Saturday, November 17, 2012

2012 - May 22nd - Grand Mesa: Falls on Whitewater Creek, Lands End

While researching area waterfalls, I discovered an image supposedly taken of a plunge waterfall on the edge of Grand Mesa.  I had often heard rumors of a significant fall on the Mesa somewhere but had never found any information online.  I decided to comb the satellite imagery on Google Earth and see if I could find it.  Sure enough, I did.

It actually kind of bothered me that I hadn't noticed this before.  After all, I spend a lot of time on Google Earth, pouring over the terrain looking for interesting places to visit.

I had that evening off and without anything better to do than sit at home, pouring over Google Earth, I figured I ought to pay this waterfall a visit.  It was late May when runoff is normally in its prime, so I figured I'd get a good show out of the falls.  They also didn't seem all that difficult to get to.  I had been on a road less than two miles from the falls and there was also sign of a 4x4 road almost to its top.

Normally, one would use Highway 65 to reach the top of the Mesa, but I decided to take Lands End Road, which had recently opened for the season.  Lands End Road is quite the engineering marvel, hewn into the vertical basalt cliffs of the Mesa, built back in the '30s by the Civilian Conservation Corps.

I figured to be on top of the Mesa about a half hour before sunset and to the falls around sunset with a plan to stay until the light held out. 

When I got to the top, the view was fantastic.  It had been somewhat windy which put some dust into the atmosphere.  The haze really contrasted the different terrain in the late evening light. 

From Lands End, out over the Book Cliffs and beyond.

I didn't linger on the edge.  Instead, I made my way to the falls.  The trail off of the main road was a little rough.  It was mostly dry, dusty earth but was occasionally encumbered by chunks of basalt.  Once the road reached the edge of a group of trees, it began to descend and become a bit more rough.

I decided to stow my vehicle in a little pullout and save it from the rocky path ahead, especially since I was so close to the top of the falls.

After a few minutes of walking, I reached the creek and followed it to the edge.  I was disappointed with the amount of water that was flowing.  It had been a dry winter and though I had visited the top of the mesa three weeks later in the year a year prior and found three feet of snow almost everywhere, there was almost no snow to be found except a couple of icy patches deep in the shaded trees.

I looked out over the edge of the falls which were not in plunge-mode due to the low flow.  The wind was picking up the water and spraying me in the face, which was nice, I guess.

I crossed the creek and continued northwest along the ledge so I could have a look at the falls, which had carved a cleft in the cliff over the years.  The color of the rocks, moss & lichens was fantastic but the falls were quite disappointing.  I sat in a small perch for a while and captured images while the light began to fade. 

Falls on Whitewater Creek

A closer look

Pretty skies

More pretty skies

A longer exposure


With foreground

Eventually, it started to get dark, so I returned to the top of the falls.  This turned out to be a good idea as I found a couple of good frames. I also had to try hard not to get my camera wet as I was getting sufficiently misted.

Top of the falls

Eventually, it was time to head home.  I started hiking back to my vehicle and sort of got lost.  Apparently, there was more than one road and the one I was following was not the one I came in on.  Once I reached the open space beyond the trees, I was able to reorient myself, but snapped a picture of the valley first.

Lights of the Grand Valley below.

Once in the vehicle, I returned to Lands End and captured the rest of the light on this windy night.

Grand Junction blow and a windy tree!

No tree, with the edge of the Mesa in view.

Existing clouds drifted and uncovered the crescent moon.  The earthshine on the dark side was incredible! 

And then Venus showed her face!

The wide shot

Close up

Lands End Observatory and the sky.

Despite the lack of a decent waterfall, it was an amazingly beautiful and relaxing night. 


Saturday, November 10, 2012

2011 - July 20th - Family Vacation Day 2 - Cascade Falls, Rocky Mountain National Park

 July is a "sweeps" month.  In the television industry, that translates to "no vacations"... even though July is largely regarded as the "throw-away" sweeps. 

My extended family (on my mom's side) gets together biannually for a big vacation.  We've done this since I can remember, visiting places from Coeur d'Alene, Idaho to Lake Tahoe, California to Oglebay, West Virginia to Depot Bay, Oregon and many places in Montana.  For the last two trips, we've gathered at the
Snow Mountain Ranch near Tabernash, Colorado. 

I was concerned that I would be unable to make this trip as it was in sweeps and while I didn't ask for any time off, I realized I would be able to attend a couple of days on my normal days off.  If we weren't gathering in Colorado, it probably wouldn't have happened!

This is just one of several adventures we took on vacation.  See the rest here: (Foggy Night)
(Columbine Lake) (Falls on Pole Creek)

We were off again early on the second day.  This time, I wanted to check out Cascade Falls near Grand Lake in Rocky Mountain National Park.  Joining me was my Uncle Scott, cousins Brad, Brian, Ashley and Chase.  I had visited this area of the park before, twice hiking the Adams Falls area, one of which I talk about here:

The trail to Cascade Falls is a relatively popular one and we had a bit of trouble finding a parking spot but eventually, we were off.  Colorado had experienced an almost historic late-season snowpack, so despite the fact that it was mid July, the rivers and streams were still swollen with meltwater. North Inlet Creek, which the trail paralleled was no exception.  The creek looked more like a river and had no discernible bank.  It simply disappeared into the thick grass of the open meadows.  In stretch, the creek actually encroached upon the trail itself which required a detour. 

North Inlet Creek

After a while, the trail climbs slowly away from the meandering creek.  Into the timber, a small bridge crosses a small stream which I found to be quite photogenic.  

The trail continues on in the timber, climbing well away from but still paralleling the creek.  It's just over three miles to the falls which we found to be more of a cascade than anything else.  In fact, it was difficult to find a vantage point where you could see the "falls" in their entirety.

I busied myself for a while taking pictures, trying to get as many angles as possible.

And then my attention turned to smaller objects.

Everyone was ready to leave at a certain point and I was still running around looking for things to capture images of.  Eventually, they all started to leave so I followed.

On the trail

I picked up the rear almost all the way back and just when I had caught up, I found my idyllic little stream again.  I took a few more minutes to image it.

My favorite shot of the day. 

I caught up to everyone again where the creek had flooded the trail.  They were fishing or were otherwise occupied, so I sat down on a rock, took my shoes and socks off and dangled my legs into the crystal-clear, cool water, sitting in the sunshine for fifteen minutes or so. 

Finally, everyone was ready to head back, so we left together.  A half mile down the road, it was realized that someone forgot something, so if I recall correctly, Chase went back to get it.  We were the last to arrive back at the cars.

Here's a useful map:  (total elevation gain of about 400ft)

 From the trailhead, we met a couple other relatives including my dad at the Grand Lake Brewery

Afterward, I left separately and met Erik & Amanda Burns in Granby for a beer and a visit.  Then, it was back to the lodge to hang out with my family for a while longer before I hit the road back to Grand Junction.  The visit was short, but I feel like I made good use of my time!


Monday, November 05, 2012

2012 - May 8th - Colorado National Monument Petroglyphs, Monument Canyon/White Rocks Area

I had a little time one evening and was looking for a short, easy hike.  So, I decided to see if I could find one or two of the popular petroglyph panels on the "front side" of the Colorado National Monument.

I had been neglecting to donate blood until after my Perseverance Arch hike since it usually takes some of my strength for a few days.  So, down a pint, I headed off to something relatively easy.  I started from the Gold Star Trailhead in the Redlands, an unincorporated but developed portion of Mesa County.

There were two sites I wanted to check out, one in Monument Canyon, northwest of the trailhead.  The second was White Rocks, southeast of the trailhead.  I headed for Monument Canyon first, along the boundary.  Eventually, I came to a fork in the trail which didn't necessarily jive with my map.  I elected to take a trail to the left which gained elevation and appeared to make a pass between some higher terrain, the precambrian bench on the left and a sandstone "island" on the right.  Despite not having a lot of energy, I slowly climbed about 350 feet to the top, huffing and puffing and stopping several times along the way.  All the while, I kept my eyes peeled for 'glyphs, which I found none of.

At the pass, I explored a ledge on the "island".  (I call this an island because it is like a smaller version of the larger "Island" which is a large piece of sandstone sheered by the monocline fault which exists along the edge of the Monument.  This smaller island was formed by similar circumstance.  

From the ledge on the little "island" looking across the east portal of Monument Canyon to "The Island".

Looking back to the southeast along the front side of the Monument.

I lingered there for a few minutes, amused by the birds which flew swiftly by, seemingly inches from my head as they paralleled the cliff face.  Woosh!

Eventually, I decided to head carefully off trail and descend into Monument Canyon.  There was not a trail.  I remained on loose sand and slickrock for the entirety and eventually met up with the trail in the bottom of the canyon. 

Looking back the way I came from the little "island".
There, I came across a small, worn panel right beside the trail.  I had walked past this spot several times before without noticing it. 

Monument Canyon trailside petroglyphs. 
This was not the panel I was looking for, however, so I continued searching the area until I eventually found another.  The rock art was somewhat damaged and quite faint.  The strong lighting did not help, but I attempted to take a couple of images to record the scene.

Not wanting to climb the 350 feet back up to the pass, I decided to find an alternative way back.  According to the map, there is a perimeter trail, but I could not find it.  I did find a large, open portion of fenceline which seemed misplaced anyway.  Based on my bearing, it did not match the angle of the Monument's perimeter.  Directly on the other side was a trail which eventually linked back to the fork I spoke of earlier.  It did not appear as if I was on private land, so hopefully I was not inadvertently trespassing. 

I had a bit of energy left in me as I reached the trailhead, so I took the short trip southeast to White Rocks looking for more rock art.  I found a couple of panels there and may have missed another (which I have seen pictures of). 

Deer in an overhang (I think it's legit).

Just a view to the south.

The other panel.

I hiked around the rocks for a while and then decided to head back to my vehicle as the light was getting low.

Here's a useful map:

Sorry, the petroglyph locations are not marked on the map.  If you really want to see them, you should have no trouble finding them yourself.  As always, remember not to touch, disturb or vandalize the rock art in any way.