Saturday, April 29, 2023

Terrific Torrey

 April 27 - 29, 2023
Torrey, Utah

For the most part, we've traveled all of this summer's route before. One exception is our Wednesday drive from Bluff to Torrey on Hwy 95. I'm hoping that it will be very scenic, and a note from Pam earlier in the week confirms we're in for a treat. 

I know from our drive to Natural Bridges a few days ago that there are some steep (8%) grades, so I'm happy that past that turn-off the road levels out with one exception. You can really feel the weight of 17 tons coming down a 10% decline, and I'm glad we're the only ones on the road so I can take it nice and slow without any pressure! 

The views in all directions are breath-taking for over 100 miles. Thanks to Pam I know we can take the rig to the end of the Hite Overlook with plenty of parking and turning room. It's rare for us to make a stop on travel day, and this one is amazing!

We really need to remember to clean that windshield!

And that's just the drive to get here!

Happy to be back at Wonderland RV Park where Hwy 24 meets the even more scenic Hwy 12. 50 amp FHUs with grass (Tessa is soooo happy) space on gravel sites. As requested we have open sky for satellite, and their WiFi works great. Also given our current lack of in-house laundry I'm glad to see they have a nice facility.

Thursday morning we're up and out to visit Capitol Reef National Park - my favorite! We start out with bright sunny skies and over the course of the day light clouds move in. It's a perfect 72 degrees all day. 

The Wow!s start early.

A common practice in the late 19th century, outgoing mail was hung from tree branches and collected by the postman. This huge beauty served as Fruita's mail tree for years. 

At the entrance to Grand Wash are two uranium adits, dug in 1907. Very little ore was ever pulled from this location, and changed ownership numerous times before being closed permanently in 1993. 

One quickly feels insignificant here.

A small window peeks at us along the trail.

At the end of Grand Wash is the trail to the top of Cassidy Arch, named after Butch. Note the hiker on the arch. It is not either of us. Ever. 

I love being wrapped in red rock.

Geological layers create drama in all directions.

Capitol Gorge brings the canyon walls up close.

 Golden Throne stands out above the reds and grays.

Rock turns to fire in the noon sun.

The art of erosion on display.

Piles of what used to be massive cliffs - we speculate how it must sound when these fall.

Pleasant Creek Road takes us to an abandoned ranch.

Pleasant Creek bubbles along - I choose not to cross it.

The small ranch house had incredible views.

The lighting has changed since our arrival - more gold than red now.

We end this awesome day with a nice dinner at Broken Spur. My first steak in nearly a year, the filets are prepared perfectly (rare of course) - and the veggies are fresh and tasty. 

Sooo good!

It's hard to tell where the most crowds will be for the weekend, but we figure fewer will be outside the park, on the rough roads. Cathedral Valley Loop is our goal, but getting a later-than-planned start we know the 60 mile route probably isn't practical. Instead we figure we'll head out that way and then turn around after a couple hours. We take the first entrance (the loop is not one-way) and only get about 1/2 mile before we come to the Fremont River crossing the dirt road. Moving fast and looking deep, I'm not prepared to try it when traveling without another vehicle. So we continue on Hwy 24 and take the second entrance at Cainville Wash.

My phone had a weather alert this morning for a "hydrologic outlook" that I'd never heard of. It's a warning that warming temps will cause rises in rivers and creeks. The surrounding mountains are expected to send record snow melt to this area. No idea if the Fremont is higher than normal for this time of year, but we'll keep our eyes open for the rest of the week!

This is a very different looking area, still full of fabulous geology and beautiful colors. Although information says four-wheel-drive is necessary, other than some rough and sandy spots it's a good road.

The road climbs in and out of slick rock formations.

Some areas look like Arizona's Painted Desert.

This gorgeous mound is visible for miles. We laugh at the single hold-out rock on the top.

Possibly salt, some patches in the dry creek are brilliant white.

A bearded gnome guards the entrance to the valley.

The colors here become more vivid as we near the cathedrals.

When we see the sign for two temples and Glass Mountain, we're not sure what to expect, although we figure the larger red monuments in the distance are the temples. 

We are not expecting this is Glass Mountain!

The selenite gypsum plug is very shiny - and incredibly unique.

Such a cool find in the middle of nowhere!

Some of the larger pieces have visible depth.

Temple of the Moon with Temple of the Sun in the back.

A Teenage Mutant Turtle hangs out at the moon temple.

About 20 miles in, we choose the temples as our turn-around point. The weather is perfect and we've seen four other people. We'll see a handful more on the way out, but it's a wonderful day of exploring on our own.

We see a lot of geologic layers in our travels, but this is the most defined example we've seen anywhere.

Although there are no visible cinder cones or volcanic flows, there are numerous single lava bombs like this. They must have flown miles!

The Henrys to the south.

Not colorful, but I find these formations along Hwy 24 fascinating!

Beautiful lavender pleated skirt.

Along the highway in Historic Fruita - wow!

Saturday we let the others have the park and surrounding sights - a good day to get caught up on laundry and housekeeping. 

Penelope and

big sister Reese loving Disneyland!

Elliott loving Spring.

Oliver loving the beach.

Wednesday, April 26, 2023

Exploring Those Amazing Valleys

 April 23 - 26, 2023
Bluff, Utah

Sweet views from home.

After a lazy day at home on Saturday to avoid any crowds, we head out Sunday morning under sunny skies. In this area the drives to anywhere are breath-taking. Having gorgeous destinations adds to the magic.

Valley of the Gods was part of Bears Ears until a proclamation by the 45th president removed the area from the national monument. It remains protected by BLM as an area of Critical Environmental Concern. Dispersed camping is allowed at several locations throughout, and a small off-grid B&B is located near the western entrance at Hwy 261. There are no services, no signage, and limited cell coverage. The drive is 17 miles of dirt - two-way between Highways 261 and 163. 

The current "names" of the monuments are those given by locals over the years. I'm sure the tribes have original names, but I don't find them online. 

From Hwy 163

Seven Sailors

Sitting Hen


Battleship Butte

I would have called this "loose teeth".

Another un-named stand looking like a choir ready to serenade us.

Castle Butte

Santa's Sleigh

Feeling small among the gods.

One of a handful of trees in the valley.

Interesting blue rock creek bed.

We end on Hwy 261. To the right is Moki Dugway, a left turn takes us back to Hwy 161 with a turn off for Goosenecks State Park on the way. $5 entrance, cash only. Not some place we would ever take the RV, but many do dry camp along the steep, un-fenced cliffs over the San Juan River. Two gooseneck turns in one location is rare, and the view is worth a stop. There is one spot with large rocks along the edge where I don't feel like gravity is sucking me over the side - everywhere else is terrifying :-)

Lots of loose dirt and shale along the edge - what could go wrong?


The late afternoon weather is still beautiful so we make a side trip to Mexican Hat Rock. On previous stops here there was no access to the river behind the rock, but now there is a dirt road with dispersed camping spots. Several campers are parked between the trees and the dusty road. The incredible chevron-patterned hills along the river are some of the most unique we've seen anywhere. 

Easy to see inspiration for pottery and baskets.

The "backside" we've not seen before.

There aren't many eatery options anywhere nearby, but we give the new Canyon Smokehouse BBQ a try. While Bill's is mediocre, my brisket salad is tasty. 

Hoping for less people, and leaving the best for last, Monday we explore the sacred beauty of Monument Valley. There are few locations that speak to me like this place. Even with several other vehicles that want to move at a much faster pace (I pull over on the dirt road to let them keep moving away), and the occasional load of guided tours in pickup beds, I connect with the spirit and beauty here in a very special way. I remember my Robert Mirabal CD this time, and highly recommend it for this 1-2 hour experience. Of course just seeing all the unique formations and long views makes for a great day!

The first view beacons us to come visit.

This hilltop is now officially called "Forrest Gump Scenic Point" with pull-outs and reduced speed limits. We arrive in time to see Forrest himself running up the hill!

First up are the Mitten Buttes - West and East

One of two monuments named for people (in this case the only non-native person) - Merrick Butte is named for silver miner Jack Merrick.

Four wheel drive is not needed but there are plenty of bumps and rough spots throughout the park.

This not-in-the-brochure combination catches my eye above the trail. 

Elephant Butte 

Camel Butte

The "other side" of Elephant Butte.

Iconic Ford's Point today

From this 1925 scene in The Vanishing American, to Johnny Depp and Armie Hammer in The Lone Ranger, the location has hosted dozens of movie makers. 

Three Sisters can be seen from throughout the park, this view from Ford's Point.
At a slow pace you can see magical things like these wind spirits carved by nature.

From a distance they blend into the varnish.

Totem Pole surrounded by the 12 Dancers - faces and movement come alive the longer you visit.

The sun draws the gold from the rock.

Rain God Mesa - a large and powerful place. 

So much to just see.

Once Artists' Point, this stunning long view is now named Navajo Code Talker Point.

The Thumb

The Hub - representing the hub of a wheel. 

I could easily come here for days in a row and never tire of the beauty. Grateful that we had this perfect day, I'm already looking forward to our return.

Lunch at Gouldings up the road is mediocre, but the historic site is always a fun stop. 

It was Harry Goulding who brought John Ford and John Wayne here to film Stagecoach, and ultimately Monument Valley into theaters around the world. 

Apparently we can catch a ride home from here!

Big Chief is one of several monuments visible outside the park.

My favorite is Bear and Rabbit. Love that Bear is eating from a honey pot and that Rabbit's little mouth is visible.

Castle Butte with Bear and Rabbit

La Sal Mountains - one more time :-)

Our week in Bluff has been great - I'm so glad I booked a full week here. Breakfast on Tuesday at Twin Rocks Cafe is our third stop here where the blue corn pancakes are yum as is the sage sausage. Wednesday morning we're on our way to Torrey, Utah, to visit my favorite national park in Utah, and more of the state's natural beauty.  

Youngest grand, Oliver, is excited to see his Virginia cousin Reese in SoCal. 

Happy Henry is getting so big.