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 outâ€¦ 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 beenâ€¦
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 dayâ€¦
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-Escalanteâ€¦
Near Bryce Canyon there is a canyon whose rock formations are so incredibly red that they've named itâ€¦ 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 placeâ€¦
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 myselfâ€¦
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 incomparableâ€¦ I've seen a lot of beautiful aspen in California and Colorado and Wyoming and other places in Utah but nothing like thisâ€¦ 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 â€“ just a few fluffy white clouds floated overhead to soften the brilliant blue sky.
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 â€“ 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 â€“ 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.
I decided to then take a backcountry Forest Service Road that I had heard about last time I came through that areaâ€¦ 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
Man, it was gorgeous back up in there, and not a single other car did I pass for about 45 milesâ€¦ 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.