Utah Desert Solitude…Searching for Swasy’s Leap

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We spent the weekend in the Escalante Staircase National Monument. This is a prehistoric yet wondrously accessible desert in central Utah. If our Commander and creep has his way, this land will be mined out… selling its beauty to the evils of oil and natural gas exploration. Oil fields scattered all over this beautiful landscape. Heavy machinery traveling on the fun back roads we explore in the peace and quiet of this desert.

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At least for now, this is a pristine area that takes you into some of the most ancient exposed rock on earth. The vast panoramas are breathtaking and are the product of millions and millions of years of evolution. More to the point… wind, sand and water. I have traveled to many places in this world and seen many landscapes.
This Utah desert is spectacular and has a history full of intrigue, cowboys, Indians and bandits.

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We set out to find a trail called Swasy’s Leap. It was at the end of some pretty advanced 4WD roads requiring a high clearance vehicle. I can say that the trek in was far easier than the trek out. Funny we never did find where this little bet was waged and the leap was made back in 1800. No problem the 5-6 miles we hiked were rewarding and around every butte was more and more wonder and awe.

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We followed an eighteen year old 4WD Book and a topographical map. The dirt roads go off everywhere. We got off on the road to the trailhead, finally, and maneuvered our Cruzer carefully over the rocky ledges and step downs for 4 miles to the trailhead. The heavy black storm clouds hung around the rocky peaks in the distance, and threatened us with curtains of rain and flashes of lightening. The sun held the storm at bay until we got back to the car and found our remote campsite.

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We unfolded our roof top tent as it got dark with heavy thunder clouds and sought refuge inside the Cruzer as Mother Nature unleashed her fury. We kicked back to wait out the storm and had a well deserved cocktail and laughed at our hike and joked about this kid Swasy, who jumped a crevasse, on his horse, somewhere out there, instead of riding around the damn thing. He got 75 head of cattle for this little stunt, which made him rich and got him written up in the Utah history books.

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The storm passed, gave us a rainbow, and as is usual, the desert sucked up every drop and dried out quickly. We settled in, cooked some dinner and had a fire. Love, love LOVE the desert solitude.

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We were basically “trying out” the remote camping or boon-docking. We have purchased so many new items to get prepared for our upcoming Overlanding adventure. A new Snomaster fridge/freezer, new double battery setup, new suspension and steering components, new Baja full length flat roof rack, we wired and installed a Pure Sine Wave 1750 Watt Inverter. She’s never really been tested out.

I am here to tell you she performed incredibly. The fridge didn’t pull down the AGM spare battery at all. The Inverter worked flawlessly. She stepped up and stepped down rocky trails, got her first brush scratches, rooftop tent was awesome, although a bit hard… but toasty warm.

We spent the weekend talking about how to build out the interior. Wether or not to buy a 4×4 van. The SportsMobiles are very expensive. You can’t drive an ULEV diesel into Central America… the diesel isn’t available, so a lot of the nice big turbo diesel vans are out of the question. Decisions… decisions…

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Day Six: Hiking the Highands of Iceland

I am sure that there is a whole lot more of Iceland we have yet to discover, but our time has come to an end. Today we took a hike in the Highlands in a town called Husafell. It took us to the confluence of two rivers, one a crystal clear glacier river and the other a silica laden river that was the color of ash. The two remained separate until the silica river overcame the crystal river and turned both grey. Oh, and yes, there was a small waterfall…

Last night we soaked in a mineral hotpot, as hot springs are called here. We didn’t have the right method of payment and the people at checkin let us in on our word we would come back and pay in the morning. To keep good karma, we showed up at 13:00 and they had forgotten that we were coming back to pay the $25 or so dollars. The people in this country are so friendly, accommodating, and trusting, we couldn’t, in good conscience, not pay the 2.700 kir for our entrance.

We are off to our last campsite in Reykjavik. It is always sad when a trip comes to an end. I love everything about this country. It’s people, the scenery and the peacefulness. As we drove along the highways back to Reykjavik we traveled from the inland and back through the coastal mountains. The storm that had blown out of the highlands had not broken its hold on the coast yet.

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The incredible sights of the clouds shrouding the mountains and pouring over the tops like waterfalls was awe inspiring. The clouds would pour over and swirl back up to the heavens creating a graceful wave. It was the most incredible thing I had ever seen. The wind was blowing over these mountains and blasting down the slopes and across the road making it a two handed drive all the way back out to the peninsula.

Siri took us right to the campsite and we checked in. These campsites are a brilliant idea. If I had a country to run I’d model the common areas as campsites. The people that come to them are from all over the world. The commonness is the desire to discover new worlds, share experiences and knowledge. There are shared kitchens, bathrooms, showers and of course WIFI. We all claim our space and go about our own experience in the common spaces. If you are open you can meet some very interesting people. It is a broadening of ideas by like minded people.

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I think this is the way to experience Iceland. At every camp, those that are ending their adventure leave all sorts of treasures; half empty fuel cans, jackets, tarps, unused food items, toiletries, blankets and various other sundries. For those traveling on a tight budget these are gold mines. We contributed our half used fuel cans, food items like condiments, to the one here at our last camp just as we took similar items from the camp when we started our trip.

Camping in Iceland is a caring, sharing, and multi-cultural event.

Oh… Its Just Another Waterfall

When one talks about Iceland and points of interest, one must speak about waterfalls. Iceland has around 120 well known, named waterfalls… and thousands of smaller ones that are located on the river gorges,lava fields and underground springs falling over huge basalt cliffs. Some seem to come right out of the ground, others are the product of meandering streams and huge rivers.

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Throughout creation, water has been one of the biggest natural forces on our little blue ball. Iceland has one of the biggest concentrations of these powerful wonders. In Iceland a waterfall is called a “foss”. They range from small wispy ribbons of water, to raging rock crushing torrents. Some cascade peacefully over the basalt and disappear deep into a crevasse, others thunder over tall cliff faces waging war with boulders and flame colored rock. Every year new waterfalls spring up from glacier melt and highland snowmelt

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The Gullfoss is the best known and most visited falls, located on The Golden Circle Road. Glymur is the tallest named falls (122 meters) and can’t be seen without a pretty strenuous hike. The list goes on and on. Each new waterfall has its own character. Each plays a vital roll in the ever changing landscape of this little island known as Iceland.

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Two Miles High: A Rocky Mountain Tail: Chapter Eight

Chapter Eight: Home Sweet Home
I woke up several days later in a much starker environment than when I last was awake. The smell of sterile bed sheets, freshly sweated on pillows and a voice echoing in my brain, “Dr. Granger code blue.” I was in the hospital. No idea how I got here. In a panic I sat straight up and yelled out, “Breeze!” A nurse came rushing in. I was sobbing uncontrollably. “Where’s my dog? He saved my life!” The nurse tried to console me but another came in with a syringe and poked it into my IV and said, “that should work soon.”
I was awakened by a kind soft hand stroking my hair. It was my girlfriend. She was holding my hand and talking softly to me. I opened my eyes and looked at her. Her eyes opened wide and she said, “welcome back traveler.” The doctor came in and also welcome me back and explained I had really done a number to myself and it was a damn good thing I brought my dog along or I might not have made it.
Turns out the gash on my head was very deep and I had cracked my scull and caused a bruise on my brain. He told me I was lucky to be alive. Just then a 70 lbs beast appeared on the bottom of my bed and laid down beside me. He nudged my hand until I pet him. “Good boy” I whispered. The doc said I could go home as soon as I was able to stand on my own. He told me I had been in a coma like state for four days after the medi-vac arrived. He told me I was a lucky woman and that maybe I should not hike alone in conditions like this. I informed him I wasn’t alone and perhaps if I had been with another human there may have been two casualties. He concurred, signed my chart and welcomed me back home.

Two Miles High: A Rocky Mountain Tail: Chapter Seven

Chapter Seven: We’re Going Home

Breeze and I sat down on the side of the trail enjoying some scratches and reciprocating licks. My head pounded in the blazing morning sun. My mouth was getting that Velcro feeling again. Every time I stood up I felt faint and nauseous. I searched for two saplings or strong downed branches I could use to steady myself as I hiked the last few miles. Of course there was no guarantee we would find anybody at the lake, but it was a favorite camp spot for many hikers.

I played songs in my head as I hiked on. Breeze would come run circles around me and run off ahead. Each step corresponded with the pounding in my head. My mouth was a desert and I envisioned the lake just a few steps ahead. The sun was blazing and I just wanted to drop my pack and lie down in the cool shady areas just off the trail. I came upon another stream and I had a literal panic attack. Although it was not rushing as fast and was not nearly as wide I froze in my tracks.

I am not sure what happened. When I came to, breeze was lying beside me. I could hear the stream. I opened my eyes and the shadows had grown long and shaded the trail. I was lying on my side in a crumpled up lump of human and backpack with my dog curled up beside me. I sat up and was reminded of my head again. I focused on the stream and knew there was no going back. Breeze ran a circle around me and bounded across the stream with ease. I struggled to get to my feet without passing out and moved forward one slow step at a time until I was on the other side of the stream.

I looked at my watch… 4:55pm. I had been out for hours. I dropped my pack and dug out my pot. I chugged down seven or eight pots of water until I thought I would puke. I doused my aching head with pots full of water. It was icy cold and I could feel my swollen eyes and hair matted with blood as I wiped my face and wrung out my hair. I stood up and pointed my body in the direction it needed to go and demanded it to move forward. Everything took so much effort.

I walked in a trancelike state for what seemed like hours. In my blurry gaze I saw a sliver of blue. I opened my eyes wider and stopped. As things came into focus I could see the lake. I had made it. I sat on a rock that was just the right height as to not make me bend over or sit too far down and listened. I could hear the birds, the stream entering the lake, and the rustling of the wind in the trees. I scanned the horizon and followed the outline of the lake for a wisp of smoke. I unhooked my pack and let it fall to the ground. I hadn’t the energy to move another inch.

As the sun dropped below the ridge, I could hear the sound of the brookies jumping out of the water scooping up the larve of the night insects. I opened my eyes again and a quarter the way around the lake I saw two figures come out of the woods and enter the water, fishing poles in hand. I attempted to yell, nothing but a grunt came out. I attempted to stand up but my legs failed to support my weight. Breeze came over as if to sense my urgency. I told him to “go get the men” and pointed at the figures in the water. He cocked his head as I said it again, looked over his shoulder, then took off. I closed my eyes and listened intently. I could hear Breeze barking crazy and splashing around in the water. I could hear the voices of the men calling to him. I blacked out again.

I heard a commotion in my brain. I was in some other realm of consciousness. The roar in my ears grew silent and I heard voices. I felt the wet licks in my ear and on my face. I felt a cold splash of water and I opened my eyes. There were men standing all around me. I found Breeze sitting beside me and stroked his fur, “good boy I muttered”, and passed out again as I heard a voice say, “we’re gonna get you out of here.”

Two MIles High: A Rocky Mountain Tail: Chapter Five

Chapter Five: In the End… It’s the Little Things That Matter

Dawn comes early this time of year. Over twenty four hours have passed since I woke up in my own bed, complaining about how hot it was. Since I had a good breakfast and double checked my pack and called everyone on my team of drivers. This morning I am lying here awake wondering which way to go? Forward or back? Do I call in a rescue if I can get the Garmin to work? I still need to find the trail before I can decide which way to go. I sat up and looked around.

Breeze was lying with all fours in the air, head cocked towards me and smiling, tongue hanging out the side of his mouth. I looked around and all I could see was dead trees. I struggled to get to my feet as I swooned as I attempted to stand. My head was pounding with the worse headache I have ever had. I am pretty sure I have a concussion or something. I sip down the rest of the water I boiled the night before but it did nothing to quench my thirst. I dug through my pack and laid out my clothes on a few dead trees anticipating the sun to come over the ridge soon. I pulled out another bag of food, boiled some more water and made breakfast.

Breeze had taken off to do whatever it is he needs to do. I sat down and enjoyed my meal. I sipped down two more pots of boiled water over the next hour and called for Breeze. I hear him bounding through the trees and he arrives with a squirrel in his jaws. He gently places it in front of me and gives it a nudge. I pick it up and checked it out for bugs or whatever lives on squirrels. Seemed pretty clean and was obviously killed by the dog. I dug in my pack again and found my Leatherman, yes the one I was bitching about. I carefully slit the belly of the squirrel open and gutted and skinned it like I saw on Bear Grylls. I stoked the fire and stuck it on a spit I cut from a nearby live tree. It smelled a little like chicken and tasted like a rabbit I had eaten once on a dare. I gave Breeze the head and a back leg along with another couple scoops of his canned food. We both sat back against a tree and felt the life course back into our veins.

I took my trail towel and cut a slice off it to wrap around my head to reduce the headache and close my wound a bit. I checked my watch… 3:45pm. The sun had been overhead for most of the day and I had dried out everything quite nicely. I had to take a few cat naps in between the rotisserie of my belongings. Breeze would take off and come back to check on me every so often. He’d kiss my face and nudge me awake. Probably a good thing with a head injury. I decided I needed to drink a bit more water and be off by 6 pm.

I packed all my belongings into my tattered pack and hoisted it onto my back and decided I needed to head north. Since as far as I could see was dense trees and acres of dead trees standing, fallen to the ground in huge tangles and ones leaning on other dead ones. I choose my direction carefully and wound my way over under and through the forest, so as to avoid as many climbing challenges as possible. The dead leaning trees creaked eerily as the wind blew. It was getting near dark again I still had yet to find the trail.

Tired and hungry, burning with thirst again, head pounding at a dizzying level, I decided to find a camp spot. Breeze was eagerly bouncing about running back and forth from me to an unseen area of the forest. I followed his lead and the trees opened up into a yellow meadow of flowers. There were two 15 foot Aspen trees standing at 15 feet apart. I threw down my pack at the base of one and pulled out my tent and set it up between the two. I love the sound of the aspen leaves in the evening air. I gathered wood and presto I had fire. There was a small trickle of a mountain spring not too far from camp and I boiled as much water as I could before the sun went down then used the last bit in another gourmet freeze dried meal.

Two Miles High: A Rocky Mountain Tail: Chapter Four

Chapter Four: How Dumb Does a Dumb Dog Get?

It was an hour past dark when I finally got through the maze of trees. I found an opening with some soft grass and laid out my sleeping bag and attempted to set up my bivouac. I found my headlamp to be in working order and sought out some dry wood and kindling to get a small fire. My water bottle had been stripped off the pack so all I had to drink out of, carry water in and collect water to boil, was a bit bigger than a good size coffee mug. I thought at least I could get a fire, boil some water and eat a freeze dried meal, I’d be set for tonight at least. I already had a headache and cotton mouth, I felt like my tongue was Velcro and the top of my mouth it’s mate. I was in pretty bad shape… and scared.

In my little safety bag I carry some flint and steel and drier lint soaked in wax. It’s never done me wrong in the past. If I could get a miracle tonight I would sleep much better and stand a chance of making it through the freezing cold night. I smiled at myself as I thought… glad I’m not naked and afraid.

I struck the flint and steel once, twice and the third time a small flame came to life. I held my breath and fed it gingerly. It grew into life and I cried. I sobbed like a little baby. I suddenly heard a crashing coming through the brush and I looked up just in time to see beady red eyes barreling down on me. I braced for impact as I saw it leap into the air. I fell over from the blow and suddenly had a face full of slobber and a very wet 70 lbs of utter joy laying on top of me. “Breeze! You dumb dog… I am so glad to see you.”

I went to my pack and pulled out a small can of dog food I stashed away in case of an emergency. I popped the lid open and dug out a few scoops onto the ground and Breeze scarfed it up in one gulp. “Enjoy your food silly… pickins are getting slim.” I pulled out my little pot and went over to the edge of the swamp and filled it with water. Thirty minutes later I was enjoying a meal made for a king… freezer dried eggs and bacon that was way too salty for my dehydrated state. My mouth filled itself with a spring of saliva as I took a bite.

After my meal I boiled another pot of water, stoked the fire, double checked everything was put away… this is bear country… and Breeze and I covered ourselves up with my slightly drier sleeping bag and passed out.