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Fitness and Photography for Fun - A blog on staying fit by hiking and doing photography by David Mendosa

Grand Staircase-Escalante‏

April 8th, 2010 · No Comments

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Easter Sunday this year brought me to true desert. I took a Sierra Club outing to Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument in southern Utah, about 700 miles from my home in Boulder, Colorado.

The land gets only six to seven inches of rain in a typical year. The plants all adopt different strategies to conserve what little water they get. The animals are scarce and the bugs essentially nonexistent here.

At 4 p.m. I arrived at the campground near the town of Escalante where I met the others who also joined this Sierra Club outing. In addition to the group leader and assistant, ten of us are on the outing. Six are men and six are women. By some strange coincidence, four of the men are named David.

We pitched out tents at the campground for only one night. On Monday morning we struck our tents, climbed back into our vehicles, and all of us made a six-mile hike to Lower Calf Creek Falls. The 126-foot falls are at the head of a box canyon, forming an idyllic oasis there.

Lower Calf Creek Falls

Lower Calf Creek Falls

Click on the picture above to enlarge

On Monday afternoon we drove 27 miles down a dirt road called Hole-in-the Rock through the center of the national monument and stopped at a place known as Dry Fork where we made our base camp.

Base Camp: My Site Wasn't Crowded

Base Camp: My Site Wasn't Crowded

Click on the picture above to enlarge

This is simply rather flat land suitable for pitching tents between rock outcroppings behind us and the Straight Cliffs out in front. Those cliffs are one step in the “grand staircase” that gives this huge area its name.

My View of Part of the Straight Cliffs from Base Camp

My View of Part of the Straight Cliffs from Base Camp

Click on the picture above to enlarge

Dry Fork is within the Scorpion Wilderness Study Area. The entire Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument is huge, consisting of almost 3,000 square miles of high, rugged, and remote terrain. It is the largest national monument in the lower 48 and was the last place to be mapped.

We arrived at Dry Fork in rather wet weather, with intermittent showers. Only when we were eating dinner did it rain hard. But here in the desert the rain is seldom hard. What was hard was the wind. Another member of our party, David (Dave) Hammack, who lives in Albuquerque and at age 81 is a retired teacher, minister, and businessman, saved me a lot of trouble by helping me pitch my tent, something that is almost impossible for one person to do in heavy wind.

At least four members of the party slept in their SUVs to avoid the heavy wind, which actually collapsed one of the tents. My tent, however, held up well with the stakes firmly in place and rocks piled on top of them.

Dave said that the temperature was down to 29 degrees. As soon as the sun goes down the weather got uncomfortably cold.

I would have returned Dave’s favor of setting up my tent. But he sleeps in his camper van. After my experience of using Graeme’s camper van in New Zealand for a month and talking with Dave about all his travels in his, I am thinking more and more about buying one myself. No more cold nights in the wind.

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