Thursday, November 5, 2009

Hiking in a different world (nearly)

We were sad about leaving Denver. Our path out through the slowly evaporating snow was smooth, but re-entering motel city proved a difficult adjustment. Furthermore, the weather remained bitterly cold in south-west Colorado en route to Utah. Our first stop was the town of Eagle and specifically the Eagle Grand, a misnomer at least at this time of year. The setting was fantastic, with mountains encircling us, and the motel was low rise and run by a genial host. However with temperatures outside below freezing, it was darned hard to get warm. Dinner helped, and right next door was The Grand Restaurant where we ate good food in front of a roaring fire. The next night we stopped in Green River where a functional motel (the heater worked) at a bargain rate and a cheap and no hassle town sat well with us. It was Halloween so Ray’s Tavern was not, we were told, as busy as it would normally be on what was a Saturday night. After good burgers and draught beer there we went over to another bar where the clientele patently weren’t engaged in trick and treating with little Johnny and Annie. A drunk vamp (sic) with what I think were false Dracula style teeth and a variety of werewolves caroused up and down the bar as we nursed our buds and listened to the skinniest trucker I’ve ever seen engage in monologues about his living arrangements. Nice guy though. We left the revellers to it, fancying that we were intruding a tad on a (mostly) locals’ party. The next night we upgraded, stopping after a thrilling ride at dusk through Utah’s incredible landscape of limestone rock. Caverns loomed large as we were the only people on the long ride to Hankville. We had to phone for a room from a Bentley-driving owner of the only store in town. Supping beers and drawing on rollies, we made the most of such a comfortable stop. Perfect silence and a full moon made for a transcendent experience in the chill of the evening as my wife did her blog.
In Boulder (Utah that is) there is little except a couple of motels and three restaurants (largely catering to the hiking crowd en route to Bryce. However the Circle Cliffs Motel (three rooms, cash preferred) was a delightful place with rooms where the lady of the house had plainly made an effort to make it as comfortable as possible. The next day we entered the Bryce complex, taking in modest trails still overpopulated with tourists for what, after all, is a few weeks shy of Thanksgiving. That night we avoided the corporate style motel/restaurant set up at the entrance to the national park and took a room a few miles down the road in Tropic. If you are ever in Tropic do not eat at Clark’s Restaurant. Hope that the pizza place is open. Clark’s ageing food did not go down well. However their draught porter did. I recommend a pitcher of porter and well done hamburger.
The next day we took one of the longest trails in Bryce – Fairyland. While the name conjures up a venue frequented by those of broad sexual orientation, the trail itself is a wondrous spectacle of orange limestone canyons and sheer rock faces populated by spruce and fir. The incredible sight at times makes one think of Wadi Rum, Jordan with a touch of the jurassic as (often) dead, gnarled tree trunks reminded me of twisted human life or animal forms. The “hoodoos” – tall limestone rocks partly eroded by freezing and thawing – can easily make you imagine that the old Indian legend is true and that the bad people were turned to stone. Faces peer out across the phenomenal landscape – gay dogs, Karl Marx, conferring elders, a witch’s cat, and, more generally, images akin to Abu Simbel or the Valley of the Kings, with a touch of Mayan or Inca rock carvings, came to mind. Half way through this eight mile hike I transcended for the first time on this trip, other than when in bars or restaurants or driving to the accompaniment of great tunes. At the incredible frozen stream and waterfall near "The Tower of London" rock face this feeling was, sadly, knocked back by the first presence in 4 miles of other humanoid life forms, especially when one of them turned out to by a post sell-by date hippie hiker with no apparent state or national address other than the “world”. We hiked back the same way, struggling up the final stretch, but bowled over by the same scenery from a different perspective as the rocks and trees were cast in, literally, a different light.

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