Day 61-62 • May 1-2, 2012 • Calf Creek to Boulder, UT • 15 miles
Calf Creek was as far as Rob could travel with us on this leg. He headed back on a two day solo ride toward Bryce and his car first thing in the morning. Zoe and I spent most of the day on the Calf Creek Falls hike. This is an easy six mile round trip through some of the most beautiful desert landscape anywhere, capped by a huge waterfall. It is an interpretive hike with around twenty points of historic, geographic, and natural interest with a printed guide available at the trailhead located at the campground. One of the coolest points is a view of some ancient hieroglyphs; painted art as opposed to petroglyphs which are carved or chipped into the rock. When we arrived at the falls it was pretty hot outside so of course Zoe and I swam in the pool to cool off. Very briefly, as cold doesn’t begin to describe the water temperature. I would say it was colder than when my brother and I took the plunge a good month later in the season but this close to the freezing point you’re just splitting hairs. We remained nice and cool for most of the return hike.
Back at camp we saddled up for a short but very steep ride to Boulder. I knew from my ride seven years earlier that we were facing a posted fourteen percent grade, far steeper than anything we had tried with this rig. We may have briefly exceeded this grade in San Francisco—hard to tell as they don’t post grades on city streets—and that ascent began weeks of drive train woes. This time I was confident I had the drive train figured out so the big question was whether I could grind the 200 pound load (not counting Zoe and I) up the hill. Several people have told us of cyclists walking their bikes up this grade; not really an option with this rig. As usual my roughly 15 gear-inches got us up the hill without any concerns other than an agonizingly slow pace. So slow that a two-wheeler would have fallen over. So slow that we were able to witness the erosive force of wind and sand carve the landscape, in real time.
With the grade behind us, the next concern was the hogback. This is a sliver of land barely wide enough to accommodate a two lane road, perched above the surrounding canyons with precipitous drops on either side. The views are breathtaking if you can peel your eyes away from the road long enough to look. If you’re prone to that uncomfortable feeling near the edges of mountains and tall buildings, you’ll be uncomfortable for the duration of this stretch of road. All of the vehicles we encountered here were travelling well under the speed limit.
We descended into Boulder in time for dinner at Hell’s Backbone Grill. This is not your usual bar food but a collection of unique and tasty dishes prepared with organic and mostly local meat and produce. They also have some excellent beer on tap and a relaxing setting; it was a great way to end the day. However we still had the problem of where to stay that night. Our hostess Blake was on it and had some great suggestions but they all required several miles of additional off-route travel. When she realized we were cycling and pretty much done for the day, she offered up her farm in town. Turns out Blake is one of the owners of the restaurant as well as Blaker’s Acres, an organic farm that is ramping up to supply some of the produce for the restaurant. She whipped out a map to the farm, explained where we could pitch a tent, “anywhere that doesn’t look planted for food”, and even offered the use of a trailer there.
It was dark when we arrived at the farm but we found a nice grassy spot next to the pond and pitched the tent. We got a lot of help from the farm cats. One of them immediately made itself at home on Zoe’s Trets seat and the other insisted on crawling under the tent as we were trying to pitch it and when we finally got it erected, planted himself inside the tent. The cats were fun but we eventually invited them to leave and fell asleep to the croaking of frogs in the pond. The next morning we met some of the farm workers as well as the resident goats.
On the way out of town we visited Anasazi Indian Village State Park where we viewed a huge arrowhead collection—Zoe was fascinated by arrowheads and attempting to carve her own—and walked through the ruins of an ancient pueblo. After lunch the reality of the task at hand—a three thousand foot ascent of Boulder Mountain—hit us and we balked. Neither of us was feeling very energetic and we kind of liked it here. So we headed back to town to inquire about lodging at a little RV park. Kelly ran a convenience store as well as the RV park and told us they really couldn’t accommodate tents. “But why don’t you stay at our place?” And just like that we were set for another night. Kelly and her husband Loch had a house on the edge of town with some property where we could pitch the tent, across from another convenience store that offered showers. Perfect! Loch told us about his own travel adventures, a transAmerican tour by canoe(!), and more recently a solo walk of the Old Spanish Trail. Each year he and some of his llamas walk a different section of the trail, the only person in modern times to attempt to travel the entire route.