Another Utah Roadtrip!
...and two backpacking trips thrown in :)
September 26-October 8, 2005
9/26/2005 Mesquite, NV
9/27/2005 Red Canyon
9/28/2005 Calf Creek
9/29/2005 Posey Lake
9/30/2005 Coral Pink Sand Dunes
10/1/2005 Lava Point Campground
10/2/2005 La Verkin Creek
10/3/2005 Hop Valley
10/4/2005 Lava Point Campground
10/5/2005 Lava Point Campground
10/6/2005 West Rim Trail
10/7/2005 Watchman Campground
The best trips are not really planned… they evolve.

I had two weeks off this fall and for one of them I decided to go on two Zion backpacking
trips with a group of gals that have met on various  hiking forums, the WWWW (Wacky
wonderful wilderness women, I think!  JaneC, DyanTX, Bobcat, Mtmnslady, BettyK, and
Madcow)  The other week, the first week, I didn't really plan out… First I thought I'd
head up to the Grand Staircase-Escalante area, but then Bobcat said she was going to be
at the North Rim of the Grand Canyon, so I planned on joining her since the Grand Canyon
is one of the only places out in that area where I haven't been…

On Monday 9/26 I got a late start because I had to finish packing upmy truck and drop
off a few things at my boyfriend Todd's house then I found out he got laid off from his
job. So we talked for a littlewhile and then I finally got on the road around lunch time. I
ran into some traffic north of Barstow as they were doing road repair and had I-15 down
to one lane so by the time I got to Vegas it was dinnertime. I found the REI I planned to
stop at and bought fuel for my stove and a few other things I needed and then grabbed
some dinner and got back on the freeway. By then it was dark and there was no way I was
going to make it to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon as I had planned so I decided to
get a cheap hotel room in Mesquite, NV. It was a long day…

I had planned to meet Bobcat at the North Rim that night. I called her on her cell phone
knowing she probably didn't have service but Ileft her a message anyway. In the morning
I drove north and was nearSt. George when she called me. Turns out she needed fuel for
her stove so she had driven north and was near Kanab when she got my message. We
decided to meet at Mt. Carmel Junction to discuss our plans. When I got there she said
she was tired and kind of just wanted to plant herself in Zion in a campground for a week.
So I kept my original plans and headed north towards Grand Staircase-Escalante…

Near Bryce Canyon there is a canyon whose rock formations are so incredibly red that
they've named it… you guessed it, Red Canyon! It's part of the Dixie National Forest
and they have a beautiful new visitor center there right across from the campground. I
decided to stay the night there and I hiked on the Pink Ledges and Birds Eye Trails as
well as just scrambling around the rocks making my own route. I ate ravioli for dinner
then packed up my stuff and retired to my tent just as I heard a rumble of thunder in
the distance. The storm got closer and closer and soon lightening was crashing all around
me and the sky opened up and it hailed and poured. After the first storm passed over me
I went to the restroom and then another cloud came over. This time I sat it out in my
truck. I did not feelvery safe in my wet tent when lightening was that close!
When the skies cleared I got back in my tent and slept peacefully. In the morning I
packed up and headed east. I stopped at the new visitor centers for the Grand
Staircase-Escalante National Monument in Cannonville and Escalante. What a great job
the BLM has done with them! I then drove to the Calf Creek Campground, found a great
campsite right on the creek, set up my tent, then packed my daypack and hiked up to
Lower Calf Creek Falls. This is an absolutely gorgeous hike, 6 miles roundtrip, and
minimal elevation change. The waterfall is the most beautiful one I have ever seen in
the southwest! What a wonderful place…

That afternoon after the hike I took my chair down to the creek and soaked my feet.
The water was the perfect temperature and the cottonwood trees that were just
starting to change to gold shaded my perfect little spot. I was in heaven :)
The bubbly creek sang me to sleep that night and in the morning I awoke early to some
scurrying noises in the bushes. I peeked out the tent to find a half a dozen wild turkeys
poking around my campsite! I then got up, ate breakfast, packed up, and headed a few
miles down the road to the Escalante River Trailhead. I hiked up to Escalante Natural
Bridge, which is the 5th largest natural bridge after Rainbow, Sipapu, Kachina, and
Owachomo Natural Bridges all of which I had seen already. The hike to the bridge is
about 3.5 miles round trip and is easy except you do have to ford the river 4 times. This
time of year it only came up to my knees. Since I did the hike so early in the morning I
had the trail completely to myself…

Then I drove northeast and stopped in Boulder, Utah to fill up my gas tank. This is a
beautiful little town at the edge of forest and canyon. And the forest this time of year
is gorgeous! The aspen stands on Boulder Mountain are incomparable… I've seen a lot
of beautiful aspen in California and Colorado and Wyoming and other places in Utah but
nothing like this… Wow. I found a great spot off an unsigned dirt road to eat lunch
and to walk around and photograph the aspen. The weather was absolutely gorgeous –
just a few fluffy white clouds floated overhead to soften the brilliant blue sky.
Red Canyon, Dixie National Forest
Calf Creek and Escalante Natural Bridge
The next day I again packed up early and headed out. I drove down into Escalante
stopping briefly to check out the trailhead for The Box. That looks like a very cool hike
that I will definitely have to do someday! Just west of Escalante I again left the
Highway and took another Forest Service back road that climbed the mountains north
of Powell Point. Then I came back down into the area near Bryce Canyon and decided to
stop at Ruby's Inn, do a load of laundry, eat lunch, and check in with my family.

Then on west I drove, passing through Red Canyon again and then going on to Panguitch
and then taking the very scenic road to Cedar Breaks National Monument. I had planned
on staying there for the night but the campground wasn't very inviting. No one was
camped there and there were lots of dead spruce trees. I guess they've had a beetle
infestation there... So I stopped at the Visitor Center, listened in on a ranger talk, and
then decided to drive down to Navajo Lake to see if the campground there was nicer.
Nope. The lake is pretty but the campground is ugly – more dead trees and they
wanted $14/night which is kind of expensive when all the amenities you get with that
price tag is a pit toilet and table. So I drove on down the mountain. Looking at the map
I decided to push on to Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park which looked like someplace
worth checking out. And it was! The campground there is also $14/night but it has
showers, which I definitely took advantage of. Most of the sand dunes are open to
ATV'ers but there are parts that are off limits and I had a great hike that evening.
The sand is, yes, coral pink, and such a fine consistent grain – I took off my shoes and
it felt wonderful beneath my toes! As I made tracks over the dunes I checked out all
the other critter tracks.

In the morning I drove south into Arizona. Where the pavement ended I was faced with
driving on loose deep sand but I kept my speed up and made it through that sandy
stretch just fine with my little truck. I stopped for gas on the Kaibab Paiute
Reservation because it was the cheapest I'd seen! $2.74/gallon. Then I decided to
visit Pipe Spring National Monument. What a great stop! Normally I'm not as
interested in history as I am into nature, but the museum there is great and I went on
a tour of Windsor Castle and the NPS guide did a fabulous job! I was fascinated by her
tales of what life was like out there for the Mormon Settlers and the Indians.

I then drove over to Kanab for lunch and then drove north to Zion. I had originally
planned to meet the WWWW girls at the Kolob Canyons Visitor Center but figured
since I had ended up further south again that meeting them at Lava Point would be
easier. So I drove through the Zion Tunnel then west then up the Kolob Terrace Road
to Lava Point Campground. Man, what a beautiful road! I had been to Zion four times but
never up this side road. I think it is now my favorite part of Zion as it's not anywhere
near as crowded as the Valley or even the Kolob Canyons side. The Lava Point
Campground is small, is surrounded by aspen trees, and is right at the highest elevation
in the park. It's also free!

I met Bobcat at the campground and later that evening Mtmnslady and DyanTX showed
up. In the morning we left my truck at the West Rim Trailhead, left Bobcat's car at
the Hop Valley Trailhead, and then drove over to the Kolob Canyons Trailhead. There
we picked up our permit and started our first BP trip.
Aspen and the Hell's Backbone Road
I decided to then take a backcountry Forest Service Road that I had heard about last
time I came through that area… The Hell's Backbone Road. Reputedly to be one of
the most dramatic roads in the area as there's one section where they had to build a
bridge over the head of two canyons and the drop is 1,500' on either side. Fun! So off I
went.

Man, it was gorgeous back up in there, and not a single other car did I pass for about
45 miles… The Hell's Backbone Bridge was indeed dramatic and I later learned that
the CCC had built it and that this was the original road to Boulder. Hwy 12 is a very
scenic road and is the one most people take nowadays, but don't miss the Hell's
Backbone Road if you go out there!

I checked out Blue Spruce Campground and there was a pretty creek that ran through
it but no one else was camped there and being out in the middle of nowhere on my own I
decided to drive to Posey Lake which appeared to be a bigger and more popular
campground. Sure enough, there were 2 others camped at Posey Lake and so I decided
to
stay the night there. The lake is aspen-rimmed and quite beautiful. I wished I had a
kayak to explore it! I settled for sitting on the boat dock and eating my dinner.  Later
I made a small campfire to keep my company.
Cedar Breaks National Monument
Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park
Pipe Spring National Monument
2nd Backpack Trip - West Rim Trail
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1st Backpack Trip - Kolob Canyons - Lee Pass to Hop Valley