Yesterday was yet the toughest travel we encountered since we have left on this Journey. There were moments when I wished we had stayed in Durango an extra day, and as passed through as snow storm we pushed on beyond Cortez, I then wished we had stayed in that town avoiding the tremendous winds and hail as it was just as dangerous as any situation of that sort encountered you might read in the News! No joke! There were no pictures taken, I don’t think the white knuckles could have utilized that shutter anyhow, as even Spirit was upright the whole way, eyes wide open, waiting himself for some relief. Sometimes I wonder about my own doings! There is no schedule, there is no set destination and still I set a goal to be somewhere throughout the day, this time it was camping by the San Juan river near Bluff, Utah.
The pictures are the remainders of a short hike I took to see the Double Arches, the best ones yet encountered in the Arches National Park. While going through Monticello Tuesday I finally stopped at the BLM (Bureau Land Management) Office, something I should have done a month ago. I acquired an incredible map of all the sights they cover in Utah and also much explanations regarding on how those Arches came about, their colors and transformations over the millions of years it has taken for them to be formed. Covering the sights of a State like Utah, or for that matter any other State, does require some serious research. That fact is mainly because all the information needed is never through one Agency. Such information comes from Federal, State and BLM and I always try to put them together drawing them myself on one single map with my own annotations.
Everything that one sees around this area covering thousands of acres is the result of an invading sea from the Northwest during the Permian Period, about 250 millions of years ago. It is all sandstone carved by the slow working sculptors showing off the banded yellow-gray to reddish orange rocks, the last remainders of beaches and sandbars. Eventually as the seas receded, water and frost slowly broke down the weaker underlayers of sandstones, gradually growing larger holes and eventually forming an arch.
As I walked into the shadows of the Arches, the temperature dropped by about 20 degrees combined with an incredible wind tunnel effect. This must have been where the Natives spend their summers sheltered from the over 100 degree heat that it brings to this area. It was an easy hike, barely half a mile from the parking lot where I could still watch Spirit in his sidecar, a fact that I am always concerned about.
You can notice the dark streaks on the cliff walls. This is known as Desert varnish and is a thin layer of minerals deposits including iron, manganese, magnetite and windblown clay particles, combined with a thin layer of microscopic bacteria’s. The clay particles holds the water that runs down the cliff faces, enabling the bacteria to survive.
The darker the streaks, the longer the process has been happening. These streaks also offer an important clue to where the water will pour off the cliff in a storm, a clue one needs to take in consideration when setting up camp in the Desert. I would have liked hiking also to the Delicate Arch sometime but it is a 3 mile round trip and unless I board Spirit which I never do, it is going to be part of my Life’s compromise, which I always gladly accept.
So we are now in Bluff, about 5 miles west of town on the San Juan River, camping in a BLM Campground. BLM lands are changing. It use to be free and dispersed, slowly they are building camp "sites" and their properties and installing pit toilets, a fire ring and a picnic table. The sites are about 1000 feet or more from each other and anywhere from $8 to $10 a night. No water or electricity which is fine by me keeping most campers away, the ones seeking for all the comforts of home including cable television. We have mostly camped for free, but lately I am leaning toward including such expense in the budget for safety reasons.
The safety of camping is slowly becoming an issue throughout the country. I chat a lot with BLM officers, Federal Rangers and the red flags are slowly rising not to leave gear behind unattended in the middle of nowhere. We have had a couple items stolen in the State of Washington while camping near MT Rainier, that was the start of my hunches and if I need to spend $300 a month for our own safeguard to maintain the little we have, well, that is just the way it will be. There are some areas where we have found as they call it dispersed camping with other campers in the vicinity, where even if far from each other everyone introduces themselves and watches out for each other as there is always someone around during the day. We ourselves don’t go riding everyday and those situations have worked fine, one just needs to find such camping.
All went well in Durango while having a new starter installed by Harry at Basin Motorcycle Works. The bike is now making a sweet sound when starting, the teeth on the flywheel where just fine as it was a bit of a concern till checked out. I have not even gone through those pictures yet. I think Bluff is going to be my kind of town as we passed through it yesterday. It reminds me a bit of Terlingua with its latest census… population:360! I have already met Lea, the owner of a Taco stand, Kathy’s Kosmic Kowgirl Kafee’s counterpart if your remember the pink trailer in Terlingua! Even with a fire ring in front of the stand. This might be a good place to stay while exploring the surroundings and doing some homework for our next campsite before returning to Moab to meet some friends that will visit soon.
I am hoping for the weather to start cooperating. This morning around 5am the skies where clear with their thousands of stars shining throughout and the Milky Way allowing me to find my bearings. As the day is starting now the clouds again have taken over, maybe just a ride to town later on.
You be well and stay well… Ara & Spirit
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