Sunday, November 8, 2015

Jeremiah and other Bullfrogs, Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, Lake Powell, Utah

Lake Powell - Taking the Ferry from Halls Crossing to Bullfrog

For no particular reason other than fun and the experience, we take the ferry across Lake Powell from Halls Crossing to Bullfrog, two marinas in the northern arm of the lake. It's only about a 20 minute ride and we are the only passengers except for one other person, an attorney from New Mexico, with whom we chat about our love of the American Southwest. She too was smitten with the southwest after a visit and moved from her birthplace of New York City to settle in Santa Fe.

Our campsite just outside of the Glen Canyon Rec Area has a view of the Waterpocket Fold to the west and the Henry Mountains and the Little Rockies to the northeast. This photo of Mt. Ellsworth was taken at sunset after two and a half days of rain. There is snow on each of the peaks, which melts after a couple of days of sun.

In the Henry Mountains, Mt. Hillers has a lot of snow which looks beautiful - from the valley.
The Waterpocket Fold, Capitol Reef National Park

It is near Bullfrog on Lake Powell that one of our favourite geological formations begins: the Waterpocket Fold in Capitol Reef National Park. We drive in from the southern entrance which is a beautiful drive on a good dirt road (The Burr Trail), with a wet crossing of Bullfrog Creek. Here, Brad and I have climbed up one of the sandstone mounds just in front of the Fold, to get a picture of its length to the north. Really, the only way to photograph this feature well is from the air, but I left my plane at home.

The Fold is a monocline, having been forced up from deep in the earth, so that it is tilting on about a 30-45 degree angle. This exposes the ancient layers of sediments that have been deposited over millions of years. This closeup shows the exposure of the different layers, the top red layer seeming to rise in peaks thanks to the erosion process.

We hike through part of Headquarters Canyon, the entrance shown here, which narrows into a nice slot for a few hundred yards. There are many such canyons on the east side of the Fold, although only a few are accessible to entry.

This is inside Surprise Canyon. It's interesting to see how the light plays tricks on the colours. The upper rocks are very orange although they are not in the sun. They are receiving light relected off the rocks opposite, which are also dark orange and in the direct sunlight. The purple rock is actually a very dark greyish pink but looks purple with the reflecting light.
Halls Creek Overlook and Brimhall Bridge

The Waterpocket Fold looking south from the Halls Creek Overlook with a view of the canyon entrance to Brimhall Bridge. From the paved Burr Trail, we follow a BLM sign and take this 4x4 road (which is not identified as requiring 4 wheel drive or high clearance, but definitely should be) onto Big Thompson Mesa to the Halls Creek Overlook.

Starting the hike down to Halls Creek, but enjoying a view north along the Waterpocket Fold first.

Can you spot me climbing up the rock ladder?
The first obstacle in the canyon to the bridge. Someone has stacked these rocks to form a ladder of sorts, and surprisingly it is very sturdy. I make it to the top, but then get stuck as I would have to climb the rest of the steep wall somehow. I suddenly get very nervous. My brain is screaming "Get down you idiot! If you fall, you'll break both legs!," so I eventually comply. Brad does manage to scale the wall, but is stopped only a few hundred yards further by a deep water hole and a chokestone that block the passage. I think we need to try in a very drier year.
Wolverine Canyon

We make a crazy decision to drive up to the Wolverine Petrified Wood Area on the Wolverine Loop Road. We rise and leave early hoping to get an early start on the hike, but it takes us two and a half hours to get to the Canyon. Part of the Wolverine Loop Road is so bad, we can't average speeds of more than 3-4 miles per hour! So it's after 10am when we start off on the hike, thinking we'll only go far enough to see some good petrified wood. But the canyon is so beautiful, we keep going.

This natural amphitheatre is HUGE! It's probably almost impossible to see him, but Brad is standing bottom middle next to the rounded boulder lit by the sun. He looks like a white dot. The canyon walls really echoed here, and we act like kids making howling sounds.

We are getting tired, having hiked almost 4 miles (but stopping every 50 feet to look at the pieces of petrified wood in the creek bed), but I press on determined to find out if the canyon narrows, and we are rewarded with this beautiful slot. It isn't overly long, but the walls are beautifully striated and coloured.

At the end of the hike, on our way back in the near-darkness, we are rewarded with this fantastic petrified log. It is the largest we've seen all day. We make it back to the truck just as it's dark at 6pm, after hiking 9.5 miles. Yup! Pretty tired.
As usual, that's not the end of the story. As silly and naive as we are, and knowing how slow the Wolverine Loop Road is, we decide to make an effort to find the "Cutoff Road" on our map which cuts half-way across the loop and will return us to the paved road much more quickly. NOT! At one point, the Cutoff Road disappears - we finally realize into a wash (dry creek bed). In the dark (the reason there are no photos!), we can't really see the previous tire tracks well. This happens numerous times, the road going in and out of the wash, and at times, I have to get out of the truck (btw, it's really cold out now) with a flashlight to find the tracks to follow. At one point, we can barely get our truck tires between a huge boulder in the wash and the embankment. And the road goes on FOREVER! But obviously, since I'm writing this account of events, we do make it out safely with no mishaps. However, the "Cutoff Road" is not a "shortcut". It takes us longer to get home than it did to get to our destination this morning. Home to an angry and very hungry kitty!

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