Friday, February 26, 2010

Canaan Mountain Country (Rough & Rugged)

The Canaan Peak sits smack dab in the middle of the Grand Staircase National Monument. From the vantage point of Canaan Peak you have one of the most spectacular views of the lower end of the Grand Staircase that this country has to offer. If you are anything like me, who has been in love with this country before it was put on the map and deemed a monument, the spectacle from Canaan Peak is a must see. The chance to see this rugged and wild country from 9,183 feet is incredible.

Like many of the other Back Country Ramblings the Canaan has a little history along the trail. One of the first stops along the way to Canaan Peak is the remnants of the old Silver Dollar Sawmill. The sawmill was run by Vern Rappley in the late 1930’s and into the 50’s. He was originally a trucker who ran through this country and thought that there was a market for lumber. During his hauls through this expansive country he took note that there was an abundance of Yellow Pine around Canaan Mountain. He set up shop along the trail that now leads to the Canaan Mountain Peak. Today there are few remnants of the sawmill and its operation. All that is left are a few wood chips and a beat up old truck.

Along with the sawmill operation a few other locals ran sheep in the summertime grazing the summer grass over the hills and canyons of the rugged Canaan Mountain country. Sam Graff, Sam Pollcok and WJ Henderson were some of the biggest outfits that ran through this country back in those days. I am not aware if any of the descendants of these ol’ boys still run sheep in this country anymore. However, like the sawmill, there are a few bits and pieces left letting the future generations know that the operation ever existed. The picture below is of an old hollowed out log that use to act as a water trough, catching the slow dips of water from the few seeps in these mountains.

On a clear day from the peak of Canaan Mountain you can see, Powell Point, the rim of Bryce Canyon, the red rocks of Kodachrome, Mollys Nipple, Grovner Arch, down through Cottonwood, the Wahweep, Navajo Mountain and the smoke from the Page Power Plant. If you are planning to make the venture to the top of the Canaan you had better plan to Hike, ride a horse or drive an ATV. The first part of the road, in good weather conditions, can be made in a four wheel drive vehicle. However the last few miles, once you really start climbing, would be really tough, if not impossible in a full sized vehicle.

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(below is a picture along the road to Cannan Peak through the trees )

(below is Canaan Peak) 

 (below is Navajo Mountain as seen from Canaan Peak)

(below is Powell as seen from the Silver Dollar Sawmill)

(below is a shot of Mollys Nipple and much of the lower end of the Grand Staircase National Monument)

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Grosvenor Arch

Grosvenor Arch is one Back Country Ramble that no one should go without seeing. The Arch is set in one of the most beautiful parts of the country and is surrounded by beauty on every side. Grosvenor Arch is set in the middle of the Grand Staircase Nation Monument and to me is one of the highlights of the monument (of course not getting into the politics of the monument itself). When standing beneath this towering arch you can see the pink cliffs of Bryce Canyon, you drive by Kodachrome State Park, and are well on your way to Cottonwood Canyon and the Wahweep, all places that need to be a mark on your map as places to see.

According to the US Geologic Survey Grosvenor Arch is 152 feet high and 99 feet wide. The roughly 11 miles of  rough road out to Grosvenor Arch can be a little treacherous in bad weather however, even in good weather I recommend a four wheel drive vehicle. If you choose not to take my advice on that at least take me on this, no question, a high clearance vehicle with good suspension is a necessity. Once you leave the trail head at the Kodachrome turnoff, and hit the dirt road that leads to Grovenor Arch, you will learn to appreciate or hate your vehicles ride. I don't know if its the state, county or the BLM, but whomever it is, they have given up on doing much maintenance on this road. None the less this massive geologic treasure is well worth the beating it takes to get out there.

Like many other great natural treasures in the U.S. Grosvenor Arch has a back story. I must state that I am a little bias due to the fact that this Back Country Ramble is close to a place I call my second home,but none the less I will tell the story that I know, take it or leave it. Grosvenor Arch really came into the spot light or to be well known to those outside of Garfield County, from the 1949 National Geographic article, "First Motor Sortie into Escalante Land". This article documents the trip of a group of people exploring the back country searching for the unknown (or at least unknown to them). They stumbled upon what is now known as Kodachrome State Park and Grosvenor Arch. In the article it states that they asked the locals if there were any arches in the area and the locals told them none that they knew of. So with this mind set they set to make their mark on history.

The first place they "found" was Kodachrome. This is an excerpt from one of the people on the trip about the place, "It was a beautiful and fantastic country. A mile to the left near the base of the cliff I could see red pinnacles thrust up from the valley floor. The few natives who had been here called this area "Thorny Pasture," But we renamed it "Kodachrome Flat" because of the astonishing variety of contrasting colors in the formations". As a photographer I guess I can appreciate the excitement of the variety of colors so I guess I can cut some slack. This next line to me is a treasure, "Our highest expectations were soon realized. What we saw was an arch--a new arch uncharted and unnamed!". The reason that I like this line is because I know a lot of the locals and all of them new the place as Wahweep Arch, however I guess that was not glamorous enough for these new travelers into the established countryside of Garfield County. The following line from the National Geographic article describes the scene better than I could so I will just quote it here, "This striking natural bridge is carved from creamy rock, a rarity in a land of brilliant reds. Actually, it is a double arch, with the larger span on the end of a buttress that juts from the main sandstone butte. Near the anchor end, wind has blasted a smaller hole through the buttress."

Well now if that doesnt get you stoked to go and visit this incredible geologic formation I don't know what would. So next time you plan your trip to Bryce Canyon make sure that you take the detour through Cannonville and head on down the road to see the amazing Wahweep Arch or as its more commonly known, Grosvenor Arch.

Vicinity Destinations
Wahweep, Cottonwood Canyon, Bryce Canyon, Kodachrome State Park, Round Valley Narrows,

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As a side note I have found the National Geographic Magazine with this article and have purchased it. When it arrives I will scan some of the pictures and possibly the article and post it here. Also as I go back and visit Grosvenor Arch I will add more pictures

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Historic Babylon

Historic Babylon is nothing but the fading remnants of an old mining settlement placed in the middle of the red sandstone desert. My knowledge of this place is actually quite limited since this back country ramble is a recent discovery for me. From what little I have gathered about this bygone mining venture is that is was a small mining settlement in the late 1870's and 80's on the Virgin River. The little knowledge that I have come across I gathered from a few locals but most the historical information came from the Washington County Historical Societies website. They also have a scan of a cool article from the Spectrum with a picture of the original settlement. Click here to see the article

One of the nice things about this back country ramble is that it is not far off I-15 at the Leeds exit in Utah. This is also the same exit to Silver Reef, another cool spot to visit. The road leading to Historic Babylon is dirt so you will most likely need a high clearance vehicle. The old mill site, Stormont Mill, sits right on the Virgin River so once you get close to the mill there are places where you will probably need four-wheel drive to make it through the sand.

Another cool thing about this back country ramble is that along the road to Babylon there are other cool natural history and cultural items along the way. The two coolest, in my opinion, are some dinosaur tracks and petroglyphs or Indian writing. You can also see some of the remnants of the old houses left from those who lived at the mining settlement.


I highly recommend this trip for anyone who is in the St George area or near Leeds Utah. This would also be a nice compliment to a trip to Silver Reef.


Vicinity Destinations
Silver Reef, Red Cliffs Desert Reserve, Johnson Farm(Dinosaur Tracks)

Please note that this map only takes you part of the way to the mill site. If you turn the satellite imagery on you can follow the road down to the river and see the remnants of the mill on the imagery.

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