rode to the Red Nubs before turning back.
Daisy, of course, was glad to see us return.  Boss and Coco took us 50 miles in 3 days, a good workout for all.

Head Spur

On our second day in the desert, we rode toward the pyramid-shaped Head Spur.
Daisy enjoyed a dip in a pool.
Steve pointed out the Princess pictograph, which is faint now, faded by with sun and weather.
Behind some brush, a pour-off marks the entry of Moqui Canyon into the Spur Fork.
These small pictographs, only a couple of inches tall, have amazing detail.  The 4 figures on the right wear elaborate headdress.  They seem to be under some kind of tent or overhang.  On the right, we see 3 figures, a bird and a couple of insects?  It's always interesting to try to interpret ancient drawings.
On a rock wall near the Head Spur, we saw this rock art.  Someone in 1924 made his/her mark.
We rode back to the trailer at a trot, covering some rough country.

Shifting Sands

In early March, we squeezed in another trip to the San Rafael Desert.
 It's lonesome territory out there.  No wonder train robbers and other outlaws hung out there a century ago.

We rode toward the Chimney Rocks,
and down to Outlaw Springs.  The tip of Boss's ear appears in the photo.  Taking pictures off a horse's back doesn't provide the best quality.
The word is that the water is quite alkaline.  Our horses didn't drink much.  Daisy didn't mind swimming in it, though.
We explored some rock outcroppings, and found a few petroglyphs.

Underneath the hand prints, you might be able to see the shape of 2 horses and riders pecked into the rock.  This rock art isn't very old.  It might be the work of outlaws or cowboys.

March 5, 2017

Winter Wonders

Utah had almost double the average snowfall this year.  The skiing was great!
Kids and grandkids joined us for a week of fun in the snow. 
Even the six year old negotiated the slopes with skill.  She was soon passing up Grandma!  Since she's still too little to handle poles, she needed a little help on the occasional short uphill trek.
Back at home, one little visitor enjoyed brushing Mischief. 
And Grandma loved reading to the kids before bed.  What greater joy is there?  None that I can think of.

March 4, 2017

Keep Dimple Dell Wild

Hi everyone,
We've had a busy winter, with grandkid visits, skiing, lots of snow, and a few rides in between snowstorms. 

As spring takes hold, we have learned that Salt Lake County has plans to pave the north rim of Dimple Dell Park, one of our favorite riding spots year round.  Dimple Dell is a rare treasure with beautiful views, lots of raptors, wildflowers and deer, and many human users including mountain bikers, walkers with or without dogs, joggers, and horseback riders.  In winter, the hills are good for sledding, and cross country skiers enjoy the trails.  What's not to like? 
Dimple Dell's north rim is currently a bark trail, providing good footing for all, year round. Asphalt paving would disrupt wildlife during construction.  The asphalt would heat the trail in summer and make icy winter conditions dangerous.  Paving would encourage speeding bikers and skateboarders on the steep hills, which would be a hazard to people and horses alike.  Although the county promises an equestrian trail alongside the asphalt, that wouldn't solve most of the problems created by paving a 10 foot wide path, as is proposed.  Extensive dirt work would be required to widen the trail sufficiently in some places, which would end in erosion and loss of wildlife habitat. We have many paved walking/jogging/biking paths in the county already.  Dimple Dell's unique beauty begs to be preserved.
For those readers who live nearby and enjoy Dimple Dell, or for those who simply care about preserving wild areas for future generations,  here are some links for further reading and comment:

We attended a meeting in Dimple Dell Park this morning.  Many interested park users were present, supporting the Keep Dimple Wild Movement.  It's encouraging to see how many people care deeply about this issue. 
Please wish us luck.  We may need it. 


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