Monday, May 29, 2017

The Whazoos' Thanksgiving at the Cosmic Ashtray and Golden Cathedral

The Cosmic Ashtray and Golden Cathedral? In the voice of Ricky Recardo "Whazoo, you got some 'splainin to do."

Yes I suppose I do, and I also have to laugh. Mrs. Whazoo told me to leave a note for the girls to let them know where we were off to. This note reminded me of a recent TV commercial, car commercial I think, where a young man knocks on his parents bedroom door early in the evening. No answer so the young man says to himself "They must have gone to bed early. No life." Then the scene cuts to the parents, that be us, out pulling kayaks and bikes off the vehicle and having a grand time. Again, that be us. Here's my note listing our destinations.

"Dear Girls, Here's where your Mom and I will be for the next few days. Have a good Thanksgiving. Love, Dad"
Camping: East Grand Staircase
Hiking to: Cosmic Ashtray, Golden Cathedral, Zebra and Tunnel Slots, Devil's Garden, Dino Tracks, Spooky and Peekabo slots. Maybe Calf Creek.

We didn't quite have time for all of them but you get my drift. The kids stayed home this year for the first time in their lives, while us old folks had a cosmic adventure. Oh the irony.

We have camped on Thanksgiving for 33 years of marriage and I started when 19 years old. Back then very few people were out and even now less than you'd think. So when the girls schedules would not let them off Mrs. Whazoo and I decided we just couldn't stay home. The outback was calling our names.

I had been "researching" the next trip using some satellite images when I saw a very strange thing. It looked like a mountain or hilltop with a hole and something else in it. And just like that I knew where we were going for Thanksgiving.

Driving across the Glen Canyon Dam that forms Lake Powell we were fortunate to see the dam bypass gates wide open. It is an ongoing experiment to redistribute sediment below the dam to restore beaches and natural fish habitat. The only real sediment that gets into the Grand Canyon these days since the dam was built is from the Paria River and the Little Colorado River downstream. So this flushing of the Grand Canyon is to hopefully move that sediment to where it should be naturally. Hmm, whatabout that?! It was something to see and hear and I was flushed with excitement.

Like my friend Bob from Outfitter said," Boy that looks like a lot of pressure. Kind of like seeing the sign that reads "Next Rest Stop 80 Miles" after drinking a large coffee on a cold morning." That's funny Bob, but we have campers with toilets don't wee?

I have to confess to you all. It's personal. Besides my obsession with Entemann's Donuts I also have an addiction to Hostess Zingers, yes it's true. Imagine my dismay when every stop for fuel yielded not a one, due to the demise of our beloved Hostess brand. Also imagine my joy when stopping in Escalante Utah to find their last batch on the shelf. Much joy and dancing followed. So much that the employees thought I'd just won the lottery. So I bought them all. Not the employees, the Zingers.

Then we motored on over to camp for the first night.

The next morning would be exploratory, not knowing exactly how to get where we wanted to go. But I do know there is a hollow mountain top out there somewhere, looking like a Cosmic Ashtray.

Driving on an old un-named un-numbered track used by ranchers to get to their cows I had some trimming to do. Can I say how fun it was sitting on top of the camper while Mrs. Whazoo crept along driving the truck? Can I also go out on a limb here and say that no large branches were trimmed, only a few dead sticks and I'm holding the large branch just for balance. I'm very conscious of not giving BLM more reasons to close things. Well ok then, it was very fun. Just don't slam on the brakes Dear, unless you want a hood ornament that looks like the Whazoo.

Even so, more scratches were added. At this rate I need to buy stock in Meguires Polishing Compound. These tracks were not made for truck campers.

Like I said, I didn't know where I was going, but I had faith.

Bear was along for the trip as well. He is such a party animal we couldn't leave him behind this time.

Finally our unstoppable force met movable objects, grains of drift sand. It was too deep and farther on too off-camber to even try. All those tracks in the sand, cows.

It was time to hoof it.

With ol Bear taking a brief sit down every now and then.

With all that sand around there were a ton of small tracks. This one looked like the get-away route of a Collared Lizard dragging something behind him. I couldn't tail what it was though.

With all those sandstone mountains around it was time to start walking on rock to find our Ashtray. And this rock looked like bacon. Well, it did to me anyway.

Looking down at all these swirls of color, I was almost tripping as I walked.

Then, lo and behold the first sighting of rock formations we fondly call Donkey Balls. Having thought about it some since the last trip report with Mike, I believe there are two species of Donkey Balls. One is made of sandstone and these here are the iron concretion type. Both totally different inside and out.

With some actually imbedded in the petrified sand dunes.

On the trail of the Cosmic Ashtray we were finding some Cosmic Debris. (link: Frank Zappa does his Cosmik Debris and sings about the dust of the Grand Whazoo in the second stanza, hah)
This Cosmic Debris was in the form of solid iron and came in strange shapes and forms.

It was amazing to be in a slag heap of the natural kind. Or was this the remains of an alien ship?

Giving me the thought that...Holy Chris Kristofferson, there it was. Mother Nature had coughed up a cast iron 4 barrel manifold for my 65 Ford F250! How it did that beat the Little Jimmy Dickens outta me. The sight of it gave me the Nelson willies yet I was so excited I was wailin like Jennings. It was too heavy to carry so I left it there. Possibly for you to find.

Besides cosmic debris there were other cosmic shapes as well. This seemed to be a cosmic cottontail, frozen in it's stance. Obviously petrified of us. Squint your eyes, don't you see it? Facing left with ears down?

Then I stumbled upon Aladdin's Lamp. You know, the one Larry Hagman found with Jeannie in it. My lamp had Lynnie. I was ecstatic.

While walking we were also being watched. The cosmic spirits of this place were strong.

The geometric shapes embedded in the sandstone were fantastic. Causing us to wonder about the forces of sand, water and time.

I paused for a moment to doggedly preach my sermon on the mount. To a congregation of one.

Also etched somehow in the sandstone was a light colored bas relief, making us feel as if walking on a piece of cosmic art.

All this uphill walking made for a tired Whazoo. I sat for a minute, in Dave's 'cuzzi, to imagine hot water and a cosmic brew.

Finding more Donkey Balls I have to confess something else. I've come to find they are more commonly know as Moqui Marbles. Indeed. And unlike the sandstone solid-in-the-middle variety these "marbles" are hollow and full of hardened sand. (I'll let you know that I have every intention of petitioning the National Geographic Society to change the name to Donkey Balls. I may need your signatures.)

Given that we were looking for the Cosmic Ashtray I took a moment to play Cosmic Marbles.

Finally, finally after much climbing we found it. And yes, it looked just like a Cosmic Ashtray. You can't tell from the bottom where it is, you don't know you're there until you're there. And there are several mountains right next to it to choose from. If I were better with a GPS it might have taken away some of the guess work but then again I like guesswork. Not knowing exactly where we are going has lead us to so many adventures. Not knowing made us take a circuitous route to the top that gave us all those fantastical shapes and textures. I wouldn't do it any other way.

There was only one good spot to take a complete picture. I wished for a wide angle lens and a cosmic cigarette while Mrs. Whazoo and Bear waited below.

Mrs. Whazoo was also feeling a little cosmic, showing her self to be an alien. (We already knew that about our wives and girlfriends didn't we guys? Sorry Ladies, didn't mean to alienate you.) Now all I needed were some Killer Clowns From Outerspace to show up and be in the picture.

Mrs. Alien Whazoo reaches for her special light. The one that lights up my life.

Having spent some time at the Cosmic Ashtray it was time to head back. With more interesting things to see and wonder about.

Like these very small Donkey Balls. Must have been dropped by baby donkeys, I'll call them Burritos.

It was incredible how many, how small and how perfect they were.

Cat tracks. Was it using GPS?

Or heading for water.

The truck was out there somewhere, blending in with the landscape.

Getting back to the truck we congratulated ourselves and took a break. I have to laugh at this picture. I can never get Bear to look at the camera when I want him to, but he chose this moment to look and smile.

And these little tripods are cosmically suited for photography. They can walk anywhere.

After much thought I figured out how to take the landscape home with me, just put it in the camper.

Speaking of campers. Isn't is great how our little shack-in-the-back of our trucks can make most any place we stop look homey and comfortable? Even with all the sights we see hiking we're always happy to be "home."

Leaving our camp at the Ashtray I took the truck through the local wash.

After "washing" the truck we looked back, knowing there was a Cosmic Ashtray waiting for us to get our ashes back there.

Continuing on with this truly cosmic trip we stopped briefly at the Devil's Garden to see what the hell was going on. It looked like a bunch of galactic cosmic travelers had stopped here, and had beer. I mean look at the beer belly on Rocky there. It looks a little too familiar and I may give up the Zingers after all. (Not a chance Whazoo)

This dude here looks like, well like I wouldn't want to meet him in a back alley, or the dark side of the moon.

Yes, I know. It's HDR, High Dynamic Range at it's worst. I thought it added to the look of these two multi-dimensional metaphysical beings as they fight for dominion of space and time.
(Look, I know what you're thinking. Honestly I'm just following a theme here. And Starship Troopers was a good movie, I don't care what you say.)

For the realists, here's the real shot.

That night was Thanksgiving so it was time to look for camp. We are so obsessive about views and continue to get lucky with what we find.

We went for a stroll before dinner and took a few pictures. I call this Cattle Pond Photography. With this picture I have finally flipped photography on it's head.

With the canyon dropping off to the left we knew of no one anywhere close. It was cosmic heaven.

We were so alone, no sounds of any kind. It was so quiet in fact that I could hear the Moon as it slid on about 2,288 miles per hour.

Oh yeah, a bit-o-turkey in the camper. It was cosmically delicious and I hope you enjoyed yours as much.

The next morning we had a much longer hike to make. We were looking for the Golden Cathedral. There was a trail but we decided to take off cross country, about 4 miles due east. That would be just over our shoulder.

The first drop was about 700 feet and looking back I knew it would be a tough climb at the end of the day. Total elevation drop was around 1500 feet. I'd be working off those Zingers on the way back.

Coming upon a patch of the sandstone variety of Donkey Balls I thought, the whole herd must have been here.

After several hours of trudging through soft sand and over sandstone we came to the landmark I'd been looking for. No, not the tree. I know, it's confusing isn't it?

Having scouted this hike by topo I could only hope there was a way down.

A picture will show later that others had the exact same idea and had come cross country instead of the trail. There was only one place to get down to river level and yes Virginia, there is a trail there. Thank you Santa. (Wait, did I just switch themes there?) This is a view of the entrance to Neon Canyon and the Golden Cathedral. Although I wasn't sure at the time.

The banks along the Escalante River were cut and so brushy as to defy entry. This was the "trail" at that time.

We finally found a spot to cross after I had waded up and downstream in the coldest water I've had to endure since the last ice age. Heck, am I that old? Feeling every bit of it as the water turned my legs bright red from the mind numbing cold.

A close up shows how cold that water was. With ice forming on the stick next to me, I too felt like a Whazicle.

Poor Bear. Cold water doesn't bother him but he's getting older like the rest of us. He was worn from the hike and the water was faster than it looked, taking him off his feet just a bit and swinging him behind me. The question remains, did I make it without falling in? Or did I fall, becoming one with the cold river in a miserable baptism of wet dog and Whazoo? Stick around for Part II...

Thanks for reading,
Dave Rogers

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