Monday, December 26, 2011

The view from Canaan

Arizona Strip
 To say you can see Zion from Canaan is to make a declaration of Biblical proportions.  If Zion is Heaven on Earth, then I think we found another piece of it today. In fact, we not only saw Zion to the North and East, but we saw Pine Valley Mountain (largest laccolith on Earth) to the West; the Arizona Strip to the West and South; and Bryce Canyon's Paunsegaunt towering over Zion to the East--each of which are  destinations in their own right.

Andy Ballard and Leon Gubler knew the route to the abandoned lumber drop off the West face of Canaan Mountain.  Getting up on Canaan Mountain from Short Creek canyon is a bit rough, and the light snow on the sandstone was slick as ice.  Between icy streams and snow covered sandstone, we had about 4 or 5 fall-downs.  Thankfully no persons or, even more importantly, no animals were harmed in the making of this story.  (Got that PETA?)

We took the Outlaw Trail up out of the deep Short Creek canyon into the newly designated Canaan Mountain Wilderness.  The trail gets its name from its illegal construction by some 4-wheeler enthusiasts who hacked the trail out of the mountainside with heavy equipment and concrete saws.  God bless 'em too, because there just isn't any other good way to get to the lumber drop now that the feds have closed the roads into her heart. The Squirrel Trail, which we accessed to come back off the Canaan, used to be the only way up--and it definitely isn't for the faint of heart.  The year-old Outlaw Trail makes getting where we went and back a one-day project, where before, it was too risky or too far.

The pioneers who named her Canaan knew, from the view on her forested sandstone tops, that such a name was more than just hyperbole.

Pine Valley Mountain in backdrop
Paunsegaunt (Bryce Canyon) over Zion

Canaan Gap, Arizona Strip

Mule Skinner

Lumber drop

Dizzy Much?

Cable Spool at the lumber drop

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

How'd they do it?

150 years ago, on December 2nd, a group of roughly 300 pioneers arrived in St George to establish a cotton producing settlement.  The group had been called to leave their current homes by Brigham Young for a fresh start in, what many considered, the next closest terrain to Hell . It wasn't as big as some of the other westward migrations, nor as fraught with tragedy, but we still came home after trying it ourselves, asking, "how'd they do it?"

Originally, the Dixie Cotton mission wagon train reenactment planned to start in Salt Lake City and make the 300 mile journey South to St George.  But as tough as it must have been for the original settlers to move their lives across distance and hostile high-desert topography, it turned out to be virtually impossible to make it in wagon train form today.  Too much infrastructure in the way. And more importantly, too many entities to please.  The regulatory burden caused St George City to trim the journey to the final 100 plus miles from Parowan to St George--and that, across a different path than the original settlers took.  We spent 8 days in October making the journey.

The single most difficult part of moving across the landscape the way they did had to be taking care of the animals.  We had it relatively easy...we brought our own hay along with us, and the city delivered water right to our individual camps.  The city also cooked our meals.  Even with the reduced work load, we were up early and late to bed just taking care of our mules and horses.  Our pioneer ancestors had to live on their own supplies, cook their own meals, make their own repairs from whatever was on hand, find their own water, and... somehow... make sure the animals for all 300 of them got enough to eat each night in preparation for the next day's travel.  The sparse forage in the late fall was fairly poor in nutritional value, and the competition for it must have been fierce.   Who stayed up all night making sure the animals could range enough to get fed?

I don't know if our predecessors enjoyed their trek.  But we sure did!  How'd they do it?