Thursday, December 8, 2011

Hamburger Rock Service Project

North Six Shooter, just south of Hamburger Rock Campground

Hamburger Rock, a flat rock perched in the middle of the Indian Creek plain, is a Mecca for climbers, campers, and off-road vehicle enthusiasts. Its dust-bowl campground with the vast panorama of sandstone cliffs and and the needles of Canyonlands National park, was also in serious need of care.

Bob Leaver, the Recreation Planner, at the BLM, Monticello Field Office, in southeastern Utah has been the driving force for upgrading the facilities for climbers, tourists, and ORV users in the area. Over the past few years he has worked with The Friends of Indian Creek, a devoted group of folks who have raised money and provided toilet facilities at the campsites. To learn more about this group see: They also have a nice Facebook site:

This summer, working with funds from the Friends group and the BLM itself, three vault toilets were installed at Creek Pasture Campground where many rock climbers stay and one at Hamburger Rock. Each fall during National Lands Day, the American Alpine Club has worked with Bob to do a service project in the area. Jim Donini, past president of the Club, has organized the climbers for the work. For more on Public Lands Day:

Jim Donini confers with Bob Leaver

I spent the previous week saving campsites at Creek Pasture for the 70 or so folks who had promised to participate in the project. Jim and his wife Angela arrived on Thursday, loaded with food and supplies. Saturday morning, Bob Leaver met us at our campground and led us to the worksite where he and two other BLM employees had hauled two trailers full of logs, shovels, and tools.

Bob looked familiar. After a brief discussion, we discovered we had both worked for the National Park Service in Alaska in the mid-80's. Small World!!! He and the crew pulled the equipment up while we volunteers unloaded the supplies at three work stations. As a first priority, Bob dressed us in public "Public Lands Day" T-shirts. Very cool! We broke into four groups. One small contingent of mostly young and very strong folks went to the "4 X 4 Wall" about 10 miles away to build a new trail. The rest of us formed three teams for the campsite work.

The first project was a reclamation of a short road that led diagonally through the site of the new rest room. The crew gathered native plants, sticks, and dirt to replace the compacted dirt of the road. After digging and scarifying the site, folks carefully replanted the bushes and plants. Then they took the dry sagebrush branches and stuck them in the ground to discourage people and animals from disturbing or walking on the newly rehabilitated soil.

The Reclamation project on the old road

The second project was to build a 'buck and rail' fence to discourage the formation of a spiderweb of social trails leading to the restroom, and harden one trail in the middle. This involved the use of power tools; I volunteered. We cut 4" logs into appropriate sizes according to a jig, drilled holes, and bolted the sawbucks together, then laid the 12' rails and bolted them to the bucks.
Cutting the bucks on the chop saw

The cool of the morning was wearing off, and the sun started to cook us. The battery-powered drills were no match for the big bits and large logs, so we used the generator and a cord-powered drill. Nothing seemed to slow the crew down.
Using the jig to build the bucks

The work went quickly; the fruits of our labors grew by the yard. Everyone I met was totally into the job, full of energy, and capable of any job. I'm sure the BLM was happy to see so much transpire in such a short time.
Bolting the rails to the bucks

To facilitate orderly travel, we lined the correct path with rocks to direct the campers along to the rest room. Lifting the rocks in the heat of the day, I thought of Cool Hand Luke.
The completed buck and rail fence

Lunch time, everyone hid under a 'hamburger-like' rock to avoid the direct sun. It was a time to meet new folks, renew friendships, and get rehydrated. As I looked around, I noticed a number of really good friends I hadn't seen in a long time.
Mike Munger

It was fun to catch up, but as the afternoon sun is a scorcher, and the hot desert dessicates you quickly, we wanted to finish all of the projects quickly.
Mary Ann Dornfeld and Jack Tackle take lunch

We finished the fence, so I walked around to the third crew to lend a hand. My friend Marshall Ralph was working on a ten pad, a flat spot to pitch a tent. The volunteers built a square frame out of 4" treated timbers. The ground is uneven and rocky, so the BLM had hauled in a pile of sand; the crew shoveled sand into the frame and leveled the ground for the tent site.
At work on the tent pad

I had known Marshall 38 years before, and our last trip was likely a week-long 100-mile XC ski trip through Yellowstone in 1973 or 74. We had reconnected the previous evening by accident around a campfire. His son Jeff was a fine rock climber and had dragged Marshall along with him to Indian Creek. What a treat for us two geezers to reunite!
Marshall Ralph

The tent pads looked great. I walked around the rock, thinking about how much a group of people can do if they just put their minds and backs into it.
The completed tent pad

After the circle of campsites around the rock knoll had been stabilized with the tent pads, we all moved to the giant dirt pile and spent the next half hour shoveling it into a trailer and moving it to the last campsites.
Even Bob digs in to move the gravel

I think everyone was proud of the effort. We loaded up the trailers, tied down the loads, and Bob passed out a few more shirts, paper binoculars, and other goodies. We waved good-bye to the BLM crew who had now become good friends. We felt like a bath.
John Parsons admires the day's work

A bath? Just a mile down the road is the only swimming hole on Indian Creek which at this time of year is just a trickle. A cliff across the creek created a waterfall with groove down the center ending in a pool about 12' deep. I didn't know there was this much water anywhere near here. Chris Klotz drove us down in her Honda Element. Several of the volunteers arrived at the same time.
Indian Creek swimming hole

Already here were a number of families, with kids and parents jumping into the pool from three levels: 6', 8', and about 15'. As I looked up at the cliffs and saw remains of Anasazi dwellings, I thought back to the time 800 years ago when their kids were jumping in the swimming hole.
Kids and water

I loved this shot of a father and his daughter jumping into the icy water. It looked murky, but no one seemed to mind. You couldn't keep the kids out of this pool.
A dad jumps into the hole while the daughter watches

Now it's her turn!

I was hot and sweaty, so I stripped down to my skivvies and jumped off the top cliff. The perfect ending to a very special day.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Where is that swimming hole?