October 3, 2017

Red Canyon

Last week, we went on an endurance ride starting in Red Canyon, Utah, west of Panguitch on Highway 12, and just a few miles east of Bryce Canyon National Park.  Both Bryce and Red Canyon are on the Paunsaungunt ("Home of the Beaver" in Paiute) Plateau.  Both Bryce and Red Canyons feature the orange-red limestone of the Claron formation and its fascinating spires, columns, and hoodoos.
The evening we arrived, it rained almost all night long.  We thought for sure the next day would be cold and damp with slick trails.
As it turned out, the rain stopped before morning, leaving a mist that hung over the  cliffs.  The riding conditions were fine.
Here we are, trotting through Casto Canyon, about midway through our first day.
Our second day was sunny, and the main feature of the ride was the spectacular Thunder Mountain Trail.  The trail is narrow and winding in places, and we shared it with a few mountain bikers.  Fortunately, our horses have seen a lot of bikes, so that wasn't a problem.

All along the way, we went around and through the orange-red hoodoos.
Limber Pine and Ponderosa Pine grow throughout the area.
Bristlecone Pine grow above 8000 feet in dolomite soil, usually on windy ridges. These slow-growing trees are poor competitors and tend to survive best in difficult conditions where other trees don't do well.  The needles can last up to 30 years before they are shed.
At the trail's high points, the views were spectacular.  
Above, you can see about 20 miles to the long ridge of the Aquarius Plateau, the top of the Colorado Grand Staircase of southern Utah.  Powell Point is at the end of the ridge to the right. A tall, scraggly Bristlecone Pine frames the photo on the left.
The vast expanse of open territory shows how much there is to explore.  I don't think we'll run out of trails any time soon.  

July 30, 2017

Zazo in Training

We have a new horse, a 6 year old Arab.  He's still in the learning and conditioning phase.
He's coming along well.  At the Strawberry Fields Endurance Ride, he completed 25 mile events two days in a row, no problem.  He'll be ready for 50 mile events soon.  He's a tall boy, so he'll be Steve's ride.
Sugar also completed 25's at Strawberry.  She loves to go, and she's already proven she can do 50 mile events.
While training on a mountain near home, we saw this rare white bitterroot.  There were only a few of them in a big meadow at about 8000 feet.
In the early spring, we saw a lot of Balsamroot, with their bright yellow flowers.
A week ago, Zazo discovered chicory in bloom.  He liked it.
On the Yellow Fork trail, an animal hid in the brush.  Can you spot her?
On a trail near Woodland, Utah, we found  the world's most pitiful excuse for a gate, shown above.  The feed bags are supposed to be a warning that wire is present, I presume.  The yellow sign says "Please close the gate".  The word "gate" must be someone's idea of a joke.

The mountains north of Strawberry Reservoir are at their wildflower peak in late July.  We took a lot of photos there.
With Zazo coming on board, we had to find places for Boss and Coco, who are both in the 18 to 20 year range, a little old for endurance, but still a good age for 4-H or general trail riding. Fortunately, we were able to find good homes for both of them.  Mischief is 27 now and doing great for his age.  We hope he'll be giving rides to the grandchildren for many years to come.

Waterfalls and Rainbows

Much of the hiking in the Wasatch Mountains is a challenge for kids, but we've found a few hikes in the foothills that are short enough to be fun for young children.  From the Rocky Mouth trailhead, a trail follows a gentle stream to a waterfall. 
Our daughter an her family at Rocky Mouth waterfall

The walk is mostly shaded, so it's acceptable even in hot weather.
Frothy stream below waterfall

The hike to Big Spring, up Provo Canyon, has pretty views.

The wildflowers were blooming along a stream in late June.
Western Polemonium
Another short hike is up Ferguson Canyon.  This is an area where our boys did a lot of rock climbing in their teenage years.  The big attraction for the little kids was the Rainbow Tree.  There's no rainbow color, but the shape is right and the kids were impressed.
After a rainstorm, this real rainbow dressed up the mountain in front of our house.

All in the Family

Sometimes we explore trails with kiddos instead of horses.
Around July 4th, we had the whole family in town.
With 8 kids ranging in age from 1 to 12, choosing an acceptable hike was a challenge, especially with daytime highs in the valley at over 100.
We chose a location up Big Cottonwood Canyon, near Guardsman Pass.  A shady trail at high altitude made for a pleasant activity.
The destination was Shadow Lake, where rock throwing and critter hunting were popular.
Baby Z had fun dipping her toes in the water.
One evening, we all went to a local rodeo.
Mostly, though, we just enjoyed each other's company.

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.


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