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.

Taylor Creek Trailhead – Zion

The Taylor Creek Trailhead is a delightful walk in the Kolob Canyons section of the Zion National Park in Utah. Access is straight foward from the I-15. Leave at junction 40 and call into the National Park Office to purchase your permit.
There are a number of options regarding payment, we bought a years pass for the National Parks, which cost $80, for the two of us. The idea of paying raises some issues for people in the UK, who are used to free access to the wild lands. Actually with the facilities, which were available, plus free parking I don’t really have an issue with the payment. I just hope I get 12 months use out of it.

Taylor Cree Trailhead
Nicky at the start of the trail. An early start meant that on the way up the trail we saw very few people, in fact only 3 people walking towards us

We arrived relatively early, you could imagine that the parking lot can become pretty crowded. The size of the parking lot clearly regulates the number of people on the trail at any one time. The information states that, the Taylor Creek Trailhead, is a round trip of 5 miles with 400 feet of ascent. In reality we walked 5.5 miles with 2,000 feet of ascent. I don’t think that they had taken into account all the small ups and downs. On the walks we did in the area, which we recorded on the GPS, we found that the quoted distance was generally under by about 10% whilst the height gain was always significantly more than stated. I used the excellent viewranger App, to record our walk.

Taylor Creek Trailhed
The trail is well maintained in the lower sections allowing easy walking. The scenery becoming more dramatic around each twist in the track.
Taylor Creek Trailhead
Built in around 1930, Larson’s Cabin is one of two that you encounter on the trail.

Gustive O. Larson built his cabin in 1930, at the heart of a 160 acres homestead. Looking at old photographs of the area it is amazing in the changes in the vegetation. The area had been grazed by livestock, resulting in far fewer trees. The Washington County Historical Society have a fascinating article on the history of the Larson and his cabin.
From here the scenery becomes more dramatic as you enter one of the “finger” canyons.

Taylor Creek Trailhead
Starting along the path into the “finger canyon”. Huge cliffs rise on either side as the valley narrows
Taylor Creek Trailhead
The canyon narrows dramatically. Due to our relatively early start we had this section of the trail to ourselves. Adding greatly to the enjoyment of the morning

The end of Taylor Creek Trailhead is Double Arch Alcove, a dramatic location, which is a fitting place to stop for a rest and to soak up the atmosphere. You are unlikely to have the area to yourself but an earlier start, will help reduce the crowds.

Taylor Creek Trailhead
The lower level of Double Arch Cove
Taylor Creek Trailhead
Looking up towards the higher levels of Double Arch Alcove.

On the walk out the views of the canyon walls, were if anything, more spectacular. The sun had moved around accentuating the contours on the rock faces. All too soon we had arrived back at the car, after an enjoyable morning and a perfect introduction to hiking in Utah.

Utah walking
On the walk out, the canyon has a new perspective, but is equally dramatic.

A bit of a change from the normal postings but one, which hopefully some people will find interesting and/or useful.

North Coast Speed

2019 sees some particularly large Spring Tides, offering the opportunity for some rather exciting kayaking.  The February tides coincided with a large swell, which presented its own challenges.  The swell certainly created some interest during the course of the day but at least the decision to leave from Archirondel meant that we had a relatively quite start and finish to our paddle of north coast speed.
We paddled past the distinctive red and white tower, built in 1792 before hitting the main flow of the ebbing tide.  We were on our way.

North Coast Speed
Due to the size of the swell we launch from Archirondel, a beach which we don’t use that often. Perhaps we should because it was easy launching and landing.

Our target for lunch was a small beach just to the east of Ronez, we knew that we would be able to land there almost regardless of the size of the swell.  In fact we had eaten there a few weeks previously on another day with a large swell.  We arrived off Ronez in less than 2 hours.  So the options were a 3 hour lunch break, whilst we waited for the tide to turn, or head a bit further along the coast.  We chose the second option and carried on towards Plemont, the next place we knew for certain we could land.

North coast speed
The closest headland was our target for lunch, the reality was eating at the distant one. This was a result of the speed we were traveling at.

North Coast Speed
We stopped for lunch on a small sandy beach on the eastern side of Plemont headland. Due to the size of the swell this was the only suitable location along this section of coast.

Le Mourier Valley
Rachel off Le Mourier Valley. We couldn’t approach much closer to the coast because of the occasional large swell, which would sweep into the bay.

From Sorel we started to pick up the flood tide, and accelerated along the north coast of Jersey.

North coast speed
Belle Hougue, the tallest headland in Jersey. We were certainly moving fast at this stage.

North Coast Speed
Jim breaking into the tidal flow at Tour de Rozel, one of the best tide races on the Island.

As we left Tour de Rozel, the influence of a large spring tide, was having a distinct impact.  The figures on the GPS, were gradually creeping upwards.  As we approached La Coupe, the north east corner of the Island we touched just over 10 knots, fairly surprising as we weren’t putting too much effort into our forward paddling.
The tide swept us onto St Catherine’s and into Archirondel.  We have covered 24 nautical miles during the day but I can’t remember a time when a paddle of that distance had felt so easy.

Walking on the Sea Bed

Friday was a big tide, in fact a very big tide.  The tidal range of 11.8 metres resulted in a significant movement of water.  As it approached low tide we were able to go walking on the sea bed.
We met at La Rocque Harbour, the south east corner of the Island.  Unfortunately the blue skies and sunshine from the west coast were replaced by an approaching fog.  It was rolling in from the sea and obscuring all the physical features.
Icho Tower was about 1.5 miles away, the benefits of GPS ensuring that we had this information, but at times we could see less than a hundred metres.  Heading so far offshore in the fog requires confidence in your navigation abilities.  So for the first time in nearly 60 years of living in Jersey, when walking I had to walk on a compass bearing to ensure that we found our planned destination, Icho Tower.

Walking on the sea bed
Our departure point. La Rocque Harbour, with the fog starting to roll in from the sea.

Walking on the sea bed
Leaving La Rocque, at this moment our feet were still relatively dry! We were already walking on a compass bearing by this time.

Walking on the sea bed
As we headed across the beach there were a number of water filled gullies. They became increasingly deep, so the optimism of dry feet from wearing wellington boots, was changed into flooded boots and wet socks.

Icho Tower appeared out of the mist, when we were less than 100 metres away, according to the GPS.  The tower was built in 1811, part of the coastal defenses designed to protect the Island from possible French invasion.  It is easily seen whilst driving along the coastal road at Le Hocq but visiting on foot is restricted to the larger spring tides.  We decided to have lunch in the hope that the water retreated from the deeper gullies before we headed east towards Seymour Tower.

Walking on the sea bed
Icho Tower gradually appeared from the mist. We were within a 100 metres before we could see anything for definite.

Walking on the sea bed
As we had lunch on the rocks at Icho Tower the fog was gradually thinning and visibility improving.

Walking on the sea bed
As we walked between Icho Tower and Seymour Tower the visibility improved and the sun came out.

Walking on the sea bed
Approaching Seymour Tower after the sun finally came out.

Seymour Tower is unique among the defensive towers, which are found around the coast of Jersey, in that it is square.  It was built in 1782, a direct consequence of the 1781 invasion, which resulted in the Battle of Jersey.  Today it is a unique place to stay overnight, with bookings available through Jersey Heritage.  It lies at the heart of the RAMSAR site, situated off the south east corner of Jersey.

Walking on the sea bed
Sitting on the platform in front of Seymour Tower, the views to the south were amazing. Such a privilege to live on such a special Island.

Walking on the sea bed
Looking back towards Jersey from the steps on Seymour Tower, the coast is just visible through the hazy conditions. At this point we were only about half way towards the low tide mark. The sea really does retreat over the horizon.

Walking on the sea bed
This screen shot from the ViewRanger App shows our route. Friday’s route is shown in red whilst the black route is our walk on the last large spring tide.

The screen shot above, really does indicate that we were walking on the sea bed.  As the tide drops, particularly on the larger spring tides, a unique coastal environment is exposed.  A great place to explore but somewhere, which needs accurate planning to avoid being cut off by the tide.

Early paddling adverts

Whilst browsing through some of my rather large collection of canoeing and kayaking magazines I looked at some of the old adverts.  They show how the sport has changed over the last 60 years.  Prices were certainly considerably lower than today.

Early Paddling Adverts
Single and double folding canoes (kayaks). All for the remarkable price of £23. 10. 0. This advert appeared in The Canoe Camper Spring 1960 issue. This was the magazine of the Canoe Camping Club.

Early Paddling Adverts
This is the earliest mention of a specialist sea kayaking craft, I have found. The Sea Rapier at the time was the fastest kayak to be paddled across the English Channel. This advert appeared in Canoeing in Britain in October 1962. At the time this was the in house magazine of British Canoeing.

Early paddling adverts
Tyne Canoes were a respected name in the paddling world in the 1950’s and 60’s. This advert appeared in the Winter 1965-5 issue of The Canoe Camper. This was obviously a time when it was seen as more sensible to send a young girl afloat with a dog as opposed to a life jacket.  A great early paddling advert.

Early paddling adverts
This March 1966 advert, for the Solent Canoe Centre, from Canoeing in Britain, is one of the earliest to mention fibre glass in touring canoes and kayaks.

Early paddling adverts
This advert, for the K.W.7 is particularly relevant to me as my first kayak was a K.W.7, which I received for Christmas 1969. The start of my paddling career. I used mine for playing on the sea as opposed to taking part in International Slaloms. Canoeing in Britain June 1966.

Early paddling adverts
One of the major sea kayaking manufacturers of the last 50 years. In 1970 you could buy a partly finished Soar Valley Special. I remember my friend John buying one of these kits and we spent many a happy hour completing it in his garden in St Helier. This was in the December 1970 issue of Canoeing Magazine.

Early paddling adverts
An interesting advert, which would not be acceptable today. Another major producer of sea kayaks over the last 50 years. This advert was in the February 1971 issue of Canoeing. A magazine that in its later issues appeared to enjoy publishing pictures of topless paddlers.

Early paddling adverts
Visiting North Wales in the early 1980’s one of the pleasures was to visit the Jim Hargreaves canoeing shop. Located in the garage in Capel Curig, you could nearly always find something to buy. From Ceufad Spring 1981 issue.

 

 

Les Ecrehous in February

The Ecrehous are a great place to visit at any time of the year but its always special to get a visit in during the winter months, when the reef is much quieter than during the summer.  A mid week visit, to Les Ecrehous in February, is a great time to go if you are hoping for some piece and quiet.
The paddle out from St Catherine’s was relatively straightforward, the benefit of having drawn vectors to allow for the tidal streams always makes the crossing easier, with the GPS just used for back up and fine adjustments to the bearing.  The 5 nautical miles took just over the hour, and soon we were drifting through the reef, as the first of the ebb tide started to run.

Les Ecrehous in February
Arriving at the Ecrehous is always a great experience. Chris just in front of Marmotier, before we paddled around the reef to land on the French side.

If possible we like to land on the French side of the reef as it is an easier carry, the only disadvantage is that your phone can suddenly switch to a French provider resulting in unexpected roaming charges.  Always a good idea to switch your phone to flight mode before leaving the beach, in Jersey.  That’s not a phrase that you have to use that frequently when briefing your kayaking group.
We always like to eat our lunch on the bench, I think that is mainly because of tradition. The photograph below shows the view to the north of the bench, which also helps to explain why its such a great picnic spot.

Les Ecrehous in February
Looking north from the bench, where we had lunch.

Another tradition is that when visiting the reef its important to go for a walk along the shingle bank, which is illustrated in this post.  All too soon it was time to pack the kayaks and think about heading south west, back to Jersey.  I always find it a bit more complicated heading back towards Jersey due to the tides.  The last you thing you want to happen is to have to punch tide in the last mile or so.  I am always surprised how often it happens though and the last mile or so is a real challenge.

Les Ecrehous in February
Leaving the reef. I was in a double with Janet. I have to admit that I have really started to enjoy paddling in a double. I know many paddlers steer clear of them but they bring a whole new perspective and skills set to your paddling.

We headed past Maitre Ile, to get a bit further south before starting out on the crossing back to Jersey.  The largest island in the reef the island has a rich historical past, with the ruins of a priory.  In 1309 the monk and the servant were responsible for lighting the navigation beacon.  Interestingly over 700 years later there is no light on the reef.

Les Ecrehous in February
Chris paddling past the largest island in the reef Maitre Ile, landing there was not an option because of the nesting cormorants.

So it was an ideal day to visit Les Ecrehous in February, perfect sea conditions and unseasonably warmth meant that we were able to wear our shorts for the whole of the day.  An unusually early hint of summer without the crowds.  We are looking forward to plenty more visits as the weather settles down.

Les Ecrehous in February
Jim returning from the Ecrehous. The blues of the sea and sky merging into one colourful backdrop.

Final morning

It was the final morning of our pre-symposium sea kayaking trip.  We didn’t need to be away at the crack of dawn but we did need to be ready to catch the start of the flood tide to carry us towards Port Welshpool.  From there we would be heading towards Wilson’s Promontory and the start of the International Sea Kayaking Educator’s Conference.

Beach
Preparing for a low tide departure from Snake Island.

It wasn’t too early a start, which was in contrast to the previous morning. The sun had already taken the chill off the air as we headed north. I think that this was the first time that it registered, as we paddled away from Snake Island, that the sun was in the north. Clearly my geography of the Southern Hemisphere left something to be desired.

Drinks Bottle
In common with so many other trips I have used my Water-to-Go bottle for daily drinks and have managed to avoid any stomach problems.

What was surprising, was for how much of the paddle we were in shallow water, which was quite fortunate as there were quite a few fishing boats heading towards the open water from Port Welshpool.  Whalers first used this area in the 1830’s, whilst the town was officially named Port Welshpool in 1952.

Final morning
Time to unload the kayaks before heading to Wilson’s Prom and the Sea Kayaking Educator’s Symposium.

We landed in Port Welshpool, and started the unloading of the kayaks.  We had been out 4 days and covered just under 30 nautical miles. Not a great distance, but it was through an interesting environment, which also gave us the opportunity to observe some animals, which we would never encounter in the northern hemisphere.
More importantly the four day paddle gave us the opportunity to get to know some of the other people who would be attending the 2nd International Sea Kayaking Educators Symposium at Tidal River in the Wilsons Promontory National Park.

Early morning paddle

We finally got the opportunity to paddle in flat calm conditions on the third day, the only problem was that we had to get up at 04.00 to do so. The way the tidal streams were working meant that we either started early or waited until the late afternoon. An early morning paddle gave us so many more options.

Wilson's Prom
Leaving the Swashway Channel at first light. We had our first views of Wilson’s Prom National Park.

So at 05.50 we pushed away from the bank into a glorious Australian sunrise. It started off pretty good and just got better and better and for the first time in the trip we had mirror calm conditions and the tidal flow with us. Only just over a knot but that is better than nothing.
As we exited the Swashway Channel we gained our first reasonably good views of the north side of Wilson’s Promontory National Park, where we would be spending time at the International Sea Kayaking Educators Symposium.
There was a reasonable amount of quite fast boat traffic moving up and down the channel towards the open sea. Fortunately the channel was relatively narrow with quite a few buoys indicating their route. It’s always good to know your buoyage when kayaking on the sea. Crossing the channel at right angles we reduced our exposure to the boats before turning south towards Wilson’s Prom. We were soon paddling alongside rocks and a shoreline that was more than a couple of metres high.
We stopped on a couple of stunning beaches with the opportunity to explore the shoreline or slightly further inland. We were in no real hurry as we waited for slack water in the channel to allow us to cross back to Snake Island, our destination for the day. Also it was only just after 09.00, always the advantage of an early morning paddle.

Rocky shore
Paddling along the northern shore of Wilson’s Promontory. Although this was our third day paddling it was the first time we had seen a rocky coast.

There was a discussion as to what time we should aim to cross back to Snake Island because of the tidal streams.  As a sea kayaker I have never understood why people use different units of measurement in the same conversation. It could go along the lines of;
“We have a wind of between 13 and 15 mph from the south, the tidal stream is running at 3 knots and the distance we have to go is 10 kilometres.”
The potential for errors to creep into people’s calculations is huge. I just don’t understand why people don’t stick with one unit of measurement and if we are operating on the sea it should be the nautical variety. Knots and nautical miles. Information we need about tidal flows is always given in knots so why not stick with that unit. I admit that some people might find it difficult at first but I really think that it is worth the effort.

Kayaks on beach
Arrival on Snake Beach. We were told that the campsite might be a bit “snakey”. That’s not the sort of comment that a paddler from Jersey wants to hear.

I know many people will find this strange but a couple of us were really getting quite excited by the prospect of seeing kangaroos. Living on an island where the largest land animal is the rabbit I get easily excited. We had been told that we were likely to see them in the evening but it was still quite a surprise when when 16 of them hopped out the bush. Linked with a few small deer wandering around and it felt like a wildlife bonanza.

Tidal range
Due to the tidal range we had to move the kayaks up off the beach. It would have been a pretty inconvenient to loose some kayaks at this stage in the trip.

Animal
I know these can be really common but when its the first one you have ever seen in the wild its a pretty exciting experience!

Increasing Wind

One of the problems of jet leg is that sometimes you just can’t sleep, which was the position I found myself in on the second day. Taking advantage of this I got up reasonably early to walk along the spit. We had so painstakingly paddled along the previous day.

Drum spit
Looking along the spit on Drum Island. A perfect location for an early morning stroll.

It was one of those moments that you truly appreciate. The morning sun rising over a reasonably calm sea to the backdrop of the Australian dawn chorus. All too soon it was time to head back, as the rest of the camp was starting to stir.
Whilst on trips, individuals often develop routines, especially around the campsite. Some people are unable to sit still and have to get involved with every aspect of the food preparation, often to the frustration of the person who is actually cooking the meal. I am more than willing to allow people to get on a cook the evening meal, they normally do a much better job than I do but I am happy to prepare breakfast everyday, which was the position I found myself in that morning.
I enjoy the opportunity to reflect on what lies ahead and to have the opportunity to chat to people. In contrast to the evenings when most people are around the kitchen area, in the morning people usually arrive individually meaning that the experience is much more personal. So that is one of the reasons I found myself preparing porridge on the south side of Sunday Island.
We were away reasonably promptly but the sea, which had been so calm on my dawn walk was starting to reflect changes in the weather. The forecast had confidently predicted reasonably light winds. They just didn’t seem to be able to get it right though, the days we were on the water.
Almost as soon as we headed along the channel the wind picked up and it was either a headwind or on our beam. This had resulted in some interesting discussions about packing the kayaks. Distributing the weight depending upon the direction of the wind, in effect trimming the kayak to suit the conditions. In reality how often does the wind remain the same all day? I always recommend packing the same kit in the same place in the kayak so when you arrive on the beach and conditions are far from ideal it’s a matter of being able to go to the right dry bags straight away.
Crossing over the channel to Snake Island the wind increased even further and it was clear we were falling behind the proposed schedule. We stopped for lunch on a possible campsite, The Gulf, as we considered the options. Two further campsites we possible and we sensibly selected the closer of the two.

Snake Island
The lunch break was taken on the Gulf Campsite on Snake Island. Although the wind had picked up it was still possible to head towards the next available campsite.

We arrived at Nooramunga Marine and Coastal Park Just as the tide started to drop and managed to avoid the worst of the carry through the thick oozing mud. Tents were soon up and meal preparation underway. It hadn’t been a long paddle but it hadn’t been straightforward either. The wind proving a pretty constant adversary.

Camp site
Nooramunga Marine and Coastal Park was where we spent the night. Half the group camping in the shelter of the bush whilst others decided on a more open site, close to the water.

Paddling in this area is in complete contrast to the waters at home. The islands are low lying without any obvious physical features, resulting in quite challenging navigation. If you didn’t remain focused on your chart then establishing your location could be an issue.

Low tide
Low tide and sunset in the Swashway Channel. A delightful end to the day.

Australian Sea Kayaking

I have to admit that I had never been that attracted by the idea of a visit to Australia.  This was largely a feeling based on ignorance as opposed to a decision based on facts.  Therefore, when I saw the International Sea Kayaking Educators Symposium advertised, I though this might just be the catalyst I needed to head towards the southern hemisphere.
What appealed about the Symposium and helped justify the hours spent on the aircraft reaching Melbourne, was the 4 day pre-symposium paddle.  So with a degree of enthusiasm and some slight trepidation I signed up and booked my flights.
This was the story as to how I found myself standing outside the railway station at 06.00 on a cold Thursday morning in Frankston, to the south east of Melbourne.   It is an interesting experience trying to identify other sea kayakers amongst the early morning commuters.  The North Face bags and beards were a bit of a give away with the males!
So 6 prospective kayakers from 4 different countries found ourselves heading towards Port Albert.  It was here that we met the other people who had taken advantage of the opportunity to participate in the 4 day paddle.  In total there were about 20 of us, with a third from the UK, which I have to admit I found a bit surprising.
As with all trips some people were quicker than others at getting ready for departure, but straight after lunch we were ready to go.  The big question was “Who had turned on the fan?”  The early morning calm had been replaced by an entertaining breeze, which was significantly higher than forecast.  Sitting still was not an option.
We fought our way west and south with a speed over the ground that most of the time was well below 2 knots.  The wind was certainly taking its toll and producing a very low fun factor.  Eventually after just over 5 nautical miles we decided to call it a day, the next possible camp site was quite some way off and so it was with some relief that we lifted the kayaks above the high water mark.
Not a glorious start to my Australian sea kayaking career but it was certainly an interseting experience and the relatively early finish allowed plenty of time to get to know the other people in the group.
What was even better was that the wind was due to drop off over night so as I dropped asleep on my first night in the Australian bush all my thoughts were positive.

Australian Sea Kayaking
Preparing and loading the kayaks in front of Port Albert Yacht Club. Conditions were lovely at this time little did we realize how quickly the wind would pick up.

Australian Sea Kayking
Sheltering under the sand spit at the eastern end of Sunday Island. The sand was blasting over the top and some of the group decided that walking and dragging was easier than paddling into such a significant head wind.

Australian Sea Kayaking
Although we had hoped to get further this campsite was realistically as far as we could go on the first day. Pitching the tents in the bush gave some much needed shelter from the wind. We did tie the kayaks down due to the strength of the wind.