Thursday, November 19, 2009

canyon rims area, bored?!, rockland,
cowpie fires, and a new bed

Well, a couple days turned into a couple weeks. I love this lifestyle—it’s so unpredictable.

I hear many fulltimers say stuff like if they go off and dry camp, they are ready to bag it after two or three days. They don’t have anything to do, miss other people (in only three days!), and they get bored. Unreal. These are the same people who state that their grandkids need to be constantly entertained. Isn’t that like the pot calling the kettle black? I don’t know if I could get enough of being out in the sticks for weeks at a time. I love steppin’ out the door in the morning in a place that demands to be noticed. I love it out here.
I drove about 30 miles south of Moab, turned off rt191, and headed west. After 8 or 10 miles I turned onto a dirt road heading north and came across the spot in the first photo to camp. I do like solitude. The next day I went out for a mountain bike ride and came across another place to camp so I moved the following morning after a nice run checking out land to the west. As luck would have it, while out running the next morning, yep, I found a camping spot I liked even better. When I got back to my camper, I had breakfast, made a fire in the feed pan, drank a mug of coffee and read a bit, gathered up Meadow and Onyx, packed up, and drove down this double track to the site on a rim. Marked down the GPS coordinates so I can find it again if I want. In cold weather, I like to position the casita with the large back window facing the rising sun so the rays help warm up the camper. Pack a compass if you are camping off the grid and thus have this option.

There were plenty of places to explore from the third site and it had warmed up so I decided to hang out for a bit. In a few days I made a run back to Moab for propane, wine, web access, a loaf of stone-baked Ecce Panis olive batard, and to get a map and fill up the Reliance water jugs at Gearheads. Shortly after leaving my site, I went the wrong way at a fork in the road. Since I was more or less going in the right direction, I kept going. After 22 miles, I finally got back to pavement. No big thing, it’s not like I’m on any schedule and I saw some neat stuff like this cave shack in 8 Mile Rock. If you ever find yourself on Looking Glass Road, just a bit south of rt46 (to La Sal), there is a strange community a few miles in from rt191. You’ll see a large rock jutting up from the flats and on the west side there are a number of caves. People have boarded up the openings, put in doors and windows, and made the caves into homes, some with two stories and extensions. While back in Moab, I asked someone about it and he heard it might be a polygamist community. In Utah!? Who would have thought? I need to email Glen to see what he knows about this place. Listened to a ‘Wait, wait’ podcast on the way back to camp. Sure do get some laughs out of that program.
I emailed Glen about what he knew about the rock and was not the least bit surprised that he knew all about it. They should have a local Moab game—Stump Glen. He wrote, “The rock you saw is called Rockland. It's where Bob Foster had his polygamist community. He died recently and I heard that things were in sort of disarray out there. Under that rock are thousands of feet of tunnels with rooms where people have food stored for when the "end" comes. He made his money by renting out the "rooms."

Note the comment posted to this link.
Thanks dixonge!

Most days I hiked along the rim until I came to a drainage and scrambled down to the bottom. After exploring for a couple hours, I looked for another drainage where I could climb back up to the rim. Never had to repeat the same climb. Not bad. The first photo is looking back to where the casita is parked up on the rim. If I knew how to insert an arrow into the jpg, I could point to it. It’s sitting up there in the middle of the shot. Some places just had an easy climb back to the top like the second photo shows and the third one shows I’m almost back up to the top. One drainage in particular widened quite a bit towards the bottom with steep sidewalls, a number of small caves and overhangs, shade, and standing water. I start to think cougar. I climbed up to some of the pockets looking for sign of recent use. Possibly not too smart. I would really prefer to not have my throat ripped out. No fresh sign although I came across some old scat a bit farther down the drainage. I started sending out strong vibes that I truly like cats.

Other days I did some mountain biking or went out for a morning run. Spent time working on my MacBook, reading, tried my hand again at throwing a boomerang (wish it did not generally fly like a Frisbee), worked on some silver pieces, and this-and-that. I was definitely maxed by the time to turn in each night. There was two pair of ravens who came by from time to time riding the updrafts along the rim. Something I do not see ravens do all that often. Way cool. Got back to taking sun-showers. Not bad unless it is November and a breeze comes up. Meadow, Onyx, and I went for a walk at the end of each day, a couple times for nearly an hour. Sure is entertaining. There is flint EVERYWHERE. Should learn how to knap and hit the rendezvous circuit and set up a booth. We were here for the weeks around the full moon, which is always a treat while out dry camping off the grid. I noticed a sign stating no collecting of wood in this area. Wood, along with water, is something I won’t buy. So each day I snagged my black rubber bucket and went out in the sage collecting ‘firewood’. I did use a couple finger-size juniper sticks for some flames to get the cowpies burning well in the feed pan. Reminds me of burning cattails when I was a kid. I dumped the ashes into the bucket each morning and went off to bury them.

Have not seen another person or vehicle the whole time I have been out here. Sure did need this dose of solitude.

I had a cat bed in my fifth wheel but got rid of it when I moved into the casita. There is not a whole lot of space. I recently broke down and bought a small dog bed for Meadow and Onyx. A cat bed was way too small for the two of them. They sure have been enjoying it.

I wonder if I will get any strange looks or see people sniffing the air—the next time I go into a laundromat and take my clothes out of the bag—after two weeks of burning cow sh*t.

‘This is the beginning of a new day.
You have been given this day to use as you will.
You can waste it or use it for good.
What you do today is important because
you are exchanging a day of your life for it.
When tomorrow comes, this day will be gone forever;
in its place is something that you have left behind…
let it be something good.’
forgot where I came across this

RVwest article ‘Following a Free Spirit’

Sunday, November 1, 2009

moab, documentaries, deck plate, dipping bars,
uncertainty, and the beaver moon

I don’t like to drive from SLC to Moab all in one day so I went off on some sand roads south of Page for the night.

I spent a week at Lisa and Glen’s place in Moab. They provided a great place to park and are fine people. Glen knows EVERYTHING about local places to hike and camp. He pointed out places to camp south out of Moab in my DeLorme atlas. I’m set. We also had dinner one night with Theresa, one of my old principals, who grows the BEST garlic I’ve ever tasted. I truly enjoy these visits.
If in the area, check out the all volunteer community radio station—KZMU 90.1 and 106.7. They broadcast most of what is happening in town. If you don’t like the music, tune back in later. Each programmer plays the music she likes so the genre changes depending on the day and hour.

As luck would have it, the last Farmer’s Market of the season was on the weekend I was here. I snagged a fabulous loaf of blue cornmeal walnut bread, a VERY decadent small chocolate pie, and a tub of cheese by the local cheese-maker. Lisa picked up ten pounds of Alaskan salmon. I learned that salmon caught miles off the coast tastes way better than river salmon. Salmon are starting to die once they reach the rivers and start to turn red. For the best taste, one wants salmon to still have a silver color. Not that I eat fish but I love learning stuff like this.

A few mornings, I went running along the Old Mail Trail on the Millcreek Rim—beautiful. This old horse trail served as a mail route for miners and ranchers who lived in Wilson and South Mesas in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s. I missed a wonderful photo by not having my Cyber-shot with me—snow on the sage against red sand and rock—beautiful.

It seems strange that the last three times I’ve stopped in Moab to visit Lisa and Glen, there have been documentary films showing that weekend. This year the Moab Confluence’s 2009 event was called EATING THE WEST and was all about local food and sustainability. One film was about a Swiss Alps cheese maker. Some of the greatest cheeses in the world are made only in the summertime in the spectacular high elevations of the Swiss and French Alps. Cows are allowed to graze on mountainous pasture at higher and higher elevations as the snows melt in the warm weather. The cheese itself is made right there on the slopes in little stone huts. The lush array of herbs, grasses and wildflowers in the alpine meadows make for some of the greatest tasting cheeses in the world—Gruyère, Beaufort, Appenzeller, and Comté. The featured cheese maker was up there with only a young local assistant and a cow herder—WAY up there and very isolated.

Another film was titled the ‘Titans of New Guinea’. These people have fished traditionally for 40,000 years using bamboo spears. After WWII, fishermen had access to fishing line, hooks, outboard motors, and spear guns. Along with this came the use of money. Instead of continuing to trade for items they needed, they now had to catch more fish to earn money for food, clothing, school for their children, etc. With over-fishing the fish population has gone down dramatically. The Nature Conservancy is helping communities, such as the featured Pere village on Manus Island, protect the oceans’ nurseries—coral reefs. The village has recently created a Marine Protected Area to prevent over-fishing on reefs where grouper spawn—a move that will help stabilize fish populations that villagers depend on for survival. Villagers report a promising increase in fish numbers since Pere first imposed limits in 2004.

‘Seeds in the City—The Greening of Havana’ was a very informative film about urban agriculture. City food production has gone up 50% in just 5 years. As many as 100,000 Havana residents are involved in growing food. Many work their own backyard gardens, while others join together in collectives to work vacant plots of land provided by the state. Still others hire themselves out to work fields started in front of colleges, hospitals, factories and office buildings. More than 90% of perishable vegetables eaten in Havana are grown locally.

‘Fridays at the Farm’ was a presentation about a photographer/filmmaker and his family who decided to join a community-supported organic farm in Pennsylvania. They head up there on Fridays to work and spend time quality time out in nature focusing on the natural processes of food cultivation. The presentation looks like video but it was compiled from nearly 20,000 still images featuring time-lapse and macro photography sequences. Way cool.

One morning I went for a short hike with Glen to some 10,000-year-old cliff art. I thought Moab was pretty much overrun with ATVs, and it is, but there are still many trails that are accessible to only hikers and mountain bikes. Where we pulled off the road, there was no designated trailhead and not really all that much of a trail. Absolutely stellar.
I emailed Glen about the art and he wrote back, “The rock art we went to is the really old stuff. They generally refer to it as the Desert Archaic. It's the same as they find over in the Maze in Barrier Canyon. So sometimes people call that rock art the Barrier Canyon style. The normal rock art that you see around here is much more recent.” Didn’t I say he knows everything about the area? Unbelievable.
Stop in Gearheads on Main Street if you could use some information, maps, camping gear, or need to fill up your flasks and jugs with free filtered water. Two good maps for the area are Moab West and East Trails, recreation topo maps of trail and road access on public lands by Latitude 40˚ maps.

I rarely use my fresh water holding tank, preferring Reliance jugs. The last time I used the tank was the summer of 2007 for the weekly double-overnights up on the Kaibab. I installed a 6” deck plate ($12 at a marine supply store) on the tank. After cutting the hole, I soaked up the standing water in there and cleaned out the inside with bleach. After the tank dried and aired out, I began using it for storage. I don’t come across natural food stores all that often in my back-road travels, so when I do, I hit the bulk bines and stock up with about 15 pounds of TVP, nutritional yeast, cous-cous, and other grains and legumes and place the plastic bags in the holding tank. Works well. I also throw in some off-season clothes. I’m sure others won’t consider the storage aspect but anyone who regularly uses their water tank might consider installing a deck plate for periodic cleaning of the tank.

Scott fabricated a set of dipping bars for me while I was up in SLC that I can use outside the casita. I drilled two holes in the bellyband and thread rope through them to secure the bars against the trailer. I’ve been working on my lungs, heart, and legs, now the bars should help me build back some upper body strength. Thanks again, Scott.

I plan to spend a couple days down in the canyon rims recreation area, just east of Canyonlands National Park. I recently heard that there have been bear sightings in that area. For some reason a couple have come down from the mountains. Way strange. It’s November and I’m still a bit too far north so I need to be getting on into New Mexico soon.
From time to time in my travels, I talk to RVers and their mindset seems to want it all planned out. One pulls out his RV park directory and picks the RV park or campground where he will be that night. He pretty much sticks to the interstates and has a list of the standard tourist attractions to visit. It’s like connect-the-dots, secure, but kind of boilerplate, lackluster, and dull. The camper mindset seems more open. One has a general idea of where he will be camping that night. He will have checked out DeLorme to see where the public lands are or will follow a tip a friend might have given him. No idea of what he will find there. Campers look at this uncertainty in a positive way—somewhat compelling, a little spice, a little adventure, maybe a little risk. These people tend to be more laid back and roll with the punches. If a place does not work out—so what? Just roll on. As we grow older many constrict their boundaries; they continue to seek what is comfortable, familiar, and safe. These are our last years—why not look at things more openly?

November – The Full Beaver Moon. Time to set beaver traps before the swamps freeze to ensure a supply of warm winter furs. Another interpretation suggests that the name Beaver Full Moon comes from the fact that the beavers are now active in their preparation for winter. Also called the Frosty Moon.

We find comfort among those who agree with us
growth among those who don't.

RVwest article ‘Following a Free Spirit’