Saturday, September 25, 2010

Slot Canyon Heaven

The past 2 days have mostly been spent hiking in some fantastic slot canyons in southeastern Utah. Yesterday we went into Buckskin Gulch which is east of Kanab and just north of the Arizona border. A big thanks to my brother Alex for suggesting this hike. It was a combination of "narrows", slots and more typical canyon hiking. The top photo with Marty in it captures a sense of the at times enclosed canyon with the reflected sunlight, and rock textures and colors. Over a 5 hour, 8 mile hike, we saw about 20 other hikers, 4 of whom were doing several day camping hikes.

After our hike, we drove 4 hours north to get to Boulder, UT in order to have dinner at what many consider to be the best restaurant in the area. It is called Hell's Backbone Grill, and is part of the Boulder Mountain Lodge. Hwy #12 is the route you take to get from Bryce Canyon over to Boulder. The section of the road from Escalante to Boulder takes your breath away as you drive thru 20 miles of some of the finest slick rock country in Utah. The long drive and magnificent scenery had us more than ready for a good meal.

The restaurant emphasizes the use of locally produced foods. We all had the house salad which was greens with pumpkin seeds, dehydrated corn, sliced plum and edible flowers. We also had the smoked local trout pate and instead of quacamole, we tried their zucamole made with zucchini squash. Entrees were a ribeye steak shared by me and Marty, and roast chicken eaten by Craig. The desserts were a perfect chocolate pot de creme, and a superb bread putting. Our wines were Dry Creek sauvignon blanc and King Estate pinot gris by the glass followed by a 2006 Bucklin Old Hill zinfandel. The latter was outstanding.

After spending the nite in Torrey, 45 miles up the road from Boulder, we drove about an hour north to an area west of Hwy 24 and south of I-70. We did an 8 mile circle hike beginning in Little Wild Horse canyon and finishing in Bell canyon. The 2nd photo from the top is of 2 of 4 big horn sheep that appeared as we were about to enter the canyon. The 3rd photo down with Craig in it gives you a feel of the narrowness of the slot sections we hiked thru today. They were far tighter than anything we saw yesterday in Buckskin. For the 1st couple of hours we saw no other hikers. Over the next 2 hours we met about 20 people, with more than 1/2 of them being some boys and 3 men who were leading the group.

We hiked from 10AM to 2PM, and then drove over to Moab, Ut to visit Arches NP, and have dinner. The 4th photo from the top is of delicate arch which we visited before going to dinner at the Desert Bistro. My wife and I had eaten here back in 2006 when I last visited Moab. Our starters were the house greens salad and a quickly seared piece of ahi tuna in a teriyaki like sauce. The tuna had just been flown in today by Fedex. Craig and Marty both had breast of pheasant encrusted in pine nuts with a lingonberry sauce, and wild rice. I had the quail quesadillas with mango slices and quacamole. We shared a bottle of 2007 Robert Sinskey pinot noir from Carneros. We passed on dessert so that we could drive back up to Arches NP at dusk. The bottom photo above is of landscape arch barely visible in the fading light.

The birds seen for the past 2 days have been somewhat limited. The highlights today were a say's phoebe, a nashville warbler, a green-tailed towhee and a golden eagle. Today is Friday so it is the beginning of a new week--#39. 13 birds were seen. Tonite we are staying in Grand Junction, CO. Tomorrow morning we are going to visit Colorado National Monument before making the drive thru the rockies to get to Denver. Stay tuned!

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