Archive for Januar, 2011

Valley of Fire State Park, Nevada – The hided stone wave

Montag, Januar 31st, 2011

As God created the world, there was some paint left in the end of the sixths day. But he didn’t need it any more. Therefore he poured it over Nevada’s desert. As men found the place later they called it Valley of Fire. In the midst of Nevada’s inconspicuous desert are mountains of uplifted, faulted and heavily eroded sandstone. Initially the wild formations like elephants, ducks, or beehives are deep-red. There are hundreds, if not thousands of small arches. When going deeper into the park the stones show their unsurpassed diversity: Stripes in white and red, orange and purple, yellow and pink, auburn and maroon neatly pile up, although far-fetched colourful, or mingle as in the Fire Wave like the two doughs of a marble cake that mother stirred thoroughly with a whisk. The rock itself has an elegantly curved narrowing shape that continues in the white and red stripy pattern.

There are many sites to stop along the scenic drive, to take pictures, and to explore. The White Dome Trail in the end of the dead end road is a one-mile-loop and particularly intriguing. The path leads through a sandy, pastel-coloured valley including a short slot canyon.

The visitor center offers plenty of information about the park’s creation. But nobody knows anything about the mysterious area called Little Finland we plan to visit. The police officer’s map just covers a part of the region; I need a connection map, but can’t get one. It is astonishing as well that there is no mentioning of the Fire Wave, not even one photo in the building. After seeing the park and the stone wave it becomes clear why. Even on a Monday there is heavy traffic, and tourists are carted to the park with coaches from Las Vegas. If all of them would trample on the delicate stone wave that’s only 15 minutes hike from the road it would simply disintegrate. And so Fire Wave is left to those travellers who are willing to invest time in research, as other destinations like Hoodoos of Wahweap Creek or Toroweap Point are. Or maybe Little Finland. But that’s subject for tomorrow.

Overton, Nevada – On top of the poverty hills

Sonntag, Januar 30th, 2011

We parked for the night on the Poverty Flats or Poverty Hills, few miles south of Overton. Campers are allowed to park on the complete area without any fee and restrictions. Poverty Flats are a big plateau with coarse-grained, relatively plain ground. There are quite a few campers and trailers around. Some made themselves comfortable with boat or motor cycle, generator and satellite dish. Some are travellers like we are, stopping for a day or two, some are snowbirds from northern states or Canada to escape the winter, and others, especially pensioners, seem to live here. We decide to have an office day to finish computer work.

Overton, Nevada – Police support

Samstag, Januar 29th, 2011

We meet Harold and his wife in a restaurant for breakfast. Harold is one of Malcolm’s friends with whom we already have spent Thanksgiving. Harold has retired in the meantime and followed his wife to Cedar City where she teaches arts at the university. They hope to finish their new house in some days and be able to move there.

However, we set out on hwy # 319 for Panaca in Nevada and finally turn our back on Utah and its red stone wonder world. Close to Panaca town Cathedral Gorge State Park is worth to be visited (7$ entrance fee per vehicle, no interagency pass). Rain washed out the cliff’s extremely soft grey-brown sandstone to countless spires and steeples. With a creative mind one can imagine the formations to be cathedrals from where the park has got its name. It changes its appearance with each rain when parts of the rock are washed off. There are some cave-like water-erosions with several metres high walls between the spires.

The historic silver mining town Pioche lays few miles further but several metres higher in elevation and therefore cooler. Photographers find various evidences of former mine activities and equipment, among it a well-preserved cable railway. Between 1920 and 1930 the tipper wagons filled with silver ore moved downhill mainly driven by gravity and carried the empty dump trucks as a countermove uphill.

Hwy # 93 takes us south. After crossing the gentle Delamar Mountains at about 6000 ft / 2000 m elevation we are entering a different world. Between this range of hills and the Pahroc Range on the opposite side an expansive valley opens: Delamar Valley to the left and Dry Lake Valley to the right. Besides the endless brush meter high cactuses grow here, and Joshua Trees taller as a man, in-between lays sand. Snake country, definitely. Do they still hibernate? We’re going downhill for miles. In a dump called Overton at hwy # 168 close to Las Vegas we reach 460 m / 1500 ft. We haven’t been in such low elevation for months.

At the gas station the village’s strapping police officer comes with his splendid pick-up. He issues a ticket for another driver who repeatedly expresses thanks. Peculiar customs here. Then we get his attention – but only for chatting. He’s been to Germany during his army time. I think this man has to know his way around and I ask him for Little Finland. He’s been there and he even gives me his detailed topographic map of the area as a present. What a friend and helper!

Cedar City, Utah – Giving a hand for locked-outs

Freitag, Januar 28th, 2011

We try to get information and maps for our next remote destinations in the BLM office in Kanab. We have mediocre success, nobody knows or ever heard about that area. They print some helpful pages from the internet and we receive a few telephone numbers of other BLM stations. I telephone around, but the only thing I get to know is that Little Finland, our next adventure, is at least accessible. I don’t find a map.

We cross Midway Summit on the mountainous hwy # 14 where five feet snow covers the land. An excited man beckons us. He locked himself out of his van, and the key is inside the car. How can modern vehicles manage that? Two boys are with him, and it’s pretty chilly up here. They planned to go backcountry camping. Unfortunately there is no cell phone coverage, and so I offer to get help from Cedar City where we are heading to.

Cedar City received its name due to an error: The predominant tree type is juniper, but then the town founders probably didn’t know the difference. There is no answer from the ranger’s telephone number that the help-seeking man gave me. It is Friday afternoon, he might be off duty. We drive around town looking for a BLM, Forestry Service or police office. A typical white pickup with green dressed men inside appears besides us. We follow them, and at the next red stoplight I jump out to ask if they are rangers. They are, and we agree to stop after the traffic light. I explain the problem and they promise to take care of the matter. We can only hope that the father with the kids has been helped soon.

Zion National Park, Utah – Arminius and the tunnel measures

Donnerstag, Januar 27th, 2011

It is an exciting moment: Do the rangers let us pass through the tunnel or will we need an escort? After saying goodbye to Jaye we proceed to the south entrance of Zion National Park to leave it on hwy # 9 east. There are two tunnels in-between, the first one a kilometre long and somewhat narrow and low; the second one is shorter but larger. No commercial trucks are allowed to pass the park on hwy # 9, and vehicles wider than 7 ft 10 in / 2.4 m or 11 ft 4 in / 3.4 m can only pass between 8 am and 8 pm in a convoy in one-way traffic for a fee of 15 $ (valid for return within seven days). That can lead to waiting time in summer.

The ranger at the park entrance measures Arminius three, four times. He doesn’t believe it. The truck looks so big and still seems to fit through the tunnel. The ranger is very meticulous, but on the other hand really endeavours to let us pass without paying a fee. The height isn’t any problem, and the ranger advices us to fold up the side mirrors and to fix the position lights that have a rubber mounting with tape. Right before the tunnel there is a check point where rangers stop the traffic to let the bigger vehicle pass in one-way traffic. They recommend staying closer to the centre line than to the wall. A glance out of the window shows that this isn’t actually necessary. There’s more than a foot space between our cabin’s top edge and the tunnel curve.

Before returning to Kanab we take a short excursion from hwy # 89 to Coral Pink Sand Dunes. The state park is an Eldorado for off-road fans. But the trip is worth some photos and a walk as well. Red sandstone to be found everywhere in the area that’s eroded accumulated exactly here thanks to special geologic and wind constellations. The piled up dunes have a coral pink colour and offer selected plants and animals a home, among them the endemic insect with the pretty name coral pink tiger beetle.

Zion National Park, Utah – Limited hiking

Dienstag, Januar 25th, 2011

Instead of one long hike we decide to do some shorter trips due to the wintery conditions. Together with Jaye we start at the Emerald Pools Trail that leads to some waterfalls and greenish pools. But we don’t get too far. The path is blocked at the first waterfall due to rockfall and we have to turn round after one kilometre. We are even less lucky at the short (1/2 mile) but steep Weeping Rock Trail. It is so icy that we can’t walk even a metre without crampons. Weeping Rock got its name from water seeping through the rock, and dripping out after 900 years as scientists detected. The Riverside Walk is icy as well, but mainly even, so we can at least take this 2-miles-hike. If the river doesn’t hold too much water it’s possible to follow it for a while before the steep faces move up closer, and it is not possible to go further without getting wet.

One of the strongest floods of the past years let the waters of peaceful Virgin River rise; it caused devasting damages not only in the park. The road damages are repaired for the most part; the hiking trails aren’t completely redone yet. The still high water level of Virgin River, fed by plenty of snow from an unusually cold winter, spoils another hike that’s typical for Zion: the Zion Narrows. But this hike isn’t recommended during the winter at all. We would have to walk from the end of Riverside Walk beside or sometimes in the river to a site where the 600 m high sandstone walls move to few metres together. Even in summer a dry suit is highly recommended (dry suit, boots, and walking stick around 45 $ pp, to rent in Springdale). It is necessary to keep ones balance on river stones in flowing water. The ten miles / 15 km hike takes six to eight hours. We meet a young man who just returns from the hike. The water is partially shoulder-high, he reports, but it is possible to swim through as well. The high rental fees together with two wet backpacks, difficult to dry in the camper, and the risk of wet cameras keep us from doing the hike.

We learn more about the park and its outdoor adventures from Catrin and Jonathan. The young Swiss-American couple has invited us for dinner. They are co-owners of the largest outdoor company in Springdale. They offer all kinds of canyon, climbing, or other trips, and rent equipment as well. They organize off-road trips with their two small Unimogs as well.

Zion National Park, Utah – The heavenly place

Montag, Januar 24th, 2011

We agreed to meet with Jay, who is a friend of Malcolm, for lunch. She lives in Springdale, a village at the south entrance of Zion National Park. We spontaneously become friends and she loads us into her car. It is allowed to drive with a vehicle into Zion National Park from November to March, in the other months visitors are dependent on the complimentary shuttle bus service. Zion is like many other parks a canyon, respectively several side canyons that are carved into sandstone and lava basalt by a small river and its branches. The difference is that most visitors coming from the west stand at the foot of the canyon. To see the park from other perspectives one option is to drive hwy # 9 up the canyon walls through two tunnels onto the upper level. On the way up you can see Bridge Mountain, a red mountain where huge slabs broke off to form an arch. Right before the other park exit there is Checkerboard Mesa, a light-coloured flattened petrified sand dune, which is more than 2,000 m / 6,500 feet high and shows a chequered erosion pattern.

Generally, the main criterion that distinguishes Zion National Park from other parks is its diversity. There are many hiking trails, any many of them happily lead from down below upwards, and down again, in the opposite to the other canyon parks. The most famous route is Angels Landing, a view point on a natural platform, to be reached only for hikers having a head for heights across a very narrow ridge, secured with chains, and with precipices on both sides, several hundreds of metres deep. Observation point scores with another beautiful view and a climb not exactly as thrilling as the one to Angels Landing, but at higher. Both hikes take several hours, are exhausting, and request for surefootedness. And both ones, especially last one, are covered with ice so that hiking there might be a bit dangerous at present.

Today we drive up and down the scenic drive in the main canyon. Petroglyphs and other relics like granaries indicate that there were early settlers like Anasazi and Paiute Indians. Mormons seeking refugee from religious persecution in the United States found in 1847 the then Mexican valley and called it Zion, the heavenly place. In 1909 a part of the canyon, now on US territory was protected as Mukuntuweap National Monument, an old Indian name. Only few years later it was renamed to Zion after the Mormons’ protest.

St. George, Utah – Help for a lonesome cowboy

Samstag, Januar 22nd, 2011

We came on the short, 61 mi long road from Fredonia to Toroweap Point. For the way back we choose the 90 mi long stretch to St. George. The section around Mt. Trumbull is snowy, and in lower elevation where the snow has already melted it is very muddy. Down in the valley a truck blocks half of the road. A cowboy with broad-brimmed hat, leather boots, spores, and an articulation as if he still has his breakfast bagel between the teeth has tied his horse at the next tree. He’s looking for somebody to follow his truck for a few miles and bring him back to his horse, because he wants to drive his cattle some miles further. We are offering to help him since we don’t know when the next car will pass by on this lonely road. Since we only have two seats he has a kind of bad conscience. I don’t mind waiting on the road in the sunshine, but he gives me a Dr. Pepper from his ice box and offers: “You can talk to my horse.” He is serious about that, and explains that the horse’s name is Kelli with “i”. Kelli is friendly; I can caress her before she devotes herself again to grazing. When the men return I am involved in a serious discussion with Kelly although it is somewhat one-sided.

The cowboy’s spores rattle when he’s getting out of Arminius. No, that never happened before in all those years – that a foreigner finds his way into this remote area, the Arizona Strip, as he calls it. In St. George I fortunately find a new pair of hiking shoes. I have to throw away the old ones, as tatty as they are I can’t even donate them any more.

Toroweap, Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona – The other end of Grand Canyon

Freitag, Januar 21st, 2011

3,000 vertical feet below us Colorado River looks like a tiny rivulet. The sheer walls of the north rim drop steeply to the river. The south rim is just a few beats of wings away. The rock mass to the east consists of red sandstone. Turning the view to the west we discover black lava. Toroweap Point is in the very west of Grand Canyon North Rim, far away even from summery tourist masses. The gorge offers a dramatic and well photographed view here, but is rather unknown and not much visited. This may be due to the remoteness of Toroweap Point. Depending on from where coming from, from Fredonia or St. George, Utah, one has to drive 100 km / 60 mi to 150 km / 90 mi gravel road after leaving hwy # 389. The trail from Fredonia is well maintained and easy to drive when dry, just the last few miles after passing the ranger station at the entrance of the National Park (no entrance fee) request for high clearance when the road turns into a slick rock track. Campground use is free as well, but there are not many sites and no comfort. There is no water, food, fuel, cell phone coverage, or other help out here. Having at least one usable spare tire is essential – and the ability to change it.

When walking around it’s important to stay on established paths, on rocks or in washes not to destroy the sensible cryptobiotic soil. This is valid not only for this site, but for all deserts of the south-west. The complex community of lichens, algae, and bacteria needs decades to grow. Only then it becomes visible as a blackish crust. A single footstep can destroy years of growth. The biological soil crust firms the surface sand and protects it from erosion.

Grand Canyon is always a special experience. But usually it is so wide and mighty (16 km / 10 mi in the average) that it is hard to perceive it as a gorge. Since the descending walls are terraced it is not possible to see Colorado River from the rim. One has to laboriously hike the Grand Canyon to really experience it. The narrows at Toroweap Point are a good spot to get an impression of this wonder of the world. The precipices drop in a 90°-angle, so it is easy to look down. Lava debris washed down into the river bed caused the largest and most demanding rapids of Colorado River and can be seen and heard from the view point – without any overexertion.

Lees Ferry, Arizona – The beginning of Grand Canyon

Donnerstag, Januar 20th, 2011

Lees Ferry once was for 500 miles / 800 km the only spot to cross Colorado River. It was and is for a long distance the only place where the endless and high canyon walls are interrupted so that it’s possible to reach the river. A ferry existed between 1873 and 1928 to cross the river. Still today, the only bridge crossing the Colorado between Glen Canyon, Page, and Hoover Dam, Las Vegas, is here in Marble Canyon. There is not much to see any more in Lees Ferry: some old houses; steam boilers that show the failed attempt to extract gold from the surrounding rocks. Only the steam boiler from a sunken ferry can be seen in shallow water, just covered by some feet of clear water. The wooden parts were already washed away.

Glen Canyon Dam has changed more than just blocking boat traffic to the north. Before building the dam, waters of the Colorado River were seasonally tempered and muddy-red. Local residents said about the river that its water were too thick to drink but too thin to plough. The water that escapes the dam today, regulated by human hand, is clear-green and with 8° C/46° F evenly cool. Many plant and animal species disappeared or are endangered while other new ones like trout settled.

Today, Lees Ferry is mainly known for the rafting tours through Grand Canyon that start there without exception. Even today some boats cast off. Private persons have to wait up to ten years to receive a permit to sail down Colorado River through Grand Canyon. Choosing an established tour operator costs a horrendous amount of money, and the trip has to be booked well in advance anyway. Nevertheless around 22,000 passengers sail the river through the canyon each year.

We hike around Marble Canyon, how the area is called that marks the beginning of Grand Canyon. Who doesn’t shrink from driving some miles of a bad country lane (high clearance is sufficient) can have a glance into Marble Canyon some miles downstream. Ten Mile Rock, a squared rock monolith, is situated in the middle of Colorado River. The rafters from noon have arrived here and are admiring the big piece of rock. We are looking at them from some hundreds of metres higher. When heading westward a prairie-like plain opens. The mountains to the left disappear together with Colorado River to the south. To our right the Vermillion Cliffs accompany us for a while.

Since some years the US Fish and Wildlife Service tries to establish there a second population of the California Condor living in the wild. The only other one lives in southern California. In the 80s the bird were exterminated to two dozen specimens. Californian Condors belong to the family of vultures, are hence carrion-eating animals, have a wing-span of up to three metres / nine feet, and a face only a mother can love. Sometimes one can watch the imposing gliders circling above the plain, but today there is no air traffic.

Suddenly a massif appears in front of us and the road climbs higher and higher to 2,500 m / 8,200 ft onto Kaibab Plateau. Trees are able to bee seen; at first the classic desert combination juniper-pinion, then spruce and fir that stand in snow. At Jacob Lake hwy # 67 turns south and leads to the not much visited North Rim of Grand Canyon. We would have liked to hike down into the canyon from North Rim, since we’ve done that at the South Rim few years ago. But North Rim closes consequently after the first snow and re-opens not before early summer. But we’ve found an alternative for tomorrow that should console us.

Page, Arizona – The Antelope Canyons

Dienstag, Januar 18th, 2011

We reach Lower Antelope Canyons in the late morning with optimal light for taking pictures. We pay 6 $ per person for the daily permit and 20 $ for the guide. The tour through the quarter mile long slot canyon takes one to one and a half hours, we are said. You can get a photographer permit for four hours stay and the permission to go without guide when you have a SLR camera and a tripod. That’s without extra charge, but you’ll have to pay the guide anyway. The red-orange slot canyon is beautiful, narrow, entwined, serpentine, and twisting. Unlike past years it is easy to walk there even for unathletic visitors. Several stairs and ladders were installed to avoid inconvenient and exhausting scrambling. In the end of the canyon we find an emergency ladder out of the canyon. Unfortunately that is attributable to the fact that in 1997 eleven mainly European tourists drowned in the canyon as a distant thunderstorm caused a violent flash flood. To make matters worse the only survivor was the then guide from Nevada who wrongly judged the weather.

The Upper Antelope Canyons are few kilometres further. The upper canyon is wider, shorter, and straight. If you visit both Canyons in one day, you’ll have to pay the permit only once. For the Upper Antelope Canyons another 25 $ have to be paid for transport from parking area to the gulch (private vehicles are not allowed) and the guide. Maximum stay is one hour, the light for photos is best around midday or early afternoon. They ask for an additional fee for the photo permit to go without guide. We get the tip that the family directly at the entrance at the upper canyons only takes 20 $. In Page there are many agencies offering trips to the Antelope Canyons, but this is usually even more expensive and you depend on their departure hours.

We skip the Upper Antelope Canyons because we are not sure if they are worth the entrance fee (no question if you don’t visit other gulches). But we have already visited some of these wonderful canyons. We prefer to go back to Horseshoe Bend of Colorado River to take pictures with different light conditions.

Grand Staircase – Escalante National Monument, Utah – The white ghosts

Montag, Januar 17th, 2011

The white stone pillars are so fragile that they were hided for years. Their position was classified; photographers didn’t divulge their name in their books or on the internet not to conclude their location: the White Hoodoos of Wahweap Creek. That leaded to smart guides taking interested parties for a lot of money to the hided place. This couldn’t be of interest to the BLM. The hoodoos are located on public land. It’s not correct if single persons grow rich on selling this information. The BLM gives the position of the Wahweap Hoodoos together with rules of conduct since a couple of years on request.

Finding the right spot isn’t that easy anyway. There are no signs. There is only a simple sign at the trailhead. Then a 10 mi / 16 km hike (roundtrip) through a river bed follows: We have to walk through sand, over river pebbles, and cross for a dozen times one of the arms of the river that comes through the bed. The reward is overwhelming. The dazzling whiteness of the hoodoos is imposing; some of them are many metres high. The pillars that are luckily in possession of their dark lid will survive for a while. Others with less fortune melt like ice in the sun. The whole area is covered with white gypsum sand. One of the pillars looks like an elf king who wears his crown with highly uplifted head and wraps his robe around him. But for all of them the dilapidation has already begun. Some stand so close to the brim of the river bed that the next rainfall may wash them away. Every careful step, every gentle touch with a hand let some crumbs flake off. It might sound paradox: Everybody who doesn’t come here helps to preserve their maintenance. I’m getting a bad conscience, but in the white wall behind the pillars new hoodoos come into being. Nature erects, nature destroys.

It is a bit confusing that there are three groups of hoodoos, but the ranger’s brochure only talks about two. Coming from the south the first group has the tallest pillars. The middle group consists of many small goblins, and the northernmost one holds the most elegant and graceful shapes. The ranger’s handout ignores the first group; maybe because they are so obvious at the river bed, the others are a bit hided behind a corner.

Vermillion Cliffs National Monument, Utah – The world’s longest slot canyon?

Sonntag, Januar 16th, 2011

The second great attraction of this area is, besides Coyote Buttes, Paria River Canyons. You can follow this wash for nearly 70 km to Lees Ferry, where Paria River flows into Glen Canyon of Colorado River. Many parts of this gulch are slot canyons. This several-days-hike is only suitable for experienced backpackers, and the daily limit for the number of hikers is restricted as well. Due to the heavy rainfalls in this summer Paria River still carries high water, and the canyons aren’t walkable. The rangers in Kanab told us an alternative. We can hike through the slot canyons of Wire Pass and Buckskin Gulch from the same trailhead as for The Wave. We could walk the Buckskin Gulch directly from another trailhead, but then we would miss the short but charming Wire Pass.

The wash is not even two miles long, and only the last kilometre is slot canyon. The gulch has several metres high walls, pretty shapes, demands some scrambling, and is partially narrow. As Joerg is taking a photo of a frozen waterfall I go behind a corner. I habitually check the terrain and I get a fright when discovering a rattle snake, coiled up, the head settled on the body. It is admittedly a smaller specimen, nearly a baby so to speak. And the best is: it sleeps. It is frozen to hibernation with open eyes on the cold ground. But it is a warning anyway. Again and again we read warnings to take care of rattle snakes in slot canyons. But of course this is more to protect the animals: “Don’t disturb snakes!” No, I won’t.

Wire Pass borders Buckskin Gulch in a right angle. This slot canyon is remarkable because it is possibly the longest one in the world. “Possibly” because nobody knows exactly, neither the rangers nor National Geographic that equipped an expedition to this area. However, 12 miles / 19 km are an impressive length. One mile is located to the left, the rest to the right where we head first. The ground is wet, there are small ponds everywhere; although they are frozen the sheet of ice is not able to take weight any more. We somehow get around until a big ice-free pond bars our way after some miles. In summer we would wade through, but in winter that’s no fun. We turn round to discover the upper, shorter part of the canyon and eventually walk back through Wire Pass past the still sleeping snake to the parking lot.

It is only late morning since we have started early today, so we decide to go to Old Paria that’s situated north of hwy # 89 again in Grand Staircase – Escalante National Monument. BLM placed a warning sign that recommends 4-wheel-drive and high clearance – after the happened road damages to be taken serious. Only the cemetery remained from the historic town. Paria was founded in 1865, but had to be moved upstream only five years later due to arguments with the Indians. The changed location wasn’t auspicious. Years before the new century started a flash flood forced the ranchers and farmers to give up the village. During the last century the site served as movie set for glorifying western movies with Dean Martin and others. But the highlight is two pick-nick tables that BLM placed in front of the pretty scenery. In the background are petrified sand dunes that look crazy like a stripe pullover that grandma knitted from wool rests in all colours she could find.

Vermillion Cliffs National Monument, Utah + Arizona – The permanent wave in stone

Samstag, Januar 15th, 2011

We start early morning, since colours will fade during the day. The trail to the North Coyote Buttes isn’t a marked, maintained path. Rangers even warned us to follow some cairns that were partially put by hikers who got lost. The directions we received contain a map, text instructions, photos of landmarks, GPS data, and azimuths. That works pretty well. We just have to take care of ice and snow on the sandstone hills. The ten-kilometres-hike is a bit arduous. We either walk in soft sand, climb uphill or downhill. The hiking time is given with three to four hours; that is about right. But all in all we spend more than six hours here to admire the landscape and take hundreds of pictures.

North Coyote Buttes are bizarrely formed sandstone domes, covered with thin parallel stripes in white, pink, red yellow, purple, and maroon. At that time when dinosaurs painted the area red those were sand dunes. They were covered by another layer of sediment later. As Colorado Plateau started to lift the younger layer eroded and the now petrified dunes were uncovered again. Erosion attacked the dunes and minerals are responsible for the brilliant colours.

Highlight of the hike is an artistic masterpiece that nature has created on this spot. A valley formed between some domes in wild but soft shapes, sometimes wider, sometimes narrower. The stripes in stone whirl and writhe from one hilltop through the depression several metres up to the other top. This unique formation received the name The Wave.

Grand Staircase – Escalante National Monument, Utah – Garden of toadstools

Freitag, Januar 14th, 2011

We are at 8:45 am on the dot in BLM field Office in Kanab as demanded. We fill in an application form, and at 9 am the raffle for the wilderness permits takes part. Paria Wilderness is a narrow horseshoe-shaped area that protects Paria River and Marble Canyon, which is the beginning of Grand Canyon. Paria Wilderness is located on the border of Utah and Arizona, encloses Vermillion Cliffs National Monument in its middle and borders the southern edge of Grand Staircase – Escalante National Monument. Like last mentioned Paria and Vermillion is managed by BLM. These nature reserves became known just in the past ten years, but are already so popular that access is strictly limited. Maximum 20 hikers per day get access to each North and South Coyote Buttes. Half of the permits are raffled in an internet lottery four month in advance; the chances for the attractive North Buttes are less than ten percent in summer. The remaining ten places are raffled among all present applicants at 9 am each day for the following day, Fridays for Saturday, Sunday and Monday. Paria Contact Station at the reserve handles this in summer, the office in Kanab in winter. We are just six applicants for three days, so there is no lottery. We have to pay 7 $ per person, receive the permits and pretty precise directions how to get to the North Coyote Buttes. The application procedures can vary, so it’s a good idea to check well in advance.

In the afternoon we drive to the Toadstools that are situated in Grand Staircase – Escalante area. There are different kinds of hoodoos. But always a softer stone pillar is covered and protected by a harder cover layer. With a bit of luck the lid remains on the shrinking pillar what brought them the appropriate name Toadstools. Sometimes the lid drops and is smashed to pieces, then the hoodoo is exposed to rain and will die soon. The first group of hoodoos is red, the second one is white. The walk is only three miles return trip, but plan two hours to have sufficient time for exploring and photos.

Page, Arizona – Civil servant’s curiosity

Donnerstag, Januar 13th, 2011

After passing Cortez and the Four Corners Monument that we already know we enter unknown territory. On hwy # 160 we enter Arizona and the extensive Navajo and Hopi Indian Reserve. Commercial trucks have to stop at a weigh station at each “border crossing” from one US-state into the other. To our great surprise the civil servant beckons us. If he thinks we are a delivery truck or it is pure curiosity only the big Manitou knows. “What kind of vehicle is it?“, he wants to know. “An RV.“ He wants to look inside, so Joerg unlocks the cabin. “Wow is that beautiful. What are you doing? Studies?” “We travel and write about it.” “About nature? About animals?”, the Navajo asks. “Yes, also.” He means following a flash of inspiration: “And about people in Arizona who stop you?” “Exactly.”

Two well-known slot canyons are situated three miles east of Page, Arizona. It’s too late for today, the light is much better in the morning, but we’ll come back. Instead we visit the Horseshoe Bend of Colorado River just south of Page. The perhaps most beautiful elbow of Colorado River can be reached with just a half-mile walk. Further north we can see the whole Glen Canyon Dam, one of the big dams of Lake Powell, wedged in Glen Canyon, from a viewpoint. We go to the Carl Hayden Visitor Center, right after the bridge over Glen Canyon, right beside the dam. They offer a lot of visual aids to understand Lake Powell and the functioning of the dam system. Actually they offer tours into Glen Canyon Dam as well, but the end of work draws near.

Now we have to go quickly to the BLM Field Office in Kanab to apply for a hiking permit for Paria Wilderness. Tomorrow is Friday, and they are closed on the weekend.

Cortez, Colorado – Mike the headless chicken

Mittwoch, Januar 12th, 2011

A headless chicken made Fruita famous. The poultry survived its own beheading for 18 months. Macabre in any case, cruel perhaps, but certainly no joke. The cock became well-known and travelled all over the country. The slaughtering for dinner on a fall day 1945 didn’t work as exactly as planned. After decapitation a main part of the brain stem was preserved to keep the main bodily functions like heartbeat, breathing, and digestion. The rooster even ran around, he didn’t know that he lost his head. He was fed with a pipette. After his death the University of Utah in Salt Lake City carried out an autopsy of the cock and confirmed his authenticity.

A memorial for Mike the headless chicken stands on the opposite side of Joshua’s new project. He is building a theatre together with a friend. The event stage shall offer local artists a forum – no matter if it’s music, reading, or performance. The friends want to bring life and turnover into the obsolete and deserted downtown. This is an ambitious, idealistic and beautiful plan. Then it’s time to say goodbye to Josh as well who heroically bore us in front of his house and in his workshop for two weeks. But a part of his work will accompany us on our journey.

Since we know the area very well it isn’t easy to find a route we haven’t seen yet. But here it is, at least in some parts. Hwy #50 and #550 bring us via Montrose and Ridgway over the 2.735 m / 8970 ft high Dallas Divide. Once more we cross San Juan Mountains. Hwy #145 nearly parallels the Million-Dollar-Highway that fascinated us weeks ago. Lizard Head Pass, 3.116 m / 10,222 ft high, is similar. A thick soft snow layer that glitters in the sunshine covers the alpine scenery. The road is dry, and the snow pushed to the side of the road has still the colour it came from the sky. Some skidoo drivers race happily around.

We reach the rest area close to Mesa Verde NP in the evening. Exactly two months ago, on November 12th, a highway patrol officer allowed us to stay here overnight. Shouldn’t this be valid for tonight as well?

Fruita, Colorado – Ready for take-off

Dienstag, Januar 11th, 2011

The perfectly cut, welded and meanwhile painted mounting plate together with the winch is finally fixed. All the other improvement measures are also brought to a close. Tomorrow, we can start well prepared for new adventures.

Fruita, Colorado – The winch winches

Samstag, Januar 8th, 2011

The ordered accessories for the winch have arrived: a tree trunk protector and a big snatch block to double the tensile force of the winch. It is tentatively fixed and we try it out. The result is impressive: The winch drags Arminius with applied parking brake and stagnant wheels over the asphalt. We didn’t even use the snatch block. That gives hope. But not all work is done yet.

Fruita, Colorado – The fascinating plasma cutter

Mittwoch, Januar 5th, 2011

The winch needs a mounting plate for fixing and protection at the same time in case of hitting something, because the winch will jut out from the bumper. A plasma cutter is a really fascinating invention. An arc glides through our half-inch metal like a knife through butter, and compressed air blows away the molten metal. Soon our plate has got the shape it should have.

Fruita, Colorado – The winch arrives

Dienstag, Januar 4th, 2011

The parcel service brought the winch. At last! We romp to town in the afternoon to get metal, bolts, and cable to be able to fix the winch.

Fruita, Colorado – Hunters in the snow

Sonntag, Januar 2nd, 2011

The Bookcliff Mountains are situated north of Fruita. The small hill chain consists of many thin rock layers that give the mountains the appearance of laying book pages. There are numberless back roads, some hiking trails, and simple government campgrounds. Apart from some hunters who chase wild goose and deer we are alone. The trails are snowy and frozen, but luckily not very steep. The scenery is a winter-wonderland, the weather perfect, and we got through another waiting day.