Saturday, November 21, 2015

La Sal Traverse: La Sal Pass

October 8, 2015
Day 2

"Climb the mountains and get their good tidings. Nature's peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees. The winds will blow their own freshness into you, and the storms their energy, while cares will drop away from you like the leaves of Autumn."
--John Muir

From La Sal Creek, we descended into La Sal Pass and sauntered through the forests. We went to Beaver Lake and then Medicine Lake, where we were greeted by hunters on their ATVs. We ate lunch along the shore with splendid views of Tukuhnikivatz and Peale reflected in the glassy water. As cows grazed on the other side of the lake, we lounged in the grass all day beside its waters, sunbathing, napping and reading the New Testament. Slowing down at Medicine Lake and being away from society was truly the best medicine ever. Rather than hurry off, we stayed the whole night. We watched a spectacular sunset, gazed at the Milky Way, and built a raging fire. I collected several "chunkers" and threw them in the fire with a maniacal laugh. Caught up in this pyro moment, I forgot all about the cold. Meanwhile across the lake, other campers threw lighting fluid on their fire and sent the flame up to 20 or 30 feet high! I think all of us who were at Medicine Lake that night would agree - fire is fun.

Story of the day told, here are some pictures...

Mount Peale.

Looking eastward toward mesas and San Juan mountains in Colorado.

South Mountain.

Mount Peale and Beaver Lake.

Mount Tukuhnikivatz.
On a forest road, with South Mountain in background.

Mount Peale.

Arriving at Medicine Lake, complete with ATVs and a scenic outhouse!

Our lunch view - Tukuhnikivatz to left, Peale to right.

And that's how Day 2 went.

La Sal Traverse: South Mountain

October 7, 2015
Day 1

"The mountains are calling and I must go."
--John Muir

The mountains had been calling to me for months, taunting me, staring down upon Moab every day. Freebird returned to town in October after hiking the Pacific Northwest Trail. Once he was settled in, I took off a week from work to hike the La Sals with him, right in the peak of autumn. Only a few days before leaving, the peaks received a dusting of snow - an added bonus! 

Connie and Queequeg drove us and the rest of the dogs to the south end of the La Sals to begin our northbound jaunt. We would all hike Doe Canyon together, then Connie and the dogs would return to Moab as we continued on through Pole Canyon, hearing the bugling of the elk and meeting the hunters they were hiding from. It was a drastic rise in elevation, or so it felt to me anyway with our packs fully loaded with food. We would then circle around South Mountain to an overlook of La Sal Pass and the middle section (there are three sections - north, middle, south) of the La Sals for sunset. The next day, we would drop into this pass. Some hunters from Oklahoma kindly informed us about the upcoming La Sal Creek, just below from where we had watched sunset. This was our first encounter with water on the trail, just when we needed it. We camped above the creek, serenaded by coyotes in the distance as we went to sleep.

Here are some pictures from that day...

South Mountain.

Starting up the Doe Canyon trail, through a patch of golden aspens.

Last break taken with Harvard, Queequeg, Dinga, and Connie before they turned around.
Hiking up Pole Canyon trail, with South Mountain peering out of the clouds.

Stopping to look at the map as we begin to circle South Mountain. Views to the south of Pole Canyon, the town of La Sal and a thunderstorm passing us.

After looping around South Mountain, we stood above La Sal Pass and watched the sunset glow on the middle section of the La Sals. This rugged face just off of Mount Peale is considered probably the most technical and dangerous climb in the entire range.

Mount Peale, the tallest La Sal peak at 12,721 feet.

Mount Tukuhnikivatz, the third tallest peak at 12,482 feet.
At dusk we filled up on frigid water at La Sal Creek, ate dinner, and went to bed, thus ending our first day in the La Sals.

Best Friends

August 18, 2015

On the road, somewhere after our stop in Blanding.

Before the sun rose at 5 AM, Jolene picked me up. She was on a mission to rescue three dogs in Blanding and get them to a new home. Best Friends, the first and largest no-kill shelter in this country, had some room and agreed to take them. It would be quite a drive to Kanab (with all our stops it took 8 hours) but a beautiful experience nonetheless. Not only were we getting to transport these dogs to a more loving future, but I also received the gift of hearing Jolene's stories of animal rescues over the years. These tales seemed countless as shared them for most of the journey!

Over an hour later we arrived in Blanding. First we tried to pick up, whom Jolene dubbed Sir Aries Bounce-a-Lot, outside someone's home. The family who kept this large, rambunctious puppy in their front yard, loose, refused to even feed and water him. Jolene's friend and fellow animal rescuer, Sheila, would bring by food every day for him. The family was approving of us taking him, however, he was challenging to capture. He wanted so much to be close to us, yet he didn't trust us; he was a bit feral and would run away. One of the other three rescues was his mom, and she was located at Sheila's house. We knew that it would be easier to catch Sir Aries if she were there.

We drove over to Sheila's, where I got to meet this woman with a heart of gold. At her house, she was taking care of the other two rescues. She and her husband loaded them up - the mother, Sophia Loren (definitely quite a beauty), and another handsome dog, Charlie "Low Rider" Brown.

We brought them back to Sir Aries, who was bouncing about, excited to see us again yet still apprehensive of us. Sheila let Sophia out of their truck to lure him in. It took some time, but not as much as expected. Soon Aries was roped and all the dogs were loaded into Jolene's SUV. About a half hour after arriving in Blanding, we were back on the road with our "hitchhikers," as Jolene lovingly referred to them. She sure has a knack for picking up hitchhikers, as that's how we met a few months ago!

Charlie "Low Rider" Brown (photo courtesy of Jolene).
Mother and son - Sophia Loren at top, Sir Aries Bounce-a-Lot below.

We made a few sporadic pauses for moonflowers and awe-inspiring desertscapes but stayed on the move most of the time, for on midsummer mornings, it doesn't take long for the sun to heat up the car. Understandably the dogs hated the cages, and we had to get them to Kanab.

Jolene doing something else she does best - photography.

One of many Navajo jewelry stands near Monument Valley.

A famous spot for photos of Monument Valley. I joined the horde of tourists standing in the middle of the road, after observing them almost getting run over by a group of motorcycles. 

As we passed through the Navajo Reservation, we saw a mom and puppies on the side of the road. Jolene was torn up because she wanted to rescue them too. However for many reasons including the fear that they could pass on diseases to the other dogs with us, we didn't stop. She was enraged that they were living like this and couldn't understand why some humans abuse or neglect animals or simply turn their heads away. "Whether animals or humans, it's all life!" she exclaimed.

Passing through Kayenta, Arizona.

Navajo Mountain.

Glen Canyon Dam.

We passed through Kanab and went straight to Best Friends. We made it there by 1 PM, as everyone was returning from lunch break. This sanctuary is amazing. I visited last fall, went on their free tour, and was very impressed (see post about my stay in Kanab last year). It's a wonderful feeling that they were able to accept the three, provide them with the care that they need, and will send them away to loving homes. We suspected Sophia of becoming recently pregnant, and yet they never turned her or the potential puppies away either. That's incredible since they only have limited space.

The visitors' center and garden.

We brought the three to a clinic, where they were thoroughly tested before admittance. Charlie went off to another room and was as happy and carefree as could be. We stayed with Sophia and Aries, who were terrified. As we awaited the results, Jolene comforted them. Though they were scared, we could tell that they knew they were in a better place now.

In the end, all three were accepted and would undergo various treatments and training before being adopted into new homes. Before leaving Best Friends, we checked in with Charlie one last time. He was having a blast meeting all the workers there. Still no worries from him!

We said farewell to Charlie "Low Rider" Brown, Sophia Loren, and Sir Aries Bounce-a-Lot, wishing them a better future with loving families. After all, everyone is deserving of love, humans and animals alike.

Now that the dogs were taken care of, we enjoyed a slow, scenic ride out of Best Friends. What a beautiful place for these animals to live!

We returned to Kanab to have lunch at the Three Bears, which was topped off with homemade ice cream, at least for myself. Jolene was trying to call her friend in town so we could stay the night there. Verizon service was down though, and so we gave up. We thought about getting a motel room but opted to just drive back to Moab instead. This time we took a quicker route by way of I-70.

We made a quick stop at Thunderbird, located at Mount Carmel Junction, which I got to try last year. I told Jolene about their "ho-made" thunderberry pie as we were passing, and she immediately turned around. She always stops for pie! She bought a thunderberry pie from the case to go, which she would take home to her wife, Anna. (A few days later, Jolene delivered the remainder of this pie to us at Pete's house, for me and my roommates to split. Just as delicious as I had remembered!) 

Once we reached Alton, we finally heard from Jolene's friend, but we decided to keep going. It would turn out that this was the best choice for us anyway. The experiences that resulted and our talks along the way were necessary and healing for the both of us. As for Jolene, she heard from Anna that one of their dogs back home, Lewis, went blind, and so she needed to be with him soon. (Thankfully, a few days later, his sight came back!)

The whole entire journey, Jolene refused to let me drive. While there were some places familiar to me, there was a lot I hadn't seen before. She knew that I had been wanting to travel and insisted that I enjoy the scenic ride and see all the things she wanted to show me. That also gave me plenty of opportunity to nap!

Historic courthouse in Junction, Utah.

The sun was setting as we were driving along I-70 over the San Rafael Swell. We would arrive in Moab at dark, just like when we had left. Exhausted but in good spirits. What a beautiful day it had been! On the journey, Jolene continued to tell stories of past animal rescues with such passion that it's evident that this is her calling. It changed her life, as she told me. She used to have so much anger in the past. But once she found her purpose and chance to serve through helping these animals, she found some peace. One thing I noticed from watching Jolene - we are happiest when we serve others.