Posts Tagged ‘Jones Hole’

Dinosaur National Monument Today, Part Three

July 3rd, 2014

Dinosaur National Monument, 2013 Visit

Part Three: Down To The Green River And Up To Ely Falls

(Continued from the blog post, “Dinosaur National Monument Today, Part Two.”)

Upper Jones Hole Near Fish Hatchery, Dinosaur National Monument, Utah, copyright 2013 David Leland Hyde.

Upper Jones Hole Near Fish Hatchery, Dinosaur National Monument, Utah, copyright 2013 David Leland Hyde.

Into Jones Hole

As we ambled down the trail away from the Diamond Mountain Fish Hatchery and into Jones Hole, we began to see signs of what Randy Fullbright and the Park Ranger had been talking about: the recent rock slide. High on the cliff we could see the fresh, unstained light tan undercut where giant sandstone boulders, just weeks before, had peeled away from the cliff and come tumbling nearly straight down at least 1,500 feet, landing like bombs in Jones Creek and rolling through the forest smashing trees and everything else in their path.

The Boulders ranged from small house size down to bowling balls and had badly broken up the deciduous forest and riparian undergrowth on both sides of Jones Creek. Jones Creek contained many of the light tan boulders, as did the entire surrounding area in about half a mile radius of the main devastated area. It must have been quite a sight to observe all that sandstone raining down from high on the cliff above–and the noise must have been deafening. The trail had been closed for weeks as the Park Service was still nervous about allowing anyone to hike into Jones Hole. They were afraid more sandstone would come tumbling down and crush unknowing hikers and fishermen. Park Rangers had re-routed the trail to skirt safely around what looked much like a war zone. Randy and I walked into the heart of the devastated area and approached the creek to see the damage. After observing the current effects of geology in action and making a few documentary snapshots, we moved back to the detoured trail and on down the canyon.

Fishing, Hiking And Photographing

Jones Hole attracts fishermen from all over that part of Utah and Colorado. The Park Service still plants Jones Creek with Rainbow Trout from the Fish Hatchery upstream. While Jones Hole generally appeared dry and desert like, cottonwood trees, willows, tamarisk and other riparian plants grew thickly along Jones Creek. Besides, on that day at times it felt like rain could overtake us any minute as the sky brooded overhead. Other times the ceiling thinned and the sun grew brighter trying to break through. The light greens of sage and sagebrush offset by the deeper greens of the larger trees along the creek, with dried yellows and beiges of meadow grasses provided a good mixed palette of colors and textures against the reds, browns and tans of the sandstone cliffs behind.

We mainly hiked, but stopped for photographs occasionally. Randy made only a few photographs the entire day, while I stopped more frequently and he waited in his courteous, quiet way. Photographing Jones Hole took some adjustment as I am used to the lush river canyons of the Northern Sierra in California, or the more complete desert scenes of other parts of Utah further south. Much of the views of Jones Creek were a wild tangle, but the creek itself had character, as did the cliffs all around, if we looked closely. Randy took me on a detour off the trail and over to the cliff across the creek at one point to show me the petroglyphs and pictographs he had promised. These were not large or overly striking, but they were impressive in how well preserved and distinctly they stood out in red-brown against the tan cliffs at that spot. Few people know where they are and Randy said he and the Park Rangers intend to keep it that way.

Back on the main trail, we stopped for lunch along the creek where there were a couple of giant 10X20 foot natural granite “tables” and a good spot for photographs up and down the creek. It was good to sit in the shade or what was trying to be sunshine, stop and breath in the warm desert air with the more fecund smell of mud and life along the water. After a good break from hiking and a dunk of our shirts in the stream, refreshed we set off again. Except for a few sections moving over boulders along Jones Creek, most of the trail was fairly smooth, though a bit sandy in places. The hike still felt fairly strenuous to me at four miles each way, down to the Green River and back to the Fish Hatchery. Across and high on the canyon wall, Randy pointed out where a spring came out of the rock and made a waterfall and place to “shower” and get refreshed high above the trail. Though the spring was only a trickle at that time, we could see a thin silver ribbon of falling water high up against the far cliff.

Green River, Rafting Party, Harpers Corner From Jones Hole, Dinosaur National Monument, copyright 2013 David Leland Hyde.

Green River, Rafting Party, Harpers Corner From Jones Hole, Dinosaur National Monument, copyright 2013 David Leland Hyde.

Dinosaur’s Main Character–The Green River And Its Canyons–Now And Then

Not long after, we emerged from the trees to find ourselves finally at the Green River. Almost immediately after we walked out on the gravel shore, a herd of bighorn sheep passed us. Randy told me some stories of the males being less than friendly in rutting season, but this day the herd passed close by us without much concern. We looked around behind us at a tall, cone shaped promontory towering above Jones Creek. When we got out in the open and could see upstream, we noticed a rafting party beached on a rock and gravel spit above the riffle at the mouth of Jones Creek. Way up the Green River past the rafting party we could make out the outlines of the rock outcropping called Harper’s Corner that I had driven to in 2005 from the Colorado entrance to Dinosaur National Monument. My father, pioneer landscape photographer Philip Hyde, made a black and white photograph, published in 1955 in the National Geographic, from Harper’s Corner looking down over 3,000 feet at the upturned strata typical of the Green River and Yampa River canyons. Harper’s Corner also overlooks Echo Park and Steamboat Rock farther upstream, the proposed site of one of the dams slated for Dinosaur that Dad’s photographs helped prevent. Dad was the first photographer ever sent on assignment for an environmental cause to Dinosaur in 1951 to help prevent two proposed dams that would have flooded 96 out of 104 river miles in the monument. Dad’s photographs and those by river guide and journalist Marin Litton became the illustrations for the first book ever published for an environmental cause, This Is Dinosaur: Echo Park Country and Its Magic Rivers, edited and with introduction by Wallace Stegner.

The sky had been darkening most of the day and here at the Green River, it finally began to rain lightly. Our shirts we had soaked just an hour earlier were already dried out and the cooling rain felt rejuvenating, even though it passed after only about 15 minutes and everything dried out again quickly. Having worked for the last two months moving furniture and packing boxes at my townhouse in Boulder, Colorado, and having minimal sleep for a number of days, I was already tired, but because this was one chance that might not come again for years, if ever, I agreed to hike with Randy up Ely Canyon to Ely Falls on the way back to the Fish Hatchery.

Ely Canyon was interesting and narrower than the Jones Hole canyon. There were a lot of small dead Juniper tree skeletons dotting the landscape. Ely Creek and Ely Falls were both small, Ely Falls only being about 12 feet high, while the creek was only a foot or two wide in most of its course. However, the falls were set in a greenery-surrounded oasis. Randy and I talked about conservation and my father’s work in the area, as well as the present day prospects of Dinosaur National Monument becoming a national park. More on Ely Creek, Ely Creek Canyon and the movement to form a national park in the next blog post.

(Continued in the blog post, “Dinosaur National Monument Today, Part Four.”)

Have you ever been to Dinosaur National Monument? Have you seen bighorn sheep or any other large wild animal up close?

Dinosaur National Monument Today, Part Two

April 2nd, 2014

Dinosaur National Monument, 2013 Visit

Part Two: Across The Misty Ranching Highlands

Jones Creek In Jones Hole, Dinosaur National Monument, Utah, copyright 2013 by David Leland Hyde.

Jones Creek In Jones Hole, Dinosaur National Monument, Utah, copyright 2013 by David Leland Hyde. Archival Chromogenic Prints Available.

 Arrival In Vernal, Departure For Dinosaur

(Continued from the blog post, “Dinosaur National Monument Today, Part One.”)

Even with sporadic rain and spring virgas dotting the horizon, the high open mountain passes of Rocky Mountain National Park, shining with stark beauty, already felt dry like the deserts of the interior and Western side of Colorado. Coming from the drizzle of a wet summer on the Colorado Front Range in Boulder, the high desert plains north and west of Steamboat Springs were warm and welcoming with the smell of sage and sun cracked earth all the way to Vernal, Utah.

After arriving indestructible at Randy Fullbright’s house at 4:00 am, I followed his previous instructions for where to catch a few hours of sleep. After waiting as long as he could, Randy woke me up somewhere between 7:00 and 8:00 am, and I found I was no longer indestructible. Indeed, with the night’s caffeine worn off, I was bone tired. Not only did I have very little sleep that night, I had just spent two weeks with minimal sleep moving all of my belongings. Weariness finally caught up with me here, in Vernal, the very morning I was supposed to rise to the occasion for a long hike in Dinosaur National Monument.

Well, I couldn’t exactly drive all that way, show up on Mr. Fullbright’s doorstep and then try to explain why I was too tired to go, especially with excitement in the air and him already well into his coffee that was making him increasingly indestructible by the minute, not that he wasn’t tough as nails even in his sleep. Everything I began to say about being tired sounded like a feeble excuse on the way out. So, I abandoned that line for the time being. Somewhere in the back of my mind, I must have reasoned that there might be opportunities for complaining later, but fortunately that would prove not to be the case.

Just then it was all about gathering my hiking boots, socks, camera gear, day pack and other items for our outing that seemed determined to rock on whether my body was ready or not. Randy and I had been talking on the phone about exploring Dinosaur for weeks, if not months, and the day had arrived. It was overcast so far. We wrestled our gear into Randy’s Ford 4×4 pickup, made lunches, reshuffled my cooler and other food into a cool place in the house and jumped in the truck ready to rumble.

The Approach: Diamond Mountain Road

Dinosaur lies east of Vernal. You can take the road to the Dinosaur Quarry on the Utah side before you get back into Colorado, or take Highway 40 across the Colorado border, turning left on the Harper’s Corner Road near the park headquarters and Colorado side visitor’s center, or enter the national monument on dirt roads that cross the prairie ranch lands just east of Vernal. We took Diamond Mountain Road. It jarred us around here and there with a few rough spots, but generally was smooth graded gravel that turned to pothole-riddled pavement in the national monument. Diamond Mountain Road meandered through dry washes and over low mesas that melted together as one open mesa top and faded into the mist in the distance. The sun nearly broke through in a few places, but mainly the clouds kept the sage-dotted sparsely grass-covered earth draped in mystery.

This land stage is battleground not only to the interests of Dinosaur National Monument, wealthy ranchers, developers, speculators and miners in a new energy boom. It is a battleground for idealists wishing to grow wealthy as Vernal develops as a mecca for fracking and other dirty mining approaches. Some special interests believe the only obstacle to Vernal’s rise to economic stardom and wealth would be Dinosaur becoming a national park and thereby imposing higher air quality standards on the area, limiting industrialization. Tourism interests and others on the other side of the issue believe the opposite. They argue that it is exactly Dinosaur’s conversion to national park status that would bring more new prosperity to the region than any other short-lived or even long-lived mineral or oil and gas extraction boom.

Randy and I had discussed many of these issues in the weeks and months leading up to my arrival in the area. Randy had also told me stories about photographing many of the remote and little known parts of Dinosaur, some that my father, pioneer wilderness photographer Philip Hyde had also photographed in 1951-1955, many that he had not. Randy spoke of places like Island Park, Echo Park, The Chairs, Jones Hole, Harper’s Corner, Mantle’s Ranch, Old Roundtop, Split Mountain, Whirlpool Canyon, Gates of Ladore, Hell’s Canyon, Yampa Bench, Rainbow Park, Douglas Mountain, Blue Mountain, Cub Creek, Deer Lodge Park and many others in the canyons of the Yampa and Green Rivers. For more on remote places to photograph see the blog series beginning with, “The Battle Over Dinosaur: Birth Of Modern Environmentalism 1.”

Many Ranchers And Other Groups Are Against Dinosaur Becoming A National Park

“Many of the ranchers, who also happen to be old friends of mine, are against Dinosaur becoming a national park,” Fullbright said. “They are afraid that they will lose their rights to grazing on the national monument if it becomes a national park.” This has happened over time in several national parks of the west. In Canyonlands, for example, grazing rights and leases were written to run out after 100 years. Randy said that in contrast the National Park Service in Dinosaur would be willing to offer grazing rights in perpetuity. “It wouldn’t be that hard for the National Park Service to give each of the old ranching families a grandfather clause for running livestock as long as their blood lines last, but they don’t trust that.”

Later, after I returned home to Northeastern California, Randy suggested I contact Dan Johnson, Dinosaur’s Chief Interpretive Ranger, to hear more about the potential for a change in Dinosaur’s park status. More on the issues involved in the next blog post in this series…

As we crossed the high plateaus approaching the canyons of the Green River, the signs of grazing were apparent and an occasional lonely fence angled off into the distance to join others. The mood of austerity was accentuated by washed out skies, white mists and lands colored by a limited palette of grays and beiges. Even in these drab conditions, the desolate wind-swept near-raw land had a presence and nature that only brought joy rather than loneliness to the heart of long-time desert travelers and dwellers like Randy Fullbright and me. The ceiling began to lift as we drove. By the time we came up over a hill and could look down on the fish hatchery and see ahead the impressive 10-15 mile long escarpment of Diamond Mountain. The skies remained gray overhead, but we could see as far as the land allowed in every direction.

I made a few photographs before we plunged down toward Diamond Gulch on the road that began to wind sharply with the contours of the hillsides. We stopped once again before a longer stop for more photographs where the road turned to parallel Diamond Mountain. At that spot, the views up at the eroded sculpting of the strata of Diamond Mountain in subtle reds, oranges, tans and beiges, were well worth photographing.

Randy drove us on down just a little ways to the Fish Hatchery, where we parked, talked to the park ranger for a while, then hoisted day packs and set off down the fishing trail into Jones Hole along Jones Creek. More on the story of our hike, some of it’s highlights and surprises,  conservation photography, spiritual experiences in nature and more in the next blog post.

(Continued in the blog post, “Dinosaur National Monument Today, Part Three.”)

Are you a desert lover? Why?

Dinosaur National Monument Today, Part One

December 5th, 2013

Dinosaur National Monument, 2013 Visit

Part One: Introduction And Setting

Diamond Mountain And Diamond Gulch Near Fish Hatchery, Dinosaur National Monument, Utah, copyright 2013 David Leland Hyde. Nikon D90.

Diamond Mountain And Diamond Gulch Near Fish Hatchery, Dinosaur National Monument, Utah, copyright 2013 David Leland Hyde. Nikon D90.

Early Travels To Dinosaur

When I was a boy of about nine, I visited Dinosaur National Monument with my parents. Later, in my early teens my father, pioneer landscape photographer Philip Hyde, and I stopped through Dinosaur on the way back from a Fastwater Expeditions Sportyak trip down the Green River with famous river guide Bill Belknap.

The second short visit, I do not remember much. From that trip, besides the vivid memories of the river run, the only memory I have of the Dinosaur area is of looking down on Flaming Gorge Reservoir in Wyoming upstream on the Green River. From the earlier trip with my parents, I recall only the visitor’s center and Dinosaur Quarry on the Utah side of the Colorado-Utah border that runs through Dinosaur National Monument. This is what most travelers to Dinosaur remember too, because it is all that most travelers see. However, there is much more to Dinosaur than fossilized bones or an interpretive building. The national monument consists of over 209,000 acres of sandstone bluffs, monuments, rolling hills, outcroppings, shale, slate and the most diverse and interesting feature of all, the labyrinthine canyons of the Yampa and Green Rivers. The highlight of these canyons is an oasis called Echo Park, where the two rivers come together and the canyons open up into a small valley between 1,000-foot cliffs. In the center of Echo Park rising straight out of the rivers at the confluence is a gigantic sandstone rock fin that on the near end looks like the cut off end of a loaf of bread. This 900 foot tall sandstone loaf end is called Steamboat Rock because from the side angle it looks like a steam ship.

Stories Of Our Fathers

Steamboat Rock figured prominently in discussions I had with my father after my mother passed away in 2002. After she was gone, I left a high paying job and moved from Upstate New York back home to Northern California. I moved in with Dad in the house I grew up in to help him out because he had not only lost the first love of his life, but had also lost his eyesight two years before and thus lost the second love of his life, photography. Dad explained how Steamboat Rock had become a symbol in the 1950s and 1960s of the then fledgling modern environmental movement and its first big success in defending Dinosaur from the invasion of dam builders, who wanted to erect two dams within the national monument, thereby flooding 96 out of 104 river miles of the Yampa and Green Rivers. For more about the battle over Dinosaur as well as conservation leader David Brower and photographer Philip Hyde’s roles in it, see the blog post series, “The Battle Over Dinosaur: Birth Of Modern Environmentalism.”

We talked much about Dinosaur and I poured over the maps and photographs. The series of blog posts above I originally wrote as a chapter in a book about my father’s life that I am still interviewing people for who knew Dad. By 2005, I could not wait to get up to the remote northern border of Utah and Colorado and see the place for myself. On the way back from a visit to Boulder, Colorado, I took the road less traveled, US Highway 40, and rolled across the open desert. A description of the approach and entry into Dinosaur can be found in the blog post, “The Battle Over Dinosaur: Birth Of Modern Environmentalism 2.” In summary, I traveled the long pothole infested paved road out to Harper’s Corner, stopping at overlooks along the way and ending with a one mile hike out on a thin slice of sandstone 2,000 feet above the Green River at Harper’s Corner, where a large portion of Dinosaur’s geology and canyons can be seen all at once. I also took a risk going into Echo Park, made a tribute to my father at Split Mountain and had all sorts of other adventures, all fueled and inspired by my first listening to Jack Kerouac’s quintessential Beat Generation novel, On the Road. Kerouac’s lyrical, poetic prose lifted me and put a lilt in my step and my writing. For more on my journey as well as Dad’s explorations of the same territory and much more in the dusty, wild past of 1951, see the blog posts, “The Battle Over Dinosaur: Birth Of Modern Environmentalism 3” and “The Battle Over Dinosaur: Birth Of Modern Environmentalism 4.”

Randy Fullbright And A New Dinosaur Campaign

I came back from Dinosaur changed, more on that and my profound experiences in future blog posts. The sad irony is that I did not have my camera with me in 2005 to record it all. Needless to say, this irony has been poking at me ever since I bought a Nikon D90, my first digital camera, in 2009. I have been hankering to go back, but never had the chance. Enter artist, goldsmith, gallery owner, gem and fossil expert, photography collector, photographer and impromptu wilderness guide Randy Fullbright.

I first started talking to Randy Fullbright via e-mail and phone in July 2011 when he introduced himself through comments on my blog post, “The Battle Over Dinosaur: Birth Of Modern Environmentalism 9.” Ever since then we have talked from time to time about his extensive photographic explorations of Dinosaur and about my dad’s work there too. Randy has two goals: 1. To photograph all of Dinosaur, no easy feat, and 2. To help Dinosaur become a national park. To these ends he has worked tirelessly and become well acquainted with many of the park rangers and management of the monument, as well as the local politics of air quality, oil and gas exploration and drilling, mining, tourism, recreation, ranching and the boom time explosion of the population of Vernal, Utah. Randy operates Fullbright Studios in Vernal, is active in the community and knows just about anyone who is anyone in town and all over the West.

While I spent this last summer in Boulder, Colorado for the first time again after a two year absence, I began to talk seriously about taking Randy up on his offer to take me into Dinosaur to some of the places few to no one else has photographed and locations my father photographed in the 1950s. Isn’t that a great offer? Again on my way home to Northern California, I took Highway 40, the road less traveled, and raged across the desert to Vernal, where I arrived at Randy’s house behind his gallery at 4:00 am. I did not see him until the morning when we embarked on a dirt road romping, camera carrying trip in to Dinosaur and an unforgettable hike into Jones Hole. Stay tuned for the whole story in blog posts to follow in this series, plus more about the mystical canyons, people, politics, fishing and simple freedom of Jones Creek and the Green River in Dinosaur…

(Continued in the blog post, “Dinosaur National Monument Today, Part Two.”)