|Looking back on the road we took last time drom Hunt Creek. 5/8/08 11:41 am|
|May 2008: Springtime High Plateau
3rd entry for May
Drive to Widstoe, Pine Lake and Griffin Top
Hatch, UT, Day Fourteen at Cherokee Springs Golf & RV Park, Site: I-18
Thursday, May 8, 2008 Eleven Months
Sunday, May 4. Life at Cherokee Springs.
We stayed in camp on Sunday, the day after our big drive to Boulder through the Escalante Staircase. The weather changes quickly and that day was one of those false starts around here. It seemed sunny and warm in the morning and then the wind came up. We started a fire and sat outside and then got driven inside about ten or eleven and clouds came in and it got windy.
I started to comb Rudi and finished the job in the bus. Then I bathed him in the shower. It took hours and it’s hard on my back. I planned to do Margot also but I got too tired. I read more of my Tom Wolfe book and I used my new maps from the Escalante Visitor’s Center to recreate our back roads drive on the Paunsaugunt Plateau around Casto Canyon and Hunt Creek. Now I see what we did and where we went. I really enjoy memorizing the lay of the land in this area.
|Monday, May 5. We do errands in Panguitch and our first two RVs arrive at Cherokee Springs.
Monday the fifth of May was an errands sort of day. We drove to Panguitch, 17 miles to the north, because that is the closest place that has an ATM! We needed to get more cash to pay Bandito to extend our stay at Cherokee. We talked about leaving because it is cold and windy here. It might be warmer in Escalante but I don’t feel enthusiastic about the move. There is still a lot to see around here and I’m not anxious to leave because I love this high plateau with the distant views and with all our privacy. However, having no Internet is a problem. We have to drive with Dennis’s laptop to a place where he can get an Internet signal.
While we were in Panguitch we had breakfast at the Flying M. It is an old coffee shop with a very dark interior. The waitress was tired and cross but funny and humorous also. As it turned out the food was surprisingly good. After breakfast we sat in the shade in the parking lot. I got on the cell phone and Dennis got on the Internet and we finally got through all of the rigamarole to register a
|Driving back towards Hatch from Panguitch. They're still doing a controlled burn near one of the canyons. 5/5/08|
new CITI bank credit card and set it up for payments on the Internet. Dennis says it was the most difficult one he’s ever done. It was unnecessarily complicated and repetitive. It took an hour and it was a comedy of errors with Dennis balancing the laptop in the driver’s seat and me on the cell phone interpreting the accent of a man speaking to us from India who is telling me what to do. But I can’t see the screen and I’m telling Dennis what to do but Dennis is talking to me and telling me stuff I don’t need to hear while the technician is also talking to me. It was all very nervous making. At one point we dropped the card and it fell between the front seats so the guy in India is waiting while Dennis finds a stick to slide the lost card out towards the back seat while I look for the number of the card somewhere in his paperwork because I can’t get at the card. Meanwhile the dogs are in the back seat and they don’t know why Dennis is on his knees back there poking under the seat with a stick.
After we finished, we went to Joe’s Main St. Market and picked up a few supplies. Then we came back and surprise! We found an RV parked in a site near Bandito’s house! Wow, another person is here! I let the dogs out of the car by our bus but they ran straight over the intervening sites to the RV and barked at a man who was unloading stuff and getting settled in. He sat down and greeted them and he seemed to like dogs.
In the late afternoon the sun came out and the wind died down so we sat outside and it was pretty nice. Then we got company! Bandito drove by with the man who arrived in the RV. We waved and he stopped and they got out. Bandito introduced his brother, Jacques, or “Cadillac Jack”. Jacques sells Cadillac’s and lives with his wife in Yuma.
We stood outside in the road by his car and talked for more than an hour. Bandito’s friend who owned this place was named George. He crashed his plane and died just south of here four years ago. I don't know if the airstrip here was finished or not. He was flying over the property with two other men and showing it to them. He probably was talking and not paying attention as he banked the plane in a turn. He didn’t scrape up the earth but went straight down. Bandito says this type of pilot error is not unusual. The man in front was killed and the man in back lived but is disabled. This big property has 503 acres. Lots could be sold for houses but the widow wants to sell the property entire.
Jacques is very friendly and talkative. He says he has two dogs at home. He will be here a few days and will leave his RV. He is coming back next month with his eleven year old granddaughter. Bandito and Jack call each other “brother” instead of by their names. They were watching for a friend who was expected to arrive shortly. He arrived after we all went inside. He has a Country Coach and tows a car. He parked at the end of our row. It is kind of fun to have some new people here.
With no email and poor cell phone reception I am getting out of touch. My friend Larry called in the evening. He said he had written me emails but hadn’t heard from me. He figured I might be out of Internet range and called to find out where we are. I was glad to hear from him.
|Jacques backed his coach into a site near his brother's home. 5/5/08||Arlen parked at the end of the row near the fields. 5/5/08|
Tuesday, May 6. We take a walk up the hill and a third RV arrives.
Tuesday morning was nicer than most days sunny and warm so we sat outside. We’ve given up on fires because a breeze swirls around in circles and makes the smoke change so often that I give up sitting near the fire. But we sat outside for several hours. I combed Margot. I had to cut most of the hair on her hind legs. She’s a mess.
The new fellow who pulled in last night is Arlen. He’s an engineer and he’s been here before. He likes to golf and he likes to help with the maintenance here in exchange for using the golf course. He came over in the morning to meet us. The dogs had been barking and wanting to go over to him when he was working outside and out of sight on the other side of his motor home. I was keeping them away to try to let him sleep late. But he was up and the dogs ran over to bark and say hello and we visited for a while. Then he drove off in his jeep to go up to the golf course probably looking for Bandito.
As the weather remained good we decided to do our walk. I’ve been negligent and we haven’t walked in the past few days. Bandito and Jacques told us we should go up the trail from the fence by the water pond. We left at 11:30 and didn’t get back for two hours. We went up the hill to a spring where they collect water for the property. We went towards the Bryce Woodland development that we saw the other day but we didn’t reach it. The walk uphill at this elevation did me in and I was really tired by the time we got back. We sat down and ate chips and salsa and then I fell asleep.
The dogs had a marvelous time as usual running up and down the trail and off into the woods and fields on each side of the trail. I was a little more worried about them up there as there were signs of wildlife and I am scared they will be picked off by a predator of some kind a coyote or even an eagle. So we kept calling them and made them stay within a forty-foot perimeter and always within sight. We had some good views of our valley and Bandito’s house and our bus so it was a good walk.
|The dogs immediately get muddy running around the pond. 5/6/08||The pond is starting to fill up. 5/6/08|
|We start up the road from the gate by the pond. Looking back down into the valley, the white spot is the hangar by the airstrip near our RV sites. 5/6/08||Margot rushes down the hill to join us on the trail. 5/6/08|
|The dogs sniff something of interest by the road. 5/6/08||We've walked up hill and back along the valley until we are just above Bandito's house and Jacque's RV. 5/6/08|
|Looking back at the hangar again. We've gained some elevation. 5/6/08||Rudi gets so excited and distracted, I have to beg him to stop and drink water. Margot drinks lots of water. 5/6/08|
|Dennis stops to look at the view. 5/6/08||My wild dogs run wild. 5/6/08|
|We left the road and trail, below, to look for the spring that flows down to the pond. 5/6/08|
|Dennis and Margot wait for me. 5/6/08|
|Dennis and the dogs found the source. 5/6/08||It's monochromatic and repetitive, so why do I love the look and feel of this plateau so much? 5/6/08|
|Margot comes running when I call, but Rudi feels another call from somewhere up the trail. 5/6/08|
|I see the profile of the Black Mts on the other side of SR-12 up ahead. 5/6/08|
|Dennis has a pebble in his shoe and Margot sits right beside him. 5/6/08||This time Dennis begs Rudi to stop and take a drink. We carry water and a folding water dish. 5/6/08|
|Margot runs back and forth on the trail. Rudi, above, trots and investigates everything. 5/6/08||Looking back up the hill. 5/6/08|
After our hike Dennis drove to Hatch to get mail. I finished “A Man in Full” and I finished another web page, but of course, I can’t post them. Darn, now I don’t have any more fiction books left to read. I do have all my non-fiction books about this area….
In the early evening another motor home came in. They’ve never been here and didn’t call Bandito so he wasn’t expecting them. They saw the same RV Park Reviews that we saw. They stopped on the road in front of us because we are in the site with the HOST sign. We told them to park anywhere so they parked between Arlen and us.
Finally there is another woman here. The new couple is Glenn and Carol. They are from Pittsburg and not full timers. To quote Carol, they are living his dream. They are doing a tour of the United States. They are on their way to California and then after going north to Washington they will head back. They plan to be here two days while they see Zion and Bryce. Well good luck on that. How much can you see in two days?
|Glenn and Carol pull in. Counting us, now there are four coaches in Cherokee Springs! 5/6/08|
We have invitation and graduation announcements from Dan and Jewel Riley. Dan is graduating with his law degree. I will send a card when I can get to a store and I plan to call them when I can get better cell phone reception. Congratulations to Daniel S. Riley who now has his Juris Doctor degree from the Sandra Day O'Connor College of Law at Arizona State University. This is a big achievement.
Wednesday, May 6. I wash Margot and bake a cake and Bandito gives us fresh trout for dinner.
Bandito came by and stopped to talk. He says if we stay a month that we can pay a monthly fee. He says we should keep track. He went fishing yesterday with his brother. I asked him about how to cook trout. He gave us two that he caught. He de-heads them and skins them and puts them in cold water in empty juice or milk cartons. If you freeze them in the water they keep for months.
In the afternoon I made a double-layer cake from scratch. I made a Gold Layer Cake from Joy of Cooking. My challenges were two: high altitude and convection oven. I put in the full amount of double acting baking powder (2 t) before reading that at altitude it should be half. It has 3 eggs and it sounded like you shouldn’t beat them too much or the cake would raise too much in high altitude. So I beat the batter for less than a minute just to get it smooth. I used 9” round pans that fit between the two round self-standing racks that one must put in the convection oven. I baked 25° higher according to high altitude instructions, at 400° for 25 minutes. It didn’t raise as much as I thought it should and when I emptied the pans, the cake stuck to the bottom in one part of one cake pan. I saved it and was going to put it under to fill in the top layer but Dennis ate it! So the top layer was caved in a bit on one side. I also made chocolate icing. The result was a cake that I think was okay but maybe a little dry.
For dinner we had Bandito’s two fresh rainbow trout with rice and vegetables. Thanks, Bandito! The trout were delicious.
I went to bed to rest and watch TV but I only got to watch until 8:30 when we lost reception because it rained. As soon as it rains we lose our satellite reception. It is very annoying. It rained fairly hard on and off all night. I missed the Barbara Walters interview with Charles Gibson at 10:00 pm.
Thursday, May 8. We drive to Pine Lake and Widstoe, and then up the old Escalante Rd. to Griffin Top
On Thursday morning the sun came out and it looked like it was done raining. It was very pretty with low fog over Hatch. Later it clouded over and looked like it would rain some more. I felt depressed. Mother’s Day is coming up. I haven’t been home for Mother’s Day for the past two years. I used to love doing a brunch in my garden for my sons and my sister and her sons. Also our one-year anniversary on the bus will be a week from this Friday on the sixteenth. I feel like we should do something to mark the day, but I don’t know what. It will just pass by remarked but not celebrated. I called my sister, Sally, but she wasn’t home.
Actually the sun stayed out so we decided to bring the dogs and take a scenic drive. So we had a good day and I cheered up. I am surprised at how much I enjoy these back road jaunts.
First we stopped at Red Canyon because we haven’t really looked at this park situated right by Highway 12.
|Foggy clouds hover over the plateau beyond the sites opposite us. 5/8/08 7:28 am|
We took some photos and a short walk along the paths by the highway. It is a remarkable area and very beautiful. There are more paths and roads to explore. The is a national park instead of BLM land so we couldn't take the dogs with us even on a leash. So we only walked for a half hour. Next time we will leave the dogs in the bus and we would like to come back to do a more extensive hike. The photos below were taken between 10:50 and 11:10 am. The temperature was 49°.
After our little walk in Red Canyon, we drove east on SR-12 and north on SR-22 back to the point where we emerged from our wanderings around Hunt Creek on May Day. This time we turned east on #32, an improved gravel road, and drove seven miles to Pine Lake. The lake is dammed at one end but it looks natural and it’s very pretty. At 8,200’ pines and fir trees surround it. There are campgrounds and it is a very pretty area. Located in the Dixie National Forest the camps are for small RVs or tents so it is not suitable for our big bus. There are fish in the lake and dozens of trails in the surrounding area so it is fabulous for hikers, ATVs, jeeps and horses. In fact there are back roads and trails everywhere in the wilderness between Bryce and Escalante. It is just amazing.
On the map below, the highways we took are shown in red. The jeep roads we took are yellow. The jeep trail we could take to Escalante, the Old Escalante Road, is in blue.
Map of Escalante Mountains
|Looking back on the road we took last time from Hunt Creek. 5/8/08 11:41 am||Looking forward on Rd. 31 towards Pine Lake. Straight ahead is Table Cliff Plateau and Powell Pt.
5/8/08 11:45 am
|Our first view of Pine Lake. 5/8/08 12:05 pm||The road goes across a dam at the bottom of the lake. 5/8/08 12:06 pm|
|On the south side of the lake, looking northeast towards Table Cliff Plateau. 5/8/08 12:05 pm|
|Full of glee, the dogs enjoy their freedom and run down the trail as fast as they can. 5/8/08 12:14 pm|
|Then they obediently follow Dennis back to the car. 5/8/08 12:15 pm||"Come on, Rudi, get in the car." 5/8/08 12:16 pm|
|We drive a little ways southeast past Pine Lake just to see where it will go. We had to turn around just past this sign when the road got too rocky. From here there are trails up to Powell Pt. and trails north that skirt around Barney Top and go to Griffin Top where we go next. But we must drive back to SR-22 to do it. 5/8/08 12:20 pm|
|Because it rained, it is not dusty and we drive slowly on dirt roads, so we can keep windows down and the dogs can stick their noses out. They watch and sniff and they don't miss a thing. 5/8/08 12:19 pm|
|Crossing back over Pine Lake looking northeast.
5/8/08 12:32 pm
|Pine Lake and Powell Pt. 5/8/08 12:33 pm|
|This is a typical camp site at Pine Lake Campgrounds in the Dixie Nat'l Forest. 5/8/08 12:40 pm||Rudi is bathed and combed but he needs a groomer for a better trim. 5/8/08 12:51 pm|
Back on SR-22, in less than a mile, we saw a tiny sign for the ghost town of Widtsoe so we turned east on a back road named Widtsoe Rd. There isn’t much left of Widtsoe a few wood skeleton houses and piles of lumber. There are signs of new construction with some mobile homes and RVs and equipment, but nothing remarkable.
The settlement started in 1910 with forty acres deeded from Julia Adair and it was named Widstoe in 1917 in honor of the prolific Apostle John A. Widstoe, Utah’s renowned expert on irrigation and dry farming. According to Christian Probasco in Highway 12, “The early farmers of Widstoe put his techniques to use at seventy-two hundred feet, where the growing season was short and the winter ‘zero weather’ cold, and they were successful, and their success drew in more pioneer families….Widstoe’s population grew to about eleven hundred, and vivid fields of alfalfa, barley, corn, rye, potatoes, oats, wheat and high-altitude lettuce covered all of John’s Valley, everything you can see from the town site to the Black Mountains and the Sevier Plateau.”
In Lands of the Arid Region, Major Powell warned that there are limits to successful agriculture with less than 20” of annual rainfall. A ten-year dry cycle crippled Widstoe. Springs and creeks dried up and the Great Depression finished the town.
|Widstoe. We passed by on our way east towards Griffin Top. 5/8/08 1:06 pm||On our way back we turned onto a side road to view a few more abandoned shells of houses. 5/8/08 2:52 pm|
|Some people have bought land at auction and are building new homes. 5/8/08 2:52 pm||Some abandoned house as above. 5/8/08 2:53 pm|
How times and philosophies and cultures do change! This is a quote from Success on Irrigation Projects by John Widstoe in the early 20th C. "The destiny of man is to possess the whole earth; and the destiny of the earth is to be subject to man. There can be no full conquest of the earth and no real satisfaction to humanity, if large portions of the earth remain beyond his highest control."
The failure of Widstoe must have been a terrible shock to believers. "Use me 'till you use me up," goes the song. In the early 21st C. we know that we must nurture Mother Earth and take care of our resources.
Today the John’s Valley is fields of sage and bunch grass and you would never know that crops ever grew there. We passed Widstoe quickly and continued east on the old Escalante Rd. into a new wilderness of rivers, meadows and mountains. We were at 7,550’ el. It was still 49°.
|As we travel east we have a view looking south back towards Barney Top and Pine Lake. 5/8/08 1:06 pm||On our left or north side we begin to see red rock outcrops similar to Red Canyon. 5/8/08 1:11 pm|
|The color of the road turns red also. 5/8/08 1:14 pm||Looking southeast towards the Escalante Mountains. 5/8/08 1:14 pm|
|This is part of the Dixie Nat'l Forest. 5/8/08 1:16 pm||We came to a trail heading north with this sign. In theory there is a trail that goes south to Pine Lake, but I don't see it. The north trail goes up to Horse Lake and Griffin Rd. 5/8/08 1:21 pm|
We were on an improved gravel road called Escalante Canyon on my map. 35 minutes later we saw a wide, level campground at 8,760’ el. It would be easy to bring the bus to this place. There was a circle of stones for a fire pit and it was a lovely circle meadow surrounded by stands of cedar, pine and even some fir trees. We stopped to look around and let the dogs run around. I’m sure it was near a creek but there were still patches of snow and the creek area was too muddy for exploration. Directly south of this campground, about seven miles as the crow flies is Pine Lake, but a 10,450’ mountain, dismissively named Barney Top, separates the two. In this area there are more mountains than you can shake a stick at. Our GPS told us we were at: N 37° 49’ 32” W 111° 53’ 46” on Sweet Water Rd., Escalante, UT.
|Looking south towards Pine Lake. 5/8/08 1:28 pm|
|We pull into a large, level campground to take a break. 5/8/08 1:32 pm||Elsa sits on a log by the big campfire ring. The sun feels good. It's now 51° warm. 5/8/08 1:40 pm|
|As usual, the dogs are happy to explore new territory. 5/8/08 1:42 pm||On a cold morning it's always nice to have warm sunshine in your campground. This clearing has lots of sun. 5/8/08 1:46 pm|
|We leave our pleasant campground to continue east up the grade. 5/8/08 1:46 pm||Gaining in elevation. 5/8/08 1:50 pm|
|It was 51° and sunny at 1:45 p.m. so we continued east until we came to a fork in the road at the top of a ridge. We had driven ten miles from Widtsoe into the Escalante Mts. and we were up to 8,990’ el. Suddenly we had enormous panoramic views both east and west. The entire Escalante valley plateau was spread out below us. We could see rivers, probably North Creek and Birch Creek and the cliff dwellings that stand near the town of Escalante on SR-12. The drop just below our parked car, with no barrier of any kind, had to be many thousands of feet.
One of our road choices, southward, would have taken us southeast all the way to Escalante. There was no mileage on the sign but by the map it would seem perhaps twice as far as we had already come. It skirts Little Valley and runs along Birch Creek. We chose the second road, northward, up to the peak of Griffin Top, 10,407’. The views along this road towards the east were astounding. The road was good but sometimes made slightly narrow by snowdrifts, which put us close enough to the edge of this precipitous drop to make me nervous. One skid in the wrong direction would put an end to all further worries.
|At the top of the ridge we came to a crossroads. It doesn't show in this photo but the drop is sharp and deep. This panorama is three photos combined in PhotoShop. We are looking east from the Escalante Mts. into the Escalante Valley. 5/8/08 2:01 pm|
|Left, from the crossroads we turned north to climb to Griffin Top. On the way we come to a snow patch taking up some of the road. There was plenty of room to pass but with such a precipitous drop it was a little nervous making.
Right, looking down into the Escalante Valley. 5/8/08 2:04 pm
|The road makes a turn away from the view as we climb. 5/8/08 2:07 pm||End of the road for us. 5/8/08 2:10 pm|
Eventually, just below Griffin Top, we had to stop and turn around because of a tree fallen across the road. We made it to 9,720’ just 687 feet short of the peak. (Don’t ask why we didn’t walk up the road.) We had curved west away from the drop and there was room to turn the car without problems. We drove back down to a wide saddle with several unmarked trailheads and room to park so we got out to walk around and let the dogs run around.
What wild little dogs they are now, running lickety-split, hither and yon. Margot ran full tilt towards a giant fallen tree log, saw it, reared up on hind legs to look at this monster, got scared and ran full speed back to us. Snow is nothing new to them and they ran through left over patches without reaction.
|We stop at a saddle just below the point where we had to turn around. 5/8/08 2:09 pm||On this, the east side of the road, is a fence and the view. The dogs are running around here. 5/8/08 2:13 pm|
|On the west side of the road are trails but no signs. Probably the Griffin Top trail we saw in the valley below ends up here. 5/8/08 2:15 pm||It's really quite cold . 5/8/08 2:16 pm|
|We edge by the same patch of snow on the way back down. 5/8/08 2:22 pm||Looking down a river valley to Escalante. 5/8/08 2:23 pm|
|The wide patches look like water but they are probably irrigated fields of crops. 5/8/08 2:24 pm||We see red sandstone outcrops as we descend.
5/8/08 2:28 pm
|Same view as we descend to the fork in the road.
5/8/08 2:28 pm
|Descending back to Widstoe and SR-22.
5/8/08 2:42 pm
|From SR-22 looking east towards Powell Pt.
5/8/08 3:01 pm
|Further south on SR-22 looking towards the Table Cliffs. 5/8/08 3:02 pm|
|Looking back towards Widstoe and the Escalante Mts.
5/8/08 3:10 pm
|Looking back at Pine Lake, Barney Top and Griffin Top.
5/8/08 3:18 pm
We returned to SR-22 and then SR-12 and stopped at the Pines Restaurant at 3:30 for an early dinner before returning to the bus. At Cherokee Springs, we sat outside for a while with our new neighbors Carol and Glenn. They are on a fast and dirty tour of the west, dropping in for one-day visits to all the major parks. They spent one day each at Zion and Bryce. They hope to see Highway One along the California coastline and also Yosemite. They admit it is an exhausting schedule but they are determined to cover the distance in the time allotted. I’d never be able to do it and thank goodness we don’t have to hurry. I am really enjoying our little explorative excursions.
Carol and Glenn went inside at 5:00 p.m. to watch the early east coast broadcast of Survivor. She belongs to a betting pool and at home they all watch Survivor together. She has won the past two seasons. This year she bet on Kirk, the ice cream server, because she figured he’s a loser and she doesn’t want to win the pool again. Now it’s down to the last five and he’s the sole surviving male. She can’t believe it. I watched the west coast 8:00 p.m. broadcast and watched those girls bring him down. They worked him. He was too naive to survive against those four women. James on the jury was laughing and said, “Now I’m not the most stupid player in Survivor history!” He gave up the title to Kirk. I plan to watch the finale on Sunday. It better not rain! I didn’t get to see the Barbara Walters interview, but Carol and Glenn did. They have the type of satellite dish that you set up outside. It takes up a lot of space to carry with you and it’s a nuisance. But now I wish we had one to use when it rains!
Tomorrow we plan to drive to Cedar City to pick up our monthly medications at Walgreens. Dennis thinks there will be new snow over SR-14 and it should be pretty. I hope it isn’t blocked and impassable on Friday. I would like to find a bookstore in Cedar City and buy Barbara Walters’s memoir, Audition. I understand it is sold out in many places but maybe I’ll get lucky.
Elsa Walton, Cherokee Springs Golf & RV Park, Hatch, UT, Thursday, May 8, 2008