It's hard to believe - our 2000 Season of research is coming to a close. Arapaho, Roosevelt, Routt, Shoshone, Teton, Bridger, Targhee, Cache, Wasatch, and Manti-LaSal: 10 national forests in four states and 186 campgrounds surveyed. Not as productive as hoped but we are satisfied. Now, it's back home to prepare the Eastern and Rocky Mountain Regions' guides for publication. Although we do enjoy our time on the road, it will feel good to be back home. Suzi is looking forward to long soaks in a tub and Fred to hot showers with almost unlimited hot water. And Tory will enjoy her off-the-leash time in the backyard.
This season has been fill of fun and challenges. Suzi's bout with pneumonia, Fred's giardia, an ear infection for Tory, massive forest fires, flat tires, some falls with assorted bumps, bruises and sprains, and forest service maps - all were challenges for us. But we enjoyed some fabulous hikes, with spectacular views, meeting a zillion super people and getting to hear about their adventures, a wonderful 4th of July, camping in some fantastic places, seeing lots of wildlife up-close-and-personal, "sports bra required" roadways that were almost as good as our hikes, and the list goes on. Yes, it was a good year.
Perhaps we should explain the "sports bra required" remark. Suzi is developing a ranking system for the quality of the various forest service roads we travel. The highest ranking is "no bra required." This would be a paved road with no bumps, lumps, or potholes. The lowest ranking is "Ace bandage required." This is basically a road we have no business on and is used by jeeps or mountain goats. "Training bra," "Cross-your-heart," Underwire," and "Sports" are the in between rankings and we'll let you draw
your own conclusion.
Speaking of roads, we have been very impressed with the quality of the roadways in Utah and the amount of roadway construction going on in this state. While in Salt Lake City area, we assumed it was in preparation for the Olympics. However, we have seen construction or repair everywhere in the state. Even on the back roads we most often use, there are signs of recent work.
We are sure by now you have noticed Suzi's interest in an area's geology. One of the more distressing features to her of all the new highways construction is that roadcuts, through what we assume are less stable rock, are often bolted down and covered with yucky grey cement. Like such action will discourage Mother Nature. Suzi is convinced such pathetic attempts are foolish and limit some of the most interesting sights to be found while traveling.
This past month in Utah has been very interesting and diverse. From the lush near jungle like environment found in the Cache's Logan Canyon (north of Salt Lake City) to the distance horizons of desert land seen from the Manti Mountains near Moab, the state has presented many faces. Delightful warm, dry weather to almost a week of every afternoon rain storms with rumbling thunder and awesome lightning display to snow showers, we have enjoyed a variety of weather, too. We were camped in the Manti Mountains next to a nice little lake in the bottom of a shallow valley. Golden Aspen and spruce encircled the valley at some distance from our camp with a herd of sheep grazing on the sagebrush in between. It was a very pretty. Early morning a storm rolled in and put on awesome light show. It was scarey in an exciting way until we realized the only thing taller than us in this valley was the vault's exhaust pipe - and it was made of plastic! Needless to say, the lightning never got that close. But that storm brought us our first snow fall. We got off the Mountain before there was any real accumulation. Now, we know some of you maybe accustom to snow before Halloween but frankly we find the idea of such an event far more frightening than awesome rain storms.
Just for your information, if any of you travel around the Southwest and hear a local refer to "the Mountain," they aren't talking about a single, specific mountain. This is the way locals identify the "sky-island" type mountain ranges. So, the LaSal Mountain Range, which consists of Haystack, Seeley, and many other mountains, is collectively called "the Mountain."
Utah is very proud of its "Family Friendly" reputation. Day centers abound here as do Senior centers but there was some indications this state is suffering the same ills we have seen across the country. There were several news reports of teen violence. The implications was "gang related." While media projected an impression of surprise, most interesting we think was the blame for increasing "teen" violence is laid directly at the family's doorstep.
Another aspect of the culture in Utah is both the drinking of alcohol and smoking of tobacco are frowned upon. They don't prohibit these activities but you must pay to indulge. Both Scotch and cigarettes are close to double the price we paid back home! But all-in-all it is a small nuisance when stacked up against all the good things we have found. (Did we mention Dutch
Oven cooking in Utah is what bagel baking is to NYC? It is almost like the Utah camper's microwave cooking.) We are looking forward to our return next year to complete Utah and, with a little luck, the Intermountain Region.
We are spending a few days in the Monument Valley in the Four Corners' region (poor Fred's trigger finger is cramping from all the picture taking) than maybe as long as a week in Phoenix researching and pricing diesel trucks, checking out a few upgrades for the trailer, and a new camera for Fred. Than it will be back to Bisbee. We will be in touch.
Suzi and Fred