Thursday, September 21, 2017

Sheep Loop to Antelope Herd, and More Natural Beauty In Between

September 16-18, 2017
Vernal, Utah

There are so many beautiful places to see in this little corner of Utah, it's a challenge to figure out which ones to choose. Flaming Gorge is on my list, and our neighbor tells Bill that Sheep Creek Geological Loop, in the same area, is a must-do. So Saturday we head north on Highway 191.

We make a couple stops along the way to take in the pretty views and play in the red dirt. Soon we're on Highway 44 and into Ashley National Forest.

Layers continue to erode, exposing new color beneath.

I find this big brain along the highway - and that big rock behind him :-)

Mesquite and old fences.

Cart Creek Meadow
Lots of places to come back and explore another day.
Small Aspen groves get an early start on Fall colors.
Sheep Creek Loop climbs over deep canyon views, then drops along several switch-backs. Every turn brings another geology lesson - and lots of Wows! Layers of different colors tell the story of oceans, ice, drought, ash and deep rivers. Uplifts provide dramatic evidence of Mother Earth's violent remodeling projects. It's a beautiful drive, and we agree it's a must-do. We don't see any of the Rocky Mountain Big Horn Sheep herd living here.

In Malta, ten miles from the Wyoming border, we grab lunch at Browning's, the only eatery in town. Might be the only public place in town. Then we return to Flaming Gorge Reservoir, hoping to catch the afternoon color. 

Red, white and blue.

7 miles of washboard dirt road take us to the viewpoint at Dowd Mountain - worth every shake and rattle.

A hidden finger of water.

The viewpoint itself is lovely.

These signs line Highway 191 - no place to stop to catch my favorite "Stegosaurus roamed here."

Red Fleet Lake State Park

The three red "ships" that give the lake its name.
Sunday it's football all day. It's really a bonus that we have satellite under the stately tall trees.

With our focus on several games at once, the diligent guard dog keeps on eye on the dangerous kitty cat next door.
When we crossed the city limit sign in the motorhome on Wednesday, the check engine light came on. Not the CHECK ENGINE!! light, the other one. Bill called the local Cummins Service Center, and our appointment is 7:30 Monday morning.

Mike is a great guy who immediately hooks up the computer. Of course no active fault :-(. He assures us he'll continue to work on it, and we head out for breakfast.

And coffee - I'm never up this early!

Sue recommended we visit Fantasy Canyon southwest of town. Sounds like our kind of place - weird and not well known.

Much of the drive is through active oil fields, small hills of scrub brush, and open range with lots of cattle. Hard to imagine a natural wonder existing out here.

But even from the dirt parking lot we can see a naturally wonderful place. We explore for over an hour, looking for the shapes named and identified with small markers, and pointing out our own favorites. We have the whole place to ourselves. Tessa even gets in some zoomies among the formations on the trail.

Sandstone, siltstone and shale deposited and hardened 38-50 million years ago along what was then a 150 acre lake, over a half mile deep.

Penguins and bud vases

Ghosts and gargoyles

Some crevices are deeper than the naked eye can see.

Tessa thinks this new playground is great!

Looking like sand, the formations are very hard.
Free standing art pieces along the trail.
Can't we stay and play all day?
We take a different route back, and have three pronghorn sightings - each group larger than the last. They are beautiful animals.

This lone young buck takes his time crossing the road.

I wait for him to cross, then approach slowly while he just watches us drive by. Handsome guy.

Near the Green River we see this small herd.

Over 50 in this herd! Alfalfa farmer probably doesn't think they're so pretty.

All are about the same age and move in tight formation through the field.
Our house is ready to pick up when we get back to town. 19 computer updates, but no specific problem found. Jessica has contacted our extended warranty, and says she'll call us when she hears back. No, we don't need to pay anything now. Just take the rig and let them know if the light comes on again. Nothing to sign, all good.

I've mentioned before how much I love small towns and the people who live and work in them. We do hear back before we leave - warranty covered everything, nothing to pay. Emailed zero balance invoice. If you need work on your Cummins engine when you're in the area - go see Mike and Jessica!

Next we return to Dinosaur National Monument for two more amazing days of exploration. 


  1. Awesome drives! Those sandstone formations are incredible. I love Utah!

  2. Looks like you've had a fantastic time and great sites to see. Love the antelope pictures.

    1. They're such delicate creatures - fun to pick them out in the plains.

  3. Really beautiful country and wonderful camera shots. Not sure how you would choose from what I imagine are hundreds of photographs. Love the jeep commercial! And the hidden finger of water and Reed Fleet Lake. Really outstanding Jodee. Lucky you have your guard dog, those cats can be real trouble. Glad you dodged the check engine bullet. Ruby wasn’t so lucky this week. Perfect name Fantasy Canyon. I’d never heard of it. Love to know how it came about. Definitely weird shapes. Unlike anything I’ve ever seen. Your last picture of the antelope is fantastic. What a day you had! No envy here.

    1. :-)))) Piper's bright orange outfit looks good in the desert.

      You're so right about the number of photos! So completely different from our coastal summer, and just as amazing to experience.

  4. We loved the Flaming Gorge, too. Such beautiful colors! Sheep Creek Loop was pretty cool. Too bad Dave and Sue hadn't been to the area so we didn't know about Fantasy Canyon. Tessa was certainly loving her playground:) There sure isn't much in Manila. We stayed in the Lucerne Campground in the Flaming Gorge Recreation Area right over the Green River. The campground was full of pronghorn. This is a big area of habitat for them. They walked all over the campground. Definitely fun.

    1. I bet that was a great place to stay with all those beauties wandering around! We lucked out getting Sue's recommendation - you have to go see it next time!

  5. Wow, there's some crazy geologic forces at work here. The signs are a kick. That old lake bottom is really cool. Seeing the pronghorn is awesome. Happy looking Tessa.

    1. Utah continues to wow us, but the Vernal area was a wonderful surprise. We learned a lot!

  6. I was wondering why you hadn't posted anything in a while, and then just discovered that I missed your last three posts! I'm not getting post notifications. :-( But now I'm all caught up (although I went backwards through your posts) and I haven't missed any of the incredible adventures that you've been having. So much beauty! And so many pronghorns! Taking notes. :-))