Monday, May 30, 2011

2011 - March 22nd - Colorado National Monument (Echo/No Thoroughfare Canyons, Rim Rock Drive)

It was Spring Break for some, but for me, it was just a couple of days off. I had filled in on the morning show on that Monday and thus was able to have most of the day off too, so I suppose it was an extended weekend of sorts, which was good as I had guests coming to stay with me.

My friend Katherine arrived on Monday night and we endured a muddy rain that painted cars brown while heading out for some dinner at Fiesta Guadalajara.

We got up early the next morning to head into the Monument so I could show her some of my favorite places. We started off at the first trail head at the East Entrance and headed into Echo Canyon. It was my fourth time in that particular canyon. (Previous accounts can be found here: 1, 2, and 3) With the previous evening's rain, I speculated that the waterfall(s) might/may be active.

We made good progress across the No Thoroughfare Wash and up the initial stretches of the Old Gordon Trail. The air was cool but the sun was shining. The clouds did look rather heavy, however.

As we worked our way down into the canyon, the sheltered recesses seemed to hold the heat in a little better and made it actually quite pleasant.

We made it to the end of the canyon in no time but found the waterfall dry. The pool at the bottom looked freshly filled, so I speculated that it does actually fall during the rain. There was also debris along the edge of the pool that was not there when I had previously visited. We hung around the pool for a while and took a few pictures.

Cottonwood Trees At The End Of The Canyon

I remembered that on my previous visit, the pool acted as an amazing mirror and was surprised to find out that it was even more vivid on this day.

Katherine Holding On To Her Hat As The Wind Swirled Around The End Of The Canyon

As we left the end of the canyon, we explored the "Half-Lemon" area that I've noted in previous entries. There was a little water at the bottom of the fall there as well, but nothing actively falling.

We passed the place where I had injured myself on cactus and then walked down along the "three pools" area as well. I found this vivid red-colored leaf floating in the water where it seeps out of the rock.

We encountered a strange sensation while in the canyon. All we could see was blue sky and warm sunshine between the canyon rims, but at times, it was snowing! As we left the canyon and ascended back to the junction with the Old Gordon Trail, we were completely engulfed in a snow squall.

Snow quickly fades

With plenty of time on our hands, we headed into No Thoroughfare Canyon. (Previous accounts here: 1 & 2) The sun was shining again and though it was a little cool, it seemed to remain nice out. The most interesting thing to me was that in many places, the trail had been completely erased by small dunes of blowing sand courtesy of the storm the night before. The storm also brought rain, which we found flowing a short way in.

We passed the first pool and the lower falls and made haste to make it to the upper falls. I regaled Katherine with tales of my harrowing slip and fall adventure while we sat and had a snack.

"Make a funny face for the camera," I said.

Realizing that time was short, we turned back and quickly made for the trail head. I popped off a few shots on the way as the light was very pretty.

Lower No Thoroughfare Falls (This Time Ice-Free)

The reason we were hurrying had to do with the fact that I had to pick up another good friend, "Inspector" Kendell LaRoche from the Amtrak Station. He was railing? in from Denver for a two-day visit.

When we picked him up, we went downtown for dinner at Pablo's Pizza. It was my first time eating there and I thoroughly enjoyed it. It was still early evening and not wanting to spoil our trip to Arches National Park the next day, we resolved to drive Rim Rock Road and just take some pictures. I'll spare the play-by-play and just let the pictures talk.


Sunday, May 15, 2011

2011 - March 15th - Devils Canyon, McInnis Canyons National Conservation Area/Black Ridge Canyons Wilderness

Believe it or not, I was told my by hair dresser (yes, I have one of those. I guess it's one of the perks of the job) that Devils Canyon was a beautiful place to check out, so I put it on my list. Once finishing my chores on this particular Tuesday, my Saturday, I headed for the trail head.

Since it was later on in the afternoon, I knew I had a limited amount of time to work with before sunset. I planned on trying to find a rumored waterfall as well as make a loop to a distant cabin, far into the canyon.

There were a few high clouds when I set out, but plenty of blue sky as well. The trail head is southwest of Fruita and I had passed it previously when hiking into Flume Creek Canyon. It exists within the McInnis Canyons National Conservation Area as well as the Black Ridge Canyons Wilderness.

I was surprised and happy to see muddy water in the bottom of the wash. I'm always looking forward to the possibility of waterfalls and water can be so rare in the desert.

Looking back on the muddy stream while entering the lower portion of the canyon.

Blue sky on sandstone.

Not far into the hike, the lower canyon began to take shape and tighten. The stream carved a tight notch into the layers of rock in the lower canyon and the spaced flora made the area appear as maintained rock garden.

Somebody's friend.

Eventually, the lower canyon opened a bit as I approached the towering gates to the upper canyon (not pictured).

Eventually, I came across the "end" of the lower canyon. A weak waterfall merely trickled out of a V-shaped narrowing of the canyon. While I probably could have climbed up the rocky wall, my previous experience had me a little gun-shy. Honestly, it becomes a little difficult to climb with all of one's camera gear. I set up for a few shots here and contemplated how I would continue.

I knew that the trail continued from here somehow and actually split making a loop with one side following each canyon wall. I decided to back track to see if I could find that trail. Luckily, I was soon on the west trail and working my way up the escarpment.

After a relatively steep climb, the trail levels out on the flat benches of the upper canyon. The canyon, in similar appearance to others in the area, exists as a wide but steep sandstone walled canyon with a narrow inner canyon, carved into the, from what I understand to be, Precambrian rocks. On either side is a relatively flat bench which is where the trail lies.

When I reached the top, I was greeted with an unique sight. It appeared as if one of the Moai or Easter Island Statues was guarding the entire canyon. It was quite the sight!

The trail stayed on the bench but occasionally cut down into the drainage of a tributary. The air temperature was warm, in the 60s if I recall correctly and for the first time upon arriving on the Western Slope, I witnessed a couple of small lizards skittering between plants.

I wasn't exactly sure how far it was to the cabin, which marks the apex of the loop, so I was going full-speed and not stopping to linger much. I didn't want to be caught in this area after dark.

Looking back down-canyon. Outer and inner canyons visible.

Finally as my turn-around time approached, I saw the cabin in the distance and felt comfortable continuing on to it.

Cabin visible lower left.

The cabin was deserted and closed as I arrived but based on other hikers' accounts, I decided to go inside and have a look.

It was filled with interesting keepsakes and other items and I paused for a moment to sign a notebook before continuing on my way.

After the cabin, the trail crosses the milky stream and then heads north along the eastern bench of the canyon. My Moai friend watched closely as I made tracks for the trail head, munching on some tropical trail mix while I lumbered on.

The moon was watching too.

I made good progress on the less-winding eastern bench and as I approached the escarpment, several people on the other side of the canyon caught my attention. They were yelling and whistling inconsistently and I was unsure whether they were trying to get my attention. They turned and headed back down on the other side of the canyon and I lost them, so I continued on.

I caught sight of them again moving farther downstream and seemingly not interested in contact, so I just continued on. I found a nice overlook of the end of the lower canyon, where it narrows to the small waterfall. I started mimicking a bird for whatever reason and soon realized that I had accidentally captured the attention of a woman down on the canyon bottom. She was just standing there, staring up at me. Oops.

She turned and left, probably frightened by the weird man standing on a rock overlooking the canyon making odd bird noises. Not that I could blame her. It was a good vantage point, however, and I took several photos here of the lower canyon and beyond, where the evening light was gracing the agricultural fields near Fruita and along the Colorado River.

Back down in the lower canyon, I realized I was doing okay on light and slowed a little to take pictures along the way.

The light was low enough that I could do some longer exposures with the water flowing through the rock garden area, though I wasn't necessarily satisfied with the results.

As I exited the canyon, the last sunlight put some color on the clouds, which was nice.

And then as it went down, it made the horizon seem consumed with fire.

All in all, it was one of my favorite hikes that I had been on so far in western Colorado. I did tire myself out quite a bit with the pace that I took to complete the loop before dark, but it was a good tired.

Here is a map of the hike:

Next Post: Echo/No Thoroughfare/Rim Rock Drive With Guests