Another corner of Utah for us to explore: Flaming Gorge. We left Friday after work, late in August, and drove out to Vernal, then went up and up and up into the Uintas. The night air immediately became cool and fresh, and we saw white aspens lit by our headlights. We drove uphill through some amazing canyons, but sadly couldn't see the scenery (which was fine because we saw it on the way back instead). We camped with our friends the Andersons at Firefighter's Memorial campground in the Flaming Gorge National Recreation Area.
The first night was gorgeous. Perfectly clear skies, even though it had been cloudy hours before. We set up our tent at dark, trying to keep quiet so sleeping kids would remain sleeping. Oey was wide awake and wandered around, until Amy starting scratching and rubbing his back--her sweet motherly camping tradition that never fails. We slept without the rainfly so we could watch the stars all night. I unzipped the front tent flap and stood there--in the tent--with my binoculars, contemplating the skies. I saw Jupiter and its four moons, tons of mind-expanding star clusters, and deep in Sagittarius I saw the Lagoon and Trifid nebulae. Amazing night.
Our tent in our beautiful campsite. We set it up at 11 pm. No rainfly.
it was quite lovely there
Next morning we awoke and had breakfast with the crew. This is tradition for the Andersons, and they come with a group of friends. Mealtime was well-planned (and well-executed), and everyone brought something for the many meals. We made friends, played and explored until it was time to go to the river.
The Green River used to flow freely. Now it's stopped by the massive Flaming Gorge Dam. The reservoir fills up 91 miles of canyon. The river's now very clear and cold, because it flows out the very bottom of the reservoir, and all the sediment is caught up behind the dam. It's changed the whole ecosystem. But regardless of dam-dislike, the dam is still an engineering wonder, and pretty amazing to see. We drove over the top of it, dropped the kids and ladies off down by the river below to play, and then some of the guys ran a shuttle down to Little Hole. Little Hole is right across the river from where Powell made camp with his men. Beautiful and lush down there. Although much of the forest on the hills was burnt in a fire a few years back, but it's all recovering nicely.
(You'll notice that all the river pictures are hazy, not as high-quality. We brought a less-valued camera with us on the river itself. So forgive the lack of visual clarity.)
Rafts out on the water. Amy and the kids and the Andersons are in the boat that looks like it's about to float away. I was running down to meet them.
The river flows slowly; the water's cold and nice. There was some cloud cover, and we even got rained on a few times, but we didn't mind the strange weather--it just added to the experience. We all swam at some point. We stopped a few times so some of the guys could fish. Dave caught two but both got away. We ate sandwiches in our rafts tethered to the shore. I hiked up halfway up a hill and sat on a rock outcropping, then hiked upstream and swam down to our boats. Jarom loved watching Dave fish. He kept asking and asking to use the fishing pole. Now when we see ponds, lakes, rivers, etc., he says, "I want to go fishing here sometime." It's pretty cute. The kids all got along well and had tons of fun on the river. Oey loves water; this was his first rafting trip! Rafting at 1 1/2, much earlier than the other babes.
all excited in their new pfds
Oey's first rafting trip! You can just see the awe in his odd expression.
a beauty in the canyon
raindrops on the water
a video of the rain
our pretty little Red Canyon
look at this happy rafter, hand on the paddle, ready to go
stopped for lunchtime
While Dave was fishing with his little shadows . . .
. . . the girls were chatting, and I climbed up and sat on these rocks (you can kindof see me) . . .
. . . and then Dave caught a fish! He had it for a few seconds before it flopped away. Be free, trout!
token raft backflip
we were treated to this view for much of the river
the kids always found the water fascinating
At this point Bella was saying, "Come on, why am I the only one working? No one else is doing anything!" It was pretty much the first time she paddled.
one of our other stops, on a little beach with sand and cliffs behind it
Helping Oey paddle. This may have been the most fun he had.
True love. (Sorry for all the Matt/Orion combo photos, but Amy had the camera a lot of the time and there were just a lot! And she's much better and taking people photos than I am.)
the Queen of the Bucket-boat
When we got to the end of the seven-mile stretch, I realized both Jarom and Collin hadn't been in the water yet, so I sneaked up on them and threw them in. I didn't realize what a fight they'd put up, and in the process we snapped *both* of Dave's fishing poles. Pathetic. Dave didn't mind that much, considering he wanted them in the water as badly as any of us.
broken fishing poles?
That night we hung out, ate dinner, and made a late-evening walk to a memorial overlooking the forest, commemorating three firefighters who died while fighting a forest fire in the 70s. We put the rainfly back on our tent because it was still overcast. It was cloudly, but Jupiter broke through just enough so that the kids could use the binoculars and try to see its moons. That and a satellite soaring by were highlights of the evening.
The next day we went our separate ways. We first went to the dam visitors center. Oey picked out a tiny horse figurine that he still loves. That kid's a horse fanatic. Then we drove to the old Swett Ranch on the way out. A family lived here through the first half of the 20th century. Three of their homes are on the site, and you can see the transition from one-room cabin to two-room cabin to a bigger home. Two old rangers sat outside the home, coloring river-worn rocks which they sold from .50 to 2.00--we bought three! They were very kind and informative, and showed us around the cabins. Jarom loved the old granary--a "ruin"--because we could go inside without any supervision. The scenery was breathtaking and you could just picture the muscle-driven farmwork going on here only sixty years ago or so.
The view at the Swett Ranch. Could you imagine living here?
the kids at the old granary, their favorite building on the site
inside the granary
displaying the rocks we got from the vigorous-yet -aged rangers
We headed back on the scenic byway--everything up here's beautiful, did I mention that?--down to Vernal. Everyone fell asleep. I was excited for our last stop, an amazing, world-class petroglyph site up Dry Fork Canyon outside of Vernal. It's on private property, the McConkie Ranch, but they have kindly made it accessible and donation-optional. A small shack has an on-your-honor fridge from which you can buy sodas and water, and there are thousands of post-it notes taped up, with comments from visitors. There are two trails, but we really only had time to do one. We took the less-traveled Three Kings trail, which winds a half-mile along the sandstone cliffs. Petroglyphs are around every single corner. At the end, there is a huge panel way up on the cliffs that you can only see with binoculars (or a good zoom). When we got back to the car we were hot and tired, and the drive home was relaxing. There can't have been a better way to spend the weekend.
the info shack at the McConkie Ranch
One of the post-it walls. Amy took this, of which I'm glad, because the whole place was decorated up like this, and it was pretty amazing.
crossing the fence-bridge (?) on the Three Kings trail
Our first sample of the petroglyphs to come. These all had individual names, but instead of trying to identify each of the many individual panels, we just took them all in as they came at us.
There were many anthropomorphs like this (as you can see). This is the foremost site for Fremont rock art.
big as small children
here's that one again (sorry, I had uploaded two, so why not)
her trademark curtsy
This pictures (and the one below) shows how beautiful it was. I loved the sun that was out, plus the dark menacing clouds and the blues and greys. You can see some petroglyphs in the lower right.
I loved this guy. His skirt/loincloth was made of many circular peck-marks.
This is the actual Three Kings panel. This is a deep zoom, because the panel's located on a very high outcropping past the end of the trail. So apparently you're not supposed to hike up there, though I wanted to badly (and will do so someday). So what you're seeing here . . .
. . . is zoomed in from here (look in the upper center-right)
Walking back. Amy's holding her tumbleweed-umbrella. Oey was quite sad that he didn't have a tumbleweed.
a group of cows
amy and o
I posted this picture for Amy. It was windy, and she said she loved the way the wind was throwing our hair around.