Corona Arch

Sprocket and I hiked up to Corona Arch (Corona Arch is the arch made famous as the “World’s Largest Rope Swing“). I’d never been out there before and we were looking for a short hike to do in the morning while it was still sort of cool outside. The hike up to the arch is pretty short (about a mile and half) and we had the trail to ourselves.

Corona Arch

At the arch, we met a family from British Columbia. It was really fun to hear about their travel plans. Sprocket was also very happy to make friends and relax in the shade:

Sprocket at Corona Arch

Corona Arch is definitely worth the drive out Potash Road; if you got an earlier start than me or had a cooler day, it could be combined with another hike to Jeep Arch.

Corona Arch

 

Hunter Canyon

While F was riding, Sprocket and I headed out hiking. The weather was gorgeous but on the hot side so I took Sprocket to Hunter Canyon. There was still plenty of water in the canyon which made Sprocket really happy.

Hunter Canyon

I love hiking and exploring some of the narrow canyons in the deserts. This was a pretty nice trail that crossed the creek several times. The cliffs above the had arches and other interesting rock formations. It was really nice to be out enjoying myself in the company of my puppy. Sprocket was pretty delighted to have lots of water to play in.

Hunter Canyon

Sprocket in Hunter Canyon

Hunter Canyon

The Hunter Canyon trail is about four miles round trip and is mostly flat. The canyon isn’t that narrow so there’s plenty of sunshine but also lots of places to find some shade for a break. It’s not too far from Moab but also is less popular than trails in Arches or elsewhere. Open to hikers only, it’s a nice quiet place to relax and explore.

Hunter Canyon

Moab Riding

This is what happens when Forrest goes riding:

Forrest on cliff

Joking aside, some of Forrest’s riding buddies from Phoenix came up to Moab to do some riding and we were able to be there and meet up with them. The guys covered a lot of ground in their two days of riding: Slickrock Trail, Fins N’ Things, Rose Garden Hill, Top of the World, Chicken Corners, Kane Creek, and more.

F on Motorcycle

Motorcycle, Forrest

F on Motorcycle

Motorcycle on snow

Dinosaur track

Motorcycle

Motorcycles

F on motorcycle

Jumping F with dirt bikes

Forrest on Motorcycle

Motorcycle riding

F on motorcycle

All photos courtesy of the guys over on ADV Rider.

Hanging Flume

On our way from Colorado to Moab, we took a scenic byway along the San Miguel and Dolores Rivers. Unexpectedly, we spotted some timbers sticking out from the rock above the San Miguel River.

San Miguel River

As it turns out, it was the remains of the Hanging Flume. Between 1883 and 1885, the Lone Tree Mining Company filed several claims along the Dolores River just downstream of its confluence with the San Miguel River. Lone Tree mined it’s properties (including the furthest downstream claim Bancroft) using water diverted with ditches and bedrock flumes from Mesa Creek.

In 1888, the claims were sold to Montrose Placer Mining Company. This larger company needed more water than the systems used by Lone Tree could provide to profitably produce gold via hydraulic mining.

Hanging Flume

Along the often sheer walls of the San Miguel and Dolores Canyons, traditional methods of flume construction (dirt ditches and trestle supported flume boxes) were not sufficient. The flume needed total drop of just less than 90 feet over its 10 mile course to have the appropriate pressure for mining; falling just 6′ 10″ for each mile. Approximately 7 miles of the flume was constructed along the sheer canyon walls with a flume 6 feet wide and 4 feet deep.

Construction began in 1889 and was finished in 1891. Few records of the flume’s construction appear to exist. The flume began operation in 1891 and moved about 80 million gallons of water from the San Miguel River to the mining site. Yields were approximately 20 to 30 cents of gold per yard with workers moving about 4,000-5,000 yards of earth daily. The gold in the area was very fine and required mercury to recover it.

The Montrose Placer Mining Company went out of business and sold the claims to Vixen Alluvial Gold Mining Company who extended the flume an additional three miles. Still, the flume and mining operation were not profitable (mainly because of the difficulty in recovering gold). The Silver Panic of 1893 crashed metals prices and the flume fell into disuse.

Hanging Flume

As time passed, pieces of the flume were removed to be used for home building and as timbers in local uranium mines. Additional damage has been caused by erosion of the sandstone and by biological growth. The Hanging Flume was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1980 and has also been named to Colorado Preservation, Inc’s list of endangered places and to the 2006 World Monuments Fund watch list.

We spotted the flume off of the Y-11 River Rd. that travels south from the former mining town of Uravan. The ruins of the flume are also visible from the Unaweep Tabegauache Scenic Byway (Colorado Highways 141 and 145).

Confluence

Sources:
2006 World Monuments Watch List
World Monument’s Fund: Hanging Flume
“121-year-old western Colorado mining flume clings to its secrets.” Denver Post, April 4, 2012 by Nancy Lofholm
“Engineering marvel Unaweep Canyon Hanging Flume to be restored.” Grand Junction Daily Sentinel, April 5, 2012 by Kathy Jordan

Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park

After falling in love with the San Juans, we decided to go check out Gunnison and Pitkin. Along the way is Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park. We just did the south rim drive and didn’t head down into the canyon but it was pretty impressive:

Black Canyon of the Gunnison

Black Canyon of the Gunnison

Black Canyon of the Gunnison

Painted wall

Ridgway, Ouray, and Silverton

After a chilly night in the parking lot of Thunder Mountain Raceway, we headed south through Montrose towards adorable Ridgway. We ate breakfast, walked around town, checked out the Railroad Museum’s outdoor displays, and generally became enamored with the place.

Ridgway, Colorado fire truck and fire station

After awhile, we headed for Ouray. It has more dramatic mountain views than Ridgway but comes with the bustling feel of a tourist town to match. I obliged and snapped pictures all over town. (Adorable Victorian buildings! Mountains!)

Ouray Colorado

Ouray County courthouse

Eventually we headed out of town making a quick stop to peer into the winter site of the Ouray Ice Park and to walk to Box Cañon Falls. (Sprocket was not a fan of all this metal grating!)

Sprocket at Ouray Ice Park

Box Canon Falls

Box Canon Falls

Box Canon Falls

Box Canon Falls

Finally we were on our way. The million dollar highway (US 550) is really one of the most beautiful roads I’ve ever been on. I can’t wait to see it again in the summer time.

Million Dollar Highway Views

Million Dollar Highway

Million Dollar Highway Views

Mt. Abram

We headed up and over Red Mountain Pass (11,017’…Sprocket’s lifetime high point) to Silverton. Once a bustling silver mining town, it

Sprocket in military vehicle

Silverton City Hall

On our way back over the pass, we stopped to play in the snow. Sprocket was quite delighted.

Sprocket on Red Mountain Pass

Red Mountain Pass

Red Mountain Pass

Mining building

Thunder Mountain Raceway

Thunder Mountain Raceway

Forrest loves dirt track racing. When we lived in Oregon, he was pit crew for a friend’s late model team. When we traveled through North Carolina we visited a track and went to a race when we were in Pennsylvania. So when we found ourselves headed to the Mountains instead of back to the desert and Forrest found that it was opening night at Thunder Mountain, we were off.

Thunder Mountain Raceway

Thunder Mountain was definitely not the fanciest racetrack we’ve visited but we still had fun. It was the season’s opening night and from what I overheard, the crowds were much smaller than usual. I think the track can probably blame part of the poor turnout on the fact that it was freezing and windy out.

Thunder Mountain Raceway

Despite the chilly conditions, it was pretty enjoyable. I

IMG_7722

Thunder Mountain Raceway

The Mountains Called Us…

“The mountains are calling and I must go.”   -John Muir

After some hiking in Fruita’s Devil’s Canyon and grabbing some food and hitting up REI in Grand Junction, we were headed for Gateway, Colorado.

Devil's Canyon

As we made the turn west off of US 50, F commented that we were only a couple hours from Ouray & Silverton. I’d been wanting to explore that area for a long time and we were both anxious to see it in the spring with snow still gracing all the high peaks. Just like that, our plans changed and away to the mountains we went.

Exploring the Book Cliffs

After weather sent us scurrying from the San Rafael Swell, we headed to the Book Cliffs. Although I-70 passes along their base from US-6 east to Grand Junction, they’re a relatively unvisited area. Our adventures in the Book Cliffs started in the (ghost?) town of Thompson. The remaining residents have put up a sign with a map detailing the recreational activities available from their little town:

Thompson, UT map

We camped out for the night as it was getting dark and headed to the petroglyph (rock art carvings) AND pictograph (rock art painting) panels in Sego Canyon. Most of my experience with rock art in the Southwest has been with petroglyphs so I was really excited to see the pictographs:

Petroglyphs in Sego Canyon

Pictographs in Sego Canyon

Sego Canyon pictographs

After we checked out the rock art (and waited for the sun to peak over the canyon walls), we headed up Thompson Canyon to the end of the road then returned to head up Sego Canyon and the ghost town of Sego. Sego was a coal mining town that appears to have operated off and on from the 1890s through 1948.

Sego ghost town

Abandoned building near Sego

Cows Sego Canyon

The road goes about 15 miles up into the Book Cliffs and dead ends at the Ute Indian Reservation. We were able to drive almost all the way up (about 13 miles) and walked the rest of the way. The views were incredible!

Sego Canyon Views

Views from the top of Sego Canyon

I even spotted bear tracks in the sand near the end of the road:

Bear track, Sego Canyon

We headed down the canyon and turned onto Book Cliffs Road (clearly marked as a 4×4 road…). It was quite an adventure, as the road dropped into a deep, narrow canyon and climbing back out wasn’t the easiest thing to do but Forrest and the van managed just fine (I tried to manage the chaos in the van and Sprocket slept…).

Van at the Book Cliffs

Forrest at the Book Cliffs

Book Cliff Road

Van in canyon

Road in Wash

Book Cliffs Canyon

Eventually, we cut back south to I-70 and skipped east to Book Cliffs Over The Top Road. According to the map it was possible to make a loop up one canyon, over the top of the plateau, and then dropping down another canyon.

Book Clifs Over The Top Road

Sprocket

As we suspected, the top of the plateau was still pretty muddy and we had to skip our plans for making a loop. Despite the fact our plans had changed, it was awesome to be that high and have views out in every direction. I’m sure we’ll be back with the jeep in a more hospitable season to explore some more!

Tavaputs Plateau

Tavaputs Plateau

San Rafael Swell: Behind The Reef

After a quick lunch in Hanksville, we headed for the San Rafael Swell. We’ve heard a lot about the area but have never made it over that way. As we started looking at maps, we realized that there really is a whole lot of exploring we need to do so away we went.

Behind the Reef Road

Behind The Reef Road

We immediately headed for the Behind The Reef road to hike some of the canyons. The weather was cold with snow and rain in the forecast and we figured there might be some shelter from the wind there. After waiting out a snow squall in the van (with a nice pot of coffee), we parked near a trailhead and did some exploring of an old mine.

It wasn’t immediately apparent what they were mining here as it was pretty shallow and there seemed to be a ton of petrified wood pried from the walls…maybe that is what the prospectors were after?

Mine, Behind The Reef Road

Mine, Behind The Reef Road

Mine, Behind The Reef Road

After our explorations, the snow picked up and we returned to the van. And it just didn’t stop. It was fun for a bit and then we started to worry about being downhill from the main road in conditions that were getting wetter and wetter (oh to have a 4-wheel drive van!). We hightailed it back out to pavement and decided to save the Swell for another time. We’ll definitely be back though!

Forrest and Sprocket, mine, Behind The Reef Road