Thursday, September 29, 2016

Mom and Dad's 60th Anniversary

When we got back from our trip on the Green River, we heard from my Mom and Dad. They had decided to head to the west coast to celebrate their 60th wedding anniversary. They had made it to Glenwood Springs the first day and were now heading to visit with us in Vernal, Utah. We were very excited to learn that they would be here on the actual day of their anniversary, which is September 8. I am very proud of my parents for many reasons, but to be able to spend the special day with them was just awesome. Kim and I have been married for 36 years, but that does not seem very impressive when you compare it to 60 years. The best part is they seem to be as happy together today as they ever have.

The bad news is that I did not take a single picture on that day. I have no idea what I was thinking. We ended up having a great dinner at the best restaurant in Vernal.

On September 9, I decided to take Mom and Dad for a tour of the many sites around Vernal that we have seen. We started by driving backwards on the Red Cloud loop. This allowed me to get a better look at the beautiful canyon just outside Vernal that I did not get to see because of the rain I had encountered on my ride a few days before. We had a beautiful sunny day and the pictures came out pretty well.

After touring the canyon, I drove up to the overlooks on the mountains above Vernal. Dad really enjoyed the views of the mining operation. We stopped at the overlooks and read all of the information on the interpretive signs. It is a huge operation. They move the phosphate in a slurry through a pipeline to a plant up in Wyoming. The phosphate in mainly used for fertilizer. Almost all that you can see in this picture is the open mine. The ground in the front is overburden that has been restored.

We also got a nice view of Red Fleet reservoir. It is called Red Fleet because the rocks resemble a fleet of ships and they are of course, red.

We finished the day with some fresh trout for dinner. No, I did not catch the fish. I was standing talking to a neighbor the day before and a guy came up and asked if we wanted some fresh trout. He had caught them and did not have room in his freezer. I took him up on his offer and we cooked them on the grill for dinner. They came out pretty good.

Mom and Dad got back on the road the next day on their trip west. We have really enjoyed the time we have been able to visit with them over the past month.

Our time in Vernal was winding down. I had a very successful fitting with the Merrell foot lab and was looking forward to being more comfortable when hiking in the future.

Before we left, we had a couple more things we wanted to do. I will write about those things in my next entry.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Paddling and Camping Trip on the Green River, Utah

When we went to the Visitor Center at Dinosaur NM, we talked to the ranger about different floats we could do on the Green River. He told us about a section of the river that is outside of the NM to the north. This section of the river starts at the Flaming Gorge Dam. The first section, called Section A, is full of big rapids and is used by white water rafter and kayakers. This was outside of our capabilities with our Sea Eagle boat. The second and third sections looked pretty good with the exception of a rapid mid way through section B. The third section looked perfect. 15 miles of relatively flat water and some awesome scenery.

I made a few calls to the Utah DNR and other agencies to learn if a plan that we were considering would be a good idea. Everyone we talked to was positive and told us we would have fun and see some awesome places that are not accessible by car. They also told us the fishing was great in that section of the river.

We thought about it and decided to go on Monday, September 5. That way we would be doing the rapid on the Monday of the Labor Day weekend and hopefully there would be people around to rescue us if we had a problem.

This was going to be a complicated plan. We would drive to the put in at Little Hole and drop off the boat and Kim. I would then drive the truck with the motorcycle in the back, 48 miles up through far southern Wyoming to Browns Park NWR. There is an old swinging bridge there that would be our signal to get off of the river. I would leave the truck there and I would then ride the motorcycle back to Little Hole. We were planning to stop for the night at Indian Crossing after doing about 7 miles of the river. We would actually pitch our tent and sleep in sleeping bags. Yep, real camping, not this RV Glamping we do every other day of our lives. The second day we would paddle the 15 miles of the C section. Then we would load the boat and drive back to Little Hole and get the motorcycle and load it back into the truck and drive back home to Vernal.

I have to admit I was a bit nervous about the plan for many reasons, but we focused on our preparation and helped each other with the critical points and went for it. I am so glad we did.

This is a shot of us getting ready to go. You can see my motorcycle loaded in the back of the truck. Why is it backwards? I would have to unload this 325lb motorcycle by myself and it would be easier if I could go forward. Just an example of how we thought the plan through to eliminate possible problems.

We got up very early for us and left by 7 to drive up to Little Hole. I dropped Kim off and headed down the river. The drive was not too bad with awesome scenery and only about 10 of the 48 miles were gravel. I was estimating it would take me 3 hours and I made it back in just a little over 2.

As I was riding along I said to myself that this is unexpected. I did not think about this fun Dual Sport ride through some awesome scenery to start my day. And I went through three states. Little Hole is in Utah, part of the road is in Wyoming and Brown's park is just over the Colorado border.

When I got back to Kim, she had the boat ready to go and she had good news. She had met the great camp hosts at the boat ramp and they told us to park the bike by their trailer and they would keep an eye on it for us. That was one concern eliminated. Yeah!

Here is a shot of Kim loading the last of our gear in the boat. You can see, the water was moving swiftly. We were a bit nervous, but very excited.

We headed out at about 11 in the morning and very quickly realized that the Sea Eagle was not going to have any problem with this river. We just needed to keep an eye out for big rocks and sit back an enjoy the scenery. Not much paddling needed to go down river.

Along the river there are some designated campsites. These are reserveable and would make a great secluded camp for the night. We stopped to check one out.

I got the fly rod out and did some fishing after I saw some large trout feeding on the top of the water. I did not have any luck that first day, but I was pretty preoccupied by the danger in front of us and the awesome scenery all around us.

After about 2 hours we arrived at the Red Creek Rapid. We were there all by ourselves. We were told there would be signs and we would have the opportunity to take a look at the rapid before going in. Here is what it looked like. The sound was impressive and scary.

I took some video on this trip. I need to work on my camera skills, but I think the video below captures the experience fairly well. Just click on the link below. It is posted on my YouTube Channel.

Red Creek Rapid

The only problem we had was that we forgot to open our white water valves. This allows the floor of the boat to be full of water, but it won't fill up. By the end of the rapid we were full of water. Kind of like a small swimming pool. 

I was happy to have that rapid behind us and in retrospect it was no big deal, and it was FUN! I would love to do it again. 

Right after the rapid we came upon two white water rafts. They were some nice folks from Jackson, Wyoming. We kind of paddled together the rest of the day. They had a beautiful Husky.

As you can see in the picture above, the Red Creek Rapid is named because it lets red dirt into the river. It is especially red right after a hard rain like we had 2 days ago. This caused the fishing to be bad the rest of the first day. 

We arrived at our planned camp site called Indian Crossing at about 4PM. We found a good campsite in an empty campground. We were literally the only ones there. The only bad news is that when we opened our dry bags, some of our stuff got wet including Kim's sleeping bag. The good news is that we had 2 hours of strong sunlight to dry things out. 

It was a nice spot and we settled in to a dinner of freeze dried beef stew and then went to bed early. It was a long day and we had a longer day on the river the next day. 

We slept OK, not great, but we got up early and made breakfast of freeze dried eggs and coffee. I thought it was not bad, Kim thought otherwise. We had lots of wildlife around us including these mule deer. 

We got on the water and we noticed that the cloudy water of the previous day had cleared. I got the fly rod out and we just floated and fished most of the morning. Isn't that what everyone does on a Tuesday morning following a holiday weekend?

We stopped for lunch at the head of Swallow Canyon. It was a nice camp spot with big rocks all around. 

We did one other significant rapid. With our new found confidence in the boat and our abilities, it was no big deal. The second day was just very relaxing and fun. 

Swallow Canyon was high walls of rock on both sides and plenty of nice holes to fish in. I hate to tell the story of the one that got away, but I will. I had a large trout come up and take my fly. Both Kim and I got a good look at the fish. I would guess it at over 20 inches. He quickly bent my fly rod over in 2. He swam hard for deeper water and went right under the boat. I could not release line quickly enough and he just snapped by 5X tippet. I was bummed, it was the biggest fish I have had on my fly rod in a long time. 

Here are a few shots of our trip through the canyon.

It took me a while to recover from the lost fish, but fish on I did. I finally found a nice hole and ended up taking three decent fish out of that spot. Here is the one pic I took to prove I really can catch fish. A pretty decent little brown trout.

From the canyon to the swinging bridge, it was fairly flat water with awesome scenery all around us. We passed into Colorado and into the Brown's Park National Wildlife Refuge. I still had my Colorado fishing license, so I just kept on fishing. We finally made it to the boat ramp at about 4 PM. We loaded up and headed down the road back to get the motorcycle. The good news is that it was safe and sound thanks to our new friends. We did have a slight incident when loading the bike, but we recovered quickly and all was good for the trip home. 

We stopped at the Flaming Gorge Dam overlook and took a few shots. That lake is 91 miles long. We started talking about renting a house boat and spending an entire summer cruising on this lake. A house boat is kind of like an RV isn't it?

What a beautiful area. 

We loved our camping trip. We will be talking about that for a long time. So, if you see us in person, be ready to hear more about it. Look for us to do more of this kind of adventure in the future. Anybody want to come along?

Next up is a very special day with my parents. Think about being married to the same person for 60 years. What an accomplishment!

Monday, September 19, 2016

Red Cloud Loop Dual Sport Ride

We are now back in Missouri and I need to get this blog caught up. I have a lot to write about and some awesome pictures and video to edit and publish. I was expecting to be really busy when I got back to the ranch, but someone had other plans. I pulled my hamstring muscle in my leg yesterday while water skiing. I can barely walk. I am really hoping it heals quickly, but we will just have to be patient. The good news is that I will have time to write and get caught up. Now back to the blog...

On September 3, I decided to take a ride on my DR 650. There is a scenic loop that begins and ends in Vernal, Utah called the Red Cloud Loop. The loop starts by going by a large phosphate mine and then up in to the mountains. After about 20 miles of pavement, it turns left into the Ashley National Forest. The area around where we were camped was very much a high dessert. As soon as I entered the forest, we had pine trees and large hills with mountains in the distance.

As you can see in the picture above, the road was mostly smooth gravel. I was enjoying the scenery. There were ORV trails going off the side of the road and many portions of the road are legal for off road vehicles. This being the Labor Day weekend, I saw many groups of RV's and tent campers in dispersed camp sites along the road. This would be another great place to come and camp for free and ride the roads and trails of the forest.

I rode for a long time on the smooth gravel and then I just couldn't stand it any longer and had to hit one of the side roads that had a sign for a mountain top overlook. I rode for a bit and then it got tough. Big rocks and some big mud holes thrown in. It was fun, but I was once again on the wrong bike for that kind of riding and I was by myself, so I turned around.

I took this shot just before I got back to the main road. Notice that I have my riding jacket strapped to the back of the bike. The jacket would be needed later on this day.

I was at an elevation of just under 10,000 feet and the aspen trees were just beginning the change. I tried to get a few shots.

Most were still green, but this one was just ready early. Here are a few shots at an overlook.

After the overlook the road got pretty steep and headed down a canyon. It was a beautiful ride through tall rocky cliffs on both sides.

As I got further down the canyon, the are turned back to a more dessert environment. This section is BLM land and has some improved free camp spots. I had to stop and check out the one below. The surrounding rocks were beautiful. The amazing thing was that this camp site was not occupied on a holiday weekend.

At this point, I was not far from Vernal. I had been looking at storm clouds all day and was happy they had stayed to my south. Well, my luck changed and the storm closed in on me in a hurry. It went from being cloudy to very windy with wind rain and hail in about 5 minutes. I had put my riding jacet on at this point and I was sure glad to have it. I rode the last 15 miles in a driving rain storm and some high water. It was ... exciting, yeah let's just use that term. I made it back to our site and I was soaked to the bone, but safe. I jumped in a hot shower and all was good. I ended up riding almost 100 miles on the day.

The campground had filled right up for the weekend. We had this very nice couple that was camped next to us. This was the maiden voyage for their new camper. I gave them a little bit of advice and answered a few questions. Here is Cannon and his wife and son. Their daughter was back at their trailer.

As I have said many times, we just love meeting new people and these folks were great.

Next up is something we have never done before this trip. We went camping!

Friday, September 16, 2016

Why Vernal, Utah

On August 31, we made the short move to Stieneker State Park. The SP is just 7 miles north of Vernal, Utah. We had reservations at this SP for two reasons. First, we needed a place to stay for the Labor Day Weekend. Second, I had an appointment with the Merrell Footlab on Thursday September 1. To explain what that is all about, I will need to go back a bit.

In 2002, I had a serious accident on my dirt bike. I badly broke my left femur (thigh bone) as well as a few other injuries. It took 5 surgeries to get me back to pretty good shape. I am doing very well now. I am so thankful that I am able to ski, hike and bike as well as I can. One by product of the injury and surgeries is that my left leg is about an inch shorter that my right. To correct this, I have been adding some thickness to my left shoe. This is not a perfect fix. I have some back and hip issues, that are related to the leg length issue. I also have to get all of my shoes adjusted. They continually fail and I have to re-glue them. It is a real pain.

A while back, I started looking into having some hiking boots custom made for me that would take this adjustment into consideration when the boots are made not after the fact. Do you know what a pair of custom hiking boots cost? Try $3000 to $7000. One such boot maker I found was Randy Merrell. Randy was one of the founders of the Merrell shoe company. I have been wearing their shoes for years and love them. Randy is no longer involved in the company. He has gone back to running his Foot lab. He builds custom boots and also does orthotics and other shoe modifications. I called his business and was surprised when Randy himself answered the phone. We discussed my situation and he asked lots of questions. He then told me he would take my case. I just needed to get to Vernal, Utah and stay about 2 weeks to get fitted and do follow up.

So, that is why we are in Vernal and why we are going to stay a couple of weeks. The good news is that Vernal is an awesome place. Just north of town is the Flaming Gorge National Recreation area and the Green River. The Green river starts at the Flaming Gorge dam. There is tons to do in the area. Some awesome hikes and Dual Sport Motorcycle rides.  

Here is a shot of Stieneker Reservoir:

Just north of Vernal are some mountains that are about 9000 feet high. Here is a high vantage point looking back to the north.

Kim and I took a walk that first night. We like to get a look at our surroundings. We had a nice sunset.

The appointment with Randy went well on September 1. We have a plan, and now I just need to hang out and wait a week to have some work done. In the mean time we will explore the area. We decided to start with the Utah Natural History Museum in Vernal. We wanted to know more about the fossils found in this area and the unique geology. 

The museum costs $7 per person and is worth about that. It has lots of hands on stuff for kids and I am sure it is a favorite for local school field trips. We liked the opening movie for it's information. We then walked around and read every word on every exhibit. We learned a bunch and now can go out in the field and have some idea of the significance of what we are looking at. 

Here is Kim in the Dinosaur garden:

There is a glassed room where you can look at fossils that have been removed from the field and are now being studied. This cast is pretty impressive. 

We spent a bunch of time talking about what we wanted to do while we are here. All I am going to say now is that we did some of the most enjoyable things we have ever done since we hit the road. Come back to see what we did that we have never done before. 

Monday, September 12, 2016

Hiking and Exploring Dinosaur National Monument

We sat under the stars on the evening of August 29. We were amazed at the darkness of the sky and the brightness of the stars. We saw a number of shooting stars. Some were very bright. As we sat and just stared up at the sky, we discussed our future plans. We only had one more day here at DNM and we really wanted to see as much as we could. We were moving the next day, so we really wanted to see what we could in the Cub Creek Road area. The rest of the Monument would have to wait for another trip and I can promise you, there will be another trip to this amazing place. 

We decided to start the day with a hike. Kim looked over the options and chose to do the "Sound of Silence" trail. I was surprised because this is a moderate to difficult hike. It is about 3.5 miles out through the dessert and around some huge rocks and ridges. We did get an early start and we were the first ones at the trail head. The hike started out easy enough. We walked on a sandy trail out into the beautiful landscape.  

There were plenty of bunnies on this hike. We did not see any large animals, but plenty of small dessert dwellers.

After about a half mile, we went into a deep sand wash and were surrounded by huge rocks. These were actually uplifted ridges. The ridges contained sedimentary formations that date back millions of years.

The trail went right up trough that cut in the rocks.

I would like to tell you that I selected some filter for this next image, but I really don't know why my camera did this. I do think it turned out pretty cool.

We hiked for about 3 miles and I thought we were about done. I was questioning to myself the difficulty rating of the hike to this point. There had been plenty of steep climbs and downhills, but nothing too bad. Then we hit this spot. Yep, straight down this sandstone slab. It reminded me of our hike in Arches NP last year.

We had to do some climbing on all fours or as Kim prefers the butt slide, but we made it without incident.

Kim wanted a picture of a lizard in this entry. We saw lots of lizards, but this is the only picture I was able to get.

Here is a final look up the valley. I would highly recommend this hike to anyone that likes a little adventure and can handle the scrambling. You do need to watch your weather. I would not want to be out in that area in the middle of a hot day. Bring plenty of water.

You would think that after that hike we would just go back to the rig and relax. No, not on this day. We wanted to see more, so we headed down to Cub Creek Road to see the petroglyphs. The first stop had a large number of ancient pictures right along the road.

These were very clear and just amazing. They estimate them to be about 1000 years old and made by the Fremont people. 

We continued on to the end of the road and stopped at an old homestead called Josie's Cabin. Josie lived there by herself until she was 90 years old. She was quite a character. She was totally self sufficient. There was an awesome box canyon that she used as a corral above her cabin. 

The walls of the box canyon had many features and formations.

I just loved this place. My friend Bob S. told me about this place. Thanks Bob!

Along the road back there was a high ridge with more Petroglyphs. Kim was not up for a strenuous hike, so I did it alone. Here is a sample of the carvings:

And the view of the valley that Kim missed.

You have to look closely to see the different types of formations. It is just an amazing scene.

We finished the day with more stargazing. We just loved this place. 

We had reservations for the next night near Vernal, Utah. We had a 30 mile drive to get there. Before we left I wanted to take one more hike. I got up early and took the river trail right out of the campground. It goes about a mile and a half to the Split mountain campground and boat ramp. It is a fairly rough trail, but the views are outstanding. 

Well that about sums it up for our short stay in DNM. As I said before, we will be back. You may ask, why did you go to Vernal and why did you make reservations? I will fill you in on those and other questions in my next entry. 

Go for a hike today!