Back on the pavement - Whew!
Heading toward Ely, Nevada on highway 93, the "white walls" on my pickup truck tires, tell of my almost "major" mistake.
I knew it had recently rained hard and I would find out later that I would pass through some falling snow near Ely, Nevada -- but I decided to drive up the 1/4 mile off the highway and see "my" old abandoned automobile.
What a mistake. Dirt roads in the American West are IMPASSABLE when wet enough, but up the short section of road I started until I heard that familiar clatter of mud clods hitting the inside of my pickup truck's wheel wells. I quickly switched to four wheel drive and kept moving up the grade but now the truck was starting to squirrel and twist.
I stopped and oh so cautiously, drove (that should be "slid"), back down the mud road in reverse, until I once again reached the safety of the asphalt road.
If I had gone into the ditch on that dirt road there would have been two choices: One - Camp and wait until the sun dried out the road enough to drive the 1/4 mile back to the asphalt OR Two - pay an expensive bill to have a happy wrecker guy drive out from Ely and tow me and my truck out of my stupidity....for a price.
Day two of my 8 day road trip provided some fun driving and extreme contrasts. The first night I had camped in the back of my pickup truck at close to 6,000 feet at Wildhorse Crossing campground, south of Mountain City, Nevada. I woke up with the entire truck encapsulated with a sheet of ice the next morning.
As I drove south from my camp at Wildhorse Crossing I had the heater of my old pickup truck on “high”. I crossed over from Elko to Wells, Nevada to drive one of my favorite routes north/south, through Nevada: Highway 93. Whenever I can I take this route over the interstate route through Salt Lake City.
NOTE: the fact that this route passes through “Jackpot, Nevada” and the penny slot machines at Cactus Pete’s, has special appeal to my wife, and is a must short stop, when traveling with her. Jackpot is on the Idaho/Nevada border so joined highway 93 well south of Jackpot at….Wells, Nevada.
My route down highway 93 from Wells to Panaca, Nevada travels a high desert valley with little traffic. It is easy to pull over along the highway whenever a landscape or pronghorn antelope, demand a photo op.
Once at Panaca, I would turn off highway 93 and take Nevada highway 319 over into Utah and then a seldom driven Utah highway 120 over to Enterprise, Utah. Along the way I would see some of the latest and finest U.S. fighter planes, making low level runs through the sage covered hills of Bull Valley (the fighters were probably from Area 52 in Nevada - HA!).
After a HUGE hamburger, onion rings, and vanilla shake (Yes I know, I tend to be “bad” when eating on a long road trip), at Enterprise, Utah - - I turned south on Utah highway 18 to make my way to Veyo and ultimately Snow Canyon State Park near St. George, Utah.
When you travel down highway 18 south from Enterprise to Veyo, you pass the location one of U.S. history’s sad chapters and to my way of thinking sad commentary on contemporary “Utah”. It is the site of the Mountain Meadow Massacre. I won’t get into the story but if you want a balanced description of what happened here read the bestseller by Jon Krakauer titled “Under the Banner of Heaven”.
I have visited the site twice and grimaced at the defaced plaques marking the site. Seems some folks want to deny what happened in the past. Utah maps will not show “Mountain Meadows Massacre”. If you find a sign at all it has the gentler “Mountain Meadows” label. If you read the big metal plaque at Navajo Bridge on the Utah side of the Colorado River, you will think that John D. Lee was a “great guy and pioneer”, who developed and ran “Lee’s Ferry” across the Colorado. You won’t see anything on the plaque about his involvement in the Mountain Meadow Massacre.
So with all of that in mind, I glanced over at the Mountain Meadow massacre site, as I drive south on highway 18, but didn’t bother to stop. There were better things to see and think about.
I had never visited Snow Canyon State Park. In fact, I didn’t even know it existed though I have visited nearby Zion National Park, many times over the years. It is a gem. There is no other way to describe it and a wonderful place to camp and hike, which I did. I also didn’t know that some of my favorite movies had filmed segments within the park: Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid and Jeremiah Johnson, to name two.
If you stay at the campground at Snow Canyon, be sure to stop in the visitor’s center at the campground and say “hi” to Jake the campground’s mascot “king snake”.
May 12th through May 19th - - I traveled 9 states in 8 days, camping, driving back roads, visiting scenic and historic sites, and taking some great day hikes. These are some of the photographs from this solo "road trip".
Day One: Home in Eastern Washington; Mountain Home, Idaho; Owyhee, Nevada and a very cold night camped at Wild Horse Crossing south of Mountain City, Nevada.
Day two: NEVADA - - Mountain City; Elko; Wells; Ely (through a snow storm); Panaca. UTAH - - Enterprise, Veyo, to a warm and scenic enjoyable camp and hiking at Snow Canyon.
Day three: UTAH - - Snow Canyon; St. George; Hurricane; to Fredonia, Arizona. Forest Service Road #22 and many others to places like Monument Point and Indian Hollow. Too cold to camp (got down to 19 degrees that night), so dropped down low to BLM wilderness land off 89 A and spent the night among sagebrush and juniper with curious mule deer as "neighbors".
Day four: Opening day of the North Rim of Grand Canyon National Park. Visited the park and arriving early had many places (Cape Royal), entirely to myself. ARIZONA: Vermillion Cliffs; Page; Kaibito; and Navajo National Monument and Betatakin, where I had my nicest camp site (Canyon View at Betatakin).
Day five: Betatakin camp to Kayenta; Monument Valley to drive the 17 mile "loop road" through the monument; to Mexican Hat to recharge my camera battery (Canon G10) while eating Navajo stew and fry bread at a cafe along the San Juan River; to Comb Ridge where I took two short enjoyable "rock art and cliff dwelling" hikes (procession panel and Monarch Cave ruins; up to Blanding, Utah where I checked into a small motel for two nights.
Day six: Get up early and hike a bit over 14 miles down Kane Gulch; down Grand Gulch to Todie Canyon, with many side excursions to visit cliff dwellings, granaries, rock art sites, etc. Weather started to blow in by the time I finished my hike.
Day seven: Changed my mind with the weather. Instead of heading for the Bisti Wilderness (for the first time) and Chaco Canyon (for the third time) - - I headed north through Moab then turned east toward Grand Junction, Colorado. Stopped at Sego Canyon rock art site outside of Thompson Springs, Utah. COLORADO - - Grand Junction, Rifle, Craig. WYOMING - -Baggs, Rawlins, Lander, Dubois (where I got a real nice motel room for a reasonable rate).
Day eight: Left Dubois, Wyoming early. Cold, windy, cloudy weather with a hint of snow in the air. Drove up through Yellowstone Park and exited via Mammoth Hot Springs; then on to Livingston, Montana. On I-90; hitting sun, the clouds, the rain, then a nasty storm (between Missoula, Montana and Coeur d'Alene, Idaho). Slept in pickup camper before driving on through the early morning back to my home in Eastern Washington.
Day nine: Arrived home at 4:30 am. Another fun road trip.