Sunday, July 12, 2015

A Day With Zeus and Phorcys

June 21, 2015

Two Greek gods were present today: Zeus on Zenobia and Phorcys, a god of the hidden dangers of the deep, on the Green River. This was my day off, but I often stay in camp to assist rafters have a safe boat launch. You develop a sense of responsibility for their safety as you advise them about both the awe and dangers of the ever changing river and the requirements for safety equipment.

My day began with three rafting groups each vying for spaces on the boat ramp: one commercial and two private groups. They were all ready to launch sooner than normal so that afforded me more of the day to go do something different on my day off. Go up into the sky I thought...
Zenobia Fire Tower, Dinosaur National Monument
About 12 miles to the south as the crow flies is the highest peak in the area along a ridge of the Uintas called Douglas Mountain. At its 9,022 foot top is Zenobia Peak. Zenobia means "life of Zeus" It’s about 3,400 feet higher than the campground and has a commanding view of the region. Those 12 miles require 28 miles of travel along poor county roads and then about five miles on a very rugged and steep jeep trail across some private land and then into the eastern approach to LoDore Canyon.

It took me about three hours to drive up to the peak and two hours to drive down. You need the padlock code to get through the Park Service gate about four miles below the summit. Frankly, I was surprised I made it all the way to the top in my little, low-slung 1999 Honda CRV all-wheel drive vehicle. Some of the road ruts were wide and 16” deep from the spring rains. Tough little car!

Atop Zenobia Peak is a National Park Service fire tower staffed by one man on ten out of every 14 days. The fire observer makes his frequent trips to and from the tower in an extended cab, 4-wheel drive pickup that the National Park Service provides.
View from Zenobia Fire Tower NE to Hwy 318

Zenobia Basin, West of the Tower draining into Green River, CO

Pot Creek Drainage Area along the Green River (location of fire that started during my trip)

The Road to Zenobia Fire Tower

The next nearest fire tower is about 12 miles to the south and can be seen with binoculars from Zenobia. Each tower is about 35 feet tall and built of heavy timber, is solar powered, and equipped with a weather station and assorted radio and fire spotting gear.

Amazingly, in the short time I was there we spotted a fire to the northwest that had just started and already burned about six acres. Fire fighters were quickly dispatched from several local agencies in the region to contain the fire. Of course, the views from the tower were outstanding. With a 360 degree panorama I could see 40+ miles. I could have seen up to 100 miles (e.g. Steamboat Springs) but for the haze from recent California fires that has drifted into the region. 

I returned to the LoDore Campground by dinner to be greeted by sad news that Phorcys had likely claimed a 34 year old man from Denver that I helped launch onto the Green River only four days ago. He was lost about 12 river miles below the LoDore Campground in Triplet Falls, a Class III rated rapid where another raft party was rescued just last week.

Soon after my arrival National Park Service river rangers, Moffat County Search and Rescue volunteers, and Colorado Parks and Wildlife came to the campground boat launch from their respective headquarters. They risked their lives to go as far downstream as far as they could in the remaining daylight so they could devote tomorrow to recovery of the still missing body.

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