Spiders and Beetles, Dalton Wells, Great Horned Owls, and Escalante Photos

8 August 2011

The summer is a busy time for us- busy and fun- and this summer has been one of the busiest in recent years. We have been travelling since March, barely home at all. We’ve seen and done so much that it is hard to keep up with it. This will be a quick post- a follow-up on a couple of earlier posts, and few words about our most recent trip. And as soon as I finish this one, we are off again- we have a permit for the San Juan River next week. Look for a post from that trip in a few weeks time.

Spiders and Tamarisk Beetles
As luck would have it, Nicolai and I found ourselves with some free time a couple of weeks back, and we weren’t too far from Green River Town. We stopped in town for a cup of coffee and some ice for the cooler. Then we made a visit to Crystal Geyser where we had a swim in the still-swift Green River and spent a couple of hours waiting for the geyser to blow. The geyser wasn’t too active, but we did get to talk to a researcher from Grand County who was checking the condition of tamarisk trees and the resident beetle populations. He happened to be checking a group of trees that were covered with those big spiders that we have encountered on our floats down the Green, so we asked for more information about them. He couldn’t tell us specifically about the spiders, but he did say that they seem to be following the beetle populations. It seems that they are feeding on the beetle larvae. He said that in that area in particular he had noted a couple of groves that were covered with the spiders. It seems that the beetles do have a natural, local enemy, a question I am sure that researchers asked when they were deciding whether to allow the beetles to be released.

Unidentified species of spider at our camp at Crystal Geyser. This photo was taken on our float of the Green River in 2009.

Moab and Dalton Wells
On that same trip we made a visit to Moab, as we usually do. This time we did some driving around on roads and trails in the Sovereign area  north of town. One of the entrances to the Sovereign trail is through Dalton Wells, a historic site located just off the highway. It is on the National Register and there is an interpretive plaque explaining the history of the site. Dalton Wells began as a Civilian Conservation Corps camp and was in use for that purpose from 1935 to 1942. It was one of four camps located in the Moab area. The CCC members were responsible for countless projects in the Moab Valley and surrounding area during the years the camp was in operation. These projects were initiated by the Soil Conservation Service, the National Park Service, and what would become the Bureau of Land Management and included building stock trails, water development projects, range improvements, and fencing and pasture work.

From January through April of 1943 the Dalton Wells CCC camp became the “Moab Isolation Center”, one of many relocation camps for Japanese Americans during World War II. The camp was used for this purpose only briefly, and housed “troublemakers” from such camps as Manzanar in California and Gila River, Arizona. At most it housed about 4 dozen men, who were eventually transferred to the indian school at Leupp, Arizona on 27 April, 1943.

There are a couple of websites with more information on the camp- one is the Utah State History website, the other is the National Park Service page on Citizen Relocation Centers. The latter page has a couple of photos of the camp.

Great Horned Owls
In April we made a visit to Phoenix and Tucson where we visited the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum among other locations. There is  a blog post about that trip for those interested in reading more. In Tucson we stayed in a hotel in the foothills that was also home to a Great Horned Owl and her two young ones. The owlets lived in a large planter box surrounding the deck of a second floor room of the hotel. It appeared that the hotel was respecting the owls by keeping the associated corner room vacant. Our room was right next door to the vacant room and so we had a great view of the owls, day and night. During the day the mother would sleep in a nearby pine tree, up high near the very top. The owlets would huddle together in the corner of the box, as far from onlookers as they could get. At one point the mother brought in a cottontail for the owlets to eat. They moved the rabbit around a bit, and we got to watch one of the owlets have its morning meal. At nights the mother and young ones would perch on the edge of the planter box, keeping a close eye on everything through the night. The mother would fly off and return all through the night, and would leave early in the morning for her daytime rest in the pine tree.

Mother and owlet Great Horned owls at their hotel room in Tucson. Photo by Gerald Trainor.

Mother and owlet Great Horned owls at their hotel room in Tucson. The owlet to the right that is bent over was only concerned with its rabbit breakfast. Most of the rabbit is in the foreground near the cactus.

Owlets in the planter box, Tucson. Photo by Gerald Trainor.

Owlets in the planter box.

Owlets huddling together for their daily rest in the early morning. Photo by Gerald Trainor.

Owlets getting ready for their daily rest in the early morning.

Final Words on Escalante Trip

I have covered nearly everything I wanted to regarding my Escalante Trek in recent blog posts. The only loose end was posting photos of the trip. I have finally done that. A series of photos from the trek is up on the Desert Explorer Picasa page. For more on our desert adventures, desert backpacking, floating and general information, visit the Desert Explorer website.

Family Float on the Green River, Green River town to Mineral Bottom

21 August 2009

We floated the Green River from Green River town to Mineral Bottom from 02 August through 07 August 2009.  We had a leisurely float, as the Green River seems to provide at this time of year.  Paddling was not optional, and, as usual, we could have used more time.  We can always use more time in Utah!  River flows were just under 3000 CFS, and the weather was rather cool, in the 80’s each day.  The usual crazy winds blew up river each afternoon, but died out in time for dinner.  The moon wasn’t  full till the day after we took out, but it was full enough that we enjoyed the nights on our sandbar camps without flashlights.

Rigging boats under the shade across from the JW Powell Museum.

Rigging boats under the shade across from the JW Powell Museum.

We put in above the bridge in Green River on Sunday afternoon.  It is an easy place to put in, with plenty of room and good shade under some big cottonwoods if you rig early enough in the day.  We left the Land Cruiser in the parking lot at the John Wesley Powell River History Museum.  The signs there say “No Overnight Parking”, but if you let them know your plans in the museum, leaving vehicle information and your float dates, your vehicle is okay there.  You can leave your permit with them as well- they are an authorised permit issuer for the river.

Long exposure of tent at night. We have a string of solar lights we use in the tent on the river which light it up well. Moon is near full, Jupiter is also visible.

Long exposure of tent at night. We have a string of solar lights we use in the tent on the river which light it up well. Moon is near full, Jupiter is also visible to the right of the moon.

The permit for this section of river is free and there is no lottery for it, just download the PDF from the BLM website, fill out a copy for the BLM and one to take on the river. If you plan to float on into Canyonlands National Park, there is a charge and the logistics get more complex.  See the Floating the Lower Green River page at the Desert Explorer website for more information.  You can also park, leave your permit, and put in at Green River State park, about half a mile down river.  It will cost five dollars to get in, and roughly about 20 dollars for a week of parking.

Make sure you allow enough time in your itinerary to visit the museum, at least an hour or so.  Do it before your float if you can, and the river will be all the more interesting as you float along and see the same scenery that the Major and his party experienced back in 1869.

There is only one market in Green River, the Melon Vine Food Store, near the west end of town.  They are closed on Sunday.  There are many gas station convenience stores for last minute drinks and ice.  Water can be found at a couple of the gas stations as well as in the picnic area at the River History Museum.  It used to be available a the park in the center of town, but there is only a drinking fountain there now.

Boats at the edge of the river at Crystal Geyser.

Boats at the edge of the river with mineral deposits from Crystal Geyser in the background.

During our float, we camped on sandbars most nights, but opted to camp at Crystal Geyser on our first night.  We fully expected company, and we had it.  Crystal Geyser is a popular place, easily accessible by about any kind of vehicle.  The geyser does not really have a set eruption schedule, but does go off every 12 to 14 hours or so.

Nicolai watching the geyser erupt.

Nicolai watching the geyser erupt.

According to Kelsey’s River Guide to Canyonlands National Park and Vicinity, in 1991 the geyser shot as high as 30 meters (about 90 feet).  We witnessed two distinct eruptions reaching maybe 25 or 30 feet in the air, about 12 hours apart.  But the geyser was active nearly the entire time were there, a total of about 16 hours- the geyser was amazing and we didn’t want to leave it.  We all walked through the cold water again and again and came away with orange-stained toe nails and feet from the minerals in the water.

Unidentified species of spider at our camp at Crystal Geyser.

Unidentified species of spider at our camp at Crystal Geyser eating another spider.

We noticed brown tamarisk from the beginning of our float on.  The tamarisk beetles have made their way along the Green.  I do not recall them being so far up river two years back.  At Crystal Geyser spiders have taken advantage of the dead tamarisk and moved in.  There were hundreds of them thriving in the denuded tamarisk branches. I can’t help but wonder if this is the beginning of the next phase of the problem, the domino  effect that usually occurs when we mess with the natural order of things? An infestation of giant river spiders? For more on tamarisk beetles and the tamarisk problem, see the Desert Explorer Tamarisk Beetle page.

Nicolai and Gerald on the saddle at Bowknot Ridge.  Major Powell stood up there!

Nicolai and Gerald on the saddle at Bowknot Ridge. Major Powell stood up there!

There is much to see all along the river, more than can be covered in one blog post. Kelsey’s river guide, aside from informing about the actual floating, tells the history of the river, the ranches, cowboys, boats, mining, and archaeology all along the river corridor.  It is an indispensable guidebook and is highly recommended.

A few of the highlights include Crystal Geyser,  Dellenbaugh Butte, Trin Alcove Bend, Bowknot Bend, Ruby Ranch, the Julien and Launch Marguerite inscriptions, the river register, various cabins, water wheels, and mineing debris.

Flat water- view up river at Bowknot Bend.

Flat water- view up river at Bowknot Bend.

We floated in our Aire two-person inflatable kayaks, but canoes seem to be the more popular craft on the river.  The kayaks are a bit slow and require a bit more energy to paddle. We reached Mineral Bottom about mid-day on our final day, along with 4 other groups who we saw on and off along the way.  The Green River is a  popular float and a great choice for calm, family river trip.