Thursday, August 29, 2013

Highway 89T Opens Today

The Arizona Department of Transportation plans to open the new US Route 89T today. This road is also known as Navajo 20 and the Coppermine Road. Here is the press release from ADOT:

Drivers headed to Page and the Lake Powell area this Labor Day weekend will have another option when the Arizona Department of Transportation opens the newly paved Temporary US 89 route (US 89T) on Thursday, Aug. 29, albeit with some restrictions.

The former Navajo Route 20 (known locally as Coppermine Road) runs parallel to US 89 from The Gap to LeChee and is accessible on US 89, approximately 17 miles north of the US 160 junction (Tuba City exit).

While the 27-mile paving operations have been completed, US 89T remains an active construction zone as crews continue to install right-of-way fencing along the corridor, which has a large amount of livestock.

Until fencing is complete, US 89T will be open during daylight hours only (except for local residents) and there will be a 25 mph speed limit in place. When construction is complete, the speed limit will be raised and nighttime restrictions will be lifted.

When traveling on US 89T, ADOT urges motorists to slow down, pay attention to their surroundings and be aware that this roadway is prone to animal crossings.

Immediately after the US 89 landslide, ADOT set an alternate route along US 160 and State Route 98, but the 115-mile-long route created a heavy burden for drivers because it was 45 miles longer than the direct route. With the restricted opening of US 89T, however, the US 160-to-SR 98 detour route may still be a faster option for drivers.

US 89T is not part of the ultimate solution to repair US 89, which has been closed north of Bitter Springs and south of Page since Feb. 20 due to a landslide that buckled pavement along the mountain slope in the Echo Cliffs area.

After an extensive geotechnical investigation of the US 89 landslide, ADOT’s proposed solution is to move the travel lanes away from the active landslide and construct a gravity buttress to stabilize the area. The projected $40 million repair is expected to take more than two years to complete, and will include significant environmental and right-of-way clearances prior to construction.

Visit ADOT’s latest blog to learn more about US 89T, which also has downloadable maps and links to related videos and other project information. For additional questions please contact the ADOT Project Hotline at 855.712.8533 or email

I can recommend reading the geotechnical report which can be downloaded here.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Vancouver Island's West Coast Trail - A Trip Into the Green - Part 3

After a wonderful night at Tsusiat, it was time to hit the trail once again. Right out of the gate, there is this nice ladder complex. I say "nice" because I loved the ladders on this trail and I think if t-shirts were made for the WCT, they would contain images of hikers on a ladder. Most guidebooks talk about the mud. But to me the ladders were the highlight.

At least there are intervening platforms on the way up!

I started taking pictures of the km signs to show what the various portions of the trail looked like.

The boardwalks were interesting. In some places they were newly constructed. In most places the ravages of too much rain showed its toll. I'd be curious to know how long it takes for a boardwalk to attain this condition? My guess is 15 years.

Then there were the cable cars, an interesting way to cross a river with a backpack. They were fun.

This one was across the Klenawa River at km 23

Look closely and you'll see a backpacker near the top of the tree in the background. These things are HUGE and to think that they were uprooted, washed from the river to the sea, then thrown back onshore during a tremendous winter storms is a powerful image. We saw some logs whose outer portions were shredded by the sea wave agitation.

Morning rush hour at km 21.

I hung out here at this ladder and platform, and admired the symmetry of the ladder and green ferns. It was such a Buddha moment!

They do green like we do red.

For a diversion, here is Southwest red!

Northwest green

Every camp had a food locker to protect the food from bears. We saw fresh bear scat in this area near the Darling River.

Every camp also had its own toilet. This one at Darling River was especially unique and keeping with the theme of "ladders".

Our final camp on night 6, along the Darling River. We camped on the beach every night on this trip.

The home stretch is fairly flat and easy to walk.

But we kept anticipating the end of the trail and so - it never seemed to arrive. After six hours and 14 km, we arrived at Pachena Bay, the north end of the WCT. During the January 26, 1700 earthquake and tsunami, the Native village at Pachena Bay was destroyed with a total loss of life. If you didn't read the account of this quake from Part 2 of this blog, check it out here and here. (I just had to double post these links - it is one of the amazing geo-stories from this part of the world).

Trails end at km 0 and bridge #1. What a sense of accomplishment. There is not a lot of elevation gain or loss but the footpath is uneven and filled with obstacles. Still, the beauty of the place overwhelmed the difficulty.

Home - the international border near Bellingham, Washington. Thanks for reading! And thanks to my dear friend Karen K. for the invitation to make this fantastic hike and also to the Stompa group: Nicky, Suzanne, Gil, Kai, Seth and Amber who were fantastic trailmates. The memory of this hike still lives on.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Vancouver Island's West Coast Trail - A Trip Into the Green - Part 2

2019 UPDATE: Thanks to fellow West Coast Trail companion Nicky Calvert for providing this link with an update on what is going on at the Chez Moniques burger stop on the West Coast Trail. It is a 21 minute YouTube video. See it here.

Part 2 begins with our group leaving Walbran Creek after three days on the trail and 23 kilometers of hiking. It wouldn't be a rainforest without a little fog would it. By the way, I came up with a definition for a rainforest on this trip. It is a forest that rains when it is not raining! We saw it and experienced it. It gets so foggy in the mornings that the trees are drenched in moisture, then it runs off and "rains" down on the forest floor. Rain while not raining!

It actually wasn't as dark as this looks. Temps were always warm.

Rush hour traffic on the West Coast Trail. Certain camps provide that people will leave north or south at regular intervals. This means that at times, you will encounter lots of folks heading the other way.

Out of the mist came this gem of a sea stack! Iconic and photogenic.

Some of the largest debris items from the Japan tsunami of March 20, 2011 were visible. We saw a sign on the trail that announced that the largest pieces would begin arriving in the summer of 2013. Here it is! NOAA has a web site devoted to the debris fan, accessed here.

And then, we came upon a scene too large to be described as simply debris on the beach. We had arrived at the famous Chez Moniques - the world's most uniquely located hamburger stand in the world.

Driftwood sign in the dining area.

Hiking enjoying typical hiker fare, grease, fat, and beer. I guess Chez Monique's serves the same role as Phantom Ranch does in the bottom of the Grand Canyon. This is more rustic though.

Here is Monique, a transplant from Quebeq. After arrival, you enter the kitchen where Monique will take your order. Numerous workers (rear) prepare the meals which are really worth the $17 Canadian. An experience not to be missed. Visit their Facebook page here.

Just beyond Monique's is the Carmanah Lighthouse, built in 1891. It helped to steer ships away from the treacherous coastline.

Slightly tilted, gently curved sandstone layers that are differentially eroded and inundated with sea water. I love the poetry of landform description.....

Our 4th nights camp was at Cribs Creek and the setting sun made an appearance on this beautiful sea stack. People were swimming in the ocean here.

Back on the trail, we dived into the green.

The colors on the fungus was outstanding.

More fungus.

Who knows what this is?

Did you know that slugs come in all colors and sizes. This one had spots and seemed to be in heaven. I saw one slug devouring a mushroom right on the trail.

Ladders and boardwalks are never far away.

I was intrigued the whole hike by the fact that the Juan de Fuca tectonic plate resides just a few miles offshore of Vancouver Island. If that plate were to let loose and slip, the rangers said we would have 8 minutes before a possible tsunami would come ashore. It was a concern I had from before the start of the hike and I was gratified to see that its possibility was managed for with these blue signs. The earthquake never came during our hike but it did some 313 years ago. Check out the story here and here. You'll be amazed.

Crossing the suspension bridge at Cheewhat River. Some in our group saw wolf tracks in the sand below the bridge.

Pictures cannot do root and mud justice. We'd be hiking along and then the trail would approach a wall of exposed roots and slick mud. The height was sometimes daunting but the experience was priceless.

Another First Nation restaurant beckoned us on the south bank of the Nininat River (pronounced nit-nat) at km 36. This is a place were one of the ferry boat rides is needed to cross the river - so they have a captive clientele.

Gil destroyed this Dungeness crab. I ordered the salmon and it was delicious, especially the huge baked potato that came with it slathered in butter. Nothing like hard work to make you feel good about eating bad!

Beauty everywhere.

Even the rocks. There are a lot of descriptive pieces written about the WCT but with such thick vegetation, the rocks take a back seat.

This is the ratio of rocks to plants that I am used to.

This is even better....

Hole in the Rock at Tsusiat Point, km 27.

Approaching Tsusiat Falls Beach where we had our 5th nights' camp. The winter storms have cut into the shore and carved this cliff face.

At one place saw an unconformity in the rocks. Here the grey sandstone we had been seeing al along the coast capped the "basement" rocks, a crystalline granite. You can see the unconformity in the middle part of the photo where the horizontally-bedded and slightly darker sandstone sits on top of the lighter and slightly recessed granite.

The rocks of Vancouver Island are part of an exotic terrane that was rafted into and was welded to North America about 130 million year ago. There are multiple terranes that have docked into our continent and they all have names. Vancouver Island's terrane is called Wrangellia, shown above as the large landmass on the far left, just as it is docking onto the continent. Map courtesy of Ron Blakey, Colorado Plateau Geosystems.

Tsusiat Falls at very low water levels. This is a spectacular spot on the trail and we camped here.

Close-up of the falls.

Sunset from near Tsusiat Falls.

There will be a Part 3 to finish this blog posting! Stay tuned.