Covered Wagon Journal 2
Extracts from the Summer 1955 Journal of Travels Through the Western National Parks and Monuments
By Philip Hyde
(CONTINUED FROM BLOG POST, “Covered Wagon Journal 1“)
June 14. We were thoroughly awakened at 4:30 a.m. by a crescendo in the chorus of rain that had been constant for most of the night. A short time after it began, it was coming into the tent in wholesale quantities. A large rock falling off the ledge above us tore a huge gap in the tent and we were forced to leave. Fortunately, it hit to one side, missing us. As we ran toward shelter under some large boulders, we heard an ominous roaring, and looked up to see a full-blown waterfall cascading down into what had been the camp kitchen. But for the quick thinking of some of those who had been sleeping close to the kitchen, much of our equipment and supplies might have been carried into the Colorado River. What a demonstration of the power of a flash flood. When the excitement subsided, we looked around in the sunrise light to see the canyon walls draped with hundreds of waterfalls coming down off the rims.
June 19. A little while ago we emerged onto the crowded South Rim of the Grand Canyon, after two days in the lower regions. The first half of the climb was easy, in the cool pre-dawn hours. Once past the half-way point at Indian Springs and the last water, the trail climbs as steeply as a jet plane. And by this time the sun was up, ready to greet us on the shadeless upper bench. With considerable effort, we managed to push ourselves up the trail to the rim, and paused to rest. Then we turned and looked back. As in Yosemite, where the sheer height of El Capitan, or the great depth of Yosemite Valley never quite make a full impression until one has climbed on foot to Glacier Point, or to the top of Yosemite Falls, so it is with the Grand Canyon—the vast abyss seemed grown a hundredfold after climbing on our own legs from the river.
June 24. We have spent the day and much of the night looking at the exhibits of the Museum of Southern Utah, in Kenab, and talking to the Johnstons, who operate it. The museum’s collection of ancient and recent Indian artifacts is exceptionally interesting. Yesterday, we spent part of the day in a canyon in the Arizona Strip to the south, looking at ancient Indian paintings. We were also directed to a “dig” which the museum’s archeologist is developing across Kenab Creek. A burial which he excavated is now on display in the museum.
June 30. We are now on the fabled Yampa River. Our boatman, Dave Rasmussen, turns over his oars to another member of the crew, and picks his guitar for an hour or more of wonderful music that floats out over the lazily moving river and echoes softly from the yellow sandstone walls, sheer cliffs, and rounded domes. We slip around the great curving river bends with no sound but the melody of guitar and soft singing.
July 1. We have seen three golden eagles soaring high over us as we threaded through the climax of Yampa River scenery—the run through the magnificently formed series of bends in the river that begins just below Castle Park. The walls have heightened, and grown more nearly perpendicular, and, at intervals, the river straightens out long enough to provide a vista down the canyon, sweeping from a foreground of river and concentrically curved sandbars, to a prominent feature carved out of the rim, standing at the far turn of the wall. There are so many of these impressive views on the Yampa, that one loses himself trying to recall the exact location of each. We can only hope, after the recent difficult struggle to preserve this unique canyon in its natural integrity, that it will stay this way, so that we can return, and so that future generations can come and be thrilled and inspired as we have been. This day of days is capped with the rising of the near-full moon, flooding its light over the great cliffs that surround us here in our Box Elder camp.
July 14. The bus brought us to the Gates of Lodore, in Brown’s Park, on the northern boundary of Dinosaur National Monument, where a short afternoon run has brought us just a few miles inside the Gates of Lodore. I wonder if John Wesley Powell and the other early river travelers who came to this place received any premonitions of disaster when they looked upon this impressive mountain gate. Here the Green River meanders for some miles through the tranquil bottomlands of Brown’s Park, resting from its exertion in Flaming Gorge upstream. Then, for no apparent reason, it turns abruptly and plunges into this high plateau’s escarpment. The introduction to Lodore is sudden. Once within the Gates, you are committed, and you know this is a formidable canyon. Even the rapids are anxious to start; there are several short but vigorous ones just a short distance inside the Gates of Lodore. The canyon quickly reaches its full height, the brick-colored walls rising in coves and steps whose treads are often carpeted with tall evergreens.
July 16. At Hell’s Half Mile the water is so low that the beginning of the rapid is a waterfall of about six feet. Our party is scattered on the stream-side rocks to watch…
(CONTINUED IN BLOG POST, “Covered Wagon Journal 3“)