Explore Utah Spring Road Trip…April/May, 2021

day 1 4.20
Usually I leave super early in the mornings on trips…but today’s forecast had me enjoying a leisurely morning of coffee & taking photos of the SNOW OUTSIDE!

I was already on Plan B before I’d left the house.  I’d re-routed my trip to avoid I-70 through Colorado & miss all the snow & ice they had.  I finally got tired of waiting, figured the highways were clear, so I left heading south & west, listening to some great music along the way!

I made it to Springer Lake to boondock for the night.

It was going to be cold tonight, but I enjoyed what little light I had left & the quietness of the spot to drink my “Enjoy by 4.20” beer from Stone brewing.

day 2 4.21
It got down to 26 degrees last night, but I stay pretty warm inside my little 4Runner.  

I left at 6am & ended up driving a ‘local road’ 21 along the old Santa Fe trail.  It was gorgeous!  And so much wildlife!  Fuzzy small deer, herds of big elk, turkeys & lots of antelopes.

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Soon I was seeing the backside of Philmont Scout Ranch & looking at a great view of the “Tooth of Time”…something we’d all hiked to the top of when the boys were in Boy Scouts & Danny & I went on a 10 day backpacking trip with them & their troop.  Sara also has been there…she spent a summer at Philmont as a Medic while in medical school.

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I ended up driving on part of the Enchanted Circle…the part I’d never been on before.  I thought it was strange I’d never been to Taos, but I hadn’t.  I stopped briefly for a cup of coffee & was glad the temps were warming up.  I didn’t spend anytime there…next spring I’ll re-plan my Covid-cancelled New Mexico trip & explore this area.  

I did drive the extra miles to drive through Abiquiu though.  I think the area between the two of Georgia O’Keefe’s homes are breathtaking & I have camped there before & toured both places.  It was beautiful this morning!

I also ‘connected some dots’ as I drove highway 84 all the way into Pagosa Springs.  Last summer, I ‘hid out’ over the 4th of July along this highway in a dispersed campsite for 3 days…near the NM border.  But, this was the first time I’d been on the highway between Ghost Ranch & where my campsite was last year.

I managed to end up in Pagosa right at lunchtime (imagine that?) & went for a jalapeño cheese burger & jalapeño beer at Riff Raff brewery, my fave place to eat in that little town.

Soon after lunch, I was driving through Durango, then into Utah.

Soon the craziness of Moab showed itself.  I made a brief stop for ice, then went to Willow Springs road to find camping.  The traffic got worse as I headed north of town…2 miles of double-laned backed up cars because of road construction.  Yikes…I was going to stay out of town as much as possible.

day 3 4.22
Camp had been crazy last night…I can’t believe how many people are out here.  Huge groups, huge RV’s, lots of noisy ATV’s, …just nuts.  I left camp at 5:30am & drove into Moab to top of my gas tank.  No traffic at that time of day.

I made it into Arches National Park at 6am & drove to the Delicate Arch trailhead.  I made coffee & packed up my pack for the first time this trip & headed up the trail. 

This is the part of the trail that always freaks out first time hikers to this Arch.

I was surprised there weren’t very many people on the trail or up here…it was great!

It was a really pretty morning.

After I got back to the car, I drove up the road to my next favorite hike…Devils Garden.  I got a spot to park, refilled my water, ate some salad & hit the trail.

I felt fortunate there was only one other person on this part of the trail as I was going up.

And, looking back down to see what’s to come later...

Great views from this part of the trail. 

And, so many, many amazing arches!

I drove to one of the shortest trails but one of my favorite arches…Sand Dune arch.

I love the way you have to hike through this little slot & the arch is tucked away all by itself…sweet!

It was still early & I wasn’t ready to stop hiking AND….I wanted to squeeze everything in & around Moab asap.  The weekend would be coming up & it would get more nuts!

So, I took a chance leaving the park & drove to the trailhead for Corona & Bowtie arch.  This is a short but fun hike, with chains & ladders.  I sort of freaked as the guy ahead of me insisted his giant dog climb up the rock next to the chains.  The dog did not want to go & kept slipping back down.  I can’t stand watching stuff like this.  The guy motioned me around as he cajoled, conversed & encouraged his big pup up the slick rock.  

Bowtie Arch

Corona Arch

The guy & his dog eventually made up to the topI didn’t stick around to watch them climb back down.

The beautiful Colorado River.

Devoid of any grass….as is most of southern Utah, camping tonight would be quieter than last night. I spent the evening re-reading a book I brought from home called “Take Big Bites” by Linda Ellerbee.  I love this book & this would be like my 4th time to read it.  I had a Dogfish Head 90 minute IPA.  I was tired!  I’d hiked more than 12.5 miles today, but got everything in I’d wanted to do.

day 4 4.23
I left just after making coffee & drove out to Islands in the Sky part of Canyonlands National Park. 

 I hiked to Upheaval Dome first. 

Then to Whale Rock 

This is the view from the top.

The previous two hikes weren’t new to me, but Aztec Butte was.  That’s a photo of the Butte…you climb to the top.

I had no idea how straight up it was…I really didn’t know much about this hike….it was just along the way.  But it turned out to be a little more adventurous than I expected.

The view from the top & the trail going straight down!  Yikes…I crab-walked a lot of it.

A granary near the trail.

Looks like Half Dome.

Then I hiked the Grandview Point trail.

I drove out of the park, down the road  & into Dead Horse Point State Park & started hiking the Rim Trail Loop.

It was a nice hike with views over the edge & down to the Green River….I love this river!  

Then I got sort of lost….on a loop you say?  Yes, I accidentally took a turn off trail to a view point & didn’t realize it until I ran out of rock cairns that had been marking the trail.  I looked for about 20 minutes finding faint trails & footprints, but nothing that looked right.  I finally decided I’d go back the way I came until I found the right trail or at worse, backtrack the whole way.

About 1/2 mile of backtracking, & I found my mistake.  I got on the right trail, but that kind of thing messes with your head.  Now I was second guessing myself with every step.  About 1.5 miles later, I came upon a sign confirming I was on the right trail…finally I relaxed.  Just another lesson, in paying attention.  When I looked back, I knew my head space was somewhere different than my body & so I missed the correct trail at the junction.  But, on the upside, I did self-correct & find my way back.  

I went back to my camp to find everything in good order.  But that soon would all change.  I sat behind my 4Runner, reading a book & having a drink when I heard a noise.  There about 10’ in front of my SUV, was a truck & in between us three people were setting up a tent.  My space was a big site, & I had shared it the night before when a couple had asked.  But this seemed kind of intrusive & crazy.  They just looked at me not pausing to say anything.

About 25 minutes later, another truck pulled up & the two guys inside asked the tent people if they could camp across from them…the tent people just shrugged their shoulders.  Now I had two tents, two trucks, 5 people & a dog sharing my site. 

About an hour later, I decided to take down my tent….I wanted to leave early in the morning.  No sooner did I have it packed away in the Thule, another big truck roared up, asked group #2 if they could camp above them (right across from me), & they shrugged their shoulders.  Then the truck driving about 6’ to the side of 4Runner, asked me if it would be ok.  I said yes…because why the hell not at this point!  As he maneuvered his truck back & forth & back & forth to get it just perfectly level on a very unlevel spot, he ended up a little closer to me than I thought he should be.  Then he unloaded two big dogs.  Tonights final tally is: three trucks, 2 tents, 7 people & 3 big dogs.  Once in awhile, this is how it goes.I had another drink.  

But in the end, even feeling claustrophobic, I still had more room than if I’d been at a paid campsite.  I just wasn’t expecting so much company.  Everyone settled down, went to bed & the stars came out.

day 5 4.24
I watched the morning sun come up & in spite of the craziness of my dispersed camping choice, it was a beautiful morning.  

I drove north to the little town of Green River & my first errand was to the Post Office, then breakfast, then the grocery store.  I was surprised that NO ONE working in any of these places were masked…but then it’s Utah.  Filled with conservatives in most small towns.  Last year during this time though, Moab was not only begging people not to come, but kicking people out of town because of Covid.  Now 50 miles or so up the road, no one working in the town seem to believe in it.  I ate a super yummy breakfast…my first out since leaving Kansas, at the Tamarisk restaurant.  I also got online for the first time in 3 days.

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After my errands, I left Green River & drove west then south to the San Rafael Swell area.  I had planned to take the day off from hiking…one of my achilles was cranking at me.  I found a spot open in a place I’d wanted to camp before…no one was here it appeared.  I set out my table, made some sun tea, got out my chair & book & cracked my windows.  It was a lovely 20 minutes & then all hell broke loose with the wind.  From out of nowhere, the sand blew with such fierceness  & I was getting pelted like crazy.  I took shelter for about 10 minutes in the little rock cove, but the wind wasn’t stopping.  I threw everything in the front of the 4Runner, which was now covered in a fine layer of sand…& so was I.

About 5 minutes down the road, was the hike I’d planned on doing tomorrow.  I’d hiked Wild Horse Canyon once before & loved it.  Even though I couldn’t camp here, I was too close not to hike this fun slot canyon & so that’s what I did.

There’s super skinny places & obstacles to climb over.  It was crowded today, but I didn’t care, I just had fun!

In this narrow section a big group of hikers met me going the other way.  I had to ‘walk’ my way up the wall & bridge the opening & then they all went underneath me.  It was interesting.

Those twin-tower rock formations is where I’d set up my campsite before the windstorm….it was a cool place for 20 minutes.  The photo below doesnt show the wind, but even as I left the trail to drive back by my campsite, I could see the wind was crazy.  I would have to find something else for tonight.

I took about an hour to drive through the San Rafael camping area & couldn’t find anything out of the wind.  I took off down the highway & drove into the little roadside town of Hanksviile.  There’s a place to get an old fashioned burger there called the Burger Shak…it tasted great.

I drove towards Capital Reef National Park in huge winds.  I’d camped outside the park before & thought I remembered it was right off the highway, but in a green area (vs. dirt) & set down low off the highway.  I found my old camp spot off River Ford Cathedral Valley road.  I got out a water bottle & doused my hair with water & shampoo & cleaned up as best  could to get all the sand off me….it seemed to be everywhere.  But, I went to sleep that night, feeling cleanER & under dark skies in the middle of nowhere.

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