Friday, April 25, 2014

The Spring Migration

A great sunset the night before our departure.
And a great sunrise omen the day of departure.

Greetings, Dear Friends & Readers!  Our last post here was April 15th--10 days ago. As usual twice each year, those 10 days have been a blur or motion, activity and fun.  This is a summary of our trip North.

As you know, we originally planned to leave Thursday (April 17th).  We laughed often as the sheer lunacy of such a schedule.  We had a goal of leaving at 10 am on Friday but felt lucky to get on I-17 at 2 pm, four full hours later than planned.  Sometimes, our LOL goes smoothly, sometimes not so much.  (Yes, it's a new adaptation of LOL = "Logistics of Leaving.)  This year was a classic Molasses Year.  Every step we took felt like our feet were stuck in molasses.
The Joad Riggins

Luckily, once again, our local resident red tail hawk come to soar directly overhead above our house during those hurried final minutes before departure.  That hawk comes to say goodbye every year.  We always feel so blessed with the hawk over our heads as we leave.

Anyway, we finally got on the interstate at 2 pm.  It took longer than usual to climb out of the Verde Valley onto the Mogollon Rim and the Coconino Plateau beyond.  It's always a great feeling to climb that first big hill without any problems or "issues," as we like to call problems.  No overheating, no angst, no nothing.  "Smooth" was the keyword once we topped out and continued north.  We even had a stiff tailwind!

The traffic on Good Friday was much heavier than normal, especially on US 89 north of Flagstaff and especially in the southbound lane.  At times, the southbound lane was filled with vehicles are far as we could see.  Easter Weekend will do that to a highway.  However, once we passed The Gap, traffic dropped down to practically nothing and we loved those final Scenic Splendor Miles into Marble Canyon and the Lees Ferry bridges across the Colorado River.

No matter how many times we have crossed the Colorado River, there's always something magical about the place that stirs our souls and spirits each time we feel the energy of that special spot.
One of Our Personal World's Sweetest Spots.
 Most of Marble Canyon Lodges lives on.
But there's an empty spot where the Old Lodge once stood.

For countless numbers of people, simply driving across the Navajo Bridge and seeing the Marble Canyon Lodge sign will always somehow feel like home, even if none of us have ever lived there.  This lonely outpost occupies a sweet niche in our hearts.

When we arrived at Vermilion Cliffs, no one was home.  We surmised they were out with "the new boat" and got our camp fully set up by the time everyone arrived back from the river.  As usual, the annual reunion-style gathering of kindred souls began when the party returned from the river.

The third weekend in April draws many Dear Friends from near and far to Susan & Jeff's Place on Badger Creek Road at Vermilion Cliffs.  The party begins sometime maybe around Thursday and continues until the following Monday morning.  That's when people begin returning to wherever they came from.  The Party Peaks on Saturday night and then has a secondary peak on Sunday night.  By Monday afternoon, there's typically only a handful of folks left.
 Party Central
 Vehicles, trailers and, yep, boats, too.

No one is quite sure when this reunion-style tradition began.  Some folks think it goes back 20 years.  Others think maybe ten years.  However long it's been, it's definitely a time-honored, long-standing legacy.
It's always awesome to renew old Friendships and make new Friends.  The food for this annual multi-day event is carefully pre-planned much like menus on a river trip.  Communal dinners are one of the highlights.
Afterwards, the adult beverages flow like Colorado River water.  Tongues loosen.  Stories spill forth. Smiles run rampant.  Laughter fills the night air.  The camaraderie is a tangible and delicious dessert to each day.

We don't take photos of people partying.  The camera gets tucked away.  The happy snapshots of each day's party are images for our mind's eye only.  This year's event was widely said to be "the best yet."  Of course, everyone always says the same thing.  It's fun to think it was "the best yet" but you can bet people will say that of next year's, too.  It's a time-honored, common refrain of praise to honor the incredible, gracious hospitality of our Dear Friends and Hosts Susan and Jeff.

Saturday we went out on Susan and Jeff's "new boat," as it was dubbed this year.  Maybe next year it will have a right and proper name.  This year "new boat" was all that was needed.  Naturally, we went overboard taking photos--290, plus a bunch of video clips.  Maybe soon we might create a slide show of our "river day."  We did actually create a short video as soon as we returned from our day on the river.   Here is the link to the short one minute, 14 second video:

Sunday we went for a nice stroll into Badger Canyon and a couple of its tributaries.  Local Luminary Allison wanted us to see what she calls her "Crystal Grotto."
 Susun and Pietro in Badger Canyon.
Walking back out toward the Honeymoon Trail beyond.

The far flung Land Of The Marble Kingdom that sprawls, cuts, soars and sweeps across the haunting horizons of Vermilion Cliffs might as well be Disneyland for those like-minded folks who show up at Susan & Jeff's Place each spring.

As usual, Monday was a slow day.  We began reading "The Colorado River" by Frank Waters.  The 1946 classic was a gift from Colorado River Guide Emeritus Thomas Olsen.  Somehow reading that book in the shadow of the river brought more life to the author's often over-the-top prose.  Late Monday afternoon, we few remaining people decided to go hang out on Paria Beach and then mosey over to the Lees Ferry ramp.
Paria Beach is easily one of our most favorite beaches anywhere.  No, you won't be swimming there--the water is bone-chilling.  But it's an awesome place to get a "beach fix" while reading a river book and watching Dear Friends fish.
THANKS, Thomas Olsen!

 Susan in a genuine fish-catcher!
Smiles and sand on Paria Beach.

Frank Waters called Lees Ferry "the 42nd & Broadway of the Southwest."  Waters' words always seem to ring true no matter when we show up at the boat ramp.  Monday evening was no exception.  All kinds of people from all kinds of places heading for all sorts of different missions.  We love Lees Ferry!
Ladies Day at the Lees Ferry ramp.

Tuesday morning we were blessed with yet another wonderful sunrise to begin the second leg of our journey north.
C-YA next November, Vermilion Cliffs!

We had a very strong, aggressive head wind going up and over The North Kaibab Plateau.  The buffeting winds were especially troublesome out in the sagebrush between The Kaibab and Kanab.  We enjoyed a nice, leisurely lunch and resupply in Kanab.  We spent six weeks in Kanab in April-May 2001 so we know the city well and always enjoy passing through.  Fortunately, the fast flowing air provided a welcome tailwind north of Kanab.  However, the delightful tail wind turned into a vicious crosswind as we traversed Utah Highway 12 toward Bryce Canyon.

We were looking forward to getting to and settling into Bryce Canyon's Sunset Campground.  It was not meant to be.  Unbeknownst to us, Sunset was closed for renovations.  That left only North Campground and it was plumb full.  We don't like North Campground anyway--it's not the type of place we would ever stay if we had a choice.  Sunset, on the other hand, is one of our favorite campgrounds.

So, we had no choice but to leave the National Park and seek a camp site out in the adjacent Dixie National Forest.  Luckily, we have some significant personal history with a virtually unknown place called "The Coyote Hollow Equestrian Campground."  It's way off the beaten path and tucked into tall, sheltering ponderosa pines.  As usual, it was a wonderful place to hunker down and ride out the wild winds.
Sweet Spot on The Paunsaugunt Plateau.

After much discussion Tuesday evening, we decided not to return to Bryce the next day. Even if there would have been open spaces in North Campground, it's just not somewhere we would want to stay.  We cherish memories of our many wonderful visits and extended stays at Bryce Canyon.  We decided we'd rather enjoy those memories rather than park in a sardine-crammed campground with Big Rig generators reverberating through the trees.

Wednesday's sunrise gave us yet another welcome traveling sunrise. It also helped us realize the weather at Bryce would be far less than optimal for an extended stay this year.  So we decided to head for Riverside Campground in Provo.
Wednesday morning sunrise over the Aquarius Plateau. 

We had yet another stiff, strong head wind as we headed out of Panguitch on US 89 toward our I-70 connection to Salina and points North.  The drive through The Sevier River Canyon past Big Rock Candy Mountain was spectacular, arguably the best we've ever seen it.  Susun even wanted to turn around and drive it a second time.  Cameras simply don't do justice to that place.
There's a paved bike path on the other side of the river.  Sure would be fun to ride it someday.

Interstate 70 always seems deserted no matter when we drive it.  It's a weird interstate.  It just goes out into the middle of nowhere and totally ends when it hits Interstate 15.  Meanwhile, east of Salina, you have to drive 105 miles to get to the next gas pumps or "services," as they are politely called in interstate lingo.  Consequently, except for some local traffic in the Sevier River Valley around Richfield and its neighboring burbs and villages, there's nobody traveling I-70.  It's almost the equivalent of a Ghost Interstate.
There are few places more "middle of nowhere" than the San Rafael Swell between Salina and Green River.

The road north out of Salina is an OK highway.  It's biggest problems are all the coal-hauler trucks.  The highway is always seemingly clogged with giant semis hauling coal from a deep mine on the Wasatch Plateau to the railhead near Nephi.  Even though the semi drivers are courteous, it can still be a little unsettling mixing in with them, especially when our little caravan was traveling at 60 miles per hour.  Mount Nebo is a welcome sight as we approach Nephi and the Salt Lake Gauntlet that lies beyond.
The original Mount Nebo is an elevated ridge in Jordan, approximately 817 meters above sea level, mentioned in the Bible as the place where Moses was granted a view of the Promised Land that he would never enter. Here is the Wiki for Utah's Mount Nebo:

Once we arrived and refueled in Nephi, we had a talk.  We decided to might as well roll the dice and try to drive the Salt Lake Gauntlet.  It was barely noon when we arrived in Nephi.  Susun took a 20 minute nap and then we headed out on I-15 wondering how it would all turn out.

We didn't take any photos of our Salt Lake Gauntlet experience.  It's simply too dangerous to attempt to take a photo in heavy traffic through that 100-mile gauntlet.  Luckily, we were able to get behind a slow semi traveling our speed.  We called him "our blocker" and felt safe.  We managed to get safely to the other side of the Gauntlet by 3 pm and gave Thanks to God for safe passage through one of the toughest pieces of traffic we face in our annual cycle.

Normally, we stall and stage so we can hit the Gauntlet on Sunday morning.  This was the first time in many, many years that we drove it on a weekday.  Everything worked out perfectly and we caught a "seam" on manageable traffic.  After refueling at Willard Bay, we decided to drive into Idaho and camp not far north of Malad at a place called Devil Creek Reservoir Campground.
Even though Idaho's entry signs are pretty darned bland, we still harbor a special affection for this sign.

Once you're past Tremonton, Utah, I-15 traffic becomes sedate, sane and downright satisfying.  We always exhale when we cross the Idaho-Utah state line.  It's quite certainly our own vivid imaginations but we both believe people drive better in Idaho than they do in Utah.
It's not much for $11 a night but it's really the only decent camp spot between Willard Bay State Park and the campgrounds of Ashton and Island Park country.

We were the only campers in the $11 per night Devil Creek facility.  This place holds special memories for us because we spent 10 days there in June 2004 as we made our way north toward our first summer at Bowery Guard Station.  During those 10 days, we never once set a tire on the adjacent interstate, managing to explore several hundred miles of really fun roads in Far South East Idaho.

Nearby Malad's city slogan is "Where Idaho Begins" and that's an especially meaningful phrase for us.  Malad is a very sweet little city.  Back in June 2004 we were on the infamous Atkins Diet, eschewing carbohydrates of any kind.  The camp host there was somewhat irked by our diet.  So one evening, she baked up two of the biggest #1 Idaho Russet Burbank potatoes until they were done to perfecting and steaming hot.  Then she jumped into her golf cart and rushed them right to our camper door and INSISTED that we eat those butter-slathered spuds right then and there. Well, there went the diet!
Just in case you don't know Napoleon Dynamite here ya go:

We joked that those two Thursday morning clouds over Mount Oxford were the creation of Napoleon Dynamite.  Preston, Idaho, is the home of the iconic Napoleon Dynamite and Preston essentially lies on the other side of this prominent Southern Idaho peak.  Back in 2004, we almost made it the top.  It just got way too steep there for the last half mile.  Apparently, there's a nice, easy trail on the other side and getting to the top from that route is casual.

We took off from Malad Summit early and pulled up alongside our Place in Idaho Falls at 10:30 am Thursday.  We spent the next 8 hours jogging through the typical list of hustle-bustle chores, tasks and challenges that always await our return to a home that has sat vacant for six months through yet another Idaho winter.

Luckily, our pipes once again survived unscathed.  The only casualty was the head off the kitchen sink sprayer.  We forgot to purge water from that particular line last fall so there was a bad leak in the spray head.  Fortunately, it was an easy repair and the plumbing was up and running with no other problems.
This year we tried a different deal with Cable One, our internet provider.  We were actually able to get our internet turned on with a phone call while traveling up I-15.  The city had our power turned on before we arrived and this made our re-entry smooth.  "Smooth" would be the best word to describe our trip north this year.  Everything functioned great.  There were no problems.  We are once again happily settled into our Idahome and looking forward to our Idaho Season ahead.
Thanks for reading! Have a great day & Many Happy Cheers!  John & Susun.


Unknown said...

Great read and photos. Love your Idaho home. The Marble Canyon weekend party looks like blast.

Unknown said...

Good read and photos. I love your Idaho home. The weekend party at Marble Canyon looks like a blast.
Enjoy your spring and summer up there.

durgil said...

Glad you made it home smoothly. Enjoyed reading about your journey. It was wonderful seeing you in AZ this winter, and we look forward to a visit in ID in July!

Wayne Ranney said...

Reading this is almost like taking the trip right alongside with you two. Five extra "Wayne" credits for going off script and tackling the gauntlet during the crush. I maintain that you should travel one way on Sunday mornings and the other way on Friday afternoons. You will become experts at seeing and experiencing the ying and yang of life!!