Thursday, September 12
LITTLE GREYS RIVER TO BLIND BULL MINE TRAILHEAD
SEPTEMBER 12, 2002
Little Greys River to trailhead near Blind Bull Mine and KOA, Wilson, WY
It was a no rush morning for the group. We packed up tents, ate breakfast and started off at 9:30 with thoughts of making “home” by late afternoon. Crossed Roosevelt Meadow, actually a series of meadows, and less than an hour out came upon Chuck Streeper, a real mountain man. Chuck left Visalia, California 34 years ago and as since has wandered all over the United States. For the last 24 years he’s traveled with two horses, Rusty (who gives kisses) and Whichways. For two hours Chuck entranced us with his adventures including two cross-country trips to the east coast. At 60 he is sort of considering retirement with plans to build and fly a barnstorming biplane. He even showed us his pilot manual tucked carefully in the packs.
With some additional, good directions from Chuck, including the location of a crashed 140 Cessna (all that remains is part of the tail section and assorted bits of metal) we proceeded on our way. The only difficulty we had with the trail was a short section around an old cabin and 5:00 found us at the end trailhead. Support, Dave and Rob, arrived at 6:20 due to traffic work that would also catch us on the return trip. It was not only good to see those Hondas come in to view but also to have Rob back!
Our trip back, most of which within the Bridger-Teton National Forest on a well-maintained dirt road along the Grey River, provided a bunch of surprises. First was the Gray River itself sliding along parallel to us, then a mature bald eagle flying at tree level down the middle of the river, and down toward the south end of the canyon individual then clusters then hillsides of maples turning to bright red against patches of yellow aspen and green firs. As we turned up toward Jackson the sunset turned form faint pink on blue to intense pink to a reddish orange glow.
Finally back to camp at 8:30 p.m. for hugs and a fantastic dinner cooked by Lisa Madsen, Executive Director of the Public Lands Interpretive Association, who had arrived that afternoon with Ken Chapman, Executive Producer for the American Frontiers Public Lands Journey, and Debbie Payton, Media Coordinator.
We are approaching the end of our Journey. The past two days is the last of our hiking (well, except for a couple of bushwhacks) until the last two days of the Journey. As I think about the country we have seen, the trails we have covered, and the land managers we have spoken and traveled with I feel ever more strongly that the work that is being done by the National Off-Highway Vehicle Conservation Council, the American Motorcyclist Association, American Trails, Tread Lightly!, National Trails Training Partnership, Backcountry Horseman, International Mountain Bicycle Association, California Off-Highway Vehicle Stakeholder Roundtable and similar efforts across the country are on the right track. Education, partnerships, and collaborative efforts by the private sector, diverse interests and government agencies are essential for enhancing all trail opportunities while providing better protection of natural and cultural resources. From the Journey, dana
Thursday, September 12
Day 44-Climbing out of the Hole in the Rock
What an outstanding day. We climb out of Hole in the Rock, meet Judie Crobak-Cox and begin our 4-wheel drive out on the Hole in the Rock Road through the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument. It is spectacularly beautiful everywhere you turn. It rained pretty hard last night and there are many places on the road where we cross running arroyos.
We reached the meeting place where we meet Larry Vensel, Pat Zurcher and Brian Bellows with the BLM. We talk and find out that we have to take an unplanned 6 mile hike around a 1/2 mile private land. We drive to the place where the private land is and we do confirm the presence of nonnegotiable cliffs obstructing our original route. Also we drive back to the put-in and start hiking down incredibly beautiful Navajo Sandstone canyons all the way down to the Escalante River. We cross the river 8 times and I take my hiking boots off to cross and cross in my bare feet, because I know that tomorrow is a much longer harder hike and I do not want to hike in wet boots. The beauty was just incredible, and so was the square arch, the mule deer, the petroglyphs,...
Thursday, September 12
Field Report, Day 44
The maps showed only one hard climb at about the half way point, with the first and last parts being fairly gentle. So, we got a leisurely start at 9:30. We thought we could be out by 3 or 4:00. At 10:00 we got the best interruption of the entire trek. We came across Chuck Streeper, mountain man. He lives and travels just like the mountain men of the early 1800’s. He spends about six months of the year in the wilds of Wyoming and Montana. During the winter he lives only 50 miles south of Clovis, CA, in Visalia. He now earns his living giving presentations to schools. He used to hunt and trap for a living. I am hoping to have him visit my class at Gettysburg Elementary.
We spent two hours talking to him and especially listening to his fascinating stories. He told about making the buckskin clothes that he wears as he rides the backcountry of our nation’s public lands. One of his horses, Rusty, is a kissing horse. He trained it to kiss you on command. This was my first time being kissed by a horse. One valuable lesson he taught us was that, “right there on this spot you can start here and go anywhere in the world. Just start.” I believe that is what an education will do for you.
We got to the trailhead at 5:00. A great day. Our 4x4 drive took us down the Greys River valley and through some of the prettiest fall colors I have ever seen. The contrast of the maple’s red leaves and the aspen’s green and gold leaves was stunning. At one point we stopped to see a bald eagle sitting atop a tree by the river. It took off and flew down the river and I took a picture. The low light level probably means the picture will not turn out, but I will always have the memory of our nation’s symbol majestically gliding through the air.
Thursday, September 12
Back in the Routine
Our last morning on the boat. We cooked as much food as possible so we wouldn't have so much to carry out. About 9:00 we motored over to Hole in the Rock and let the Trekkers begin the climb. Jessica and I were jealous that we couldn't hike with them, it looked like such an awesome trail. We noticed that Jake wasn't with us, so we headed back to the canyon. The motorboat he was driving had just stopped moving. Steve called a mechanic that would have to come from Dangling Rope, so we sat and waited a long time for help. We ate sandwiches and listened to Jimmy Buffet. When the mechanic arrived, it only took him a couple of minutes to change the rotor and fix the boat. So about 1:15 we left for Bullfrog. The ride back seemed choppier, and I had a slight headache when we arrived. At Bullfrog we loaded gear, got gas, and headed toward Calf Creek Campground. In the three and a half hour drive we crossed three spectacular landscapes: the orange-red rock croppings of Capitol Reef, the rolling green hills and tall aspens of the Dixie National Forest, and the white cliffs of Grand Staircase Escalante. The drive through Escalante monument was disorienting because both sides of the road contained sheer dropoffs. Calf Creek is another beautiful campsite. There is a roaring creek behind the picnic tables and a wall of sheer rock looming over the creek. The land managers here tell us that there are lots of great hikes around. Jessica, Jake, and I made a pact to get out and hike daily, and not sit in camp and eat. We aren't allowed to go with the Trekkers into the wilderness area.
There's a beautiful quarter moon in the night sky. It rained off and on today, and I saw another pretty rainbow. I hear the voices of children playing in a nearby campsite. We've already gotten back in the habit of going to bed at dark and getting up at first light. After the crowded confines of the boat, it will be nice to have the privacy of my tent.
Thursday, September 12
From the Hole to the Staircase
So long, Lake Powell! Climbing aboard our smaller houseboat for a ride to Hole-in-the-Rock with captain Steve Ward, we all had mixed emotions. We had had a splendid time on the lake. It was difficult to leave it. We played, explored, rested and learned some things. Our team has voiced thoughts about having a reunion on Lake Powell. Good idea, but we all know this good thing must come to an end before we can think about a return.
Stepping onshore for our ascent of Hole-in-the-Rock, we focus our attention on Allen Malmquist who is about a third of the way up on a sideslope. We wave to Sharron who waits in the National Park Service boat moored in the crook of the cove.
Allen shows us Uncle Ben's Dugway. On the downhill side of the slope which was flattened here by the settlers to create a pathway for the wagon journey, Allen shows us holes drilled into the sandstone. He explains that oak poles were inserted vertically into the holes. Sticks and other debris were then built out and over the sandstone to create the outermost part of the road. So the oak poles acted as stansions to hold the building material to cantilever the road in place. Wow!
But that was it from Allen. We said farewell.
Climbing through the Hole was mostly a matter of scrambling over and around large boulders but occasionally we'd work our way along natural ledges and footholds. It was steep, especially when the thought of lowering freightwagons comes to mind, but the climbing was not difficult. We've had to climb much harder terrain during the course of this Journey.
Judie Crobak-Cox, our Bureau of Land Management contact who is to drive us to the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, greets me with a big smile from where she sits at the top of the Hole. We have a moment to chat before the remainder of the team tops out.
She began her drive to us on the Hole-in-the-Rock Road at 6:30 a.m. through an area that experienced flashflooding through the night. She had thoughts of turning around, she said, because the deepest ravines she crossed had severely eroded. Ahead may now be impassable.
The team loaded into the Jeep, it wasn't long until we had to get out for Judy to drive over belly-crunching terrain. Despite the gasps of disbelief Judy did manage to finesse the worst of the washouts.
The Hole-in-the-Rock journey followed much of where the existing road now winds across the country. The most famous historic stop along the road is Dance Hall Rock. The settlers stopped here for a few days to rest and send out scouting parties, and to have some fun. Two fiddlers set up in the natural amphitheatre which has a relatively flat -- danceable -- floor. The accoustics are naturally great.
Cathy Kiffe held out her arms like a soaring bird and dipped and swayed to imaginary music. She said she could feel the music and the flowing of ladies' skirts. My mood was less than festive although I did appreciate the stop. It was nice to imagine the dancing and stand where the fiddlers were likely to have stood themselves.
At a road junction at the entrance of Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, we meet Brian Bellow who introduces us to rangers Pat and Larry, our guides for the next two days. We say farewell to Judy. Our first order of the day is to bypass some private property near our campground at Calf Creek. The property is in the bottom of Escalante Canyon, which at first appears to be a problem.
In order to bypass the private property the rangers have decided to take us on a 6-mile hike. The hike will descend from southerly sandstone cliffs to the Escalante River. Once at the river we will follow the river down to the edge of the private property to a point where we can walk around it on the north. Our campground is less than two miles from where we hit the road at the end of the hike.
Our concern is flashflooding. Earlier in the day the Escalante had flashflooded, and in the time we are near the river it is flowing strong. The rangers believe the current is crossable, which we'll have to do several times, and that the river is likely to be receding. We talk about waiting until tomorrow when the river is likely to be lower.
We opt to hike today rather than tomorrow.
Descending the Navajo sandstone, which is white here rather than red, we see two mule deer bounding away through idyllic scenery. Along our route potholes of water surrounded by errant ponderosa pine sentinels create the notion of an oasis. These oasis' are cradled among the white sandstone slickrock. Because of the previous rains, freshets blow along the sandstone, bathing us with cool air. There was a time in this day when an unscheduled 6-mile hike wasn't at the top of our list of things to do. But now it was the best thing to do.
At the Escalante River, knowing that several river crossing were in the plan, I donned my sandals. Others chose to cross the river in their boots or, like Julie, take off and put on her boots at every crossing.
Crossing rivers is just something that outdoor enthusiasts have to do every now and again, but for Cathy Kiffe crossing a river is grand adventure. On this Journey she has gotten "off the porch," so to speak (first coined by Richard but now used to excess by nearly everyone here), and to her the Escalante River can just as easily have been the Congo.
At the deepest crossing Cathy giggled the entire way, presumably as a response to something along the lines of "look at me now!"
Our route takes us under a cliff dwelling and a flat-top natural arch. Throughout these canyons there are numerous arches and archaeological sites. We see pictographs, one of a hundred hands on a wall.
We complete our hike around the private land but it is by no means an end for me. I'll be back!
Thursday, September 12
Notes on Vehicles
If you drive a dirt road for fun than the Honda CRV 5 speed is just right. The balance of ride comfort, handling and power makes it the most enjoyable to drive. It has a front wheel drive feel even though it is a 4-wheel drive vehicle. Puts a grin on your face every time you pitch into a corner. If you like 2 wheels like I do, the Honda XR 650R would be my choice. It is relaxed and stable at 70mph + and will crawl up a rock hill even at a 10,000 feet elevation. Just remember if you are riding at higher altitudes to jet your carburetor at a little leaner than stock. A good rule of thumb is 1% for every 1000 feet. This translates for 10,000 feet to 90% of your stock settings. Also remember that the terrain here is very rocky and I would recommend Moose Tubes or Bridgestone ultra heavy-duty tubes. Dust is also a major problem for 2 wheelers. Check your air filters often and carry a spare.On tow vehicles and motor homes get the model with the largest gas motor or turbo diesel because extra power is essential at higher altitudes. We have late model GM 8.1 gas motors and turbo diesel with Allison transmissions. The diesels get about 15mpg and the gas motors about 12 mpg when towing loaded box trailers. For enclosed trailers I would recommend the models with springs verses torsion axels because they give more ground clearance for dirt road use.
Thursday, September 12
Mountain man Chuck Streeper.
Courtesy Bob Van Deven
The flag that flew over the Capital flies over our camp.
Courtesy Bob Van Deven
Thursday, September 12, 2002
A great day. We began at 9:30 again and soon hit Roosevelt Meadows. Here we had a surprise encounter. As we hiked alongside groves of willows, and through the grasses, we came upon a camp occupied only by two beautiful horses, appearing to be somewhere in their mid-teens. Our location put us up above the creek, with no view of the near bank. Drawing closer to the camp, our voices carried over the edge of the embankment and a man appeared in worn blue jeans, old sweater, wire-rimmed glasses, and sporting an odd, pioneer-esque wool hat.
Turned out this odd fellow was a true to form mountain man by the name of Chuck Streeper. In 1969 he went out into the woods on a horse for a short trip – and never came back. A native Californian, he has wandered the continent for the last 33 years, needing no map, supported only by his wits and his two horses. He has been from sea to shining sea; going from California to where we won our freedom, Yorktown, VA. Until recently he would stay out year round and never return home, but due to his advancing age (going on 60) he has begun to winter in his hometown 40 miles from Clovis, CA.
Being one who never stopped living life to the fullest, and being a firm believer in lifetime education, Chuck always takes books out with him to learn about the world. While he was out this year, he was reading on the dynamics of building an airplane. He is only 20 hrs from a commercial license, and when his horses (now 24) die, he will build a WWI era bi-plane and go barnstorming. Absolutely amazing.
Just as importantly, he treats education as a valuable thing to be shared. Since he has begun wintering out the snows, he has begun giving presentations to schoolchildren. Chuck sets up a whole village of 11 tepees and teaches about the mountain men and their way of life. Kids learn about the tools of the trade, tan hides, and stay in the village for a day. He also offers lectures, and judging from out conversation, they must be enthralling.
As one can see Mr. Streeper has had an incredible impact on my own being. He is living a life that I can only dream of one day having, and perhaps one day I will. One of the most telling things that he told us, in paraphrase, the following, said while pointing at the start of a trail:
“From this point you can go anywhere in the world. The trail leads anywhere you want it to go, it’s just up to you.”
These are truly words to live by. All to frequently in this life we allow ourselves to become confined. We settle for less than we want. We take jobs that do not bring us pleasure because we place too much importance on doing what’s expected. Thanks to this I now throw out the book. From here on out I will push myself past the limits, personal and societal. Life is too short to not do something, or go somewhere, or stop too short because we do not have the confidence, or we’re told we shouldn’t.
While we did not want to leave the camp, we needed to proceed on, and so continued down the trail, guided by directions given to us by Chuck. As we continued through the fields of grass devastated by crickets, I got to singing in my terrible tone-deaf style. The trails were steep, but I felt, nay wanted, the extra challenge to my lungs. In the tradition of Venturing Crew 1519, I sang Don McLean’s “American Pie”, Sublime’s “What I Got,” and Smashmouth’s “All-Star.” Bob V joined in at points, perhaps inspired to drown me out.
Eventually we passed an old cabin where a sheepherder was staying. Here we knew we were close. The clouds were moving in, and a storm was inevitable, so we pushed on. On reaching the trailhead, we were an hour before the scheduled pick-up, and so rested our feet.
On the ride back, we drove through the beautiful Snake River Canyon. All around us the foliage was turning, and we passed through stunning fields of red, yellow and green. Around us we saw mule deer, and red-tailed hawks. Special above all was the bald eagle that we spotted soaring above the river. A majestic creature, it is the perfect sign of our great country. Drawing close to the end of the canyon, the sun set behind us. The sky burned a brilliant scarlet, more intense than anything seen prior to this moment did. It silhouetted the amazing canyon walls and local ridges.
Back in camp, Lisa Madsen and Ken Chapman, two of the people making this project happen had a beautiful dinner prepared for us. Sated, I showered and fell asleep.
You Are Here
Team North wakes up this morning by Blind Bull Lake, a remote and lovely alpine lake above the Greys River. Having completed their backcountry tour, the team will turn around and loop back to Jackson for the Wild Horse & Burro adoption event on the 14th....
The trekkers of Team South disembark from their comfy houseboat and hike up the Hole-in-the-Rock Trail to the plateau above the lake where they will be met by their BLM host for the bumpy ride along the Hole-in-the-Rock Road to camp at Calf Creek. The...