CannonTour - The Armies of Summer (Wildland Firefighting) Pt 1/3

Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Epic Rides' started by Cannonshot, Jul 21, 2019.

  1. siyeh

    siyeh unproductive Supporter

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    Outstanding report sir.
    It is an American tragedy those brave young men and women on Storm King Mountain did not get the the high wind warning that others did,,
    #41
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  2. Cannonshot

    Cannonshot Having a Nice Time Administrator Super Moderator

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    Day 4 Continued

    Rifle, Parachute

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    I noticed a couple of measures they use to deal with deer entering the interstate. First is a cattle guard used as a deer guard.
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    The next were a series of return gates that guide deer already along the freeway fence to ramps and barriers that steer them into jumping out of the right of way.
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    I wouldn't want to land short on this runway.
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    Rifle is a nice town along the way that serves as a center to the cattle industry in the area. When the railroad first came through from the east it ended at Rifle for a while making Rifle an important place. The area is about ranching. Years back when some sheep herders tried to get going the usual cattle and sheep interest conflicts ensued including 2/3 of one herd of sheep being driven over a cliff by cowboys.
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    When an Indian agency tried to convert Ute culture, there was a conflict (1879 Meeker Massacre) that ended up with the agent and 10 employees being killed, the agency women and children being taken as hostages, and the Utes getting kicked out of Colorado to Utah. Fourteen troops were attacked and killed nearby in a related incident.
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    There once was a restaurant here, which I think has changed owners and policies, that encouraged their employees and customers to open carry pistols. Some of the movie Vanishing Point was filmed here on the bridge.
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    Parachute was so named because a survey of the area revealed that streams line up with a land feature to look like suspension lines and a parachute. Good story, but I think it was more related to a similar sounding native word. Here nor there because the town changed their name to "Grand Valley" for a while in a marketing effort to get more people to come there. They changed it back in the 70s.

    I think this place is for smoke jumpers.
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    One of the last train robberies.
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    The area has shale oil but the industry is unreliable here so it is inactive. This sodium bicarbonate plant is booming outside of town.
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    #42
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  3. Cannonshot

    Cannonshot Having a Nice Time Administrator Super Moderator

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    Day 4 Continued Battlement Creek Fire, Rulison Project

    Heading toward the site of the Battlement Creek Fire which involved a fatal burnover and a fatal plane crash. A burnout operation started by a hotshot crew crossed a canyon and went up a steep slope where it entrapped four members of the Mormon Hotshot Crew. Three were killed and one was badly burned.
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    This 1897 school house has been neatly restored.
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    Coming up on the site of the fire. Some things that came out of this fire were mandatory carrying of fire shelters and mandatory use of fireproof pants.
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    This fire was in July of 1976. There is a dozer line still visible going up the mountain. Dozer lines are intended to serve as substantial fire breaks. Sometimes you can backburn from the line to eliminate fuel to stop the fire that might otherwise overrun the line. The dozer line appears as a light green break in the vegetation. I don't think I captured a good view of it in a photo though.
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    I went looking for the site where they set off a 40KT nuclear charge to try to get natural gas back in 1969. There were a number of projects active at that time to see about using nuclear stuff for civilian purposes. This was Project Rulison. Other projects they looked at were blasting canals, harbors, and tunnels.
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    Not much left at the site now. It is on someone's cabin lot and is fenced as private property.
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    Back when this happened they paid people from 5 miles around to leave for a day when they lit the fuse, held their ears, and touched this thing off. Not everyone left. Some that stayed reported being propelled six inches into the air. 5.5 on the Richter. Temps underground were hotter than the surface of the sun which sealed some things up with molten glass. Collapsed rock sealed the top of the bore.
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    They drilled down 8,000 feet. When the blast went off it got gas but the gas was too radioactive to use. Water wells are clean but the folks at Larry Livermore say that contamination can migrate more than a mile underground. Right now there is a restriction about drilling within a half mile of the place. Someone wants to start fracking here. Some people are say "yeah, good idea, we should open ourselves up to some of the most radioactive and toxic substances on Earth like tritium, carbon-14, and krypton-85". Some people are worried about radiation seeping out of gas burn-offs at other sites since this is in a concentrated area of production.
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    Anyway, I was standing at this little flat spot where they bored in a nuclear device and touched it off.
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    While I was there, two guys drove up in an energy company truck and we chatted for a while. One of them said his neighbor was on the Battlement Creek Fire back in the 1970s. I asked about the plane crash site which I was about to try to locate. He told me he had been trying to locate it for the five years he'd been here. I terrain associated the map and waypoint on my GPS and figured I had the site. I couldn't see much until I extended my 300mm camera lens and airplane wreckage became visible. We took turns scanning the site with binos and the camera.
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    The story I heard is that the converted B-26 air tanker followed a lead plane into this valley and both made the turn to line-up on the fire. Before the B-26 pilot could complete his turn he lost power in one engine, dumped his load to try to keep flying, and smacked the hill and died. There may be other versions of what took place.
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    This rock slide at the fire location was caused by the nuclear detonation just up the road. There are fire torch devices as memorials at each man's fatality site up there (on private land). There is also a staff ride packet for wildland firefighters to use as part of a learning exercise on the ground. One problem here is that one crew didn't know what the location or activities of other crews were.
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    "Unable to reach the safety zone, Crew Boss Czak radioed his Squad Boss who was in the safety zone and told him that they were trapped and unable to make it to the safety zone. Czak also radioed the Sector Boss with the same information and told him that the burnout squad would be moving back up the ridgeline toward the rock bluff. The time was now between 1430 and 1435. At approximately 1440, the burnout squad was unable to go any further up the slope toward the rock bluff. After being given orders by the Crew Boss, the crew took off their canvas vests, wet down their vests, shirts and trousers and laid down on the fireline. At approximately 1440-1445, the fire roared over the burnout squad. During the burn over, at approximately 1448, crewmember Scott Nelson got up and ran down hill. Shortly after Nelson got up, Crew Boss Tony Czak got up and ran down the ridgeline in the direction of the safety zone and died approximately 1,000 feet away. At 1510, the Sector Boss arrived at the original burnover site and found Gibson and Furey still alive. Shortly after his arrival, Stephen Furey passed away. John Gibson was airlifted to St. Mary's Hospital in Grand Junction and then on to a burn center in Albuquerque, New Mexico."

    This video shows some pix and gives some information about the fire but I can't say it is authoritative or official.
    #43
  4. Cannonshot

    Cannonshot Having a Nice Time Administrator Super Moderator

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    Someone mentioned that EAA (Oshkosh, WI) featured some aircraft involved with wildland firefighting last week. Might be a good time to share some information about a few of those planes. I'll be stopping to look at more aircraft and interview pilots further along on this ride.

    This video involves an amphib (CL-215), an Air Tractor (SEAT - single engine air tanker), and a C-130 equipped with MAFFS.


    This newspaper article has some info and pix about other aircraft involved with the USFS and a MAFFS system.

    A couple of pix of a CL-215 I took in Canada on one of my rides.
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    I saw this pair of CL-415s working out on a fire while I was on a trip around Lake Superior. They were getting water from a bay on the lake.
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    #44
  5. Cannonshot

    Cannonshot Having a Nice Time Administrator Super Moderator

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    Day 4 Continued Grand Mesa and beyond.

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    De Beque is small town with a few historic structures downtown. This once was a center where wild horses were rounded up and sold back in the day. Now they are the only "Wild Horse Sanctuary City in the West". They work with the BLM to help preserve the remaining wild horses and burros and have a rehab corral for injured animals.
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    The Rio Grande railroad had a rich history back when it was in operation.
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    Beavertail Mountain tunnel.
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    Most US tunnels have flat walls and a curved roof. In this case they borrowed from European designs and used a curved sidewall for added strength.
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    The Grand Valley Diversion Dam was completed in 1916. It is a 14' roller dam with six gates that were the first and largest to be installed at the time. It diverts water for irrigation.
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    Heading up the Grand Mesa National Scenic and Historic Byway. It really is scenic and a great ride.
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    Grand Mesa is the largest mesa in the US and the largest flat topped mountain in the world.
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    I'm headed for a road the runs part of the edge of this thing that has some scenic overlooks. The mesa runs about 6,000' above the surrounding terrain with an elevation of around 11,000'.
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    It was in the 90s today. As I climbed the temps dropped into the 80s.
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    Looks like I won't be able to run the perimeter and check out the overlooks. Must be some water damage.
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    Nice riding up here.
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    The McGruder Fire hit along here in 2004. "Lightning struck a tree on Friday July 2, 2004. The fire smoldered overnight and hot dry winds fanned the flames into a large wildfire on July 3, 2004. By Sunday July 11, the fire was considered 100 percent contained. Thanks to the efforts of the Cedaredge volunteer and other area fire departments, San Juan Hot Shots, the BLM and Forest Service, no homes or lives were lost. The total area consumed by the McGruder fire was estimated at about 3,000 acres (12 km2), 1,467 acres of which was private land, the rest belonging to BLM and Forest Service."
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    Delta is a town that started up with a fur trading post. Nice to see these old drive-in theaters still in use.
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    Second generation Japanese American Frank Ono is from here. He volunteered to serve in an all Nisei outfit during the way. He was awarded the Medal of Honor. His citation reads:

    Private First Class Frank H. Ono distinguished himself by extraordinary heroism in action on 4 July 1944, near Castellina, Italy. In attacking a heavily defended hill, Private First Class Ono's squad was caught in a hail of formidable fire from the well-entrenched enemy. Private First Class Ono opened fire with his automatic rifle and silenced one machine gun 300 hundred yards to the right front. Advancing through incessant fire, he killed a sniper with another burst of fire, and while his squad leader reorganized the rest of the platoon in the rear, he alone defended the critical position. His weapon was then wrenched from his grasp by a burst of enemy machine pistol fire as enemy troops attempted to close in on him. Hurling hand grenades, Private First Class Ono forced the enemy to abandon the attempt, resolutely defending the newly won ground until the rest of the platoon moved forward. Taking a wounded comrade's rifle, Private First Class Ono again joined in the assault. After killing two more enemy soldiers, he boldly ran through withering automatic, small arms, and mortar fire to render first aid to his platoon leader and a seriously wounded rifleman. In danger of being encircled, the platoon was ordered to withdraw. Volunteering to cover the platoon, Private First Class Ono occupied virtually unprotected positions near the crest of the hill, engaging an enemy machine gun emplaced on an adjoining ridge and exchanging fire with snipers armed with machine pistols. Completely disregarding his own safety, he made himself the constant target of concentrated enemy fire until the platoon reached the comparative safety of a draw. He then descended the hill in stages, firing his rifle, until he rejoined the platoon. Private First Class Ono's extraordinary heroism and devotion to duty are in keeping with the highest traditions of military service and reflect great credit on him, his unit, and the United States Army.

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    There is an old airport up the highway a bit that has been converted into a drag strip, trap club, and a police training facility.
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    Grand Junction has some interesting artwork downtown. Dalton Trumbo lived here as a kid.
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    The airport has a Confederate Air Force chapter.
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    The NWS is a player in fires. Some large fires will have their own meteorologist. "Fire weather" requires some special insight.
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    This place had a significant role in the Storm King event.
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    If you read the book, you'll find some issues about communication between some elements that were only across the street from each other.
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    News story about tankers and jumpers in Grand Junction last year.

    News story about smokejumpers in CO.

    The average fire season in the US is 78 days longer than it was 40 years ago. Some in California may say that there is no season anymore in that fires are running all year long.
    #45
  6. Cannonshot

    Cannonshot Having a Nice Time Administrator Super Moderator

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    Day 4 Continued Colorado National Monument and on to Douglas Pass

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    Entering the Colorado National Monument.
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    It is a very entertaining climb to the top (and back down later on).
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    Twists, turns, and tunnels.
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    It is all pretty cool until to realize that sometimes the road that runs along the sheer canyon drop is actually on an overhanging shelf of rock.
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    It was hot up at the top but still cooler than down below.
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    Very often the narrow road edge drops right off into a deep canyon.
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    Lots of these.
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    And these.
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    Really nice riding . . . but a little "uncomfortable" from time to time. :D
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    Looking back.
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    Nice war memorial at Fruita.
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    When you trip a sensor it plays helicopter sounds and a Stones song.
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    Oil drilling equipment at a storage yard.
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    Heading north.
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    Heading up Douglas Pass.
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    Looking back at the trip up the pass.
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    I had an out and back planned for Baxter Pass. This is an old railway route that is pretty entertaining. The road was gated closed. I imagine it was due to water damage from some of the recent weather problems they had in the region. There was some significant damage on the road to this pass so I imagine the Baxter Pass road suffered as well.
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    Much of this is part of the Dinosaur Diamond Scenic Byway.
    #46
  7. murdock84

    murdock84 Been here awhile

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    Really enjoying the report, history and photos!
    #47
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  8. Tricepilot

    Tricepilot Bailando Con Las Estrellas Super Moderator Super Supporter

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    All of this is simply amazing :bow
    #48
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  9. Cannonshot

    Cannonshot Having a Nice Time Administrator Super Moderator

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    End of Day 3 Dinosaurs

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    Oil and gas are prominent . . . as are dinosaur remnants.
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    "Painted Canyon" got its name back in 1776 when the Escalante expedition noticed all the native rock art. If you like that kind of stuff, there are a number of stops to look at it.
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    Oil around Rangely accounts for about 300 jobs and 70% of the property tax revenue.
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    Rangely is an oil and gas town. Their museum was supposed to have a bunch of energy stuff but it looked like most others to me.
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    This expedition was on quite a long trek back in the 1776. We were working the independence issue back east.
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    I did a drive-by on a city campground I didn't know about. Looked pretty nice.
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    Rally Colorado
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    Deseret Power Railroad operates around here. The railroad is set up to haul coal from a mine to a power plant . . . although I'm not sure where they get the electricity to power the railroad. A 45 car coal train runs once a day every weekday and twice a day on Tuesday-Thursday. The route is about 35 miles long.
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    Since this is an isolated railroad, they had to truck the engines and cars from places like Rifle and Craig.
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    Dinosaur is quite small.
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    I couldn't figure out why they had two marijuana shops here . . . ah, but then I realized they were adjacent to the state line . . . not that anyone would transport it outside of Colorado.
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    #49
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  10. Cannonshot

    Cannonshot Having a Nice Time Administrator Super Moderator

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    End of Day 3 Dinosaurs

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    Low volume site. They post that there aren't dinosaur bones here (up high kind of place).
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    Even though it is an out and back ride, it is still pretty nice.
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    The canyon overlook stuff with the Green River is out at the end.
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    Someone wanted to dam the place up years back.
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    There was a campground down below by the river but it was quite a long trip. First some switchbacks to work your way down there and then some dirt road to travel. The warning sign gave some predicted travel time but it also warned that if it rained you would be there for a while since the road became impassible like many roads do out here.
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    It was nice getting to know this bike on this trip. My last big bike was a Tenere.
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    I really didn't feel like backtracking on the pavement back out to the highway so I slipped off onto this county road that got me off the high ground and into Utah.
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    Other than being a little slippery in some places and having to dodge a lot of jumpy cattle it was a fabulous ride.
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    I turned onto another out and back (the nature of the terrain around here) to look at a couple of more things.
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    I think they used to have some fancy building with an excavation in it that eventually got condemned.
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    Whatever they've got going in the quarry now was closed for the day.
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    I had planned to go to the end of the road to see Josie Bassett Morris' cabin. Anyone that was charged (and acquitted) for cattle rustling twice while she was in her 60s was interesting.

    End of day 3. Another wonderful day of entertaining riding and exploring.
    #50
  11. bikerfish

    bikerfish flyfishandride

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    Fantastic stuff!!!!! Those videos are powerful, thank you for sharing. Looking forward to the rest of the report!
    #51
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  12. bomose

    bomose Long timer

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    Great report! The road to the campground in Echo Park is Yampa Bench road. If you've never been down it , you should do it some day. My wife and I have done it a couple of times. It has many great overlooks and is a fun road.
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    #52
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  13. Cannonshot

    Cannonshot Having a Nice Time Administrator Super Moderator

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    Day 4 346 Miles

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    Starting Out Vernal, Red Cloud Loop, Cart Creek Fire
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    Vernal likes to promote dinosaurs. This one was an ad for a motel years ago. The town has since adopted it.
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    This bank was built in 1916-1917 and each of the bricks for it was sent here by mail. 80,000 parcel post bricks in 50 pound packages that came by train, narrow gauge, and eventually freight wagons. This led to the USPS changing the regulation to 200 lbs per day per sender.
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    Nice town. James Woods is from here.
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    Haliburton and Schlumberger work the area as it is rich in petroleum and natural gas. Also phosphate and Gilsonite.

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    Looking good for the 4th of July parade today.
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    This "seasonal dinosaur" get various wardrobe accessories that align with the changing seasons.
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    As usual, had to pay attention to the deer along the roadway.
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    Back in 1898 the Maine was blown up in a harbor in Cuba. A few months later some guy hired a painter to put a tribute on this rock face..
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    I suppose he felt that since indigenous peoples had been vandalizing natural features with petroglyphs for hundreds of years, he could do something similar. :evil This has since been repainted.
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    Heading toward the Red Cloud Loop - a scenic byway.
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    Speaking of petroglyphs, there are some on this ranch that you can visit.
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    They are along these rocks.
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    Off the pavement and into the backcountry.
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    Very nice riding along this loop.
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    A little cool (41 degrees) in these valleys and canyons early in the day.
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    Eventually you climb up to higher elevation.
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    There are some dirt sections that will be troublesome when wet.
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    I swung past the Stringham Cabin. This was a summer sheep camp back in the day.
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    More of that watch out for rain kind of road thing.
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    #53
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  14. Cannonshot

    Cannonshot Having a Nice Time Administrator Super Moderator

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    Day 5 Continued Swett Ranch, Cart Creek Fire

    The Swett Ranch was one of the last claims made under the Homestead Act. Oscar Swett put this together in 1909. It eventually became a five room house, a meat house, two cabins, a root cellar, a granary, and a barn. No wi-fi or cable though.
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    People really had to be much more self sufficient.
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    A number of others that tried something similar up here couldn't make it. Swett relied mostly on horsepower because he didn't think machines were reliable.
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    A few more modern things in the house.
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    Cart Creek Fire Memorial
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    You have to hike in a short distance to find it. It overlooks the scene of the fire.
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    Rather than try to explain things myself, it is better if you watch the video. There are a lot of moving parts to this story as well and their illustrations and chronology of events provide an excellent explanation. Helitack crews were involved in this fight.
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    Another good thing about the video is that one of the survivors is there to explain what happened. Sometimes a distance of only 15-20 yards to safety is too much to surmount.
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    The video is worth the watch.
    #54
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  15. pfdskipper

    pfdskipper Westside Trash Supporter

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    Cannonshot, Thank you for the time and effort you put into documenting this ride report. What a great read you have created. The photos and back story you include really make this report quite exceptional. Golf claps from the cheap seats! :bow
    #55
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  16. Cannonshot

    Cannonshot Having a Nice Time Administrator Super Moderator

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    Day 5 Continued Flaming Gorge

    Some of this is on the Flaming Gorge - Uintas Scenic Byway.

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    Crossing the dam.
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    Lots of signs like this in public places these days. There is also an
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    World's largest fishing fly. Weighs 3 tons.
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    Better call Digger's Hotline. Made for laying cables in rocky areas.
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    #56
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  17. Cannonshot

    Cannonshot Having a Nice Time Administrator Super Moderator

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    Day 5 Flaming Gorge Continued

    The Sheep Creek Geologic Loop is sometimes overlooked. It is a great ride and has interesting geologic features.
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    This was the first fire tower in Utah to include living quarters up top.
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    Some unusual rock formations along this loop.
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    Cleophus Dowd is buried along here somewhere but I couldn't find the site. Cleophas Dowd 1857 - 1897. He married Eleanor Rophena Colton (Ella), Sheriff Sterling Colton's niece. They had seven children together two of which are buried next to him. Cleophas was a Pinkerton informant, a Deputy Sheriff of Sweetwater County, Wyoming, a Cattlmens Association detective and railroad detective. Cleophas hired Harry Alonzo Longabaugh as a ranch hand and gave him the name "The Sundance Kid". He trained thorougbred horses and sold them to the McCarty gang of outlaws. He also taught Matt Warner how to fight and out shot Jesse James in a friendly gun challenge. Cleophas was known for working both sides of the law.
    Dowd was shot and killed by Charles Reaser, a hired man by Dowd to help on his ranch. Reaser later claimed that he had been hired by someone to kill Dowd.

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    The spring was really gushing.
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    Ancient desert sand dunes turned to stone.
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    #57
  18. bomose

    bomose Long timer

    Joined:
    Jul 22, 2007
    Oddometer:
    3,413
    Location:
    Dixie
    I missed that loop when I was there. Guess I'll have to go back.
    #58
    Cannonshot likes this.
  19. chudzikb

    chudzikb Long timer Supporter

    Joined:
    Jul 17, 2016
    Oddometer:
    1,031
    Outdoing yourself on this one! I think my IQ went up a point or two from reading your history lessons.
    #59
    Cannonshot likes this.
  20. Ducatijim

    Ducatijim Hopeless Poseuer!

    Joined:
    Mar 18, 2007
    Oddometer:
    515
    Location:
    Reporoa NZ
    Wow, sorry I just shot thru that area, looks like I missed a lot.
    #60
    Cannonshot likes this.