Our first stop was in Gold Basin, at 10,000' in the aspens and firs. There we ran the dogs through a pretty little meadow, chasing the ball until they were ready to drop. Then Debbie noted that the rails would make a good practice jump, though they were a bit high. See photos below for the result.
We saw our first deer as we turned onto Taylor Flats: a pair of does that quickly ran off. That area, and in fact the entire eastern slopes of the La Sal mountains, were absolutely covered with wild irises gone to seed. There are more irises here, by far, than the previous density champion – the south side of Stony Pass in the San Juans. Here, the irises are mostly in mixed aspen and meadow areas, thoroughly mixed with wild roses. If both of them are in bloom at the same time, it must be spectacular here...
Shortly after we saw the deer, we came upon a scene that had us in stitches, what Debbie calls the “cattle drive of shame”. From appearances, it looked like a couple of guys who knew how to ride horses were leading a gaggle of 10 or so “dudes” (at least two of whom were women) in a pathetic attempt to “drive” 20 or 25 cattle into another pasture. They also had a couple of border collies who appeared to be untrained. They left stragglers. They were challenged getting their horses through the scrub oak; some of the riders were screaming. One had to stop and cinch his saddle. Another had to stop and take a leak (and then had trouble getting back on his horse). Cattle were going everywhere except where they were supposed to go. Some riders weighed nearly what their horse did. It was pure comedy gold, and we thoroughly enjoyed the free roadside entertainment :)
Then we started seeing mountain bluebirds, who apparently thought the mixed sage and scrub oak meadows of Taylor Flats were a fine place to live. The males were beautiful against the dark scrub oaks...
At one point we came around a curve in the road, in a part that was mixed aspen, fir, and oak forest, and there right in front of us was a fawn. It was still spotted, and we're guessing two or three weeks old. It just stood there for about 45 seconds, while we were just 20' or so away, trying to figure out what to do. Its mother was just off the road to our left, and was very cautious; she wouldn't venture onto the road. Eventually the little thing bounded off to our right, and we drove through to allow the doe to get across without fear of us. It was the best view of a young fawn we've had in quite a while; the highpoint of the day for both of us.
Just a bit further down the road, we passed a pasture full of horses, including several young colts. None of them were far away from us, and none were in the least frightened, so we were able to watch for a while. Beautiful animals...
Another 10 miles or so further on, we got into a flora that was sort of intermediate between Taylor Flats and pinyon-juniper high desert. We had pinyons, and junipers (huge!), a very few cacti (mainly a kind of dwarf prickly pear), but also oak, Ponderosa pine, and even an occasional aspen. We took one corner to the left in this area and there right in front of us was a gaggle of people sitting on folding chairs in the middle of the road. This is a one-lane dirt road, mind you, maybe 12' wide. There were a dozen or so people, and their five jeeps all parked in a row beside them. After watching them for a minute, speechless (for we had never seen anything like this before), we figured out that they were eating lunch. A picnic, in the middle of the road, pretty much in the middle of nowhere. Finally one of them saw us (our FJ is very quiet), and in a moment they were scrambling to get out of our way. We talked to them on our way through; basically they just didn't expect to see anyone else way out here. Weird!
A few miles after that we were driving down a roughish patch of road traversing a steep canyon side. Debbie thought we should water the dogs, so I stopped and we let the two mutts have their fill of water. Then I opened our refrigerator to get us some water, and I saw it: Debbie's leftover chocolate terrine from last night's dinner. It was almost complete, as she could only eat a couple of nibbles last night. That terrine sounded mighty good to us, and we ate it all over the next couple miles of travel. Debbie picked up little bits of it and fed me as I drove, as she ate half herself. We marveled at the sheer decadence of the moment: here we were, in approximately the geometric center of the middle of nowhere, eating this ice-cold flourless chocolate terrine that could be a symbol for a sophisticated dessert. That thing was delicious, more so than it would have been at the restaurant.
Coming down off the mesas into Fisher Valley, our road took us up a small box canyon and out over it's high end. We were surprised to see lots of washouts from a recent rain. There was lots of debris all over the road, and in places we saw there must have been a foot or more of water running over the road. Considering the small size of the box canyon (and subsequently the small size of the collection area for this water), this must have been one hellacious downpour to have produced this much water flow. We ended up feeling lucky that we hadn't had more than a few sprinkles today, though the skies looked like they might open up and pour at any moment.
Driving through Fisher Valley, we saw more evidence of recent floods, and lots of recent road repair. As we headed down into Onion Creek's canyon, we saw flood damage that absolutely dwarfed what we'd seen in the box canyon – enough to make Debbie quite nervous about being in the canyon at all! There were places where the flood had been running 4' to 5' above normal height, and 50' or more wide. This is in a steep canyon, so that water was running very fast. Debris was hurled up all over the place, everything from mud to 40' cottonwood trees to boulders the size of a pickup truck. We saw countless numbers of boulders – some quite large – that bore evidence of having been moved by the flood. Most had marks on them where rocks had crashed together; some were smashed; others had big chunks taken out of them. It's hard to imagine the force that water had, in order to move boulders that must weigh several tons. We shuddered to think what it would have been like to have one of those rocks descend upon us. The road through Onion Creek's canyon crossed the creek numerous times – and the road was cut by the flood at every single one of those crossings. All had been repaired, mostly rather crudely, by bulldozer and scraper. Much work remains to restore the road to its original condition. Debbie was quite happy to get out of there :)
Exiting Onion Creek's canyon, we were right on the Colorado River. We zipped down to Moab and had a repeat of our meal last night at Buck's Grillhouse. Debbie had exactly the same meal: a Caesar salad and a rare sirloin. I had the corn chowder again, but had duck tamales with grilled pineapple salsa for the entree. Yum! We refrained from ordering desert tonight :)
|Miki proves that an agility dog trained to jump 16" jumps can do a 30" jump on demand. But he needed to bounce off the top; he couldn't quite clear it. When told to jump, Miki jumped - he refused to run under the rail...|
|Race's first attempt to jump - not so good :)|
|After that first flop, Race cleared it like a champ - no bounce needed. Race normally jumps 20" to 24", so this isn't quite as much of a stretch for him as it was for the Meekster...|
|Seen down on Taylor Flats. It's a new one to me, but quite striking amongst the sage...|
|The new one, close up...|
|Looking west from just north of Taylor Flats...|
|On the way down to Fisher Valley...|
|Getting closer to Fisher Valley...|
|Entering the top of Onion Creek's canyon...|
|Halfway through Onion Creek canyon...|
|Same point as in the photo above, looking the other way...|