Friday, October 28, 2011

Hiking the Little Cottonwood Trail

Ruins of a mill

Tucked away in the trees beside Little Cottonwood Creek are the ruins of an old mill.  It is a pretty easy hike to reach the spot where you can view the mill.  The ruins are actually across the creek, which was still running fairly high when I went on this hike.  The mill-side of the creek also has a high wall rising from the creek bank to the mill, making access difficult.  I would NOT recommend crossing the creek and attempting to get to the mill at this point of the trail.

Little Cottonwood Creek

The trail leaves from a parking area on the south side of the road up Little Cottonwood Canyon.  If you cross the street, you will see the trailhead for Lisa Falls.  It is easy to do both hikes in one outing.  The trail to the mill ruins dips down from the road.  When the trail forks, turn left and head east up the trail to the mill ruins.

View from the trail.

This hike is fairly shady.  The trail is used by mountain bikers, so be aware of that as you hike.  You will have glimpses of the creek as you hike as well.

Wall on the mill-side bank of the creek.

When you reach the mill viewing area, you can perch on the wall and have a snack or some water.  If you continue on a little further up the trail, you will discover the remains of an old car.  It is an odd place to find a vehicle, and I wonder what story this pile of metal would tell!

Old car parts

View from the trail.

This is a pretty hike and is only 1.6 miles round-trip.  It is an out-and-back hike, and the parking area is located about 2.7 miles up Little Cottonwood Canyon. You may park on either side of the road.  The trail is wide and easy to follow, and is not very steep.  In fact, the guide book I looked in gave this hike a net elevation loss of 170 feet!  This is a great hike to do when you are short on time.

Mill ruins in Little Cottonwood Canyon

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Visiting Kodachrome Basin

View of Kodachrome Basin

Kodachrome Basin was named after Kodachrome film by a National Geographic crew who visited in 1948.  It is known for its layers of color, and also for the geologic features of sedimentary pipes that dot the area.  On our visit, we hiked part of the Panorama trail.

The Hat Shop

This looping trail can be as long or as short as you want it to be:  generally there is a 3 mile loop and a 6 mile loop.  We chose to do one side of one loop and added the "Secret Passage" segment.  We treated this more as an out-and-back hike rather than completing the loop, and I think we probably stayed under 3 miles in distance.  It was pretty hot on the day we went, and we were hiking right in the middle of the day, so the shorter version of this hike worked well for us.

I thought this looked like a gnome.

Some of the formations are named, but there are plenty where you can use your imagination. We had fun hiking and spotting gnomes, frogs, and other creatures along the way.

A view from the Panorama trail.

A short way into the hike, we arrived at "Indian Cave."  The sedimentary rock  is so soft here, you can rub it off with your hands.  Many people have done this on the rock wall, and everyone had fun finding a handprint that was just their size.

Hands rubbed into the wall.

Indian Cave on the Panorama trail.

Ballerina Spire

This formation looks like a dancers leg, complete with toe point at the top, and is one of the popular features at this park.  One of the things I enjoyed here was the different colors of the rock layers:  white, pink, orange.

Wash along the trail.

From the trail you can see evidence of what water can do after a heavy rain.  It is obvious that flash floods can roar through areas of the park.

Silver buffalo berry bush

This silvery succulent plant was pretty.  Later, we read that the berry it produces can be used for jam or jelly.

Scenery at Kodachrome Basin State Park

We took the side trail called "Secret Passage" and soon found ourselves in a quiet little canyon with towering rock walls.

Secret Passage

It was cool in the shade, and it was a great place to scramble over rocks and explore.

Geology of Kodachrome Basin

Secret Passage was a nice short loop that we followed back to the Panorama trail, and then retraced our steps back to the parking area.  

Old Man's Face

Water had done an artistic job of shaping this rock face, and I could see many different things in these shapes.  I thought this particular part looked like an old man's face in the center, with some kind of creature's head to the right.

One of the sedimentary pipes.

The sedimentary pipes are fascinating, seeming to burst up out of the sand.  Several are "stand alone" objects,and made me wonder why all the other stone had eroded away and just left these spires.  The park brochure lists three different theories as to how these pipes form, but all of them end with the surrounding stone eroding away (it must have been softer) and leaving these pipes.  

Indian Paintbrush

Even in this desert landscape, flowers find a way to bloom.  I loved the colors of the foliage contrasting with the colors of the rock.

Blooming in the desert

The color combinations of the silvery blue-gray, yellow, and red caught my eye as I passed this grouping of plants.  After our hike, we returned to the parking area and had a picnic.  We were able to find a little shade in the picnic area.  This parking/picnic area was also the trailhead for the Grand Parade trail.  

View of our picnic area

Water and restrooms are available at the visitor's center, as is a small gift shop.  There is a campground in the park, and horseback rides are available on some of the trails, including the Panorama Trail.  Some of the other trails looked enticing, including Shakespeare Arch, but we were planning on visiting two other state parks that day, so after lunch, we hit the road!

If you go:  From Tropic, Utah, drive east on Scenic Byway 12 to Cannonville, then follow a paved road south for nine miles to Kodachrome Basin.  

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Yard Art - The Last Flowers of the Summer


While picking the last of the vegetables before the frost hits, I took a few minutes to photograph the last of our flowers as well.  These verbena struggled all summer, but look pretty good now that it is October!

Rose bud

This rose is on my Diana Princess of Wales bush, and has an incredible scent.  The roses aren't as big this time of year as they are in the spring, but are still beautiful.


I have met some people who look upon the marigold in disdain and think of it as too common for their gardens.  However, I have grown marigolds since I was a child, and they are hardy, drought tolerant, heat tolerant, and look good for months!  I also like their spicy, pungent scent.

A little end of summer color.

This plant was starting to look scraggly, but if I cut it back, it will return and look good next year.  This yellow flower is showing signs of age, but is still pretty.

Peace Rose

This peace rose is the anchor of my rose bed.  The blooms are big, and the bush always grows really well.  I love the delicate blend of colors.

Yellow Rose

It is the end of the flowers in my garden, and the leaves are turning on the trees.  I am savoring these last few colors and scents of fall.  

Last blooms of fall.

Take time to smell the roses, and happy autumn!


Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Last Harvest - Gifts from the Garden

Pumpkins from my garden.

It is chilly and cloudy today as the weather in Utah turns from almost record breaking warm autumn days to the temperatures we should actually have this time of year.  With a freeze warning in the forecast this week, it was a good morning to get outside and see what was left in the garden. 

Orange and purple carrots.

It has become a tradition to grow purple carrots in our garden, as well as the more traditional orange ones.  The purple carrots have orange centers, and look wonderful sliced in a salad.  They have a great flavor when cooked, and will turn the cooking water purple.

Beets and eggplant.

The beets grew really well in one section of the garden, but were smaller in another part.  Despite some neglect to the garden this summer on my part, I still have a bucket of beets, potatoes, and carrots that will be great roasted with fresh herbs.

Swiss Chard

The red chard finally put on a growth spurt and looked pretty mingled with the green variety.  

Cherry tomatoes

Our cherry tomatoes were quite prolific this summer, and will be greatly missed.  We grew two varieties, and ate them like candy right out of the garden.  I picked through the ones left on the vine, and brought them in the house to escape the pending frost.

Last of the cherry tomatoes

Concord grapes

The grapes that line our back fence have been a bit ignored this summer as well.  The vines get a good pruning each spring, and then we wish them well the rest of the year.  Last year the mice ate most of the grapes, but this year the fruit fared better.  These concords are wonderful juiced or in jelly.

Serrano peppers

Some like it hot!  This little plant produced more hot peppers than I could use, although we threw a couple in our homemade salsa.  I picked a few to bring in for my son to eat (his palate tolerates more heat than mine!)

Jalapenos, serranos, and anaheims, oh my!

Looks like a good week to make fajitas.  These are the last peppers from my garden for this year.


This year we had odds and ends of potatoes:  red, finger, and more.  It is always interesting to dig in the fall and see what happened under the surface during the summer. 


My sage grows like a weed and added a great flavor to refrigerator pickles when combined with rosemary.  The basil didn't do as well this year, but nothing beats herbs fresh out of the garden.


My kitchen is filled with the scent of rosemary and sage, and it is wonderful!  The cornstalks and pumpkins will decorate my door from Halloween to Thanksgiving, and remind me to be grateful for the ability to grow fresh food in my own yard.  Autumn is a beautiful time of year, and it was a decent harvest!  I've also got a box of green tomatoes that I will allow to ripen in the dark of my basement.  We should have good tomatoes for a few more weeks to come.

 Our scarecrow.


Friday, October 21, 2011

Visiting Grosvenor Arch in Utah

Grosvenor Arch

Grosvenor Arch is in the Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument.  As you drive from Tropic, Utah toward Kodachrome Basin, you will see the turn off for the dirt road leading to this arch.  This is a little bit off the beaten path, but was driveable in a minivan. 

Dirt road leading to the arch

Most of the way, the dirt road is in pretty good shape.  However, there are sections that are a little more treacherous.  This road would be very difficult in a rainstorm. Even with 4WD, some sections would be impassable during heavy rainfall.

Another view of the dirt road

We were grateful there wasn't a cloud in the sky the day we visited (Sept. 23, 2011).  As you climb on the dirt road, you will pass a view area.  Stop a minute and just soak up the scenery.

Ugly Bot on the road to Grosvenor Arch

View Area

There is a parking area at Grosvenor Arch.  Ironically, although you have to drive on a dirt road to get to the arch, there is a sidewalk from the parking area to the arch itself.  No kidding!  Cement sidewalk all the way.

Grosvenor Arch

This rock formation is very majestic.  Tall and powerful, it stands out against the flat sagebrush.  We were glad to catch it in morning light.

Under the arch

The sidewalk ends before you actually reach the arch.  When we visited, there were some German tourists, but otherwise we had the place to ourselves.  It was very peaceful.

The arch up close!

We saw a couple of picnic tables, but no shade.  There is also a vault toilet.  Otherwise, there are no facilities at this location.

The sagebrush was in bloom.

This was a great start to our day trip, and we were definitely glad we made the effort to see this.  Next stop:  Kodachrome Basin State Park.  

IF YOU GO:  Plan on 10 - 11 miles on the dirt road.  It took us a little more than an hour to reach Grosvenor Arch from Tropic, Utah.  Take food and water.  Leaving Tropic, drive east on Highway 12, then turn off near Cannonville on the Cottonwood Canyon Road.  Watch for signs for the turn off to Grosvenor Arch. There is a parking area and vault toilet at Grosvenor Arch.  Also, there are a couple of picnic tables, but no other facilities. There are no fees to drive to the arch.