Sunday, October 25, 2015

Day 22: Grand Junction, Colorado to Vernal, Utah via Colorado National Monument

The east gate to Colorado National Monument is literally in a nice subdivision in Grand Junction.  It was about a ten minute drive from the motel and within 15 minutes we were walking towards a waterfall that unfortunately had very little water.  The No Thoroughfare Canyon hike was done early in the morning and while the journey was just fine, the pay-off was dry.  No wildlife either for a lonely morning.  Just a couple of large lizards that would take an occasional dart at our heels. 

We then drove the Rim Road at Colorado and saw some spectacular scenery.  The park is up on a large mesa that overlooks a series of jagged, and beautiful, canyons.  Like many National Monuments it’s small enough to enjoy in a day but large enough to produce that sense of wonder that is fantastic.  The pinnacle of the trip is the Independence Monument, a triangle fin-like formation in the middle of Monument Canyon.  We parked at the trailhead of the lower end of Monument Canyon and considered our next hike, a five mile plus jaunt to the Independence Monument, around it, and back down Wedding Canyon.  The problem was that the clock was after noon and the temperatures were starting to rise.  Screw it.  There was a breeze, a view, and we were hydrated.  Let’s go!  The hike was fabulous.  We ended up coming up Monument Canyon (something different since we are usually going down into a canyon) to the mammoth Independence Monument and great views of the canyon interior.  The ascent into the canyon was moderate but had stairs, and the stiff breeze allowed for a great respite against the warming temps. 

Until our decent.  Wedding Canyon had great views but a punishing decent of rocky terrain mixed with steep gravel downslopes.  It was not easy.  At the bottom we still had a good mile or so hike when my wife started to mention that she was feeling off.  Uh oh.  Dizziness, a bit of nausea, the feeling of overheating.  Yep, sounded like heat exhaustion all over again. We stopped and consumed jerky and sports drinks and plodded on.  My wife is a trooper but she clearly seemed off.  I started thinking of possible ways to address the potential of this becoming serious.  I couldn’t see the parking lot and wasn’t familiar with Wedding Canyon so I was a tad nervous.  Plus, I knew what she was feeling and it was not good.  After going over a small bluff…..the car!  I turned on the air conditioner ahead of her and got her drinking more water.  Then we got ice out and put it on the back of her neck.

“I’ll tell you in a few minutes whether or not we should get to a hospital because I feel very off.”

The air conditioning and ice did the trick.  We also consumed our sandwiches, hit a McDonalds for a large Diet Coke, and kept the ice on the neck until my wife started to perk up.  Then it was hunger, irritation that it happened, and exhaustion so I knew she was ok. 

We left Colorado National Monument and head almost due north into a beautiful alpine ridgeline and then dropped down into eastern Utah and mile and miles of oil drilling.  Signs were everywhere signifying that a lot of land in northeastern Utah was owned by Chevron and that the operation was very much alive.  We are experiencing more and more gas/oil boomtowns and they are much more prevalent that we could possibly realize.   

That would include our new home for two days; Vernal, Utah.  Vernal is usually considered popular because of Dinosaur National Monument and the plethora of outdoorsy stuff to do locally.  And then I noticed the trucks and buildings for companies like Halliburton and Schlumberger.  That means there is petroleum or mining or both within the local geology, and we have here a gas/oil boomtown.  It must be a tad bit progressive of a boomtown because I didn’t expect the Sprouts.

Trails hiked: No Thoroughfare Canyon to the (dry) waterfall, Lower Monument Canyon/Independence Monument/Wedding Canyon Loop.

Miles hiked: 9.3

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