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San Rafael "little grand canyon" | by oldmantravels
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San Rafael "little grand canyon"



The dirt road up to the Wedge and down Buchorn Wash was in excellent shape. Roadgraders and water trucks were working all of the maind dirt roads in the area, a pleasant surprise on a week day. The weather was good and the landscapes magnificent.


I had been to "The Wedge" before but never down Buckhorn Wash or the Cottonwood route, south to I-70, so this was a real treat for me. To find where these photos were taken at about 6,266', here is the waypoint:

N 39 6 14 W 110 44 30.




We left Lehi, Utah and made our way a short distance down I-15 to Spanish Fork. Here we left the interstate. We drove a short way on highway 6 then turned south on highway 89 at Thistle to Fairview. Then we traveled across the high country on highway 31to Huntington, Utah. This is a road I had never traveled and the scenery was spectacular.


On highway 31 between Fairview and Huntington, we were constantly stopping in the Jeep to take photographs. Ed is an excellent photographer, so he would select the right camera, lens, and on occasions, tripod to capture each landscape. I had either my Canon G9 or G10, close at hand and would hop out of the Jeep in an instant and go hopping around taking photo after photo. At trip’s end I was shocked to find I had taken close to 2,000 photographs. I’m certain, that Ed took as many or more.


We had lunch at the small town of Huntington, Utah. Cindi’s Café was full of locals and the table conversations and attire were lively, interesting, and fun. I inquired from several people about a Flickr contact, who lived nearby, but was unable to find anybody in town who knew, or was willing to share, how to get in touch, so I left that effort alone. I figure, many, want and deserve their peace and privacy.


One fellow having a meal at Cindi’s in Huntington was right out of the casting line of Western movies. We ate at a table nearby but never exchanged any conversation, though I think he must have overheard us talking to others in the café. When I got up to go to the counter to pay for my meal, he had just finished doing the same and was headed out of the café. With a friendly smile, he reached in his pocket and handed me a business card (totally out of character by my thinking) and strode on out the door.


When I got back to the Jeep I put on my reading glasses to check out the card that the big western movie fellow had just handed me. It read:

Sun’s incorporated. Passive Solar Products. Al Hamann CEO. PO Box 364 Huntington, Utah 84528.

Well Al. I wish you good luck and good fortune with your Huntington based business.


From Huntington (after asking a local for specific directions over a map spread over the hood of the Jeep), we made our way on dirt roads to “The Wedge”. This is a high scenic overlook over the scenic San Rafael River Canyon. I had been here once before but had not taken the dirt road south down Buckhorn Wash, which promised petroglyphs, pictographs, dinosaur tracks, a historic bridge (1937 wooden suspension bridge over the San Rafael River), and lots of fine scenery.


Ed and I visited and photographed “The Wedge” in pretty tough light for photographs, then slowly drove down Buckhorn Wash then on along Cottonwood to I-70, where we emerged at Exit 131 (an exit I have taken several times on my way to the Head of Sinbad or to Temple Mountain). The sun was out and this dirt road drive was a treasure. Ed and I both enjoyed the drive.


At the 131 Exit on I-70 I wanted Ed to see the Head of Sinbad rock art (and enjoy the trip in his Jeep), so we made a side trip there for some photo ops and enjoyable dirt road travel.


After the Head of Sinbad stop, we rejoined I-70 and drove on to Moab, where we had rooms reserved for two nights at the Motel 6. This was our first of several road trip “base camps”. I should mention that we both had backpacking tents and camping gear packed in the Jeep with us, just in case. But as the weather and circumstances dictated, we never did camp on this road trip. Truth known, it was nice to have motel rooms each night (TV, hot shower, beds already made).




At the start of year 2011, I made tentative plans to take a two week solo “road trip” through the Four Corners area (The Colorado Plateau), during the last half of March. Then, if my wife could get the time needed off from her part time job, I also planned a “road trip” vacation to the Southwest, in April with her.


When I put the plan together for the March trip, I decided to see if an old friend of mine, Ed (Flickr’s: OldWrangler), might be interested in joining me. I volunteered to take my old four wheel drive pickup truck and split the gasoline expense with him. We would each get an inexpensive motel room on the road to serve as “base camps” to hike, photograph, and explore back roads in the Four Corners area.


Not only did Ed accept but he also proposed that we take his brand new 4-door Jeep Wrangler instead of my old pickup truck. That didn’t take any thinking on my part. I LOVE Jeeps and Ed and I have always got along well (decades ago, I worked for him and we had taken a fun road trip together back in 2008, along with my friend John and my youngest son). The deal was sealed.


We left my house in Central Washington early Monday morning on the 14th of March. We returned 12 days and 3,875 miles later on Friday evening March 25th. We spent a lot of time drinking Diet Pepsi from the ice chest and keeping the hits of the 60s (and occasionally the 70s), cranked up high on the Jeep’s Sirius satellite radio sound system. Sing along music! “Road trip” tunes.


Weather often dictated changes to our proposed route and activities. We stayed flexible, and in the end we visited the large majority of places we had hoped to see, when the road trip began. We had sun and clear skies, snow, dust storms, and high winds at times. Ed’s Jeep had an outside temperature display. We drove in everything from18 degree weather to temperatures in the 70s in New Mexico.


Here in outline form are the places we saw, hiked, photographed, and visited during the 12 day road trip:


Mon 3.14.11

* Interstate travel from my house in Central Washington to Lehi, Utah


Tue 3.15.11

* Scenic back roads ( Hwys: 6, 89, & 31) from Spanish Fork to Huntington, Utah

* Dirt road travel to “The Wedge” and down Buckhorn Wash to I-70.

* Side trip to the Head of Sinbad petroglyph and then on to Moab.


Wed 3.16.11

* Island in the Sky district of Canyonlands NP (Mesa Arch & Upheaval Dome)

* The Shafer “Jeep” Trail down to the White Rim road and back to Moab.

* Hike to Delicate Arch & visit Windows section in Arches NP.


Thu 3.17.11

* Newspaper Rock in the Needles district of Canyonlands NP

* Attempt back road travel thru the Abajo Mountains to Monticello

* Edge of the Cedars museum in Blanding, Utah

* Hovenweep - Square tower group loop hike

* Shiprock and then on to Farmington, New Mexico.


Fri 3.18.11

* Bisti Badlands hike (My favorite hike on the trip)

* Chaco Canyon (Chetro Ketl and Pueblo Bonito) visit

* Scenic highway 96 and then down into Santa Fe, New Mexico.


Sat 3.19.11

* Santo Domingo Pueblo (turquoise & pueblo oven bread)

* Cerrillos and the Turquoise Trail (highway 14)

* Acoma Sky City pueblo

* El Morro national monument hike

* Zuni pueblo then on to Grants, New Mexico


Sun 3.20.11

* Scenic highway 34 through Crystal to Canyon de Chelly national monument

* Canyon del Muerto rim of Canyon de Chelly. Stay in Chinle, Arizona


Mon 3.21.11

* White house ruin overlook at Canyon de Chelly

* Drive through a major dust storm getting pelted with flying tumbleweeds

* Highway 264 across Hopi Mesas to Tuba City then to Page, Arizona


Tue 3.22.11

* Try “walk in” lottery for “The Wave” (failed…….again)

* Visit Upper antelope slot canyon

* Big Bend of Colorado River


Wed 3.23.11

* The Toadstools hike

* Cottonwood wash/Paria River dirt road to Grosvenor (Butler) arch

* Kodachrome Basin (hike “Parade” and box canyons loop)

* Bryce Canyon National Park then on to Escalante, Utah


Thu 3.24.11

* Cancelled all our dirt road travel when we woke up to snow in Escalante

* Goblin Valley State Park then on to Ogden, Utah


Fri 3.15.11

* Interstate (through some serious snow in Northern Utah) back home.


Part of the fun of any “road trip” is the many interesting and wonderful people you meet along the way. We met more than our share but a few honorable mentions:


* Fred (Sawtooth photo) joined us for a Cracker Barrel lunch in Boise

* Al Hamann (a colorful character to say the least) CEO of Sun’s Inc. Passive Solar Products at Cindi’s Café in Huntington, Utah

* 15 year old “life is good” waitress at the Moab, Utah Pizza Hut

* Ana and daughter Tina ~ Santo Domingo Pueblo (turquoise & bread)

* Patricia (owner) at the Cerrillos, New Mexico turquoise mine museum

* “Love’s his job” and knowledgeable ranger at El Morro national monument

* Acoma Indian waitress at Grants, New Mexico

* Young Zuni girl with her special puppy “Angel”


And I just as well get the big confession out of the way. I gained back 6 pounds on this 12 day trip (and it is no mystery how that happened), of the hard lost pounds I from the preceding two and half months (“New Year’s resolution”). We ate a LOT at a LOT of family cafés and had many Denny’s specials. We found a few places to eat that were just flat out fantastic:


1. Homestead Steak House in Blanding, Utah (Order the French dip sandwich, which is served on fresh doughy bread, lots of beef, onions, green pepper, and cheese). Oh my!


2. The Family Hogan in Tuba City, Arizona. They were out of the Navajo mutton stew so I had the open face hot beef sandwich and a pizza sized Navajo fry bread with butter, sugar and cinnamon on the side (a vanilla milk shake too). I enjoyed each and every bite. The food was excellent and portions - generous.


3. Escalante Outfitters café (Pesto chicken pizza). Always good food can be found here and friendly people working there.


* Skip Chu Chu’s restaurant outside the Zuni pueblo. It was worth the view and a try, but the food was just not up to “road trip” standards.


I hope you enjoy some of the selected photographs I post from this road trip.


Oldmantravels 3.27.2011


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Taken on March 15, 2011