Monday, July 28, 2008

The Blue Forest

One of the joys of traveling is meeting new people and finding unexpected surprise adventures. This blog is about both. We stopped to get information on camping at the Buckboard National Forest Campground and while visiting, discovered that the campground hosts were avid rock collectors. Cliff and Doreen shared with us their beautiful samples and discussed how they made them,(they cut and polish rocks into carbochons, crosses, and weave gold and silver jewerly). While talking they told us about the Blue Forest.
Now the Blue Forest is out in the Red Desesrt, east of Fontenelle, and is an area where you can find forty million year old opalized petrified wood. It has been dug for decades but stll has wood fragments on the surface, so we decided this was a must!
The next day we got up and got an early start, 7 am, and headed north. Of course we had to resupply, before heading into the desert so we got diesel and dougnuts in Green River. From Green River we got on the interstate and turned west until reaching exit 83. There we headed north to Fontenelle, passing trona mines, wild horses and the Seedskidee National Wildlife Refuge,(We visited there in one of our earlieat blogs).
Nearing Fontenelle the road narrowed as we entered an area of road construction. Turing east we crossed the Green River and then turned onto rough gravel and rock roads. The truck bounced on the washboard road as we slowed and drove through a large gasfield, with lots of evidence of new wellheads.
We shouldn't have worried about finding the place as the internet directions were very accurate and the site was covered with diggings. Getting out of the car we quickly found bits and pieces of opalized wood everywhere. Finding a large piece was another matter as it would involve digging with a pickaxe, and we didn't bring one.
We seperated and wandered around and quickly filled our gold pan to overflowing with wood and opalized samples. Molly laid under the truck and looked bored while treasure fever gripped us,(I can't imagine what it would be like if we ever find gold or visit a gold field). Finally the heat got to us as the sun climbed towards noon,(did I say we were in the Red Desert in late July?).
Deciding we had had enough we headed back. As we drove I found myself wondering if we were on the right road? Using the compass and gps I didn't have to worry as we headed south and west and the Green River and Fontenelle appeared.
On the way home, we stopped at a place and looked for agates and turetella fossils. The only thing we found was found by Molly, our dog, who discovered lots and lots of small stickers with her fur.
From there the trip home was uneventful. The wind came up and buffeted our truck with the loaded canoe on top. Returning we stoped and showed Cliff, Doreen, Jan and GC our teasures. A fine day! Clear skies.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

The Green River Bike Trail

The City of Green River, proud of its new bike path, placed tweleve donated yellow bikes along it's bike paths. The reason for this was to encourage people to bike them. After nine were stolen, they removed the three remaining bikes. How sad. Anyway, Renita and I had been meaning to bike the trail that runs along the Green River so we loaded up the bikes and headed to town!
We parked at Expedition Island,(In case you didn't know it got its name from the expeditions led by John Wesley Powell, a one armed geologist who led the first and second trips down the Grand Canyon of the Colorado. He embarked on his journey from this island). After unloading the bikes we headed across the footbridge and headed downstream. The first leg was a pleasant but short ride as we ran into a barrier that said the trail was closed. What? It turned out they were staining the wooden boardwalk and so the trail was blocked for about half a mile. We walked the bikes up a steep hill and negotiated a path throught the downtown streets using a stoplight to cross the busy highway.
After the brief detour, we got back on the trail. Two deer drank from the Green River as geese rested along its banks. A little further we stopped to rest, before resuming our ride past settling ponds crowded by american avocets. We reached the first park where people were playing baseball and little kids soccer. It reminded us of when the kids were little and played at Bicentenial Park in Gilette...
Returning to the trail we found it still blocked by the stainers so we took the detour and almost got run over by a turning car,(We were at the stoplight and using the stop signal we had the right of way). Resisting my urge to flip them off we contined to the river, pausing to look at the rapids and plan for a canoe trip when the river reaches its lower summer flow.
We watched as the kids played on the water park, the park contains a free place where water jets shoot into the air. What a fun place! A couple launched innertubes and responded to our questions that the water was a bit cold. Loading the bikes up we returned home with definite plans to return. Another fun day. Clear skies.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Flaming Gorge Dam

Finally getting caught up on our business we decided to have an exploration/fun day and drive to the dam. There we could go on the tour and then make stops on the way back, checking out Red Canyon and several bike trails.

The drive to the dam was about 50 miles. To get here we had to drive through the heart of the Unita mountains. It was a nice change of pace to leave the desert and travel into ponderosa forests. When we got to the dam we hurried to the tour guide to sign up, only to be told we had to wait for the next tour as the ten oclock tour was full.

Much to my horror, the ten thirty tour was full of juvenile deliquents. It seems the probation officers had decided it would be a good idea to take their charges on a dam tour. It was just like being back in the classroom. The future cons were rude and crude to the tour guide, and barely under control of their chaperones. Renita smirked and looked at me and knew exactly what I was thinking.....

Regardless we contiued on and actually enjoyed the tour by hanging back, and then asking lots of questions, boring them to death, As we entered the dam it smelled exactly like the Mcdonald Observatory and the USS Alabama. It seems like all the world runs on machine oil!

After touring the interior we walked on a platform, at the bottom of the dam, where you could feed rainbow, cutthroat, and brown trout. They were awaiting their free food and swarmed greedily as people threw fish food pellets onto the waters surface. No teenagers or retired people were thrown over the rails and into the river, so we returned to the visitor center. There we relaxed and I took my hand from my billfold, feeling safe for the first time in an hour.

Drivng back we decided to take the road to Red Canyon Lodge. There we had a nice lunch and got a window seat next to the bird feeders. Ruby throated and black chinned hummingbirds entertained us, along with red crossbills,hoary redpolls, and an occasional pine siskin. It was really nice, as we have never been so close to hummingbirds.

After lunch Renita took over the mountain driving and expertly downshited the truck as we decended to the desert. All in all the day included a beautiful drive, an interesting tour, and a nice lunch. A fine time! Clear skies.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Lake Trout at Flaming Gorge

Three of the last four days have been on the water. Canoeing and fishing for lake trout! The other day was not so pleasant, mouseproofing our house.

On Thursday we loaded the canoe and drove, about two blocks, to a place where we could easily launch the canoe. The lake is clear and deep so we stayed out of the main lake and explored Marina bay.

As we paddled up the bay we spotted smallmouth bass on their beds. Ducks and huge carp moved away from us. A mother and her ducklings did not like us one bit as they frantically paddled! When we got to the back recesses of the bay, we spotted a doe with two fawns. The doe looked at us and then went back to grazing while the fawns hid behind some large bushes. After peeking at us from the bushes edge they lost their fear of us and walked over to mom, where they also started to graze.

On our return, we paddled into the marina itself and passed huge boats and houseboats, like you see on tv shows. A man waved hello and told us that canoeing looked like too much work? Not knowing what work is we waved and glided silently by.
After loading the canoe we tried our hand at fishing by catching some crayfish and fishing for the smallmouths, but to no avail.

The two days spent downrigging were surprisingly successful. While we only caught two lakers, we lost three more and threw back four salmon,(they are so plentiful they were even hiting our huge squid and anchovie baits).

We had talked with a guide who said that the lakers were slow to bite in the summertime. It kind of surprised me as they sure bit at other lakes we have fished.
So we went out searching, and actually found a spot for lake trout.

The fish were in 80 feet of water on the edge of a shelf. Using a white opalesecent dodger and squid we trolled back and forth while watching the pole tips. The bites were a series of wiggles as the fish would eat the anchovie baited squid and then pop the release clip. The pole would then go straight up before bending with the fish's weight.

While we didn't get any big fish we did catch a 23 and a 25 inch lake trout, so finding a spot for lakers and figuring out a technique that works here gave us satisfaction for future days,(the lake is known for 40 plus pound lakers).

Mouseproofing the house was a lot less fun. While we have been mouse free for our trip, such was not the case here as Renita yelled as a mouse scurried across the floor. Trapping seems to have worked and, after a quick trip to Green River, we purchesed a can of insulating foam, whcih we were told should be sprayed into all the possible entry points, blocking their ingress. It seems to have worked as the traps have been mouse free, yeah, Clear skies.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Spirit Lake and the Sheep Creek Geologic Loop

While getting our phones worked on we had gotten to talking with the salesperson about camping. She told us her favorite place was Spirit Lake, which is in the Ashley National Forest. After looking on the internet for directions, we found it and also found a road called the Sheep Creek Canyon Geologic Loop. So we packed sandwhiches and headed to the high country,(we can actually see the Unitas and the snow covered cirque from our campsite at Buckboard Marina).

The drive, after reaching Manila, was steep and beautiful. We climbed up a series of long steep stretches, not really switchbacks, but sustained climbs in elevation.
There were several turnoffs so we stopped to appreciate the view of Sheep Canyon and its bay in Flaming Gorge Resevoir.

Turning off the highway we drove for 13 miles on a narrow but new blacktop. Mountain meadows greeted us with a carpet of flowers. You really have to see the moutain flowers to imagine how so many flowers could be in one place! Reds,yellows, blues, and purples, along with whites almost overwhelemed our senses. We stopped to photograph a red patch of flowers, blocking the road and drawing glares from a group of four wheelers.

The next road was gravel for 10 miles, followed by a narrow dirt road that took us to a pretty cirque lake called Spirit Lake. Leaving the car we walked to the lake's edge. Looking down I saw that my legs were covered with mosquitos! No wonder the trout were feeding! Chased back to the car we drove to the lodge through a cloud of mosquitos. It even beat Grand Isle, Louisianna! We drove to the lodge to find the restrooms were for guests only. After eating lunch in the car, Renita went to use the privy in the campground, only to be chased out by flies! It was like a horror movie,(I have to say again I have never seen mosquitos while driving the truck, they were that thick, in fact Grand Isle paled in comparison).

Heading back down the mountain we again marveled at the profusion of flowers. When we reached the blacktop we turned east and took the Geologic Loop, actually the old highway.

A sign warned of the steep gradient for the next six miles. We headed down the narrow and broken road and after a series of switchbacks were greeted with one of the grandest views we have seen in our years journey. Vertically folded rock towered above us. A high window offered a view that only a mountain climber could ever hope to view.

Another suprise, as we entered the narrow gorge and were met by six bighorn ewes who plodded by us grazing undisturbed. Renita was less than five feet from them as she rolled down the window and talked to them. For a moment we were tramsformed into children again..........

Passing Tower Rock we continued down until we reached the main road. The trip home gave us time to savor the surprises we had seen. While we would not return to Spirit Lake, the Loop road is a must see for anyone traveling through this area. Clear skies.

Friday, July 4, 2008

Upper Flaming Gorge

We finally took a day off,(I can't imagine how we got anything done when we were working), and took the boat out. Our goal was to replunish our salmon supply and to then search the Upper Canyons of Flaming Gorge.

We got our usual early start, 8:45 am and headed past a large group of boats fishing in front of the marina bay. It is amazing that people are afraid to go look for fish elsewhere and instead will share fish all day long. So we drove about two miles down the gorge to an island where one boat was fishing by themselves.

After putting out two poles on the downriggers and two on sinkers with rubber bands, we trolled for an hour without a bite. Had the fish moved? Were they all caught out? Had the cold front changed their behavior? The answer to these questions troubled us as the thought of grilled salmon for dinner slowly faded from our hopes. Peanut butter sandwiches taste pretty good.

Then Renita yelled fish on, jabbed me with her elbow, and beat me to the pole,(I can't believe how fast she is and that she was able to get to the pole first)! She fought the salmon as it made a series of jumps, clearing the waters surface and frantically trying to throw the hook. It worked. On the thrid leap the hook flew out and the thought of peanut butter sandwhichs returned.

A little later another pole tripped from the downrigger and this was a big fish! I grabbed the pole before Renita had a chance and yelled, "Get the net!" Renita waited patiently and watched as the fish went on a series of runs. We could see the fish due to the clarity of the water and on the third run, the hook pulled out. THe problem this time was mine, a drag set too tight. Soon another pole tripped, followed by a short fight and another lost fish. We were disgusted with ourselves, but only for a short while as another fish hit and after a series of runs and leaps ended in the net. Dinner was served!

Soon another kokeenee was in the live well. We lost more fish and then caught another and another as the fish were on a feeding frenzy! We had to pull in the side poles as rainbow trout were hitting them,(We don't care for the taste of rainbows so these were released). In a little over two hours we had our limit of six salmon.

After eating lunch we started up the boat for a run up to Firehole Canyon and campground. They are at the upper end of the Gorge, near where the Green River enters the resevoir. On the way up we had to stop several times as shallow arms threatened to ground the boat. As we traveled up lake we both marveled at the varves of mudstone and the erosional remants that we passed by. How John Wesley Powell must have felt as he started his voyage of discovery!

We took a wrong arm of the lake, and headed up the Black Fork for a bit before realizing our error and retracing our route.The trip uplake took about an hour as the water shallowed, turned muddy, and warmed up. The beaches along the way were filled with campers, swimmers and boaters. Not filled filled as a beach in Florida, but most had a couple of campers and families, Wyoming filled.

As we turned down the lake the wind came up and whitecaps formed. Now the lake up here is pretty protected so whitecaps here meant big waves down by Buckboard. A little nervous we still stopped to fish for some smallmouth, with no luck. After talking it over, we had had a great day so we decided to call it and go back to the boat ramp. The wind died down and we passed stretches of mirror like water, reflecting the steep cliffs as we passed. Thank you God for the beauty. Clear skies.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Checking Things Out

We spent the first couple of days getting settled in to Buckboard and then went to Rock Springs for a nice visit with Patty and Matt. Another day was a day of exploration, checking out other campgrounds and getting Utah stamps so we can fish the Utah portion of the Gorge.

We needed a day to get our business taken care of, and of course two days still haven't been enough. The most exciting thing is that we have cell phone service and the internet at Flaming Gorge, Buckboard Marina. Now this place is a dead spot for both but we talked with a campground host who said she uses a little antennae. We bougth one for the computer and one for our new phone service, verizon, and they both work<(the computer is slow so pictures don't always upload). Yeah!

Another day was spent by driving to Manilla, Utah and then to Lucerene Campground. Both places are really nice. So nice that there is a waiting list for 2009 at the KOA in Manilla! THe campground at Lucene does have some trees and is right at the lake. Electricity is available but no full hookups, however it is definetly a place to keep in mind.

As we arrived at Matt and Patty's house marrage has brought a dramatic improvement to his houses appearance. Matt was actually doing yard work! The trees had been cut down, not the big one, and the interior looks so much nicer with the paintings and framed photos that Patty has hung. No more dust covered stove and the food in the frig is fresh! They both look so happy and we are so glad for them. It makes our hearts feel young and gives us peace to see such love.

Today we are going to see the hippies so its off to the Rainbow gathering! Peace brother and clear skies.