Winter Desert Weekend, Part 1

Right after Christmas, Josh contacted me to see if I would be interested in joining Ofa, Prajit, and himself in for some slot canyon adventuring. I decided since it was such a long drive that it might be fun to invite a friend along for the ride especially since I had a long weekend and Josh and his crew had to get back to SLC on Sunday. Fortunately, Kelly decided that she and her pup Petey would join Sprocket and I on our adventure.

We pulled out of Ridgway right after school on Friday and headed out over Lizard Head Pass. Sprocket insisted we stop at the top of the pass for a quick stretch break and photo opportunity. (He actually whined all the way from the Telluride round-about to Lizard Head and just wanted to frolic in the snow.) We pushed through a long dark drive across the Navajo Reservation, experienced some desert fog, and talked about skinwalkers and eventually made camp at Whitehouse Campground between Page, Arizona and Kanab, Utah. We were both exhaused and I hardly registered it when Josh, Prajit and Ofa drove in and were setting up their tents.

The next morning, we made a quick run to Kanab to try for obtain day-of permits for The Wave, however, during the winter all the permits for the weekend are given away on Friday so we settled for breakfast in town before heading out to hike Wire Pass and Buckskin Gulch.

It was a gorgeous winter day for hiking:

After a short ramble through the wash, we dropped into Wire Pass.

I tried to help Sprocket over the following chockstone and he basically decided to jump over my shoulder. This is my Class 3+ doggy:

Eventually we emerged at the junction of Buckskin Gulch and Wire Pass:

Unfortunately, there was a lot of water going both directions. Sprocket was the only one who thought continuing was a good idea. Instead, we enjoyed the views and enjoyed the majestic canyon junction before heading back out of the canyon.

Some of Ofa and Prajit’s friends were headed to the Horseshoe of the Colorado River just south of Paige to watch sunset so Kelly and I hopped in Prajit’s car and joined them. The Horseshoe is majestic but it was so crowded (although it did inspire our trip to the Goosenecks of the San Juan on the way home).

The sunset colors were pretty sweet though:

Back at camp, we had a beer and then headed for our warm sleeping bags. (Well, Prajit and Josh decided to make some awesome art first.) Sprocket had spent a good chunk of Friday night shivering so I decided to cozy him up in my Turbodown. At first, he wasn’t really sure how he felt about it:

I pulled the hood up and he suddenly understood and immediately fell asleep in his cozy coat.

On The Page: River Notes

On the plane up to Salt Lake City for the #omnigames I read Wade Davis’ River Notes: A Natural and Human History of the Colorado River. The timing was great: out the window I looked out to an awesome view of the Grand Canyon. As it turns out, we spend quite a bit of time playing in Colorado River basin states plus after reading The Emerald Mile, I realized there was lots to learn about this massive and unique river.

Although River Notes had its share of interesting river tidbits, it was shorter and a lot less comprehensive than I’d hoped for. Davis’ intention seemed to be a plea for better river system policy (a worthy goal!) than documenting the natural and human history of the river.

The Mississippi River is known as “Big Muddy” however historically the Colorado moved a huge amount of sediment to the sea: “The average daily sediment load was five hundred thousand tons, enough to fill a hundred freight trains, each with a hundred cars, with each car bearing a load of two hundred thousand pounds.” Before the construction of the dams, “One hundred seventy million cubic cards of sand and silt” were moved down river—more than “three times the amount of dirt excavated to create the Panama Canal.” The Colorado is not the longest North American river nor does it move the most water but in four hundred miles it drops “some 2,500 feet in elevation, a rate of descent twenty-five times that of the Mississippi.”

I’d read a little bit about the formation of the modern Salton Sea in The Emerald Mile but enjoyed reading more about how in 1905 the flooded Colorado defied the man made structures separating it into its natural channel and the California Development Company’s Alamo Canal. For sixteen months the river flowed into the below sea level depression (an ancient path of the river itself).

As mentioned previously, most of River Notes is a plea to save the Colorado River. Davis discusses the appalling water policy surrounding cattle ranching and meat production (“in California, Arizona, and Nevada, roughly 85 percent of the water allotment goes to agriculture, with roughly half the irrigated land devoted to the raising of meat”). He does note a minor success story in the (very) partial restoration of the Colorado River Delta. “What began in the 1970s as a small island of fertility, fed in part by natural springs, runoff, and storm surges from the sea, has grown a hundredfold to become a lush wetland covering more than forty thousand acres. Land that had been sterile for a half century took but eight years to regenerate.”

Arizona to Slab City, CA

The day after Christmas we left our desert camp for “Slab City.” Always looking for a fresh adventure, we took a dirt road to Cibola, Arizona and crossed the Colorado into California there. After a brief stop at the Imperial Sand Dunes for Sprocket to play a bit, we drove up to Niland, California and the Slabs.

Cibola, Arizona
Sprocket swims in the Colorado River
Imperial Sand Dunes
The boys

Day 5: Moab, Utah

Today we spent the morning taking care of some small clean up things on the Jeep, preparing for the next leg of our journey. About noon, we loaded Robin, her friend Mckinley, and Sprocket into the back of the Cherokee and headed for the shores of the Colorado for the afternoon. Forrest and I both noted that riding in the back of cars without seatbelts used to be a part of childhood but is something that has become non-existent. The girls didn’t care one bit about our philosophizing and giggled the entire way to the beach. Sprocket just got lots of love from the girls which he pretty much just takes in stride—“duh, the girls love me!”

Hanging out at the river was really nice. It was warm and pretty darn relaxing. Mckinley made a sand mermaid of Robin and we tried to get Sprocket to come swim but he’s still not so sure about the whole playing in the water thing. Despite his protestations we kept dunking him in the river to help keep him cool but aside from that he was very well behaved and loved just basking in the sun on our feet. Danette and Kirk joined us for a bit before we decided we’d all had enough sun. Forrest and I ended up riding Kirk’s motorcycle back to the house, which was really fun. What a way to travel through the canyon!

This evening, we just hung out at the house enjoying the nice evening weather, looking west toward the La Sals on the back deck. We’re doing our laundry to head out on the next leg of our journey: through southwestern Colorado towards Santa Fe then on to Carlsbad Caverns. I’m so excited to see lots of new things in the next few days!