Saturday, 5/22/21: A Hard Freeze

We returned to the Calf River to hike the Lower Calf Falls Trail.

At 1:00 am, I got up for my nightly pee. It was cold. I checked the thermometer. It read 39º inside V-Jer. I turned on the furnace. V-Jer’s heating system is a Swedish design. It uses radiant heat, that is, it heats up the walls, not the air. It takes a bit longer but it gives off a nice glowing warmth.

It is a good thing that I turned it on as the temperature must have dropped well into the 20s. A bucket of water just outside our doorway was solid ice. On our drive into Tropic for our morning breakfast burrito ritual, we could see that all the irrigational rigs were froze up with thick ice forming big stalactites hanging off their bars and wheel spokes. Our plumbing might have suffered had I not turned on the heat.

Our agenda today was to return to the Calf River and hike the Lower Calf Falls Trail, and then check out the highly-touted Burr Trail Byway. Being Saturday, we knew that finding a parking spot in the dinky lot would be difficult. My plan was to get there early. Our burrito ritual sabotaged that intention. The parking lot was overflowing onto Highway 12 by the time we got there. I finally found enough of a shoulder to park, but it was a half mile up, and I mean up, the highway.

The trail was gorgeous and mostly flat, however a good third of the length was deep soul-sapping sand. Damn that’s tough to walk in. The trail was advertised as being 3 miles in and 3 miles out. But when we added in another half mile from our car to the parking lot entrance, and another half mile from that entrance to the trail head, we logged a bit over 8 miles according Gaia GPS.

Like the Upper Calf Falls Trail, the payoff was a water falls. This falls was even higher and the pool below it was actually swimmable, if you could stand the cold, or you were 10 years old. Only the young kids were romping and splashing around. A few adults, including myself, waded a little bit. It had a nice sandy bottom and the water was clear.

A petroglyph on a far rock wall at least a football field away. I used my iPhone’s full telescopic capabilities. Stretched like that, it’s not super clear, but it was the best I could do. Notice that the figures are holding hands.

As I stated, the trail would have been easy had we not encountered the deep sand, and had to walk halfway to the moon to reach our van. We were kind of spent after that, making it a perfect time for a scenic drive.

Burr Trail Byway leaves Highway 12 in downtown Boulder, which is basically just two restaurants. I have already bragged about the magnificent Highway 12. Burr Trail is just as gorgeous. The first 31 miles are paved before turning gravel at the extreme southern entrance to Capital Reef National Park. Every inch of that 31 miles is spectacular. First we drove through white canyon walls. Then red canyon walls. Then blond canyon walls, Then canyon walls with red on the bottom and blond on the top. It was quite a show stopper.

Unfortunately, we experienced some strange weather halfway down the road. Everyday we have watched dark threatening cells loom over the horizon and then sort of vanish without releasing even a drop on us. A widespread cell, covering most of the sky, accompanied by 50 or 60 mph winds materialized out of nowhere. I was sure we’d get nailed with a downpour.

I literally couldn’t open the van doors, the wind was so strong. As we crested one hill, an especially vicious gust of wind actually blew an avalanche of rocks off the cliffs and onto the road. I saw them coming just in time to tromp-on-the-throttle to get past their path. We just barely got by before they crashed on the road. These were rocks the size of basketballs and would have caused some kind of damage. But, not a drop of rain made it to our windshield.

I was worried about V-Jer. Fortunately, when we returned, all was well. Hardly any red dust weaseled its through any window.

A cool old relic at the corner of Highway 12 and Burr Trail Byway.

After 31 miles of glorious paved highway Burr Trail turns to crappy gravel at the Capital Reef entrance.

Glossary of terms used for newcomers: 1) V-Jer. The name of our camper. 2) Saturn. The name of our Van. 3) Duende. Our mischievous gremlin that breaks things. 4) Tata. The good gremlin that helps us fix Duende’s dirty work. 5) The Black Hole. This is what we call Walmart because every time we go in for just a couple of items, we come out spending way more than we figured. 6) QT. Quaint Town. 7) Little Buddy. This is what we call our Dyson cordless stick vacuum.

Dave and Wanda

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