Sunday, November 22, 2009

top 5 reasons to visit Cedar Mesa, Utah

Sometimes I do lag in posting, don't I? Hard being a freelance writer yet also a lover of the wilderness who adventures a lot! (Ok, ok--I'm also a bit of a procrastinator. Just a bit!)

I recently traveled to Mancos, CO, to visit a friend. Great trip...especially the drive over Cedar Mesa. Now, this is an area I have driven through many, many times when I lived in Durango yet felt compelled to often return to Torrey (gee, I wonder why, lol). I've done a minimal amount of hiking and camping in the area--but let me tell you, there's an abundance of hiking to be done there! Cedar Mesa is the sort of huge secret that many locals or canyoneering or ancestral Puebloean aficionados know about, yet it's still basically hidden from the general public eye.

Good thing, that. Plus, if you visit this area or plan to do any stomping around, you'd better be self-sufficient. Not a forgiving area in which to get lost or stranded without possessing some basic survival skills. (That's another post coming soon...all abut the bowdrill and more.)

Ok, caveat emptor, here's why you should put Cedar Mesa on your list of places to visit:

1) Unspoiled.
Really. It's way off the beaten path, there are no national parks within its sprawl of canyons and buttes, and its biggest attractions (mountain biking, canyoneering, hiking) haven't yet drawn the crowds that swarm places like Moab. Phew!

2) Huge.
Cedar Mesa encompasses over 400 square miles of pure wilderness playground. Check out Natural Bridges National Monument, the awe-inspiring ancient native american remains (such as Turkey Pen Ruin and Perfect Kiva in the Grand Gulch Primitive Area), and stop in at Edge of the Cedars Museum in Blanding to see some of the "spoils" taken from ruins over the last century. Oh, and swing into the Butler Wash Ruins overlook and check out the Moki stairs. Really nuts! (Yes, Virginia, there were ancient people who pecked that staircase out of sheer rock and then used it. They were either ancient versions of Spiderman or just really, really trusting of their toeholds.)

3) Grand Gulch Primitive Area.
Note the word "primitive." They're right on the money about that, so realize that if you get your little hiking butt into trouble out there, you'd best be able to get it out again--on your own. Grand Gulch is utterly sublime in its beauty, incredible ruins, and eerie link to the past. Back in the day (say, 1200 years ago), supposedly, more people inhabited this area than live in all the Four Corners today. Crazy, no? (I remember hearing this somewhere but can't find documentation for it just now...will keep looking though.) Please remember that the Archeological Resources Protection Act says it's a felony to disturb or take artifacts. Want more proof of how serious they are? Hark back to the Blanding raids earlier this year. They mean it.

4) White Canyon, home of the Black Hole.
Spooky! The Black Hole is a classic canyoneering experience in the most serious sense. You actually need a drysuit to do it, as water temps can be so cold even on a 100+ degree day in July that you can get hypothermic. You'd also best be experienced or with someone very experienced and safety-conscious. And White Canyon itself is such a fascinating, lovely fissure in the earth. It demands exploration even if it didn't contain the presence of cool slot canyons.

5) Dark Canyon Wilderness.
Ok, technically it's a bit north of Cedar Mesa. But it is an amazing hidden gem, and should be explored by every serious off-the-beaten-path adventurer heading to southern Utah. There are some stunning hikes, hidden ruins, and vistas that are unbelievably beautiful--and best of all, no one else is there! And it has 45,000 acres! Let me say it again: Hidden. Treasure. Go check it out...but mum's the word.

Best reasons of all:

See below. Happy trails.... And do tell me your own reasons why visiting Cedar Mesa is such an awesome idea.

Cheese Box Butte.

Gorgeous canyon that parallels Hwy 95 much of the way.

Ancient potsherds. (No, I'm not the one who "arranged" them thusly. You should never do this, as it causes the artifacts to lose their provenance. But does make for a nice pic.)

Monday, November 09, 2009

hiking in my southern utah stomping grounds

I realized I don't much talk about specific hikes around here.

Recently, I mentioned Spooky and Peek-a-Boo slot canyons, and those are super cool hikes not to be missed. (As long as you are neither claustrophobic nor well-nourished, as noted.)

Last year, I posted pics and raves about how gorgeous Lost Lake, up on the Boulder, is. (This post also somehow morphs into Hillary Clinton, the Milky Way, and lightning. Don't ask. You'll have to read it, heh.) Then there's the anti-ATV (well, anti-piss-poor users of ATVs) rant that happened because of another horseback ride up to Lost Lake.

Hmm, then there was the one about seeing bighorn sheep along Pleasant Creek Canyon in the Park. No pics, as I'd forgotten my camera that day...but I often see sheep in that canyon. And it is sooo gorgeous there.

Ooh, Natural Bridges National Monument, just down the road from Torrey out in Cedar Mesa. Total wow out there.

There are so, so many hikes I can mention. I'll have to start doing that, and posting pics along with them, of course.

i just wrote a "travel tip" for a nicely-organized travel site called Travel Dudes. My tip was, oddly enough (lol) about Best Hikes in Southern Utah's National Parks. All of the parks down here are, pure & simple, AMAZING. And each is so in its own way. Am I partial to Capitol Reef because that's where I live? Of course. But each park has its own breath-taking delights. Visit 'em all. (Check out this really crisp photo of Bryce Canyon. If you're a camera fiend, that park will keep you occupied for days. For all hours of all the days you spend there, in fact.)

And here are some blog posts on NileGuide I wrote about road tripping and gettin' your beer on in Zion. (Too bad I can't write a similar one about Torrey, ha. Not quite as many drinking establishment choices here, I'm afraid!)

What else. Well, there are my most favorite hikes around Torrey...but I'll have to think about exposing those, so to speak. Not like this is a rabid tourist mecca yet, but it's always been my goal to not encourage the over-visitation of wild places that often means eventual, rather traumatic change. We'll stick with just mentioning Lost Lake for now, hmm? :)

More pics for your viewing pleasure. Then it's off to dreamland for this adventurer...

Blind Lake in the fall, up on the Boulder



Sunday, November 08, 2009

a day in my life

Okay, these would be from several different days, but you get my drift.

Have I mentioned yet that I live in paradise and I love my job(s)? Capitol Reef is a really sweet place to call home. See below for verification. ;)

Working. Really. (Apparently with a tree growing out of my head, but anyway.) The incredible background of my home behind me, Doc standing very nicely.

Pippin hard at work on one of our pack trips. Ha! (Yes, he had his own sleeping bag.)

Relaxing with a guest after a long day on the trail in front of CRBO's kitchen tent. Aaahhhh...

Spooky slot canyon in GSENM. I led people through here on a hike.

Taking some kids riding past Blind Lake up on the Bouldertop.

The boss (Cody) talking about fly fishing on the Fremont River (ok, not a day in my life, but still a cool picture. I'd like to do more fly fishing).

Pack trip in the desert. Those are the Henry Mountains in the background. (It was kind of hazy because of huge fires near St. George.)

Fall foliage on the Boulder in September. So gorgeous! So chilly!

Scary part of the job: feeding 900-pound hay bales with the tractor! Without running into the fence, ha. And yes, that's actually me driving the crazy huge thing. First woman ever taught how to do so in BCO's history. Hee hee!

Convinced that my job & life here has some perks? :)

Each year that I live here (since 1999) brings me new adventures, discoveries, and understandings. What an amazing place this is, especially since it's taught me so much. There's a sort of magic in the desert and mountains here...if only I keep opening my eyes and heart enough to let it in.

thoughts on life in a small, rural, mormon town

Torrey is one of nine towns in Wayne County (WC), Utah. It is inarguably the most "liberal," "open-minded," "accepting" of all the towns here. Why do I use quote marks? Because, dear readers, your definition of those appellations and WC's definition probably vary wildly.

Torrey, as I may have noted before, actually has three churches, as opposed to the other towns only having the dominant LDS (Mormon) church. Torrey is home to an eclectic pile o' people, including hippies, artists, ranchers, Mormons, grubby outdoorsy types, writers, photographers, horsemen and -women, rich folks, poor folks, in-between folks, and many deliciously diverse more.

Torrey is also, as is most of Utah, a very red town, as in Republican. In the election one year ago, however, for the first time in its history Torrey voted blue! There are plenty of Obama supporters here, and they voted. The local paper, The Insider, very grudgingly noted Torrey's left-leaning sensibilities as my little home ripped itself away from the dominant majority. Heh. (Doesn't really matter if you supported Obama or point is that for once the majority was toppled by the determined, and very few, votes of the lesser-represented.)

In last week's election, we voted for Mayor and Council members. My neighbors on my little street (called, very tongue-in-cheek, Morningwood Drive) both won their respective runs. Adus Dorsey is the new mayor of Torrey, and Jennifer Howe is a new councilwoman. They each take up their duties in January.

Neither one is particularly aligned with the majority religion in WC...they won't be mouthpieces for it. Have I mentioned before that there is little separation of church & state in Utah?

Now, this is NOT an anti-LDS rant. It is merely an observation of the mores and morals (or sometimes lack thereof) in my teeny rural adopted homeland. I will note, however, a conversation the other day with a woman who lives here with her two kids, both of whom are in the WC public school system, and none of whom are LDS. Last year, her son's teacher told his class that anyone supporting Obama was a terrorist! (The kid's eight, for crying out loud.) This teacher also supposedly pushes her pro-LDS sentiments in the classroom...of course, the debate over such behavior from a teacher goes on ad nauseum. I say, no sirree. You'd better not push your values on my kid, lady. You're supposed to be teaching them readin', writin', and 'rithmetic.

I digress. Hmm, this might be just a bit of a rant.

Back to my impressions of my little town. I love Utah. Its gorgeous landscapes have stunned me since I first beheld them ten years ago. I am in favor of difference of opinion, diversity, and honest expressions of one's beliefs. I also happen to believe that there's a time and place for all things! I like to believe in our democratic process...though I also often have my doubts.

Ah, too much to think about. What do YOU think about belief systems and sharing said beliefs with others? What have you experienced in your lifetime, good, bad, or downright ugly?

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

a natural high: drunk on the beauty of the red rocks

Oh, it is so spectacularly beautiful this morning in Torrey. The sky is a crisp blue, the sun is uncovered, there's a light breeze rustling the changing leaves of the nearly-bare aspen trees, and the red cliffs are just begging to be explored and climbed.

Hmm, I've mentioned before that I live in paradise, no? This is a sublime time (ooh, bad rhyme! Ha.) of year to visit. The nights are definitely chilly, but damn, the daytime is so perfect for tramping around the desert. Think of the treasures you might stumble across in your wanderings! Pottery shards (yeah, don't take those), dinosaur bones (um, don't take those either), petrified wood (okay, you're allowed to take a small amount of that, but you'd best check in with the Bureau of Land Management office for specifics), possible sightings of bald eagles, golden eagles, bighorn sheep, quick-moving lizards, rabbits darting and leaping everywhere.

Dang. I need to get out and explore today myself! Me and the Pip pup. He'll love a good adventure.

Now, here's something I missed from last month. Wild horses are definitely considered iconic in the American West...but they're also hideously overpopulated and not being adopted due to recent economic concerns. In fact, some people have taken to dumping domestic horses out on the range...Yeah, that's what you do with a domestic animal you can no longer care for. Been going on for a while, too, sadly enough. Anyway, Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar has apparently launched an idea to make sustaining the wild horse herds, well, more sustainable. Will it work? Let's see. This is a whole other discussion for another post. And will I be able to go on and on about it! (You can start by reading more here; please note that these are someone else's thoughts, but any thoughtful addition to the conversation makes it more well-rounded.)