The Mud and the Blood in Southern Utah

The Mud and the Blood in Southern Utah

February 10, 2023

So I actually don’t have any stories involving blood this week, but there sure is mud.  Spring is coming soon and we are all getting excited about getting outside more.  There’s a buzzing energy lately when I go into the Visitor Center to volunteer as the rangers talk about hikes or projects that they have planned.  We’ve also had more visitors coming in to ask questions or gather maps as well as many more people calling to ask questions in preparation for trips they have planned soon to the area.  My friend Sara who worked at Yonder with me last summer has just returned to the area and is also excited to go out and explore so I am sure we will be planning some adventures together soon.  Bryce Canyon has their winter festival next weekend and I have my eye on a pottery class and potentially a snowshoe hike that are events happening during this festival.  

This past week was great.  We had nice warm weather last weekend which just makes people more energetic and happy.  I also got out to do a good longish (for me) hike.  My friend Curtis went with me to hike the Lower Calf Creek Falls.  This is one of the more well known and popular hikes out here as it is very scenic and the trailhead is right off of the main road so it is easy to access in any weather.  I had done this hike once last Spring when I first arrived and realized upon doing it again that I didn’t remember it all that well.  I recall that I told some visitors that it is a fairly flat hike.  It actually isn’t flat at all, but everything is relative I suppose.  Here is my friend Curtis who hiked with me and the creek that left me with a wet foot for the whole hike when I tried to step across it and missed the bank by several inches.

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When compared with some of the other popular hikes in the area where you have to walk up or down steep sandstone, this one is fairly flat.  However, only a few small sections of the trail are flat and most have gentle ups and downs.  The trail is not especially steep though and no technical climbing is involved.  It was a bit muddy in some areas, but most of the time it was easy to avoid the mud by going around it into the snow patches.  It is an out and back trail that winds through Calf Creek Canyon along the creek for a total of 6.7 miles.  Along this walk you see the effects that water and wind have had on the canyon in the form of arches, alcoves, honeycombing and water pockets.  The predominant geologic layer you see here is Jurassic Navajo sandstone that was formed by the huge Sahara-like desert that once covered this area over 200 million years ago.  Calcium carbonate in the sand is the glue which formed these massive sand dunes into stone.  It has so many interesting colors, swirls, and textures that have been created by the effects of wind, rain and flooding, minerals, and microorganisms.  Here is an example of desert varnish which is the darker vertical black and orange streaks seen on the sandstone.  This is caused by microbes which oxidize iron and manganese in the clay minerals.  The other photo shows some of the sandstone formations in the canyon that are more orange and filled with holes, fins, and ridges.  In some places the sandstone is paper thin and easily breakable.  If you are interested in learning more technical information about the geology of the Grand Staircase you can do a Google search or check out this great blog I found when checking on my facts today before I wrote this.

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At the end of the canyon, it was much cooler as the mist from the 126 ft. waterfall bounces off the canyon walls.  I had to lose my jacket at the start of the hike, but quickly bundled back up after spending a few minutes by the waterfall.  On the canyon wall to our left we saw water running and freezing along the wall which left huge ice chunks piled on the ground below.

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I know that there are pictographs and granaries along this hike, but unfortunately, we were unable to spot them while we were there. I am an imperfect hiker, but I still really enjoy it so who cares.  After the hike I looked at the brochure that the visitor center gives about this spot and realized that they have clearly marked the spots for the pictographs and granaries along the way.  Granaries usually appear as low rock walls built into alcoves in cliff walls.  They were built by the ancient Fremont culture between AD 700 and AD 1300.   These granaries were used as food storage in places that were purposely difficult to access.  I guess I’ll just have to go back to see these spots.  We also noticed some little side canyons that branched off from the main trail and thought it would be fun to go back and explore these another day.

As you can tell from all the photos and narrative, this was a great adventure day for me.  I was glad to have a friend willing to go along for a winter hike.  I was definitely tired and my feet were sore by the end, but I felt fully recovered the next day.

I tried out using the super long 200-600mm lens one day while we took the dogs out for a run.  The warmer temps caused snowmelt and some incredible mud in the washes.  We hoped that the dogs would just want to run in the snow, but of course they went straight for the mud.  Sophie didn’t run too much, perhaps because she had about a pound of muddy clay caked to each foot.  Dobby launched into full speed immediately.  This resulted in less mud stuck to his feet, but lots of it stuck to his whole underside.  

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This is an awesome lens that I’ll definitely have to spend more time using.  We bought it while in New Mexico to be able to get great shots of the sandhill cranes coming in for the winter at the Bosque Del Apache Wildlife Refuge which was near our campsite.  It does a great job at achieving sharp focus on subjects at a distance though it is huge and heavy and will take some practice to take really great photos with it.

Sure, I could get a nice close up of my dogs when they are still with a different lens, but does anything really beat seeing the look on your animal’s face while they are experiencing pure glorious freedom?

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I did put some time into a new miniature set this week.  Now I am building a little ice cream shop.  Here’s about my progress so far.  I build all the furniture first, then usually the decorations, then the lighting and structure is built before gluing it all down and adding a battery pack to power the lights.

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We also took a little road trip this week as the dogs were due for their annual physical and new heart worm prescriptions.  We had two vet options that I guess you could consider to be “in the area”.  One was in Kanab which is just over a two hour drive and their recorded message said they are very busy and booking a few months out.  The other in a little town called Lyman offered me any appointment time I wanted and was just over a 2.5 hour drive so off to Lyman we went.  I was excited to drive on new roads to a new place as I am perpetually like a kid on vacation these days.  

The drive was actually very nice.  We didn’t see many other cars as we passed through sleepy towns and wilderness valleys.  One stretch of road looked to be ranch lands and meadows and there we saw a huge herd of pronghorn.  They are such beautiful and fast animals.  We had the infamous long lens with us so Luke just stopped in the road and poked the lens out to window to capture a few shots of these beautiful beasts.

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We also saw lots of abandoned mine shafts along the road, mostly around Antimony.  I went to my volunteer days this past week with all sorts of questions about the things I had seen along the drive.  I learned that there were geothermal springs from a nearby volcano long ago which caused precious minerals such as gold to be pushed closer to the surface in this area making mining for them easier.  

We passed this mercantile with an advertisement which really captured my interest as well for Never Rip Overalls with room for the Big Deep Bend.  Unfortunately, they did not sell overalls here, but we did get some snacks and drinks to fortify us.  I didn’t dar ask the girls working there to demonstrate the Big Deep Bend for me as they were not wearing overalls and I didn’t want to be responsible for an embarrassing rip.

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It is nice to have some friends from last season begin to return.  We will be moving the RV into a new campsite at Yonder to be more secluded from where the guests stay and to have more tree cover and shade in our “yard”.  I looked at the new site the other day and was excited to see that the last people in this spot left us some kick ass decor. 

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This next week is full of possibilities.  There are festivals happening at Bryce and Kanab next weekend.  Kanab has Balloons and Tunes going on while Bryce has their Winterfest with a series of free activities and workshops offered.  I’ll be making homemade Valentine’s cards with some ladies from town this weekend and spending time with a potential new friend who is a local here.  If the blog is a little late next week, it will be to give me time to include any great photos I was able to capture over the weekend.

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