Thursday/Friday, May 13&14: Dragon Belly / Going, Gone

Yes, we moved to a free BLM dispersed campsite 16 miles north of Kanab, called Old 89.

Thursday, 5/13/21: The Belly of the Dragon

Hiking through the digestive track of a dragon sounded like something we just had to do. This led to a big change of plans.

The Dragon Canyon, my name not the official name, is 8 miles north of Kanab, Utah. We found the trailhead around 11 am. The belly was only a quarter mile tunnel but we followed the canyon for another mile or so after that. The tunnel, as far as I can figure out, was a natural water-carved tunnel that the highway crew that built Highway 89 enlarged. It was fun.

Kind of a fun little tunnel about 8 miles north of Kanab.

The dry gulch that feeds the Belly of the Dragon when it rains.

While we were in the area, we scoped out a couple of BLM dispersed (translated to “free”) campsites in the area north of Kanab. It would provide a closer access to the northern rim of the Grand Canyon and to Zion National Park.

All along highway 89, we saw droves and droves of RVs and giant 5th wheelers. American retirees are on the move. Surprisingly, when we reached the BLM site, called Old 89, it was nearly empty. This was Thursday, nearly the weekend. It was 1 pm, kind of late to even think about moving. But.......

We made a snap spontaneous unplanned decision to run back, get V-Jer, and move over here. The clincher was that we got a decent cell signal at the new site.

By the time we picked V-Jer up and pulled into Old 89, a few more campers had set up. We still found one very big, very level site pretty far from everyone else. Not as pretty as Paria Road, but we had cell signal. It is a sad world we live in when signal trumps beauty.

Friday, 5/14/21: Going, Going, Gone

Here’s the wind up. The pitch. Swing and a miss. He was going for the fences with that big swing but came up empty.

All last evening I studied the North Rim of the Grand Canyon. I knew all the scenic side roads, the best overlooks, and the must-do trails.

We rose at the crack of dawn and lit out for the Grand Canyon. It is 95 miles from our campsite to the rim. The roads are all scenic and a delight in themselves.

About halfway to the rim we gassed up at Jacob Lake. The last 40 miles or so looked pretty desolate and I wanted a full tank of gas. Right after fueling up, we were supposed to turn onto highway 67, but there is a big yellow sign that said Road Closed. WTF!!!

I went back to the gas station to inquire “what gives?” To my astonishment, the road was still closed for the winter season. It opens on May 15 - tomorrow.

In all my research, not one word was mentioned about winter extending until May 15, especially since it was predicted to hit the 90s today. Talk about taking a big swing and a miss.

So, we headed down 89 (Alt) to check out the Vermillion Cliffs National Monument. Highway 89A runs parallel to the cliffs for 60 miles or so. Vermillion is a dark red pigment and these dark red cliffs earned their name.

The Vermillion Cliffs were, well, vermillion.

Here’s the second offering to the batter. He smacked a sharply hit foul.

My map, and even Google Maps promised a canyon trail along the Soap Creek. We found Soap Creek, but there wasn’t a trail. There was an odd little parking lot with several huge hoodoos sitting on top of tiny little mud pedestals. That was interesting enough, but someone a long time ago had built stone huts around and under the oversized hoodoo mushroom caps. The huts were old and decrepit, however you could see what a cool idea it had originally been.

About 3 miles down the road, we found a parking lot with what looked like a vaguely laid out trailhead. We stopped and walked up the gulch canyon. It was a small box canyon. We hit a dead end. It was, well, OK. The area was stunning. The canyon was small. The hike didn’t amount to much. It was definitely a foul ball.

This hoodoo would be a perfect candidate to build a house underneath.

Part of the roof is the mushroom cap of a hoodoo - kind of clever, actually.

Stunning cliffs, but we just couldn’t find a good trail to exploit the beauty.

OK, here comes the third pitch. It’s a knuckle ball. The swing. Wow, did he connect this time. The ball is going, going, gone. A home run.

The eastern corner on the Vermillion Cliffs National Monument abuts to a portion of the Glen Canyon National Recreational Area. Glen Canyon is administered by the BLM. We are starting to appreciate the BLM. Sure they manage all the free dispersed camping, but when they decide to develop an area, they do a great job. And unlike the Forest Service, they have most everything open.

The Glen Canyon Recreational Area is huge and has many parts, not all connected. This part is on the Colorado River below the Lake Powell Reservoir. The Colorado runs wild here. When we reached the boat and raft landing, we saw a couple of rafting expeditions just pulling out. They were on a multi-week trip.

The Glen Canyon National Recreational Area included some gorgeous buttes at the eastern end of the Vermillion Cliffs. It also had some more of those crazy mushroom capped hoodoos.

The jewel of the Glen Canyon Area was the access to the wild section of the Colorado River. From the dam at Page, about 20 miles up river, down through the Grand Canyon, the Colorado runs wild.

So here’s the thing. Down river from the landing were some swift whitewater rapids. Up river was a deep stretch of quiet water. Big boats were zooming up river. It is navigable all the way to the dam, some 20 miles away. There were a couple of outfitters that would run kayakers up river and let them float down. The current, even though it was deep and quiet, was wicked swift.

I looked at the river. I looked up at our kayaks quietly resting on our roof rack. I looked at Wanda. I grinned. “Let’s do it. Let’s put the kayaks in the Colorado River.”

It was still only noon. The temperature had hit 91º. We were told by someone that the water temperature was 48º. I believed it. 10 seconds of wading in the water and my feet were completely numb. We quickly put the kayaks in the water, hooked up our electric motors, and shoved off.

I grinned even wider at Wanda. I blurt out, “We are kayaking the mighty Colorado River.” Granted, we were on quiet water, but that current was cruising at light speed. And, granted, we were using electric motors. Hey, we didn’t have a big tour boat to hall our asses up river. We had to provide our own shuttle.

To fight the current, we used nearly full throttle. The water was amazingly clear. We could see bottom at what appeared to be 20’ down. The cliffs on both sides of the river were tall and gorgeous. Occasionally, there was a sand bar that we could land on, but mostly the cliffs came right to the river’s edge.

I estimate that we got about 5 miles up river. It took nearly 2 hours. The return trip was only 20 minutes of water travel. We stretched it out by landing on a sand bar to picnic and snooze. I put a bottle of sun-heated water in the river while we were on the sand bar. The water in the bottle nicely chilled in 15 minutes.

Wow, it was a beautiful way to spend an afternoon that peaked out at 97º. We barely felt it. Whenever we got warm, we’d dip our hats in the water and return them to our heads. Damn, that water was cold.

OK, that was a home run. Or as Christopher Waltz said in Inglorious Bastards, “That’s a bingo!”

We topped the day off with a delicious bean and cheese burrito plate from a mom’n’pop Mexican restaurant in Page run by a young couple. The cook, a young Hispanic guy, was a magician at the grill. He was lightning fast, yet his movements were so graceful and artistic. The pride he had in his work just exuded. When I gave my compliments to the young lady taking orders, she blushed with thank yous.

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.

Dave and Wanda

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