Sunday, July 31, 2011

2011 - April 5th - Lower Devils Canyon Area, McInnis Canyons National Conservation Area

I met my friend Megan for a morning hike at the Devils Canyon trailhead.  I had previously explored the area on March 15th and wanted to return to the area during a different time of day.  However, instead of going straight up the canyon like I had done before, we explored the labyrinth of trails in the lower "front country" area (as the BLM calls it).  More information on the area can be found here:  McInnis Canyons National Conservation Area

Her dog Sasha (presumed spelling) accompanied us as we curled west off of the trail that follows the wash.  The ground was beginning to turn a vibrant green, a new sight to myself having only been in the area through the non-growing months.  The sky was a brilliant blue and the cirroform clouds cut a stark contrast against it. 

We continued west along the edge of the relatively shallow sandstone canyon, following it's contours.  Still in the early morning, it wasn't too warm and we only encountered a gentle slope.

As an area of cirrocumulus moved overhead, I found it to be quite aesthetic and stopped to take several shots. 

I do recall laying down trying to get a better perspective and was lucky enough to avoid the cactus in the area.  The trail began to make a loop along the canyon wall, pushing to the south.

... but it did take a short journey into a side box canyon, which I found to be quite photogenic.

End of the box canyon.

I made a futile attempt to scale the canyon wall and believe I would have succeeded, had I tried harder, but we eventually came back out of the canyon to open ground. 

The trail did continue along the western edge of the wide expanse of Devils Canyon, however, and we discovered a curious door that lead to a shallow room in the rock.

Upon doing some research, I found it mentioned that the room may have been used to store dynamite.  Moving away from the door, we found ourselves being watched by a bird of prey.

Shortly thereafter, the trail returned to the bottom of the canyon, meeting up with the still-running creek.  The water was the same milky color I had experienced a month prior. 

We followed the stream back out of the canyon.  It was a nice morning to get out for a short hike.

Detail Map:


Sunday, July 24, 2011

2011 Storm Chase 2 - April 3rd - "Cold Front Brunch"

It was a Sunday morning.  I'm not quite sure why I woke up early... perhaps a text from one of the other weather guys, but after a check of the radar I was awake and out the door by 8:30AM.  Convection had been hard to come by during the year so far and I was chomping at the bit to get out... especially as warmer air was moving north on the Plains, causing a stir that was quite "audible" via Facebook from my more fortunately located chaser brethren. 

I was using a combination of PYKL3 and My-Cast radar products as I drove south through downtown and across the Colorado River for a decent view of the storm as it rolled in.  There was some indication of lightning but I didn't witness it personally.

From a bluff above the Gunnison River, I watched as the storm pulsed east across the Grand Valley and off of the northern most extent of the Uncompahgre uplift, colloquially known as "The Monument."  I was hoping for some shelf-cloud structure, but the convection along the cold front (the instigator in this case) was relatively diffuse.  Still, in the morning light, it was somewhat photogenic.

Illuminated cliffs of the Colorado National Monument

The highest reflectivities began to fade in my immediate area with areas to the south beginning to pulse up, so I drove south through Orchard Mesa and out of town on US 50.  Again, my hope was that some sort of structure would evolve on the leading edge of this fast moving line of storms.  The brilliant, rising sun provided a rare (for me) morning rainbow, which I stopped to take in just south of Whitewater.  A good deal of dust was getting kicked up by the outflow winds as well.

Whitewater Rainbow

The line only seemed to pulse with higher areas of reflectivity and it was a rare occasion that one spot stood out from another, so I decided to stay close to home and backtracked back north of Whitewater to the junction of US 50 and Colorado 141.  The junction is on higher ground and upon exploring the area, found a short road to the top of a bluff; the end of a mesa that hold a drag strip of sorts.  From there, I was able to easily survey the surrounding lands. 

The storm moving through Grand Junction.

Looking south, up the lower Gunnison River Valley.

Turbulent skies over the Bangs Canyon area.

An area within the line began to strengthen some twenty miles to the south, so I elected to pursue it, returning to US 50.  Unfortunately, as was the case with most everything I had attempted to "chase" that day, the area began to weaken.  I made it to the Mesa/Delta County line on 50 and sat at a pull-out, watching the incoming line arrive.  The sun was out for a while, but as the high clouds jettisoned from the line pushed through, the light faded. 

The line coming out of the Dominguez Canyon area.

Dominguez Canyon and Triangle Mesa area.

As the rain and wind arrived, I sat on the side of the road, enjoying the smell... much different than the sparse winter snows.  Eventually, I decided to continue on north.  I tried to target higher areas or reflectivity, but there wasn't much to really see.  I took a short detour off of 50 but it was uneventful. 

Kannah Creek area.

As the line passed, convection popped up on the north side of Grand Mesa, but it was out of my reach, so I elected to head home and shower before meeting friends for brunch.  While I can't say that I ever consciously have "brunch", I was invited and wanted to go.  Eventually, as the storm passed through the Rifle area, it generated a 75mph wind gust, but that was the extent of the severe weather for the day.

It was a nice early morning surprise chase that didn't really yield anything noteworthy save for the fact that it had been a while since I had chased anything and it certainly felt good to get out.

Mileage:  52
2011YTD Mileage: 72
States:  Colorado
SPC Risk:  Categorical
Max Hail:  None
Tornadoes:  None
Other Phenomena:  Blowing dust.
Storm Reports For April 3rd
Detail Map:

For many, this would hardly be a chase, but I'll take what I can get!


Sunday, July 17, 2011

2011 - March 30th - Lipan Wash, North Fruita Desert & Sunset In Fruita

I was looking to explore somewhere a bit different. And in a related story, I love waterfalls. There is a waterfall that appears intermittently on maps along the Lipan Wash which cuts out of the Book Cliffs, north of the Grand Valley. Some maps have it, some do not. Most maps admit, however, that Lipan Wash is dry. This scenario fascinated me.

It was a Wednesday in late March and the last day of my weekend.  It was already late afternoon by the time I ventured out.  I planned on hiking "in" to the trail as opposed to finding a trail head as it seemed quite distant from the stretch of trail I wished to explore.  What I didn't realize is that it would take me a lot longer than I had planned to actually get there.

I drove to Fruita and then made my way north on 17.5 Road.  You'll find that the roads 'round these parts have strange names like F 1/4 and 25 3/8.  Once into the North Fruita Desert Special Recreation Management Area (Bureau Of Land Management Land), I spurred off onto Q.5 Road, which closely follows Lipan Wash across the desert to the Book Cliffs.  The road, however, is not for the tame at heart.  While most roads in the desert are graded and gravel, this road is comprised mainly of dried clays which seem to shape themselves like peculiarly globular "art".  This is not a road for a low-clearance vehicle.  Der Schploder seemed to handle the road fine, however, though I had to take it slow.

It took me a considerable amount of time to approach the Book Cliffs and still, I wasn't exactly sure how I was going to get down to the trail.  I passed cows and several gas wells and eventually got into the Piñon and Juniper scrub.  I found a campsite and realized that though I was closer to where I wanted to hike, it would be difficult to "hike in" to the trail.  So, I backtracked a bit and parked on the road where it seemed closest to the wash and with as few obstacles in the way as possible.

It was already 4:30PM by the time I stepped over the long-dormant electric fence and began to walk carefully, cross-country down toward the wash.  The ground was mostly covered in grass, cactus and cow patties.  I crested a hill and began to descend down into Lipan Wash.  The light was very nice for a moment, so I captured an image.

Lipan Wash
As I descended into the wash, I spooked five or six deer on the other side.  Their escape was quite loud and caused broken shale to slide down into the wash, making a further racket.

I was hoping to find water in the wash, but found it scarcely moist and mostly comprised of dried salts.  I followed the wash upstream as it meandered deeply through a much wider drainage.  Here and there, another wash would join it.

After a while, I noticed that a BLM trail actually met the wash; part of the original trail that I had wished to find.  It spent some time following the wash, but at times cut it off at several of the meanders.  It was mostly single-track trail and seemed to be lightly used by cyclists.  There seemed to be more tire tracks than foot prints.  
As I continued, I found many areas of exposed coal along the walls of the wash.  Occasionally, the vein would be quite thick and in several areas, an entire hillside of coal had eroded and slid into the wash itself.  The slightest vibration would set it rolling and sliding, making a soft noise that is hard to explain.  

As the was approached the Book Cliffs, the surroundings began to tighten.  Turning a tight corner, I came upon a small  arch hidden in the eroded bank, which I took a fancy to for a while, freshly off my arch-hunting adventures in Utah.

In all honesty, I wasn't too ambitious with this hike.  And as the wash tightened and I reached the very dry waterfall, I was a little bit disappointed.  Though there was a little bit of moisture seeping through the rock, the appearance of the area lead to the idea that it was hard to see a large amount of water move through the area at any time of the year, save for perhaps a flash flood.  
Lipan Wash "Waterfall"
What was interesting, however, was that there was a rope that lead up this dry waterfall.  Ignoring my waterfall mishap in No Thoroughfare Canyon a few weeks prior, I set my tripod down and saw about giving it a good climb.

I've never been one to consider myself adept at climbing and my technique was probably horrible, but I managed to climb up the dry waterfall with most of my gear attached without dying.  I still consider this an incredible feat.  
The view down...
Unfortunately, as I looked down, admiring my achievement, I realized I felt much less comfortable about the trip back down.   And by much less comfortable, I mean to say that I did not feel safe climbing down.  It was starting to get late and I didn't want to continue any farther, so I knew it was time to turn back.  I glanced around the area for a while and realized I might have a route if I were to follow the northern canyon wall.  So, I did this for a while and found a little gully that gave me a decent opportunity to descend without injury. 

 Looking back toward the "falls"

As I reached the bottom of the wash, I realized that I had left my tripod at the base of the dry waterfall, so I backtracked and picked it up, taking advantage of the lower light angle.  

It was time for me to return, so I continued back down the wash, taking a moment at the "arch" area to take a few photos. 

Interesting Erosive Features

Continuing on, I made good time, minus the fact that my shoes liked to fill up with the loose gravel from the wash.  
One of the many areas of exposed coal.

Another dry waterfall.

 Coal close-up

As I made it to an area that was a little more wide open, I noticed that the skies began to darken a bit.  

... but it was just a thick wave cloud that had set up.  Eventually and without further excitement, I reached my exit point from the wash and hiked back up to my vehicle.  The area afforded me a nice view to the west where distantly, someone was burning something.

I drove the long and treacherous road back to the nicer gravel road just as the light of sunset was beginning to peek through.  Wave clouds of various shapes and sizes were setup in the surrounding area.

I presumed that the colors of sunset were over, but as I made it back to civilization, the sky lit up.  I frantically drove around the west side of Fruita to find a good vantage and ended up in a truck stop parking lot, but sometimes you just have to drop what you're doing and shoot... and it was certainly worth it. 


Best sunset I've seen on the Western Slope.

Though a little disappointing, the hike was nice.  It's always good to get out and get some exercise, breathe some fresh air and explore some place new.  The sunset was certainly a bonus! 

I find it interesting that there are several waterfalls listed on maps out here that are quite dry (seemingly year-round) and several waterfalls that are quite wet (seemingly year-round) that aren't on maps.  I've made it a point to clarify all of the examples that I can.

Map of the hike: