Garvellach’s

In the 1990’s I was fortunate to be able to paddle regularly in the area around the Firth of Lorn. At the time there was a campsite next to the beach in Arduaine. It was possibly the best located sea kayaking campsite in the UK. A favourite paddle for many of the visitors were the Garvellach’s, a few miles to the west.

The campsite closed, other paddling opportunities arose and the last time I paddled there was in 2002. It is hard to believe that 17 years have passed. This summer the opportunity arose to paddle to the Garvellach’s and I seized it with both hands.

We headed out from Belnahua on a day of bright sunshine but reasonably large tides. A direct route wasn’t possible but the use of transits was the only navigational tool required. We left Belnahua in the crisp light, which is experienced after the passage of a cold front. The winds from the front were the reason why we hadn’t paddled the day before. Today though the Islands of the Nether Lorn were calling.

Behind us there was a steady stream of yachts using the southerly tide to assist their passage down the west coast of Luing. Ahead though, the sea appeared empty apart from the distant hum of a fishing boat. We were pushed south by the tide despite our best attempts at maintaining our course. Once in the eddy behind the rocks we were able to work our way back to Garbh Eileach. The most substantial of the islands in the Garvellach’s.

One of main memories of my last visit was of a magnificent stag standing on the cliffs at the north east end of Garbh Eileach. In the swirling mists of that July day, it struck a striking pose and amazingly on this visit there was a superb stag standing in an identical position. It didn’t look stuffed so one can only assume that it’s a popular location for the resident deer population.

Garvellachs
Heading along the southern shore of the Garvellach’s. There are magnificant views to the south towards Scarba and Jura.

The paddle along the Garvellach’s is always spectacular with plenty of evidence of sea level change, a geographers dream. There is always the sense of expectation as you approach Eileach an Naoimh, knowing that you are going somewhere really special. As we pulled into the small anchorage it was clear that we were going to have the island to ourselves, a first for me.

Island Exploration

Garvellachs
Pete by one of the preserved Beehive cells

We passed a virtually perfect couple of hours wandering around the amazing remains, which are to be found on Eileach an Naoimh. As the only people on the island we were able to let our imaginations run riot. On a warm June day with light winds it seemed an idyllic place to live but what it must have been like exposed to the full force of an Atlantic storm on a December night, is hard to imagine.

This is probably the best preserved early Christian settlement on the west coast of Scotland. It dates back to the 6th Century A.D. It may have been founded by St Brendan the Navigator, which was before St Columba reached Iona.
17 years had passed since my last visit but I am certain that it won’t be 17 years before I step ashore on the these islands again. Classic is a word, which at times is used far too frequently but there is no doubt in my mind that paddling out to the Garvellach’s is one of the classic sea kayaking trips.

Eithne's Grave
This grave is traditionally identified as the grave of Eithne. St Columba’s mother
Garvellach's
Me standing on the summit ridge of Eileach an Naoimh, looking back towards the mainland of Scotland. Mull is on the left.
Garvellach's
On the summit ridge in 1999. Nicky and Phil Harriskine. Gordon Brown has his back to us and Duncan Winning is still walking upwards in the white shirt.

A few more aerial photos

These are a few more aerial photos that I have taken recently whilst flying to various destinations. I am never certain why people request an aisle seat when the best entertainment is often looking out of the window. What I have noticed though is that more and more you are requested to lower the window blinds when in flight. At least on British Airways you are told to have them open on take off and landing.

I booked a window seat on a flight towards the end of last year. I settled into my seat and prepared for some great views, camera at the ready. To my amazement a passenger in the row behind reached over my seat and closed the window blind next to where I was sitting. I expressed my disquiet, opened the window blind and thankfully enjoyed some great views. Sadly accompanied by some grumbling from behind.
Below are a few more aerial photos taken, mainly during in the last 12 months.

Aerial photos
Take off from Jersey on a day when there is a westerly swell. There is some superb paddling along the cliffs to the north of the bay.
Aerial photographs
The Isle of Wight seen whilst flying from Birmingham to Paris There is quite a lot of high quality paddling potential in this picture.
Aerial photographs
Isla San Jose seen whilst flying north towards Phoenix. We had paddled the coast a few days earlier. The mangroves are just visible bottom left.
Aerial photos
Departure from Jeju, an island off South Korea. Behind is Hallasan, a volcano, rising to 1950 metres, and the highest mountain in South Korea. We had reached the summit a couple of days earlier. An amazing fact is that Jeju – Seoul is the worlds busiest air route. On the flight to Seoul it was clear that the coast of South Korea offered amazing potential for sea kayaking, sadly there was no paddling on this trip.
Aerial photos
The north coast of Jersey, with Bonne Nuit pier visible. One of the more popular places on the island to go paddling.

Alderney

Alderney, is the Channel Island closest to both England and France. It also has the distinction of being the the most northerly island in the group. Well known for the strength of its tidal streams its not visited by sea kayakers that often.

We had been planning to visit the west coast of Canada this summer, in particular the Haida Gwaii. Quite early on in the planning it was clear that costs were spiralling out of control, so we looked for some where cheaper. Out of 8 in the group I was the only person to have paddled to Alderney, so a plan was developed. Let’s head north.

Instead of flying 4,000 miles we drove 5 miles. We spent 3 days paddling to Herm via the superb coastline of Sark to find ourselves on the small beach just to the south of the harbour on Herm. We were ready to go. It was an early start but light winds and sunshine were the forecast conditions.

Herm Beach
Early morning on the beach on Herm. Packing for our departure for Alderney

I radioed in to Guernsey Coastguard, which is something I had never done before. Little did I realize the consequences. As we paddled north towards Grand Amfroque, which was to mark the start of our crossing to Alderney, things started to change. Unfortunately the sunshine and good visibility of earlier was replaced by pretty thick fog. Then I could hear the Coastguard calling me on the radio. What was my position, what was the visibility and what were our intentions? I gave our position and would confirm our intentions shortly.

Herm
Paddling north along the west coast of Herm. The first wisps of fog were starting to appear, a precursor to what was to come.

The conditions above were quickly replaced by those below.

Alderney Fog
The banks of fog rolled in as we headed north from Herm

We spent a few minutes chatting about our options before contacting the Coastguard and confirmed our intention to continue the journey to Alderney. Their request was that we radioed in every 30 minutes with our location, the visibility and the welfare of the group, which seemed particularly strange. As we were using hand held VHF’s and were working at some distance from the nearest aerial the signal was deteriorating rapidly. In one 60 minute period over 15 minutes were spent on the radio. This was having a significant impact on our average speed and the accuracy of our navigation.

Eventually we lost communication with Guernsey Coastguard only to find Alderney Coastguard were calling us on Channel 16. Suddenly we went from using a duplex channel, where only the Coastguard could hear us, to broadcasting our information so that anybody with a VHF could listen in. Unfortunately we had to keep radioing in every 30 minutes. Our progress slowed even further. We were not happy paddlers. We were within a couple of hundred metres of the shore before we saw the first rocks. It had been a 17 nautical mile crossing in dense fog.

Alderney
As we headed north from Herm we were enveloped in fog, which persisted for the majority of the crossing.
Alderney
Our first view of Alderney. Blue skies with the remains of the fog over the higher parts of the island.

The coastline of Alderney is pretty dramatic, so once we were alongside the coast and the fog had thinned our progress slowed. This time not to talk on the radio but to savour the superb scenery. Alderney has a rich military history, with numerous fortifications dotted around the Island.

Alderney
Paddling along the southern shore of Alderney.
Alderney
Heading past Fort Houmet Herbe, one of the numerous military fortifications around the island. Finished in 1854, 61 soldiers were based there.

We paddled around the northern tip of Alderney before landing in Saye Bay, a perfect horseshoe shaped bay. Within 100 metres of the campsite. A great days paddle. 22 nautical miles covered, most of it in fog. From one delightful Channel Island to another, less frequently visited other one.
It was time for a celebratory beer and a meal in one of the harbour side restaurants.

Phare de Kereon

A reasonably early start was greeted by some low cloud and mist. The plan was to visit the Phare de Kereon, a classic lighthouse. There was a good window of opportunity because the tides were very small neaps, no 7 knot currents today. The lighthouse looks across the Passage du Fromveur, which separates the Molene archipelago from Ouessant.

Navigation
As we launched from Molene the visibility dropped. Nicky, Agnes and Alice checking the navigation.

We headed north through the small harbour and anchorage. Avoiding one of the potential hazards of kayaking in this area, the ferries. Several operate daily between the islands and the mainland. Our first destination was the Ile de Balanec, the plan was stop here for lunch so we didn’t explore the coast too intimately.

From there we ferry glided across to Ile de Bannec, although it did keep disappearing in the deteriorating visibility. To the west we could see another group of sea kayakers. It was clear that their objective was the same as ours. The Phare de Kereon. The next island was Ile de Bannec. No landing is permitted on this island, apart from accredited ornithologists. So it was another island we paddled past.

Ahead we could just make out the outline of the Phare de Kereon. Although it was close by there was no sign of Ouessant. Automated in 2004, the last lighthouse in France to loose its lighthouse keepers. The lighthouse was built between 1907 and 1916, an amazing feat in such demanding waters. As we approached the lighthouse the other kayakers were present. Amazingly on an overcast Sunday in August there were 25 paddlers around the base of the lighthouse.

Phare de Kereon
The Phare de Kereon rising from the waters of the Passage du Fromveur. Still no sign of Ouessant.

As the tide started to flow we realized it was time to retreat to the calmer waters inside the reef. As we turned away the visibility improved and we became aware of just how close we were to Ouessant. We returned to Ile de Balanec and because we were outside the bird nesting season, 1st April to 15th July, we were able to land.

Ile de Balanec - Phare de Kereon
Ile de Balanec
The only building on Ile de Balanec, which was still habitable. On top of the rock behind the hut we discovered the leg of a bird with a ring. It turned out to be an Irish Racing Peigeon released in St Malo a couple of months earlier. It appeared to have been a main meal for a peregrine.

Walking around the island it was hard not to think of the harsh life of the inhabitants lived in this remote outpost. The last families left in 1947. From 1954 to 1959 the island was once again inhabited. It was used as a centre for young people with challenging behaviour. It was closed in 1959 following allegations of mis-treatment of the young people.

In the afternoon sunshine we returned to Molene. Ensuring that we circumnavigated the island. Landing back at the campsite we went in search of a celebratory beer. It was then that we encountered another group of paddlers. This area of Brittany really is a mecca for sea kayakers. A truly memorable location, especially on neap tides.

Molene
Nicky crossing to Molene from the north. Increasingly pleasant conditions.
John
John crossing one of the smaller tidal streams. We were on neaps but there was still plenty of movement.

Les Dirouilles – strange rocks

A few members of the Jersey Canoe Club have been visiting Les Dirouilles more frequently over the last few years. Partly because of the popularity of the Ecrehous and subsequent overcrowding and partly because it is an easier paddle. One thing, which has provided interest over the last few weeks is something we have referred to as Les Dirouilles Strange Rocks.

Furthest east
This is the rock which is the furthest east. The rope is from a line of lobster pots which had been exposed due to the very low tide.

The main rock at the Les Dirouilles and the Ecrehous seems to be a form of gneiss. Reddish in colour with a range of crystals of different sizes. Our interest was first raised when we noticed a rock of a much darker colour, which looked as if it could have been quarried. We returned last week to look for other rocks, which are much darker and easily indentifiable as not from the immediate area. I hadn’t heard of any mention of these rocks from other people or in the limited literature available. This was possibly because landing in this area would be difficult from most types of boats.

Les Dirouilles probably marked the western end of a headland stretching from the Cotentin Peninsula, on the French mainland. It was part of a much larger landmass, including the Ecrehous. This would have been in existence until about 5,000 BC, when sea level change broke the reefs up into smaller entities.

On the Ecrehous there have been a number of archaeological finds which indicate that there was human activity. Pieces of pottery, animal bones from domesticated animals such as sheep and pigs, a menhir etc. The present areas of the Ecrehous is significantly larger than Les Dirouilles. The reef is also higher above sea level so the evidence of Neolithic man is better preserved. If there were people on the area, which is now the Ecrehous it is likely that they were also in the area occupied by Les Dirouilles. It is just that the evidence hasn’t survived.

Standing in line at Les Dirouilles
Jim and Eric standing on two of the rocks. These were part of the line of 7.

So what were these strange stones? The first time it had registered as something different we only saw one. Last Friday though we visited the reef with intention of seeing if there were any more. In total we found 12. There were 7 in a line running 138 to 318 degrees, stretching about 40 metres. Next time we must take a tape measure to make sure! There were 4 stones running from 25 to 205 degrees covering a distance of about 15 metres. They crossed the other line of stones, virtually at right angles, towards the western end of the section.

Seaweed
This rock was harder to identify as there was a reasonable amount of sea weed growing on it but as can be seen one face of the rock was still mainly free of sea weed.

That accounts for 11 of the 12 stones we identified, the other one was slightly to one side of one of the others. Perhaps it had been moved by the sea. The location of the stones was slightly to the east of one of the largest rocks in the reef. This probably offers significant protection from the largest waves, which would approach from a westerly direction. In addition the fact that they are only exposed at low water springs means that when the largest waves are breaking in this area they are probably under 7 or 8 metres of water.

Les Dirouilles.  Strange Rocks
Preparing to depart the reef, the strange rocks we had come to visit are to the right of the main rock.

So what are these stones and why are they there? The short answer is that we have no idea but they are in a location which has possibly seen human activity but is now under water most of the time. It is also a place which sees very little modern day human activity. Therefore it is likely that very few people will have had the opportunity to see them and subsequently ponder their origins.
In no way do we claim to be archaeologists. We are just a few sea kayakers who have encountered something unusual. We can’t explain it and have been unable to find any further information. Any suggestions, ideas, comments etc will be greatly received.

Les Dirouilles
Nicky and Janet heading through one of the narrow channels to the west of the reef, as we prepared to start the crossing back to Jersey.

Les Dirouilles – Standing Stones?

Jersey has a rich and diverse archaeological history, with a number of important sites. Standing Stones, Dolmen’s etc are dotted around the Island, providing enjoyment and intrigue for local and visitors alike. A few weeks ago we visited Les Dirouilles, on a low water spring and noticed a rock, which appeared to be different to the bedrock. We took and picture and paddled back to Jersey before the reef was covered by the rising tide.

Les Dirouilles Standing Stones
This is the rock which attracted our attention several weeks ago. It is clearly different to the bedrock in the area, so how did it get here? The simple answer is that we had no idea

A couple of a days later we were on a guided walk to La Cotte de St Brelade, possibly one of the most important Palaeolithic sites in Europe. I showed the picture of our rock to Dr Matt Pope, who is co-ordinating the excavations. As a active archaeologist he immediately asked further questions, rather than providing a simple answer. Unfortunately we were unable to provide the answers and would have to wait for the next suitable Spring Tide and weather window to further our careers as amateur kayaking archaeologists.

Last Friday it all came together, a large Spring Tide and a wind forecast of Beaufort force 1-2. The journey out to Les Dirouilles, by kayak is so much easier than the nearby and far more popular, Ecrehous. Paddling out to Les Ecrehous is always across the tide, so you have to identify the small tidal window, which will allow you to cross the swift tidal streams with the least amount of effort. In effect there is never any positive tidal assistance.

Les Dirouilles arrival
Alex approaching the rocks to the south of Les Dirouilles

Move a couple of miles to the west towards Les Dirouilles and suddenly the tidal streams are your friend. As we came around the end of St Catherine’s Breakwater our speed increased and with the tide underneath us we covered just over 5 nautical miles in an hour. We weren’t even paddling that fast, spending the whole of the crossing chatting with each other. It is best to aim to arrive about an hour before low water, otherwise the landing options are fairly limited. We were greeted by the resident Grey Seals, perhaps in common with us they are finding the Ecrehous too crowded and have left in search of quieter waters.

Alex, Janet and Jim entering the main body of the reef about 1 hour before low water, the tidal range was 10.3 metres, not the largest of the Spring tides but certainly enough to create significant movement.

A beautiful sandy beach is exposed, a perfect lunch spot and the starting point for our sea bed archaeology. The rock of our first visit was easily identified, so it was time to survey the scene. So with the questions posed by Matt Pope, ringing in my ears I stood on a prominent rock and looked for the answers. This was not isolated rock, in fact we were able to identify 12 individual rocks. Not being geologists the accuracy of our identification is open to question but to us it was clear that they were a completely different rock type.

Les Dirouilles beach
The low tide beach with rocks stretching into the distance. The complete lack of wind resulted in memorable conditions.

We spent some time photographing and measuring the angles of the rocks, which we referred to as Les Dirouilles – Standing Stones? Time wasn’t on our side though. We needed to make sure that we had our lunch! Always important on a sea kayaking day trip. Just after low water it was time to be on our way back to Jersey.

John adjusting his GPS, prior to the crossing back to St Catherine’s. It is always interesting when you see the reading on the GPS reach 8 or 9 knots.

After our last visit we pondered the origin of the name Les Dirouilles, referring to the go to location for people interested in such things “Jersey Place Names I” by Charles Stevens, Jean Arthur and Joan Stevens, which was published in 1986. They suggest “mischievous dwarfs” but added that the meaning is very uncertain. In fact there is a lot of uncertainty about this rarely visited reef.
We did leave with more questions than answers but some extra data and some interesting thoughts as to the origins of these unusual rocks on Les Dirouilles. These thoughts will be on the next post.

Les Dirouilles gully
Heading through the western end of the reef. This is a potential landing spot and a great swimming place.

Molene

I have been sea kayaking in Brittany on a regular basis for over 40 years, exploring the rivers, canals and coasts of this wonderful region of France. An area, which has always eluded my explorations are the islands to the west of the peninsula. It was with some excitement, therefore, when Agnes, a long standing French member of the Jersey Canoe Club arranged a paddling trip to Molene over the August Bank Holiday weekend.

As the weekend approached it was clear that the weather was going to co-operate, which was perfect when combined with the small neap tide. This meant that the normally swift tidal streams would be greatly reduced in strength, resulting in a much more relaxing experience.

Sadly personal issues resulted in me being unable to join the early arrivals in France for the opportunity to paddle Sept Iles and Ile de Brehat. So the first time I pushed my kayak into the water was as we left Porsmoguer, towards the western extremity of the Breton Peninsula.

Molene
Packing the kayaks prior to the departure, for Molene, from the beach at Porsmoguer

Our route initially took us south towards Beniguet, a low lying island with some beautiful beaches before turning north west. Lunch was on the west facing beach on Ile de Litiri, a beautiful spot for a picnic so it was inevitable that we would be sharing the beach with other boats. The island is privately owned so it isn’t possible to wander around above the high water mark.

Ile de Litiri
Looking across the beach on Ile de Litiri, a perfect place to stop for lunch.

In common with so many other islands in this archipelago access is limited at times. This is an important breeding area for birds, so be aware of where landing is restricted. Heading west we passed our first group of sea kayakers, there were about 15 in this group. It was the first of a number of groups that we encountered over the next three days.

Molene Archipelago
Ferry gliding between the islands whilst en route to Molene. As we were on neaps the moving water wasn’t too fast.

We did land on Ile de Trielen, part of the Reserve Naturelle Iroise, to explore the abandoned settlement. There is a beach on the northern side of the island, which gives easy access to the footpaths. There were numerous small birds flitting around in the vegetation, Wheatear’s seemed particularly common.

Ile de Trielen
One of the old buildings on Ile de Trielen. The blocked out door seemed rather strange
Ile de Trielen
The small pond on Ile de Trielen. There were a couple of small stone shelters, probably used by hunters in search of ducks and other water birds.

From here it was an easy paddle to Molene, an island with approximately 200 inhabitants. Landing is on a narrow slipway to the south of the harbour. The campsite is to the left of the slip and it was clear that a number of kayakers were already on the Island. Surprisingly two of the first people we met were Veronique Olivier and Guy Lecointre. They had written the book “Sea Kayaking Guide 60 Brittany Paddles.” Essential reading for anybody paddling in Brittany. I had last met them at the Spanish Sea Kayak Symposium, just over 2 years ago. At times the world of sea kayaking seems really quite small.

Molene
Walking through the narrow lanes, which wind their way through the delightful village.

Once the tents were up it was time to head off is search of a bar and a restaurant. To toast the success of the days paddle and to plan for the following days. Agnes was a perfect guide and highly recommended if you are visiting Brittany. Why not check out her courses and guided tours.

Isla Danzante

After an evening spent at one of the most easily identifiable campsites in the Sea of Cortez it was time to start our journey south. Initially we headed north along the shores of Isla Carmen as we wanted to cross to the northern end of Isla Danzante.
The views towards the hills of Isla Carmen were spectacular, as we started the crossing another kayak group left the larger island heading west. Our paths seemed to be parallel to each other but we were clearly heading to a similar point.

Isla Carmen
Heading north along the west coast of Isla Carmen. We were getting ready to cross to the northern end of Isla Danzante.

Eventually our paths crossed and we stopped for a talk with the group who were out of Loreto. It turned out they would be the only group we spoke to whilst on the water in the next 10 days. Baja might be a popular kayaking destination but you rarely encounter other groups.

Isla Dazante
Rachel paddling past one of the attractive beaches on the west coast Isla Dazante. There were a number of suitable places to stop, which offered the opportunity to some superb swimming.

The decision to paddle along the wext coast of Isla Danzante was based upon the fact that on every other visit to the area we had paddled the west coast. It was great to get a different perspective on a dramatic Mexican island. Rising to a maximum height of 1050 metres, the island is home to 16 different types of reptiles, including a number of snakes. Not being a fan of such things I enjoyed my time of the beach and snorkeling but resisted the temptation to wander around inland.

Isla Danzante
Crossing from Isla Danzante towards Punta Candeleros. This point marked the start of our journey south along the Baja coast.

Leaving Isla Danzante we passed on the inside of a number of small islands before reaching the headland of Punta Candeleros. In many ways this was quite a significant milestone as we would be following the Baja coast, in a southerly direction from there.
It was a really warm day so it is a relief to round the point and land on pebble beach, which we remembered from a previous visit. There was plenty of shelter from the midday sun.

Baja, Mexico
A delightful beach with some very welcome shade. 2 years ago we had watched whales breaching whilst sitting on this beach.

The afternoon paddle was relatively short and we were fortunate enough to have a light following breeze speeding us on our way. Camp for the evening was on the large beach of Playa Triunfo, perhaps better known as ‘donkey poo’ beach. We camped on the northern end of the beach, where there was plenty of evidence of visits by our four legged friends!

It was a perfect place to sit and sip our evening tequila after a memorable day on the water, which included paddling along the shores of Isla Danzante one of the more special places in this unique area.

Punta Baja

It’s a long way from La Paz to Loreto, could be the opening line of a badly written country song. In fact, it’s the reality of the shuttle north. Nearly 5 hours of driving through the Mexican desert, found us on the beach at Puerto Escondido, surrounded by piles of kit. Our destination for the day was Punta Baja, only just over 6 miles away so we were in no rush.
The sea kayaks we had hired, from Mar Y Aventuras in La Paz, simply swallowed our equipment food and water. We were carrying at least 30 litres of water each in addition to fruit juices and Sprite. Kayaking in a desert is thirsty work.
In less time than anticipated, we were floating the kayaks away from the beach, prior to jumping in and heading to the east. As we left the shelter of the bay we were greeted by Mobula Rays jumping, surely one of the most magical sights for the cockpit of a kayak. Dolphins swam past heading north whilst the bird life was something special.

Baja, Mexico
Looking east towards Isla Danzante, a delightful island which lies between the coast just south of Loreto and Isla Carmen.

There was a slight northerly swell running, something I couldn’t remember experiencing in Baja before. Perhaps an indication of stronger winds further into the Gulf of California. Our aim was to pass through the narrow gap to the north of Isla Danzante.
The kayaks would float through the gap as long as there was nobody in them, so we split. 2 people opting to float and walk whilst 3 of us chose the longer and lumpier paddle to the north. The paddle was entertaining but the floaters were quicker!

Isla Danzante
Crossing towards Isla Danaznte. Within the firts 30 minutes we had already seen Mobula Rays and dolphins

Ahead lay Isla Carmen, the largest of the islands in the Loreto area and an essential part of the National Park. We had our wristbands and our booking for the campsite at Punta Baja. Without doubt one of the most recognisable locations in the Sea of Cortez, it’s the palm trees, which give a clue to its identity.

Punta Baja
Arriving at Punta Baja. It is one of the most perfect locations for a camp site, a great place to spend an evening.

As we were relatively late in the season daylight saving time had come into force, the extra hour of daylight in the evening allowing us to adopt a more relaxed approach to the proceedings. There was no need to multi task. There was time to savour the Tequila before starting on the evening meal.

Punta Baja
These were our neighbours for the evening. Brown Pelicans and their amazing powers of flight provide endless hours of enjoyment.

A superb first day, with a feeling that things could only get better over the next 10 days although we were aware that it might be difficult to beat the campsite as a location. We had been here before and all the memories were good ones, this time shouldn’t be any different.

Punta Baja
The tents are in place as the sunset sets behind the mountains of the Baja Peninsula. Its for moments like these that we go sea kayaking.

Petrified Forest

Driving east along Highway 24 in Utah is a truly amazing experience, particularly if you have any interest in physical geography or outdoor activities. Along the route there are a number of significant sites, including, the Capital Reef National Park, but we decided to break our journey at the Escalante Petrified Forest State Park. What a great decision that turned out to be.

On arrival we pulled up close to the Wide Hollow Reservoir and in a matter of minutes had seen a greater variety of birds than in the previous 5 days. An Osprey fling overhead plus hundreds of ducks and comorants proved to be a welcome distraction before heading off for a walk.

Petrified Forest
Just after the start of the Petrified Forest trail and looking down on Wide Hollow Reservoir. Constructed in 1954 to provide water for the nearby town of Escalante, it had a wide variety of birds including Osprey and Bufflehead, when we visited.
Petrified Forest
Marker 10 on the Nature Trail, Petrified Wood. Amazing to think that its between 135 and 155 million years old.

There is a relatively short walk with notes to follow although this can be extended into a longer route, which has a much more remote feel. Although we were here during Spring Break, we only passed two other people on the whole circuit. Such a contrast to some of the other more popular stops along the scenic route, such as the National Parks

Mountain scenery
Extending the walk revealed some superb desert scenery. We didn’t see another person along this section of the trail.

The Escalante Petrified Forest is a fascinating insight into the geological history of this section of Utah. It also offers an opportunity to explore away the car parks and to gain a greater appreciation of the environment of this area.

Petrified Forest
One of the better examples of the petrified wood. The colours are produced by the presence of minerals that enter the wood during the process of petrification. The purple colours are the result of manganese oxides.