Coyote Canyon

I’m so lucky to have found and married somebody who shares my love of hiking in wild desert places. I’d been wanting to take Kristina to a little canyon in the area I call “the land between” and we went there for our most recent hike. It’s a place I remembered fondly even though it had been a few years since I’d been there. I told Kristina that the place didn’t have a name and that I was calling it “Chad Canyon,” and I asked her if it would be too narcissistic to call it that. I wouldn’t really name a place after myself – even if it’s a place that’s special to me and even if, as is the case with so many of the places I hike, I never see anybody else there.

We hiked down an old road and came to a place where there used to be a bridge. There’s a well-built structure on either side of the wash that it crossed, but the bridge itself has long-since vanished. I told Kristina that I like seeing things like that – things that show a lack of permanence of human-made structures – and she responded by saying “wabi sabi.” “What’s that?” I asked, and she told me it’s a Japanese term for something impermanent. For example, in Japanese culture it could refer to a cup with a chip in it. The old roadway we were walking on was a good example of that because it showed signs of once having been covered with pavement but was now just a two-track with desert vegetation growing in it.

After a while we left the old road and headed east toward the canyon, and as we approached it we saw some pronghorn antelope in the distance – at least five of them. We watched them as we walked down a gentle slope to a flat sandstone area at the rim of the canyon. We’d been waiting for a good place to eat the snacks we’d brought with us (earlier we’d joked about staying in our car to eat them instead of hiking, but this was much nicer). It felt so good sitting on the slickrock in the warm sun. The temperature was great, and so was the view around us. We seemed to be at the point of transition from shallow wash to canyon.

After eating our snacks and relaxing on the rim we hiked down into the little canyon, which gradually got deeper and deeper, with a series of steep drops. In some places the canyon dropped over sandstone bedrock that had been eroded to form interesting holes and pockets by the action of the occasional water that flows through the area when there’s a big enough storm. There were also huge chunks of sandstone that appeared to have fallen from the cliffs on the sides of the canyon. They made a great place for doing wild yoga, and we enjoyed doing some poses there.

This is my kind of area! It meets three of my criteria for a really awesome place: no stumps (easy because there are no trees), no ATV tracks (too rugged for them), and no sign of cows (evidence elsewhere but not down in the canyon). What we did see a lot of was rabbits and rabbit tracks.

We also saw a lot of coyote tracks. In one place there were a bunch of their tracks next to a little pool of water left from the most recent rain storm. It had been a few days since the storm but the canyon walls and rocks had sheltered the water from the sun and kept it from evaporating, and the coyotes were coming there to drink. Kristina noticed those tracks first, and as we looked at them she commented that with all of the tracks we were seeing maybe we would get to see a coyote, and I replied that I certainly would enjoy that.

We saw more cool rocks, did more yoga, and admired some cliff swallow nests built on one particular cliff. We also admired a beetle, and marveled at some vegetation that was barely hanging on despite the erosion around it. We got to the place where the little canyon joins a big wash and we stopped there for a break before continuing our journey. As we hiked up out of the wash I was busy taking pictures of the view of the below us when suddenly I heard Kristina say, “Look, a coyote!” I looked up just in time to see a beautiful coyote run up the slope above us and over the horizon. I was reminded that sometimes getting caught up taking photos of one thing can let you miss, or almost miss, another thing.

I was hoping for another view of the coyote as we came out onto flat a area above the wash but Kristina thought the coyote would be long gone – and she was right, because we didn’t see it again.

“I can understand the coyote taking off since it has fifty dollars hanging over its head,” I said and explained that in Utah taxpayer money goes to pay fifty dollars for each coyote a person kills. It’s done in the name of keeping deer numbers high, even though a brochure published by the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources points out that coyotes don’t actually have any effect on the state’s deer population.

The coyote that we saw was the first one Kristina has ever seen and one of the few I’ve seen. It was a fleeting moment, but one neither of us will forget. In honor of the coyote, I’ve decided to give up my namesake. We both decided “Coyote Canyon” is the best name for our secluded little canyon.

     

Autumn outing

Getting out of the house and into nature, I notice a letting go of anything I’m preoccupied with. I feel like it is a sort of mental and spiritual deep cleaning, pushing out the superfluous, reconnecting to the essential.

Doing a yoga pose or two during these moments of re-connection is invigorating, somehow more special and meaningful than doing yoga at home or in a studio. Watching my sweetie strike a pose always makes me proud of him. On this lovely autumn outing, Chad held his crow pose – on an uneven rock, overlooking a slope going down to the river – for much longer than usual. Nature can sometimes be an amazing source of support. So can knowing that if you fall, it’s really going to hurt this time.

I started out on our hike getting wildly excited about the resin-loaded pinon pines, and keeping my eye out for medicinal plants. My excitement for fresh pine nuts was overtaken when I began to contemplate a dead ponderosa pine. I looked to it first as a support for a yoga pose, then became overwhelmed by emotion at the remains of this plant-being. Even though the tree was dead, it felt like its spirit was still there. I suppose that when you open yourself up for a conversation with nature, you can’t always know which part of it will speak.

Fantastical Fantasy Canyon

It started with Goblin Valley. The name caught my attention, of course, and when I looked it up to see what it was like, I was even more intrigued. Then Chad told me that there was a place not too far from here that was similar, with strange, fragile rock formations. Fantasy Canyon, the place was called.

He warned me it was in oil country, surrounded by oil wells. That did not prepare me for our drive, going past oil well after oil well, and apparently at least one hydraulic fracturing set up as well. About a mile or so from our destination we drove past incredibly beautiful and fascinating landforms – badlands and hoodoos – that were backdrops for pumpjacks and oil storage tanks. Just the beauty of the place could have easily qualified it to be a national park; alas, it would mostly be scenery to the oil and gas crews, and the 5000 visitors per year to the BLM site.

Once arrived at Fantasy Canyon the oil wells were only visible in the mid-distance. A path bordered by rocks led us through the site to admire the strange sandstone formations. Well it kind of did. In places the path was well designated, in other places it was hard to tell what was path and what was off-limits. We walked cautiously so as not to disturb these ancient deposits, some of which were named for animals (diving porpoise) or characters (flying witch).

Visiting this site made it even more clear to me why Chad is such a passionate defender of wilderness. When land is not protected, even land of extreme geological interest such as Fantasy Canyon, instead of remaining a resource of beauty, education and wildlife habitat, it can easily become an industrial casualty. Fantasy Canyon is still intact, but with deep rock fracturing fracking operations nearby, who knows how long it will remain so?

Mountain Yoga

It was time for another adventure, and since our previous hike had been in a desert location, I suggested we go to the mountains this time. On a previous trip we’d driven around Elk Horn Loop and I’d told Kristina that I wanted to come back to one particular part of the loop – the Pole Creek area. My first thought was to take her south of the road to the see the stream, but then I decided it would be fun to hike on the north side, where I hadn’t hiked before, so it would be a new place to explore for both of us.

Shortly after we started hiking we saw a couple of old dead pine trees, which we both found intriguing. Along with being pretty, dead trees are great wildlife habitat and are an important part of the ecosystem. Nearby were some curvy aspens, and Kristina mimicked their curves with curvy yoga poses.

Moving on I noticed an overturned rock and explained to Kristina that it was evidence of a foraging bear. Like dead old dead pines and curvy aspens, and Kristina doing yoga, evidence of bears makes me happy. As we hiked along, though, I also saw some things that make me unhappy – stumps, cow pies, and an unauthorized ATV trail that looked like it was never going to end (Kristina patiently listens when I grumble about things like that). The ATV’s had ridden on what appeared to be an old logging road – and the berms that were supposed to stop traffic seemed to be nothing more than fun-hills for the riders.

We stopped and did some yoga in an area dominated by aspens and then, when it was time to move on, I asked Kristina if it was okay with her if we left the draw we were in – to get away from the ATV trail – and hiked up onto the ridge to the east of us. She concurred, and up we went.

When we got to the top of the ridge there was a pretty little aspen stand surrounded by open sagebrush meadow, and I noticed old bear claw marks on one of the trees and showed Kristina. The view from the ridge was spectacular, and Kristina commented that the lighting and fall colors made the area look like New England.

As we hiked to the south I was amazed at the beautiful combination of the trees on the horizon silhouetted against a cloudy sky. I held back while Kristina hiked ahead and became part of the silhouette, and after taking some photos I hiked up and joined her at the point where the ridge drops off into the valley below. There’s a beautiful rock outcrop that makes a great vantage point from which to view the surrounding countryside, and is also a great place for wild yoga poses.

After enjoying the evening light from our vantage point we scrambled down the east side of the ridge to the Elkhorn Loop road. We paused for a tree-pose, and then enjoyed the view of aspens silhouetted in front of a beautiful sunset. We hiked the rest of the way back to the vehicle and drove away feeling happy and refreshed.

Read Kristina’s take on this adventure

Hike to Larva Lake

One of the ways Chad and I like to keep our relationship strong and let ourselves relax is by going on some type of adventure once a week. Chad took me up to another of his favorite spots in the Uintah Mountains. We hiked through the Ashley National Forest on our way to a small glacial lake called Larva Lake. On the way there were a lot of cut trees from timber sales which made us both frown. But once we got out of the logging area, the terrain became interesting – lots of big pink rocks and boulders, signs of the glacial past of the area. We stopped to nibble on tiny little huckleberries that packed a mighty big punch of flavor. When we got to the lake we found a fallen log to do some yoga poses on. I nearly fell in, but managed to regain my balance at the last second. The change in altitude really got to me up here – going from 5000-ish feet to 10,000-ish in a couple of hours is new for me, and just sounds pretty unbelievable anyway. The lovely glacial lake was well worth the trip.

 

 

Cool night in Mancos

Waking up in Chaco was hot, really hot, so it was a relief to finish out the day in the cool evergreen forest at Mancos State Park, Colorado. The next day before we hit the road we had a fun time doing some yoga, taking photos and relaxing. As ready as I was to get to our destination and get our dogs and cats out of the RV and into a more permanent living situation, I had a lump in my throat as we took down our tent and prepared to leave. The soft forest floor of Mancos had been so inviting!