July 16th 2009

Moto-Camping: Sedona

Moto-Camping: Sedona

My last day before heading home, I took a short jaunt down to Sedona.  The city itself is not much of a draw–it’s main drag is touristy to the max–but its setting is amazing. The ride there and back was beautiful; just as I remembered it.

Instead of wandering the shops, which doesn’t interest me, I visited Red Rock Canyon State Park and dropped in on several picnic sites along Oak Creek, dipping my tired feet in the cool water, reading and taking pictures.  Tomorrow’s ride is the longest of the entire trip: roughly 600 miles.  My sore butt isn’t looking forward, so it was nice to take it easy today.

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July 16th 2009

Moto-Camping: More Critters

Moto-Camping:  More Critters

More critters, these from near Sedona (Red Rock Canyon State Park).

The lead image is a Cooper’s Hawk, I’m sure, the darker bird is a Zone Hawk, I think.

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July 16th 2009

Moto-Camping: Mesa Verde

Moto-Camping:  Mesa Verde

Day 9 was spent getting to and then hiking Mesa Verde National Park.  The photos attached to this post also include the morning of Day 10–there was too much to see!

The alcove dwellings of the ancient Pueblo (we no longer use the Navajo “Anasazi”) are fun to visit, even in the heat.  The pictures barely do justice to the structures–and being one of 50 to 60 tourists per tour, it was difficult to “feel” the place.  But I’m glad I went.

I had a great camping spot in a small grove of Utah Juniper which was both shady and a great spot to stretch the hammock a last time.  It rained so much in the Black Canyon that I slept in the tent the whole time.  It threatened to rain here, but I gave it a shot and was rewarded!  I love my backpack hammock!

I was reading an email post of “Harrison Bergeron”, that great Kurt Vonnegut story and I thought about these National Parks–so much access, made as easy as possible.  As a result, humongoloid Winnebagoes disgorge overweight white people in store-bought tie-dyed shirts, bermuda shorts, and flip-flops at the visitor centers and tour kiosks, and these people huff and puff through the sites, exclaim at the heat, balk at the 30′ ladders, get mad at their husbands for taking pictures of their butts as they climb, condescend to their children, and never, never, shut up.  Maybe, just maybe, we should not aim for the politically correct–maybe access to these sites should be harder so people will have to work at it.  Of course, Winnebagoes would go extinct, their rusty carcasses scattered through weedy, abandoned RV parks across the West.

It makes me feel worse, of course, to be 1) white and 2) overweight.

Anyway, loads of pictures.  By the way, Facebook posts these blog entries as “Notes” and the pictures are there, but you have to open them one at a time.  If you’d rather see them in slideshow or lightbox formats (easier to skim through), visit my blog: http://www.englishandmore.org/blog/

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July 16th 2009

Moto-Camping Days 7-8 (late post)

Moto-Camping Days 7-8 (late post)

I spent the rest of my time at Black Canyon seeing as much as I could of the area.  I hiked a bunch and took off on a bike tour to the north rim.

On the drive back, it rained pretty hard, but when I got through it, I dried off pretty quickly.  With soap, I’d have been somewhat clean!

The history of the Black Canyon is interesting, and illustrates the complicated situation of the West.  Exploration of the area was entirely prompted by commercial interest–first a railway magnate attempted to forge a railroad through the gorge (partly succeeding) and then agricultural interests pushed for a water tunnel through the south rim mountains to irrigate the Uncompagre Valley (a high desert whose river runs dry in summer).  This latter pursuit was a success, if damming a wild river and diverting some of its flow can be considered a success.

So, the early explorers of the canyon (other than the native tribes, who avoided it) were surveyors–and they were an intrepid lot.  Only two actually went all the way through the main gorge and their tale is a good one.  Essentially, they went down the river (class 5 rapids with huge boulders) on a large rubber raft with supplies.  They tied a rope to each other and to the raft.  Then, one would jump in and make his way to a spot on the riverbank that could concievably be called a bank, he would tug on the line and the upstream man would follow.  Somehow the raft was pulled along as well.  At one particularly hairy spot, legend has it, in the jaws of the gorge (where the water descends 95 feet in a one-mile stretch), the lead guy, Abraham Lincoln Fellows, gave his last wishes to his survey partner, Will Torrence, and jumped in.  He survived and the rest is history…

Except that the reason for the expedition was to find a suitable site for the diversion tunnel–and they did, at East Portal, where I camped.  Thus began the taming of the river, a story told too many times across the West.  And the Uncompagre Valley is fertile and prospering–like the San Joaquin Valley, I suppose.

This is where it all gets complicated. That railroad magnate forged his way miles up the canyon (and he cuts a dashing, if odd, figure in photos)–on the backs of Irish and German immigrants working for virtually nothing.  And although that rail line is gone, the bed remains (and there’s a visitor center), but who know the stories of those laborers?  And as captivating as the Fellows-Torrence story goes, there’s still that damned dam and the diversion tunnel and the politics of water in an arid land.

I took pictures along a loop trail and of the bike after “my” storm.  The next post will have pictures of critters I encountered during my stay.

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July 12th 2009

Moto-Camping Day 6

Moto-Camping Day 6

The East Portal Campground in the Black Canyon of the Gunnison Park was always my destination after Arches, but now I’m glad I came here early.  The canyon is gorgeous–though I can barely look over the edge (I don’t do heights well).

Met a couple from New Zealand and we lamented together the way towns like Montrose are becoming cookie-cutter strip-mall towns (ironically I post this from a Starbucks).  They were cute (She:  “I saw a snake!” He: “That’s why I send you first.”)  Met a man from Mississippi who had his son and three other young guys with him camping around.  Also a couple on matching Harleys from Oklahoma, a man and his daughter from Chicago, and a trio from North Carolina.  I really haven’t been seeking people out, but it has been fun to have conversations with people as it happens.

Took a ranger walk this morning, then I just rode around a bit to find good photos.  Came into Montrose to post to my blog (which is where FB gets these as notes).  Tomorrow, I have scoped out some great hikes and I’m looking forward to an exhausting day.

The weather here is fantastic.  It rained a little, but not enough to bother me on the bike.  The lightning show was incredible, though–strike after strike on the far (north) rim of the canyon, which is actually only a few thousand yards away from the south rim.  I love these kinds of storms–anyone who has lived on a high plain like this knows what they are like:  you can see them from miles off approaching and then they are on you and then gone.  I once raced one side-by-side down an Arizona highway.

A doe mule deer came through camp last night.  The chipmunks are cute as… chipmunks I guess–they’re tiny tiny and zip about as if they had someplace else to be yesterday.

The road down the canyon into East Portal is a 16% grade, but there’s no good way to capture that in pictures without driving off the edge of the road.  The rest of the pics are explanatory I suppose.  I’ll be here through Monday night, then I’m off to Mesa Verde National Park.

I’m feeling better now.  More on that later…

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July 12th 2009

Moto-Camping Day 5 (late post)

Moto-Camping Day 5 (late post)

Posting this on day 6:

So I made Moab, made the hostel, didn’t care for either, although I met nice people there.  Moab struck me as incredibly touristy–and pricey.  The hostel was neither of those.  I stayed at the Lazy Lizard hostel, which was cheap at $9/night for a dorm bed and I did laundry and shaved.  But I wouldn’t call it “the best” (as they claim) anywhere.

I met Sara(h?) from Syracuse, New York, who had called her husband in tears to come get her when she got to the hostel (he didn’t come, but was worried).  She stuck it out; once you get past the looks of the place, the people were quite nice and interesting.  I met Charley, who was saving money for a six-month trip to Europe, but who loved the desert around Moab and had lived at the hostel for about a year (working there) to be in the area cheap.  I met a tour guide who’d done Europe, Mexico, and was now doing the desert (as a guide).

I treated myself to a real dinner and two oatmeal stouts at a local microbrewery (which somehow gets around the 3.2 beer situation that the rest of Utah can’t avoid).

But I made the decision to leave as soon as I could.  At 5:30 local time (4:30 in CA), I had the bike loaded while everyone else slept and I took off.  It was 75 degrees then and I went straight to the Arches National Park where an hour later it was already 85 degrees and climbing fast.  The sunrise was beautiful on the red sandstone, though, and I took some pics, walked a bit (sorry Jane, not the ones you suggested), then high-tailed it (well, I did stop for breakfast in Moab).  No more 110+ heat!

Heading south out of Moab, I caught Highway 46 east into Colorado–a nondescript (but nice) highway until it dropped into the Paradox Valley (I didn’t ask anyone what conundrum begat the name) and the San Miguel River basin.  There it became positively beautiful–and a fabulous motorcycle road winding through a shallow canyon.  Eventually I made it to Montrose, CO, and then headed east to the Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park–I was hoping there’d be a campsite on a Saturday afternoon…

And there was and it is gorgeous!  I’m staying three nights, it is so nice.  Continued…

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