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 > Summertime - And The Living Is Easy (for a while!)

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seldomseensmith

Flagstaff, AZ

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Posted: 08/05/10 12:39am Link  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

I recently made a trip farther away from home than my usual wanderings, this time to Wyoming. My purpose was to visit friends who I had not seen since I moved back to Arizona five years ago. The trip there was a road warrior kind of journey, with many long miles over two days to get there in time for a reunion of sorts. My destination was Pinedale, a beautiful little town at the base of the Wind River Mountains about 70 miles southeast of Jackson Hole. My stay was brief, but catching up with old friends was wonderful.

The real trip was the return journey, where I had time to poke around. I lived in Wyoming for several years and I used to make the round trip back to the southwest to visit family and spend time in my beloved canyon country. I seldom ever traveled the interstate preferring instead the lesser traveled roads, of which there are plenty. As Charles Kuralt once said,

"With the completion of the Interstate Freeway System, it became possible to travel all the way across the country, from coast-to-coast, and never see a thing..."

One of my all time favorite places anywhere is not far from Pinedale – in fact it’s just the other side of the mountains. I know I’ve said before I’m not much for campgrounds, but in this case I am perfectly willing to make the exception. The place I’m talking about is Sinks Canyon State Park, just 10 miles southwest of Lander. As campgrounds go, the amenities are modest, but the setting is nothing short of magical.

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I first stumbled on this little known jewel over 15 years ago, and it has changed very little since then, except for the unfortunate increase in the number of beetle killed trees. The campground is located in Sinks Canyon, named for a curious geological phenomena (more on that in a bit), where the Middle Fork of the Popo Agie river comes charging out of the southern end of the Wind River Mountains. BTW, if you want make a local smile try pronouncing the name of the river....[emoticon]

First of all, there is a canyon, and you all know how I feel about canyons. Second the setting is alpine in nature, being at about 6700 feet above sea level. But most importantly is the river itself - the Popo Agie literally tumbles down a boulder strewn channel on its way to the valley, and the roar and rush of water drowns out (pun? - no way!) any other noise, making the ideal white (water) noise generator, perfect for sleeping.

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Not all the sites in the campground are as good as the one I always pick, but I'll leave it to others to find the perfect spot for themselves. Suffice to say that the better spots put you where the river is right out the back door.

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Another huge plus for me is the awesome Volksmarch Trail that departs the campground on a cool suspension bridge across the river. This moderate path travels 5.5 miles up canyon to Popo Agie falls, and is a favorite hike of mine.

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And did I mention summer wildflowers? Well let me tell you folks, summer wildflowers are one of the best reasons I can think of for a walk in the woods.

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The Volksmarch ("people walk" in German) is a fairly easy trail, but I usually prefer a more physical challenge, and an old four wheel drive road further up the canyon provided me with all the huffing and puffing I wanted. Climbing steeply up to the canyon rim, the path rises over 1200 feet in just over two miles. But the views...

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The name Sinks Canyon refers to the disappearance of the river for a 1/4 mile, as it vanishes underground for a while. The "sinks" and the "rise" are all very well explained and documented at the Visitor's Center, which also has excellent information about anything else you might want to know about the area.

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The Sinks

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The Rise

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The fish (rainbow and brown trout) are protected at the Rise, and cannot be caught by anglers. Instead there is actually a "fish food" vending machine nearby where visitors can buy a handful of pellets for a quarter and watch the little (huge, actually) piggies below tussle and fight for the nuggets... These guys have a VERY good life!

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I really did not want to leave this idyllic spot in the mountains, but at this point I am almost a thousand miles from home and I need to mosey on down south. After, I am still a wage slave and eventually I have to go back to work [emoticon]

As per my usual modus operandi, my route takes the long and winding road, in this case Highway 191 over the east end of the Uinta Mountains. Before climbing up and over though, the road passes alongside Flaming Gorge Dam and Reservoir, a beautiful drive by anyone's standards.

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When I passed through the daily afternoon thunderstorm was in full swing, but boaters and anglers weren't letting that spoil the fun.

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Coming out on the south side of the mountains the road drops steeply into Vernal, Utah. On the way down is a large phosphate strip mine, where I once saw the biggest explosion a lot closer than I ever want to be again. This American flag caught my eye as I drove by - the land around it is reclaimed by the mine, and I'm not sure if the miners put it up or not. It was a stirring sight - God bless America!

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Down the road a piece is Steinaker Reservoir State Park, where more water loving folks were trying to beat the heat of a late July day.

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I made as many miles as I felt like driving before rolling onto some Forest Service land between I-70 and Loa. I woke the next morning to fog and low clouds, and a cool drizzling rain. Toto, we're not in the desert for sure!

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As I continued the journey back towards Arizona, I adopted a very leisurely pace, stopping frequently to take pictures and just look around.

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The Awapa Plateau

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Beautiful Blue Flax

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The Koosharem Valley

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Rocky Mountain Beeplant lines the backroads

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Highway 62 between Kingston and Antimony

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Ominous black clouds roil above Mt. Carmel north of Kanab

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Red Indian Paintbrush was everywhere, almost as common as Lupine

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With only a few days of freedom left, I struggled to think of a place to spend the rest of the time. The canyon country I so enjoy is simply too hot in summer, and I also knew that many of the areas where I might go as an alternative had been pounded by heavy rain in recent days, meaning roads would be muddy or worse impassable. Here's one of those storms getting cranked up over the mountains:

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I eventually settled on the old standby - the North Rim of Grand Canyon. The elevation is high enough that temperatures would be reasonable, and the roads lie on a bed of limestone all across the plateau, and almost never wash out or become too difficult.

Last year I wrote a trip report about a visit to a Grand Canyon few folks see or know about about, and I decided to expand on that with this occasion.

The annual monsoon rains had finally arrived in northern Arizona, and were spreading north into Utah. Several inches of rain had fallen in Kanab a couple of days before, causing dry streambeds to "flash" with walls of muddy water and debris. I drove through town as loaders and graders scraped red mud off the streets, and I was not encouraged when I arrived on the North Rim to see dark clouds ahead of me, directly over my destination.

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Fortunately the skies were more "bark" than bite, and although it was obvious the rains had not spared the plateau, most of the heavy precipitation was over by the time I got there.

"There" in this case is Fence Point, a viewpoint of the Grand Canyon located entirely on Forest Service land. Rather appropriately named, eh?

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There are six such viewpoints found on the west side of the North Rim, and they represent a way to experience Grand Canyon in a totally different way than the National Park scene. Yes, they are accessed via dirt road, but roads that in general are driveable for anyone with any sense of adventure.

The best part is camping is at large in the Kaibab National Forest, and in most cases you can boondock within 100 yards of the edge of Grand Canyon. This is a quieter, more intimate Grand Canyon that is free - no park entrance or campground fees.

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All of the points are close to each other as the crow flies, but driving wise are separated by miles. The views from each are subtly different, but I like North Timp and Fence Point best.

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I won't bore you endless pictures (and believe me, I took endless pictures!) of the Canyon, but I find nothing more satisfying than sitting on the edge for hours, trying to catch in photos the constantly changing variety of moods as shadows grow longer, or clouds pass overhead. The place is deeply spiritual for me, and it is easy to lose track of the day as the scene unfolds.

And if the Canyon weren't enough attraction, there is the Rainbow Rim Trail, which connects five of the viewpoints as it meanders for the most part along the rim.

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This easy to follow trail is a delight, and I highly recommend any of the shorter stretches. I did the section between Fence and Locust Points, an easy round-trip distance of 6 miles.

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And were there wildflowers, you ask?

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O.K., enough flowers. How about sunsets? In three nights on the rim, I saw three of the most glorious sunsets a man could be rewarded with. Here goes:

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All I can say is it is sure going to be hard showing up for work tomorrow!

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Happy Trails!

* This post was edited 08/05/10 12:51am by seldomseensmith *


The Road Goes Ever On



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Okispider

Albuquerque, NM

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Posted: 08/05/10 12:54am Link  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

Beautiful pictures!

DEcamper

Delaware

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Posted: 08/05/10 02:25am Link  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

You tell such wonderful stories, and I love 'seening' your trips!

Nina


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DEcamper

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Posted: 08/05/10 02:25am Link  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

Sorry, that was "seeing"

Nina

weymard

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Posted: 08/05/10 03:06am Link  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

Splendid pictures ! Thanks for this nice time.


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FarcticOx

NH or somewhere else

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Posted: 08/05/10 05:06am Link  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

SSS,
Wonderful post, as usual. I like that you find those off the path places that have everything the more popular places have except the people. Those sunset pictures are, for want of a more suitable adjective, awesome. [emoticon]

I really like the last picture too, that just says "Grand Canyon".

Keep 'em coming.


FarcticOx

Run Silent, Run Deep
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silversand

Montreal

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Posted: 08/05/10 05:43am Link  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

Seldom:

Positively awesome write-up and exceptional photos of your latest "Voyage" ! Dunes loved the blooming Southwest. Thanks for making our day this early morn,

Sand & Dunes


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kohldad

Goose Creek, SC

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Posted: 08/05/10 05:45am Link  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

I was going to say "those are some fantastic pictures as usual". But, after some of those sunset pictures, I'm speechless.

Thanks for taking the time to share the trip.


2015 Ram 3500 4x4 Crew Cab SRW 6.4 Hemi LB 3.73 (12.4 hand calc avg mpg after 92,000 miles with camper)
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skipbee

Glen Arm,Md. 21057 USA

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Posted: 08/05/10 06:28am Link  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

Some have the gift. Some share their gift. You are both the power of 10. Thanks. You should be able to capitalize on this skillfull art form of yours, and free your self from slavery. This as good as it gets. My sailor eyes have been opened to the beauty of the interior by you, as by no other.
Love to all,
skip


skipbee
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trails2004

Outside

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Posted: 08/05/10 06:42am Link  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

Very Nice Pictures-- Sinks is a great place- This year water was filling the mouth of the cave !! It was very impressive

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