Hanging out at the Lazy Lizard Hostel in Moab for a few more days. Watch the map for updates, which I'm scrambling to catch up on.
Tuesday, May 15, 2012
I went down to the Colorado river to see if I could find a better place to work on jewelry and maybe sell a bit. It turned out to be pretty quiet, but I had a neat idea and ended up making these funky wire and wool pendants:
The yarn is a hand dyed wool and silk blend from the fantastic fabric shop(Desert Threads, I think it was called?) in Moab. I might spring for some merino wool yarn and knitting hemp before I leave.
Monday, May 14, 2012
I went out looking for parts today. There are five bike shops in Moab, all but one on main street. Chili Pepper Bikes was first. These guys all do repairs on the spot and charge low for labour, but once my bike was on the stand the mechanic realized he didn't have the right brake pads. He did the rotor true and replaced the back brake cable for $5 + parts then let it down. Moab Cyclery had the neatest building, but still no brake pads that would work for me. Next up, Uranium bicycles - just what I needed, $20 a pair and $10 installation. Sure, I could do it myself, but it's nice not to. Some people get manicures, I get my bike worked on by a professional.
Friday, May 11, 2012
Saturday, May 5, 2012
I turned down an offer from Mark, whose campsite I shared, to drive me to the top of the hill visible from the campground. It didn't look all that bad - probably just a short, steep climb. There'd be many, many horrible hills to come, so why wimp out on this one? Silly logic, right? Six miles of walking later, It certainly didn't seem very smart. But it's okay, Utah is beautiful.
After the painful uphill, came the nerve wracking downhill. My front brake is completely stripped, down to the metal, useless now. The back one works, slowly. The cable looks sound), but if it snaps I'll probably fly off the side of a canyon, hit a car, or wrap around a tree. The cable also looked 'Okay' right before snapping in Quartzsite, you know.
Eventually the worst of the up and down was done with, and I reached the town of Boulder, Utah. I didn't have high hopes of finding any food, here. Just too small of a town. I noticed gas station on the way int - wait, what? Beer, Ice, and Natural Foods? Well, that's what the sign on the road said. Sure enough, this place wasn't quite what it looked like. Two young, brightly dressed women ran the store, which was stocked with organic fruit, home made donuts, and kombucha(!). There wasn't a big selection, and it was fairly pricey, but when am I going to see this stuff again? At least not until Moab.
Pastries devoured and Kombucha drained, I headed towards the real challenge of the day: the 9600ft climb up Boulder Mountain(Fun fact: It's actually a plateau. Or half a plateau. Kinda confusing, actually). Getting to the top before dark wasn't going to happen, but I'd like to at least get some of the climbing out of the way.
Six miles later, the temperature was dropping in a big way, the sun was doing down, and I couldn't find a place to camp. I was just barely in the Dixie National Forest, and the highway was still lined with private property. This doesn't happen to me nearly as often in Utah as it does in neighboring states, and if I'd really been desperate I could have just settled for camping on uneven or rocky ground. Instead, I met Julie and Tim, who invited me to their home.
It turned into a bitterly cold night, and I was very grateful to have a heated workshop bedroom to sleep in. Tim and Julie often host the local organized rides, and made me feel very welcome. I learned from them that Boulder is surrounded by organic farms, and gets an influx of WWOOFers and seasonal workers in the summer. Maybe that's reason to come back some time. I gave Julie a bracelet and some earrings, and she sent me off the next day with a big bag of home made fruit leather and dried apple.
Friday, May 4, 2012
Something in my mind rebels again the notion of descending first... then climbing back up. Blazing down a mountain should be the reward for climbing up it. If I reach the top of a pass and camp, that should mean a downhill in the morning! Instead I'm going down, and down, and down today, with a horrible steep climb looming in the morning. In fact, it's too much downhill.
My brake pads have been in rough shape for a while, but now I can barely make them stop. I've been having to stop every half mile to cool them off. Letting off the brakes and flying down isn't a good options, I'm not sure if I'll be able to get the bike to stop if I really get moving. It's often too steep to even walk down without holding the brakes. Really need to get this taken care of, soon.
I took a rest at the Kiva Coffeehouse, which was recommended by a couple who stopped to talk me whilst I watched dozens of lizards dart around on slickrock at a scenic overlook. Wonder how they got that real estate - there's no other development here. I imagine it's been there for quite a while. Anyway, it was a nice place, with (rather expensive)baked goods, beautiful architecture, and free WiFi.
While enjoying a cinnamon roll and uploading pictures, I got into a conversation with Mike, a traveling software designer. He offered to share his site at Calf Creek. That would make for only a 12 mile day, but with the inevitable climb coming up, I'd just as soon have an easy day and start fresh tomorrow.
The Calf Creek campground, as it turns out, was wonderful. It's small, maybe 12 sites or so, nestled between sheer rock walls, bisected by the namesake creek. Several of the sites are only accessible by footbridge, or fording the river in a vehicle. It's a $7 BLM campground, with pit toilets and no showers, so I walked down the creek a ways to bathe.
Thursday, May 3, 2012
Days are getting longer, climbs are getting steeper. I tend to wear myself out early, then sit around doing a lot of nothing until the sun goes down. That's okay - I don't feel in any hurry. I climbed and walked and pushed my way out of the canyons and into more agricultural land, then the descent into Escalante.
I've been noticing a very distinct smell in this state. Whenever there water being sprayed in fields, I smell it. Closest thing I can compare it to is spoiled milk and swamp, and it's all over Utah. I've heard there is a lot of organic farming being done in the state, so maybe it's some foul smelling organic fertilizer.
On to the town of Escalante... I stopped at another well appointed GSENM visitor center, did the usual recharge/refill routine, stopped at the market and had lunch in the park. Like quite a few other Utah town parks I've stopped at, this one has a "No Camping" sign. I'm not too bummed out, since with the plentiful public land in Utah. This is a town on the tourist trail through the National Parks, so I'll make that excuse for them.
I'd intended to go a ways past Ecalante, but as I passed the Hole-in-the-Rock road(Historical road, that. Crazy Mormon pioneers.) I saw a sign left by some camper, beckoning the rest of his party to stop here. Well, there must be some nice spot to camp down there, then... There was, so I called it a very early day, set up camp, and went to check out the area a bit.
Wednesday, May 2, 2012
Another peaceful, restful night in a great place. I woke up well rested and packed up early. There was a strange little Subway(Looked like it used to be a cafe or sit-down restaurant)at the junction with HWY 12, so I got a sammich, filled containers with ice, and plugged in my phone. Despite the advertising of free WIFI, I wasn't able to pick anything up, so I just sorted through photos and copied a huge load of media onto my external HD. Still time well spent. Since I'm just throwing money left and right anyway, I bought a box of 12 cookies for about $5 before leaving.
HWY 12 dips into a panoramic view of the Bryce Amphitheater, and a nice descent. I stopped for a look at Mossy Cave, outside of the park but sharing the characteristics of, and maintained by the national park service. The cave was just okay, but the fast-moving, milky stream and waterfall where beautiful. The stream in question is a long-ago man made irrigation ditch, but at this point it looks more like a natural flowage. I talked to a few people, most memorably a very kind couple whose name and home state I've forgotten(big surprise there. Every heard of taking notes?). We had more of a conversation then the usual "Where are you from? Aren't you scared?" exchange, and even if I forgot their names, I think very well of our meeting. Happy trails, folks.
After the last vestiges of Hoodoo and Amphitheater terrain where passed, I rode through ranch and agricultural land through the small towns of Tropic, Cannon, and Henrieville. Then, it was back into the Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument, that incredible expanse of open land. I found a well used camping area, over a river and across from a huge, sheer rock wall. The ground was littered with dried up cow dung, which worked just fine for fuel. The moonlight was bright against the rock wall, and I had the rare sound of running water.
Tuesday, May 1, 2012
I decided yesterday evening to stay here a day, Bryce Canyon visit or no. It's not like I've had a real difficult couple of days, but more relaxation never hurts... The decision being made, I walked up to the road and called home for a bit, then came back to write a letter and watch the pronghorn and white tail deer graze at dusk.
Morning was a lazy affair. I felt sort of slow and heavy and it was tempting to just stay put all day, but instead I repacked a bit, left my heavy stuff in camp, and took off down the dirt road the seemed to go in a favorable direction. I'm not sure what natural barriers may exist between me and the actual Park boundary, but it wouldn't hurt to keep an eye out for a back entrance of sorts. A quick cell-phone enabled search also revealed a road to a reservoir down there somewhere, but instead of getting too into exact locations and directions, I just figured "Downhill probably means water".
The road I picked was a good one, it turned out. I rode a few miles through beautiful, airy pine-woods, walked up a loose-gravel incline, then back down into a wide meadow. At a T in the road, I had a strong feeling that one way would lead to the aforementioned reservoir and went for a look. Shortly down a second, nicely compacted dirt trail, was a tiny wooden signpost; "Bryce Canyon", indicating the other arm of the T. Sure enough, after turning around and riding perhaps another mile or so, I came across a gate - the kind passable by hikers and cyclists only. Beyond this, an employee housing area, and the return of pavement. After a few short, steep hills, my road joined up with the main passage through Bryce Canyon National Park. No entry fee for me, thank you very much.
I've not been in one of the big National Parks since Yellowstone, so I braced myself for a crowd. The roads where quiet enough, but the parking was packed. Busy or not, the view from the tame little fenced off overlook was undeniably amazing. Way down there I'd see a clump of hikers, or a horse and rider. Okay, how do I get down -there-?
I ended up going down the mile-long Navajo trail. Doesn't sound too big, but it's very steep down a twisty snake of switchbacks. When I reached the bottom, I was confronted with a "trail closed, go back the way you came" sign. It was interesting to see the variety of people pumping back up the trail - old and young, everything from classic backpacky looking folks to some middle aged Japanese fellow who didn't understand that it's not cool to play tinny cell-phone music LOUDLY in the midst of a natural wonder.
After the toe-bashing trudge down, and the calf-burning one up, I made sure my bike hadn't wandered off, topped up on water, ate some more nutella, and pulled out. During this, I encountered an interesting phenomenon. I came across a line of Asian tourists disgorging from one of those "Asia America" tour buses, and quickly discovered that I could not cross that line. Every time I tried to walk through them, they'd cluster up and prevent it. In the end I just had to wait until every last person had left the bus before I could leave the parking lot. Hmm, that was different. I stopped at the main visitor center on the way out, where I felt oddly compelled to buy a postcard. In my defense, it's a legitimately neat WPA reproduction postcard.
Having seen the essence of Bryce Canyon, I didn't feel I needed to ride way up the road then way back down, so I turned back to camp for some overly complicated soup that didn't turn out well, more deer-watching(Wandering right into my campground while I'm cooking!), a good shit in the woods, and sleep. Pretty awesome day.