September 21st, 2015: Of Pictographs and Waterfalls

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We are now getting settled into our first Campground Host position, at Calf Creek Recreation Area, inside Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument, in southern Utah. We jumped right into work the day after our arrival – on a busy Friday. The days since have since been full of cleaning campsites, checking the restrooms, answering questions and most of all, helping people park. We’ve jokingly said that we’re not really Park Hosts, but more ParkING hosts. The parking lot gets pretty full with limited parking, so we’ve been parking folks in the entry road leading back up the hill towards the Highway, helping to avoid traffic jams in our little corner of the world.

This is such an amazing setting. We are in a deep canyon surrounded on all sides by towering “Navajo Sandstone” walls.

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When one passes on the high, climbing highway beyond we are the teeny Airstream down in the parking lot. The light on the canyon walls is stunning to observe throughout the day. On many evenings we have parked our camp chairs behind the Airstream to watch the light change on the stone as the sun sets.

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And then, when the stars come out, OMG, it’s simply amazing to behold! The skies are so light pollution-free that one immediately sees the Milky Way, then as eyes adjust maybe a shooting star or a satellite passing overhead. This remote land is said to have some of the best stargazing in the country. Think about that dry desert air and you can imagine how sharp the points of light are.

Yesterday, since it was a Monday following a very busy weekend, we decided to strike out and see Lower Calf Creek Falls. This is the main attraction at this Recreation Area, and most people that visit hike the 3-4 hour, 6 mile roundtrip trail. The trail is mostly flat and sandy, carrying one up the canyon past stunning rock formations and some other surprises. We knew what to expect, but were still amazed once we reached the Pictograph viewpoint. Across the canyon, are three large figures painted with red pigment. With their trapezoidal shape, depiction of arms and legs, and elaborate head dresses, these images are typical of the culture known as the Fremont. Archeologists speculate that it may represent significant events, religious ceremonies, deities, lineages, maps or even warnings.

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There are also supposed to be Fremont culture granaries high on the canyon walls, but they are so well camouflaged that we could not spot them. Maybe next time. Finally, at the end of the hike, one enters a wetland zone. Cattail, common reed, river birch, cottonwood, false soloman’s seal, and willow are among the plants thriving in the bottom of the canyon. As one rounds the bend the sound of water picks up and you soon realize you are listening to a waterfall.

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The waterfall is 126 feet tall, and emanates from many springs above the Upper Falls. Mist from the falls and the tall canyon walls create a much cooler zone here, and the walls flanking the falls are covered in maiden hair ferns. We could have stayed for hours, just gazing at the falls and watching the patterns of the falling water and mist. Mandy even swam in, although it was very cold.

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We would like to come back in a rainstorm to see other waterfalls that appear on the canyon walls. Water is such a precious commodity here in the high desert, and it is very unusual to see so much of it in one place. I am writing now to the sound of Calf Creek running through the campground, which is also in a rich riparian zone.

By the way, Sophie says “mrrroowww” (“hi”). In many ways she is the real leader of the Silver Chariot crew.  IMG_3553

conlan smith

so much to say, so much to see

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