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Beautiful Snow Canyon: St. George, Utah

Beautiful Snow Canyon: St. George, Utah

Posted by on Jul 31, 2016 in Gallery, Hiking, Musings, Travel, Utah | 30 comments

We first visited Snow Canyon about 15 years ago while on a trip to nearby Zion National Park. All these years, we’ve planned to return—and finally did, in mid-May.

We found it just as enchanting the second time around. We hiked through stands of blooming yucca, admiring the magnificent red cliffs of Navajo sandstone surrounding us; the only sounds our footsteps and the calls of ravens. It’s a gem of a park. And it’s remarkably peaceful—which can’t be said for Zion, just 50 miles away.

We would love to return to Zion. But honestly, we’re not sure that we’re willing to endure the hordes of people that descend on the park from early spring through late fall. Some of the Utah national parks have become too much like Disneyworld—minus the excellent crowd control.

In large part, the Utah Office of Tourism and their wildly successful “Mighty Five” campaign are to blame. The international advertising campaign, launched in 2012, has put the Mighty Five (Arches, Bryce, Canyonlands, Capitol Reef, and Zion) on the bucket list of travelers from all over the world.

There’s nothing wrong with wanting to share the vast beauty of our country with others. But it’s a problem when the infrastructure is inadequate to support the tidal wave of people who have responded to the allure.

The result is too many cars, too many tour buses, too many people, and a disturbingly large percentage of loud, brash visitors who aren’t there to immerse themselves in the stunning beauty of our national treasures, but instead seem more interested in snapping selfies in front of iconic landmarks while they overwhelm and trample the fragile ecosystem.

We experienced this first-hand several years ago when we visited Arches National Park in late September. At that time, I remarked to Eric that I felt like we were at an amusement park, not in a national park. We know how to get out into the back country and avoid the crowds—but meanwhile, what’s happening to our sacred wild lands?

Utah’s ad blitz is all about bringing in tourism dollars, not about supporting the parks. They’ve succeeded in overwhelming the little gateway towns with hordes of tourists. But they’ve done nothing to provide the towns with money for necessary improvements to handle the increase in visitors, including water, sanitation, health clinics, and law enforcement.

Here’s the most outrageous part: Utah is cashing in big time on the national parks—but the state is notorious for voting against funding for parks. Basically, Utah is turning our national parks into tourist traps.

Meanwhile, the advertising team that brought the world the “Mighty Five” has been hard at work on their next crusade. They’re unveiling a campaign promoting lesser known parks, monuments, and byways, apparently in an effort to leave no red rock unturned.

I cringe at the thought of hordes of tourists and tour buses careening along narrow Highway 12 and descending on Calf Creek and other remote places that are even less prepared for huge numbers of visitors. And yes, Snow Canyon is on the target list.

Don’t get me wrong— I’m all for humanity reconnecting with nature. It’s beneficial if people get to know and love these special places to ensure their long-term protection. But it does little good if we love them to death in the process.

Building more roads and parking lots is not the answer. We certainly don’t need to pave more of paradise. Limiting traffic—even banning vehicles within the parks and instituting public transportation (as they do in Zion part of the year) seems reasonable. Perhaps limit the number of people on the most popular trails. Or limit the number of people allowed into the park on any given day.

It all seems to come down to limits, which goes against my free spirited nature. But to my way of thinking, preservation should be given top priority.

About the park:

Snow Canyon State Park is brutally hot in the summer, with temperatures well over 100 degrees. But spring and fall are delightful. (We were pushing our luck visiting in mid-May, but with a cool snap, the temperatures were wonderful.)

More than 16 miles of trails (including a 6-mile paved multi-use, dog friendly trail) meander through a landscape of red rock canyons, lava flows, dry streambeds, and petrified sand dunes. The variety of hikes and terrain offer something for everyone. If you go, don’t miss early morning on the trail—the rising sun sets the red rock aglow.

The little 31-site campground is situated in the beautiful red rocks, with wonderful views all around. But the 12 electric and water sites are extremely tight, even for our relatively modest 27’ trailer. When our neighbors pulled in for the night, they were no more than two feet from our door. We had to laugh when we looked out the window and suddenly had a view of Joshua Tree National Park—it was a mural painted onto the side of their rental RV.

Had we not been concerned about the possibility of 95-degree days, we would have opted for a non-hookup site. Scattered throughout little side canyons, these spacious sites are much more private. Nice restrooms with free hot showers, dump station, and fair Verizon coverage (usable with our booster); campsites with hookups are $20, those without are $16. The town of St. George is just a few miles away, with every amenity you could possibly desire.

Next Up: Wonderfully Remote Great Basin National Park

Beautiful Snow Canyon

Views Along The Multi-Use Trail

One Of Many Hiking Trails

On The Butterfly Trail

Beautiful Red Rock Cliffs

Lava Beds And Sandstone

A Photogenic Landscape

On The Petrified Dunes Trail

Dunes Preserved For Eternity

Petrified Dunes And Clouds

View From The Top Of The Trail

Hiking Through A Sandy Wash

Sagebrush, Mountains And Clouds

Early Morning Colors

A Great Biking Trail

Lovely Little Visitor Center

A Place To Enjoy The View

Close Quarters In The Campground

Tight Squeeze

Suddenly Transported To Joshua Tree

Beautiful Snow Canyon
Views Along The Multi-Use Trail
One Of Many Hiking Trails
On The Butterfly Trail
Beautiful Red Rock Cliffs
Lava Beds And Sandstone
A Photogenic Landscape
On The Petrified Dunes Trail
Dunes Preserved For Eternity
Petrified Dunes And Clouds
View From The Top Of The Trail
Hiking Through A Sandy Wash
Sagebrush, Mountains And Clouds
Early Morning Colors
A Great Biking Trail
Lovely Little Visitor Center
A Place To Enjoy The View
Close Quarters In The Campground
Tight Squeeze
Suddenly Transported To Joshua Tree
Beautiful Snow Canyon thumbnail
Views Along The Multi-Use Trail thumbnail
One Of Many Hiking Trails thumbnail
On The Butterfly Trail thumbnail
Beautiful Red Rock Cliffs thumbnail
Lava Beds And Sandstone thumbnail
A Photogenic Landscape thumbnail
On The Petrified Dunes Trail thumbnail
Dunes Preserved For Eternity thumbnail
Petrified Dunes And Clouds thumbnail
View From The Top Of The Trail thumbnail
Hiking Through A Sandy Wash thumbnail
Sagebrush, Mountains And Clouds thumbnail
Early Morning Colors thumbnail
A Great Biking Trail thumbnail
Lovely Little Visitor Center thumbnail
A Place To Enjoy The View thumbnail
Close Quarters In The Campground thumbnail
Tight Squeeze thumbnail
Suddenly Transported To Joshua Tree thumbnail

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A Spectacular Hike In Buckskin Gulch

A Spectacular Hike In Buckskin Gulch

Posted by on Jul 15, 2016 in Gallery, Hiking, Utah | 30 comments

Buckskin Gulch—the longest, deepest slot canyon in the Southwest—has long been on our hiking bucket list. Located in the Vermilion Cliffs Wilderness in southern Utah, the canyon is an undulating, narrow, 13-mile long corridor of sculpted sandstone.

We enjoy challenging hikes. But when I happened across an article in Backpacking Magazine that described Buckskin Gulch as one of the most dangerous hikes in America, I started having second thoughts.

Tackling the entire canyon requires an overnight trip (it’s a 21-mile journey); wading through waist-deep pools of cold, muddy water; and navigating rock and log jams with 15-foot or more drop-offs. What makes the canyon so perilous, though, is the risk of flash floods—with no means of escape along most of the route.

Still, we wanted to hike Buckskin Gulch—not the entire length, but part of it. And preferably, not the part with the deep, cold, mud baths, or the part with the rock falls that require ropes and canyoneering skills. With some research, we came up with a plan.

We stopped at the BLM contact station to inquire about the current conditions. The ranger assured us that with no impending storms within a 50-mile radius, it was a good day for hiking the canyon. The road to the trailhead had even been recently graded. But when I inquired about the condition of the trail, the news was less encouraging.

Our plan was to begin hiking at the Wire Pass Canyon trailhead, an option with more interesting scenery and a quicker route into the heart of Buckskin Gulch. But I had read accounts of the rock fall that blocks access to Wire Pass Canyon, with some people saying it was a four-foot drop off, others saying it was ten. “The canyon changes with every flash flood,” said the ranger. “Right now, there’s at least a ten-foot drop off.” Could we climb down the rock fall? “Probably not—but there’s a workaround.” Is there a marked trail? “Nope, but you can’t miss it.” And with these rather vague but encouraging directions, we headed out.

As promised, the road to the Wire Pass trailhead was an easy drive over a recently graded dirt road. We signed in at the trailhead and started out along the sandy wash. After an easy three-quarter mile hike, we entered the slot canyon, wanting to see for ourselves just how challenging the rock fall would be to navigate. We had already encountered several people on the trail who had turned around, discouraged, when they reached the enormous choke stone blocking the trail. “What about the alternative trail?” I asked. Everyone told us there wasn’t one.

We reached the choke stone, looked over the edge, and I said, “No way.” But finding the workaround was not as easy as the ranger had promised. With no marked trail, we started a sharp ascent up the sandstone cliffs, scouting the edge of the canyon until we reached a place where descent was possible. I have no pride when it comes to these kinds of challenges—crawling, scooting on my butt, I don’t care what it looks like—my focus is on getting down without falling over the edge. Once in the slot canyon, it was a remarkably easy and beautiful one-mile hike to the confluence of Wire Pass Canyon and Buckskin Gulch.

At the confluence, you have a choice: turn right (down canyon), and you’ll likely encounter mud or deep water about a half-mile in. Turn left, and you wend your way through the magnificent slot canyon of Buckskin Gulch for about two miles before it opens up into a wash—a wonderland of swirling sandstone and fanciful rock formations that look like soft serve ice cream. You can guess which way we chose.

Hiking back, we retraced our steps through the sandstone cathedral of Buckskin Gulch. This time, though, we opted to tackle the boulder fall that chokes Wire Pass Canyon, figuring it couldn’t be much more difficult than the workaround we chose on the way in.

The rock fall is easier going up than coming down because you can see what you’re doing. But at least in my case, being taller would have helped a lot. After I quite gracefully (at least in my mind) climbed the rock fall and hoisted myself up onto the boulder, I got stuck on my belly, unable to move forward or backward because I couldn’t reach a wall to gain leverage. I started doing little pushups, trying to move myself along, but was stuck so far back on the boulder that I wasn’t making much progress. And then I started to laugh, which didn’t help at all. Fortunately, two kind hikers at the top each grabbed an arm and pulled, while Eric climbed up the rock fall behind me and pushed on my feet. (I told you I have no pride when it comes to these kinds of situations.)

If You Go:

The best and safest time to hike Buckskin Gulch is the dry season (April through June), when the likelihood of a flash flood is minimal. It’s also the most popular time to hike the canyon, but in mid-May, we saw few other people.

To access the Wire Pass trailhead from Page, travel west 34 miles on Highway 89. (Be sure to stop along the way at the Paria BLM contact station for updated road and canyon conditions.) Turn left (south) onto House Rock Valley Road (BLM Road 1065) and drive approximately 8 miles to the trailhead parking area.

Permits are required for hiking and can be obtained at the self-serve pay station at the trailhead. The fee is $6.00 per person/per dog. Be sure to take plenty of water, because there’s none available at the trailhead.

Next Up: Toadstools And Technicolor Hills: Southern Utah

A Spectacular Hike In Buckskin Gulch

The Road To Wirepass Trailhead

At The Wirepass Trailhead

Beginning The Adventure

Fragrant Blooms Along The Trail

The Rock Formations Start To Get Interesting

Descending Into Wirepass Canyon

Change Of Plan, Searching For A Way Down

That's Where We Need To Be

A Possible Route Down

The Honorable Technique Of Scooting

Now It's Easy

Wirepass Slot Canyon

A Beautiful Stone Labyrinth

One More Obstacle In Wirepass Canyon

Just Before The Junction For Buckskin Gulch

A Few Petroglyphs Pecked Into The Walls

Buckskin Gulch Slot Canyon

Dwarfed By The Canyon Walls

No Clouds And A Perfect Day

The Trail Opens Up

An Interesting Landscape Of Sandstone

Vast Sandstone Ledges

Beautiful Sandstone Swirls

Back Into The Canyon Cathedral

Sculpted Waves Of Sandstone

It's Harder Than It Looks

On The Trail Out (And Happy)

A Spectacular Hike In Buckskin Gulch
The Road To Wirepass Trailhead
At The Wirepass Trailhead
Beginning The Adventure
Fragrant Blooms Along The Trail
The Rock Formations Start To Get Interesting
Descending Into Wirepass Canyon
Change Of Plan, Searching For A Way Down
That's Where We Need To Be
A Possible Route Down
The Honorable Technique Of Scooting
Now It's Easy
Wirepass Slot Canyon
A Beautiful Stone Labyrinth
One More Obstacle In Wirepass Canyon
Just Before The Junction For Buckskin Gulch
A Few Petroglyphs Pecked Into The Walls
Buckskin Gulch Slot Canyon
Dwarfed By The Canyon Walls
No Clouds And A Perfect Day
The Trail Opens Up
An Interesting Landscape Of Sandstone
Vast Sandstone Ledges
Beautiful Sandstone Swirls
Back Into The Canyon Cathedral
Sculpted Waves Of Sandstone
It's Harder Than It Looks
On The Trail Out (And Happy)
A Spectacular Hike In Buckskin Gulch thumbnail
The Road To Wirepass Trailhead thumbnail
At The Wirepass Trailhead thumbnail
Beginning The Adventure thumbnail
Fragrant Blooms Along The Trail thumbnail
The Rock Formations Start To Get Interesting thumbnail
Descending Into Wirepass Canyon thumbnail
Change Of Plan, Searching For A Way Down thumbnail
That's Where We Need To Be thumbnail
A Possible Route Down thumbnail
The Honorable Technique Of Scooting thumbnail
Now It's Easy thumbnail
Wirepass Slot Canyon thumbnail
A Beautiful Stone Labyrinth thumbnail
One More Obstacle In Wirepass Canyon thumbnail
Just Before The Junction For Buckskin Gulch thumbnail
A Few Petroglyphs Pecked Into The Walls thumbnail
Buckskin Gulch Slot Canyon thumbnail
Dwarfed By The Canyon Walls thumbnail
No Clouds And A Perfect Day thumbnail
The Trail Opens Up thumbnail
An Interesting Landscape Of Sandstone thumbnail
Vast Sandstone Ledges thumbnail
Beautiful Sandstone Swirls thumbnail
Back Into The Canyon Cathedral thumbnail
Sculpted Waves Of Sandstone thumbnail
It's Harder Than It Looks thumbnail
On The Trail Out (And Happy) thumbnail

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Lost On Cedar Mesa: Bluff, Utah

Lost On Cedar Mesa: Bluff, Utah

Posted by on Dec 17, 2015 in Friends, Gallery, Hiking, Utah | 32 comments

Idon’t know what it is about Cedar Mesa, but almost every time we set out on a hike there, we get lost. Not so lost that we can’t find our way back. But lost enough that we end up hiking miles out of our way. My sense of direction is admittedly abysmal. Eric, however, has a terrific sense of direction. It just doesn’t seem to work well on this seventy-mile long plateau in the remote southeastern corner of Utah.

We first visited Cedar Mesa two years ago, and were captivated by the landscape and the incredible ruins hidden in the isolated canyons. Every hike is an adventure, with the enticing possibility of discovering Ancient Puebloan dwellings and rock art. Many sites have never been excavated or mapped—Cedar Mesa attracts relatively few visitors, and it’s awe-inspiring to think how few people have laid eyes on this splendor.

This time, we explored with our friends Henry and Loretta (AKA Yahoo Ramblers), whom we first met two winters ago in Florida. They’ve since taken to the road full-time, and we met up with them in Bluff. “Cedar Mesa is spectacular!” we told them, and we invited them to hike with us. Without going into the painful details, I’ll just say that on two of the three hikes we did together, we got lost. They were excellent trail companions and good sports. Although we were all exhausted at the end of our adventures, we had lots of laughs along the way, and we found some incredible ruins. (I think we’re still friends, although they left town before we could convince them to hike with us one more day. You can read their hilarious account about our adventures together here.)

Getting lost on Cedar Mesa really isn’t all that hard to do. There are no decent maps, no definitive guidebooks, and no established trails. This is not like visiting Mesa Verde, or Chaco Canyon, or Betatakin. The best you can hope for are rock cairns left by helpful souls, and occasionally, a randomly placed BLM trail marker. Directions to ruins and petroglyphs gleaned from the Internet are often frustratingly vague. And believe me, when you’re surrounded by an expanse of sandstone, canyons, and washes that extend to the horizon in all directions, everything looks confusingly similar.

Any directions we managed to scrounge went something like this: Drive approximately three miles to a wide spot in the road and park. (Where does the three miles begin? At the turnoff? After the gate? Which side of the road?) Cross the wash. (Where? It’s all thick brush, deep mud, and steep walls.) Head toward the horizon. (Seriously? There’s nothing but horizon!) Look for the rock waterfall and turn east. (We’ve passed several rock waterfalls—which one?)

You’re on your own when you’re hiking on Cedar Mesa. If you get yourself in, you had better be prepared to get yourself out. There’s no cell phone coverage, help is many miles away, and you’ll probably not see anyone else on the trail. We didn’t. Except for the unsuspecting friends we brought along.

Here, in no particular order, are some of our favorite places that we’ve discovered in our two trips to Cedar Mesa: Procession Panel, Wolfman Petroglyph, Monarch Cave Ruin, Fallen Roof Ruin, and House On Fire Ruin (we posted about this hike here, and our previous visit to Cedar Mesa here.). Oh, and don’t miss the drive through the Valley of the Gods. You can’t get lost there. There are many more spectacular hikes to do and interesting ruins to find on Cedar Mesa. We’ll be back.

About the campground: We spent five peaceful nights at Cadillac Ranch RV Park in Bluff. It’s a great location for exploring many of the ruins on Cedar Mesa. The facilities could use a makeover, but the setting is lovely and the campground has full hook-ups, spacious pull-through sites, good Verizon coverage, dark night skies, and beautiful views of the canyon, especially if you score one of the sites at the far end of the row.

Next Up: Aztec Ruins National Monument

Lost On Cedar Mesa: Bluff, Utah

Hiking In Butler Wash

Squeezing Through The Rocks

Along The Trail

Wolfman Petroglyph Panel

Beautifully Preserved Petroglyphs

A Moment Of Contemplation

Bushwhacking Through The Wash

Heading Toward The Horizon

Consulting The Directions Yet Again

In Search Of Procession Panel

Eric And Henry Leading The Way

Seriously, We're In The Wrong Place?

A Long Steep Climb

Almost There

Hallelujah, We Found It!

Trying To Figure Out The Meaning

Ancient Images Of Elk And Hunters

Late Autumn On The Mesa

Sliding Down The Embankment

A Little Help Back Up The Other Side

A Confusing Moment On The Trail

Reaching Fabulous Monarch Cave Ruins

Lovely Monarch Cave Ruins

The View From Monarch Cave Ruins

Cottonwoods In Autumn Finery

Ancient Corncobs And Grinding Stone

Handprints From Long Ago

Sculpted Rock On Cedar Mesa

Unnamed Ruins In North Mule Canyon

In The Wrong Canyon, Still Had A Good Time

Granary Tucked Beneath The Cliff

Finding Our Way To Fallen Roof Ruins

Following The Cairns

A Steep Climb Up Sandstone

Spectacular Fallen Roof Ruins

Taking A Closer Look

I Think This Roof Is Still Falling!

Bluff, Utah: Established 650 A.D.

Twin Rocks Trading Post

Welcome To The Trading Post

Reward At The End Of A Long Day

Nice Site At Cadillac Ranch RV Park

In The Valley Of The Gods

Rollercoaster Road

A Miniature Monument Valley

Lost On Cedar Mesa: Bluff, Utah
Hiking In Butler Wash
Squeezing Through The Rocks
Along The Trail
Wolfman Petroglyph Panel
Beautifully Preserved Petroglyphs
A Moment Of Contemplation
Bushwhacking Through The Wash
Heading Toward The Horizon
Consulting The Directions Yet Again
In Search Of Procession Panel
Eric And Henry Leading The Way
Seriously, We're In The Wrong Place?
A Long Steep Climb
Almost There
Hallelujah, We Found It!
Trying To Figure Out The Meaning
Ancient Images Of Elk And Hunters
Late Autumn On The Mesa
Sliding Down The Embankment
A Little Help Back Up The Other Side
A Confusing Moment On The Trail
Reaching Fabulous Monarch Cave Ruins
Lovely Monarch Cave Ruins
The View From Monarch Cave Ruins
Cottonwoods In Autumn Finery
Ancient Corncobs And Grinding Stone
Handprints From Long Ago
Sculpted Rock On Cedar Mesa
Unnamed Ruins In North Mule Canyon
In The Wrong Canyon, Still Had A Good Time
Granary Tucked Beneath The Cliff
Finding Our Way To Fallen Roof Ruins
Following The Cairns
A Steep Climb Up Sandstone
Spectacular Fallen Roof Ruins
Taking A Closer Look
I Think This Roof Is Still Falling!
Bluff, Utah: Established 650 A.D.
Twin Rocks Trading Post
Welcome To The Trading Post
Reward At The End Of A Long Day
Nice Site At Cadillac Ranch RV Park
In The Valley Of The Gods
Rollercoaster Road
A Miniature Monument Valley
Lost On Cedar Mesa: Bluff, Utah thumbnail
Hiking In Butler Wash thumbnail
Squeezing Through The Rocks thumbnail
Along The Trail thumbnail
Wolfman Petroglyph Panel thumbnail
Beautifully Preserved Petroglyphs thumbnail
A Moment Of Contemplation thumbnail
Bushwhacking Through The Wash thumbnail
Heading Toward The Horizon thumbnail
Consulting The Directions Yet Again thumbnail
In Search Of Procession Panel thumbnail
Eric And Henry Leading The Way thumbnail
Seriously, We're In The Wrong Place? thumbnail
A Long Steep Climb thumbnail
Almost There thumbnail
Hallelujah, We Found It! thumbnail
Trying To Figure Out The Meaning thumbnail
Ancient Images Of Elk And Hunters thumbnail
Late Autumn On The Mesa thumbnail
Sliding Down The Embankment thumbnail
A Little Help Back Up The Other Side thumbnail
A Confusing Moment On The Trail thumbnail
Reaching Fabulous Monarch Cave Ruins thumbnail
Lovely Monarch Cave Ruins thumbnail
The View From Monarch Cave Ruins thumbnail
Cottonwoods In Autumn Finery thumbnail
Ancient Corncobs And Grinding Stone thumbnail
Handprints From Long Ago thumbnail
Sculpted Rock On Cedar Mesa thumbnail
Unnamed Ruins In North Mule Canyon thumbnail
In The Wrong Canyon, Still Had A Good Time thumbnail
Granary Tucked Beneath The Cliff thumbnail
Finding Our Way To Fallen Roof Ruins thumbnail
Following The Cairns thumbnail
A Steep Climb Up Sandstone thumbnail
Spectacular Fallen Roof Ruins thumbnail
Taking A Closer Look thumbnail
I Think This Roof Is Still Falling! thumbnail
Bluff, Utah: Established 650 A.D. thumbnail
Twin Rocks Trading Post thumbnail
Welcome To The Trading Post thumbnail
Reward At The End Of A Long Day thumbnail
Nice Site At Cadillac Ranch RV Park thumbnail
In The Valley Of The Gods thumbnail
Rollercoaster Road thumbnail
A Miniature Monument Valley thumbnail

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Magical Bryce Canyon

Magical Bryce Canyon

Posted by on Jul 21, 2014 in Gallery, Hiking, Travel, Utah | 20 comments

It’s a fairyland of fantastical rock formations—towering spires and arches painted in varying shades of pinks and oranges. The Paiute Indians believed the colorful rock totems were “Legend People,” who were turned to stone by Coyote. Early geologists named the rock formations “hoodoos,” and thought the imposing spires were capable of casting spells. Ebenezer Bryce, the Mormon settler for whom the canyon was named, simply said, “It’s a hell of a place to lose a cow.”

The hoodoos of Bryce Canyon are the reason that the canyon was designated a national park—the park contains more of these unique rock formations than anyplace else on earth. Formed by cycles of freezing and thawing, the spires and arches of Bryce have slowly been formed over centuries of harsh weather—more than 200 days a year of freezing temperatures.

Set aside as a national park in 1928, Bryce Canyon is one of our smaller parks, covering only 55 square miles. But oh, it’s a wondrous slice of our country.

Because the location is somewhat remote, Bryce doesn’t get as many visitors as does nearby Zion, or the Grand Canyon. Ordinarily, we avoid all national parks from Memorial Day through Labor Day. But our route was taking us right past Bryce, it had been a dozen years since our last visit, and we couldn’t resist the siren call of the hoodoos.

Although we would have preferred camping within Bryce, the temperatures were edging toward 90, and we needed electric hookups to run our A/C (to prevent baking our kitty, who at 19 doesn’t tolerate heat well). So we stayed just outside the park at Ruby’s RV Park, a fine place for a couple of nights. (If you stay there, ask for a site in the older section, which has trees. The new section looks like a dirt parking lot.)

Because we had only one full day to explore the park, we chose one of our favorite hikes for the morning, the Navajo Loop combined with the Queen’s Garden Trail. It’s a gorgeous hike that quickly drops 500 feet down into the canyon, offering the opportunity to view the hoodoos from below (and the opportunity for peace along the trail because most people stay on the rim). Lunch in a shady spot on the rim, a geology talk by a ranger, a cool drink in the lodge, and another short hike along the Mossy Cave trail made for a full and wonderful day.

“If future generations are to remember us with more gratitude than sorrow, we must achieve more than just the miracles of technology. We must also leave them a glimpse of the world as it was created, not just as it looked when we got through with it.” ~ Lyndon Baines Johnson (Written on a plaque at the rim of Bryce Canyon.)

Magical Bryce Canyon

Sunset Point

Viewing The Canyon From Above

If You Need A Reminder

Descending Into Wall Street Slot Canyon

Through The Arch

Hoodoo City

Cairns Along The Path

Deeper Into The Canyon

Beautiful Day

Queen's Garden And Navajo Loop

Into Queen's Garden

Majestic Spires

Stunning Landscape

Along The Trail

Trail Far Below

Geology Talk

Multicolored Spires

On The Rim Trail

Mossy Cave Trail

Visitor's Center

Cooling Off On A Hot Day

"Will You Go Over And Stand By That Sign?"

Red Rock Country

Ruby's RV Park

Magical Bryce Canyon
Sunset Point
Viewing The Canyon From Above
If You Need A Reminder
Descending Into Wall Street Slot Canyon
Through The Arch
Hoodoo City
Cairns Along The Path
Deeper Into The Canyon
Beautiful Day
Queen's Garden And Navajo Loop
Into Queen's Garden
Majestic Spires
Stunning Landscape
Along The Trail
Trail Far Below
Geology Talk
Multicolored Spires
On The Rim Trail
Mossy Cave Trail
Visitor's Center
Cooling Off On A Hot Day
Red Rock Country
Ruby's RV Park
Magical Bryce Canyon  thumbnail
Sunset Point  thumbnail
Viewing The Canyon From Above  thumbnail
If You Need A Reminder  thumbnail
Descending Into Wall Street Slot Canyon  thumbnail
Through The Arch  thumbnail
Hoodoo City  thumbnail
Cairns Along The Path thumbnail
Deeper Into The Canyon thumbnail
Beautiful Day  thumbnail
Queen's Garden And Navajo Loop  thumbnail
Into Queen's Garden  thumbnail
Majestic Spires  thumbnail
Stunning Landscape  thumbnail
Along The Trail  thumbnail
Trail Far Below  thumbnail
Geology Talk  thumbnail
Multicolored Spires  thumbnail
On The Rim Trail  thumbnail
Mossy Cave Trail  thumbnail
Visitor's Center  thumbnail
Cooling Off On A Hot Day  thumbnail
Red Rock Country  thumbnail
Ruby's RV Park  thumbnail

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Exploring Cedar Mesa

Exploring Cedar Mesa

Posted by on Nov 8, 2013 in Art, Gallery, Hiking, Travel, Utah | 6 comments

Our hike to House On Fire sparked our interest in exploring more of Cedar Mesa. Located in southeastern Utah, this 50-mile long plateau encompasses the small and smaller towns of Blanding (population 3,500) and Bluff (population 320). This sparsely populated area is home to the Navajo, Ute, ranchers, a handful of artists, and hardy souls who search the canyons and mesas for ancient Anasazi dwellings and artifacts.

After five days without water or electric hook-ups in Goblin Valley and Natural Bridges National Monument, we were ready for a bit of civilization (laundry, plenty of water for showers, and electricity for our computers). We chose Blanding as our home base for exploring Cedar Mesa, and found a nice place to stay at The Blue Mountain RV Park for three nights—a mere 40 miles from our campsite in Natural Bridges (love those short travel days). Peaceful and dark (two of our most sought after attributes, wherever we camp), the park also boasts a fine trading post stocked with jewelry, rugs, and baskets made by Native Americans in the Four Corners area. The owners, Duke and Rose (now in their 80’s) have been trading with the local Indians since 1959. Their taste is excellent; none of the made-for-tourist junk that fills too many shops in the Southwest. I really wanted a green turquoise necklace and earrings that would have perfectly matched a beautiful green turquoise and silver bracelet that I bought 25 years ago in Santa Fe—but the steep increase in the price of silver and turquoise over the past couple of decades stopped me. Glad I bought that bracelet when I did.

There’s not much to Blanding; the town is DRY (and I’m not referring to the desert location). This is another locale where you need to BYOB (while you’re at it, bring your own food, too).

Highlights of our time exploring Cedar Mesa:

Edge of the Cedars Museum: Just a couple of miles from the RV park in Blanding, this Utah State Park has the largest collection of Anasazi pottery and artifacts in the Four Corners Region. Most museums have more items squirreled away in storage than they have on display; this museum is unique in that all of their storage is visible, with a very cool computer program to access information on each piece.

Valley of the Gods: A 17-mile drive through magnificent red rock formations; somewhat like a smaller version of Monument Valley (and according to many people, more beautiful). According to Navajo legend, the rock formations are places of power in which spirits reside. The imposing monoliths are Navajo warriors frozen in stone, who can be appealed to for protection (45 miles from Blanding; 20 miles from Bluff).

Sand Island Petroglyphs: Only four miles from Bluff, it’s an easy walk to this accessible 70-foot long panel of petroglyphs that are between 800 and 2500 years old.

Wolfman Petroglyph Panel: A few miles from Bluff, and only about a mile hike round trip—involves some scrambling, and a tight squeeze through boulders. This is a wonderful petroglyph panel, considered to be one of the finest in the Southwest. We especially liked the owl image.

Monarch Cave Ruins: Absolutely spectacular Anasazi cliff dwelling in a shaded canyon overlooking a small pool below. A moderate one-mile hike through a narrow canyon leads to the ruin, and then there’s an insanely steep climb up into the main ruin—but coming down was far worse (Eric went for it, while I stayed below). Walking among the ruins, discovering shards of pottery, tiny corncobs, and metates (grinding stones), it was easy to imagine life in this ancient village.

Bluff, Utah: We realized that most everything we were doing (except for visiting the museum) involved driving to Bluff. Next time, we’re staying in Bluff (the BLM campground at Sand Island, or perhaps Cadillac Ranch in Bluff). It’s a unique town in a beautiful setting, with a vibrant community of artists—the weekend we were there they were celebrating the Bluff Arts Festival, with local artists offering free workshops.

Exploring Cedar Mesa

Blue Mountain RV Park Trading Post

Campsite Blue Mountain RV Park

Edge Of The Cedars State Park

Anasazi Canteen

Macaw Feather Ceremonial Sash, 1150 A.D.

Patiently Waiting (Ha!)

Solar Marker Sculpture At Museum

Sand Island (Petroglyph panel on left, BLM campground on right)

Elk And Other Petroglyphs

Wild Petroglyph

Horse And Rider Petroglyph

Bluff Utah

Old Green Truck In Bluff

Front Porch Of Comb Ridge Coffee Shop

Art In The Coffee Shop

Old Wagon

Twin Rocks Trading Post, Bluff

Bluff Artist Kyle Bauman

Woven Willow Wall Hanging

Earth Oven

Bluff Restaurant

Road Through Valley Of The Gods I

Road Through Valley Of The Gods II

Rock Cairn To Nowhere

Stone God

Beginning Hike To Wolfman Petroglyphs

Trail To Wolfman Petroglyph Panel

Tight Squeeze

Viewing The Petroglyphs Above

Wolfman Petroglyph Panel

Owl And Other Petroglyphs

Trail To Monarch Cave Ruins

Monarch Cave Ruins

Monarch Cave Ruins Up Close

Eric In The Ruins

Sliding, The Only Way Down

Fall Colors In The Canyon

Detail Of Ruins

Ancient Metate, Potsherds, Corncobs

Handprint Pictographs

Exploring Cedar Mesa
Blue Mountain RV Park Trading Post
Campsite Blue Mountain RV Park
Edge Of The Cedars State Park
Anasazi Canteen
Macaw Feather Ceremonial Sash, 1150 A.D.
Patiently Waiting (Ha!)
Solar Marker Sculpture At Museum
Sand Island (Petroglyph panel on left, BLM campground on right)
Elk And Other Petroglyphs
Wild Petroglyph
Horse And Rider Petroglyph
Bluff Utah
Old Green Truck In Bluff
Front Porch Of Comb Ridge Coffee Shop
Art In The Coffee Shop
Old Wagon
Twin Rocks Trading Post, Bluff
Bluff Artist Kyle Bauman
Woven Willow Wall Hanging
Earth Oven
Bluff Restaurant
Road Through Valley Of The Gods I
Road Through Valley Of The Gods II
Rock Cairn To Nowhere
Stone God
Beginning Hike To Wolfman Petroglyphs
Trail To Wolfman Petroglyph Panel
Tight Squeeze
Viewing The Petroglyphs Above
Wolfman Petroglyph Panel
Owl And Other Petroglyphs
Trail To Monarch Cave Ruins
Monarch Cave Ruins
Monarch Cave Ruins Up Close
Eric In The Ruins
Sliding, The Only Way Down
Fall Colors In The Canyon
Detail Of Ruins
Ancient Metate, Potsherds, Corncobs
Handprint Pictographs
Exploring Cedar Mesa  thumbnail
Blue Mountain RV Park Trading Post  thumbnail
Campsite Blue Mountain RV Park  thumbnail
Edge Of The Cedars State Park  thumbnail
Anasazi Canteen  thumbnail
Macaw Feather Ceremonial Sash, 1150 A.D. thumbnail
Patiently Waiting (Ha!)  thumbnail
Solar Marker Sculpture At Museum thumbnail
Sand Island (Petroglyph panel on left, BLM campground on right) thumbnail
Elk And Other Petroglyphs  thumbnail
Wild Petroglyph  thumbnail
Horse And Rider Petroglyph  thumbnail
Bluff Utah  thumbnail
Old Green Truck In Bluff  thumbnail
Front Porch Of Comb Ridge Coffee Shop  thumbnail
Art In The Coffee Shop  thumbnail
Old Wagon thumbnail
Twin Rocks Trading Post, Bluff thumbnail
Bluff Artist Kyle Bauman  thumbnail
Woven Willow Wall Hanging  thumbnail
Earth Oven thumbnail
Bluff Restaurant  thumbnail
Road Through Valley Of The Gods I  thumbnail
Road Through Valley Of The Gods II  thumbnail
Rock Cairn To Nowhere  thumbnail
Stone God  thumbnail
Beginning Hike To Wolfman Petroglyphs  thumbnail
Trail To Wolfman Petroglyph Panel  thumbnail
Tight Squeeze  thumbnail
Viewing The Petroglyphs Above  thumbnail
Wolfman Petroglyph Panel  thumbnail
Owl And Other Petroglyphs  thumbnail
Trail To Monarch Cave Ruins  thumbnail
Monarch Cave Ruins  thumbnail
Monarch Cave Ruins Up Close  thumbnail
Eric In The Ruins  thumbnail
Sliding, The Only Way Down  thumbnail
Fall Colors In The Canyon  thumbnail
Detail Of Ruins  thumbnail
Ancient Metate, Potsherds, Corncobs  thumbnail
Handprint Pictographs  thumbnail

 

 

 

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House On Fire Ruins

House On Fire Ruins

Posted by on Nov 2, 2013 in Gallery, Hiking, Travel, Utah | 14 comments

Often, I see a photo of a place and I say to Eric, “I want to go there.” That’s how we came to visit the House On Fire ruin. It’s a relatively unknown ancient Anasazi dwelling, but it ranks among the most beautiful ruins that we’ve visited.

What makes this eight hundred year old ruin so spectacular is the way the light plays off of the sandstone, making it appear as though the ruins are engulfed in flames. But the flames only appear in photographs, and only when the light is just right. So not only was I determined to visit this ruin, but we had to get there when the light was perfect.

House On Fire is located in Mule Canyon, on Cedar Mesa in southeastern Utah. It’s an area we’ve not previously explored, and as we discovered, it’s a territory rich with ancient ruins that are generally unmarked, unmapped, and left to the explorer to discover. Although we had excellent directions to the ruin, our first attempt at finding it took us on a bushwhacking expedition of about six miles over rough terrain; we discovered to our chagrin that we were hiking the north fork of Mule Canyon, not the south fork.

The hike to House On Fire is a surprisingly easy three miles round trip, a relief after the previous day’s marathon. We arrived mid-morning, the best time for photographing it, and found just a few other people, including a professional photographer who travels twice a year from Italy to photograph the Southwest. “It is the most beautiful place to photograph,” he said, and generously shared tips for capturing a fiery image of this magnificent ruin.

We camped at Natural Bridges National Monument, a park that’s often overlooked in favor of its more popular nearby siblings (Canyonlands and Arches National Parks). On the day we arrived for a visit, the monument had just reopened after the ridiculous government shutdown. We scored a campsite in the tiny campground and Eric managed to shoehorn the trailer into a site—the door opened into a juniper, but we were in!

(On a side note, on our drive to Natural Bridges we passed by an overlook for the Colorado River that had been closed by the government. How ridiculous is that, to close an overlook? We were delighted to discover that someone had somehow hauled away one of the enormous yellow concrete barriers; on the remaining barrier, they had written, “This land is my land, this land is your land. Amen!!”)

We spent three nights at Natural Bridges; in addition to hiking the North and South Forks of Mule Canyon we visited the overlooks in the park and hiked to two of the three bridges— Sipapu, a Hopi word referring to the entryway through which their ancestors emerged into the world; and Kachina, named for the spirit beings of the Pueblo tribes. The hikes were only about one and one-half miles round trip each, but with about 500 feet in elevation gain, they were steep, requiring a series of ladders, stone steps cut into the rocky hillsides, and railings.

It’s a gorgeous place; peaceful, beautiful, and little visited in comparison to the better-known National Parks. If you go, email me and I’ll make sure you have the right directions to House On Fire.

House On Fire Ruin

Gas Station In The Mountain

Resisting Government Stupidity

Colorado River Overlook

Entering Red Rock Country

Campsite Natural Bridges National Monument

Overlooking Horsecollar Ruins

Horsecollar Ruin

Kachina Bridge

Hike To Kachina Bridge

Stepping Off The Edge

Crazy Steep Winding Steps

At The Bottom Of The Canyon

Taking A Break

Sipapu Bridge From Above

Rickety Ladders On The Trail

Looking Up At Sipapu Bridge

Climbing Out Of The Canyon

Mule Canyon, North Fork

Bushwhacking The North Fork

Trying To Find The Nonexistent Trail

I Don't Think This Is Right

Realizing That We're In The Wrong Place

A Ruin, But Not The Right One

Scrambling Down From The (Wrong) Ruins

Trail South Fork Mule Canyon

Trail To House On Fire

Getting Tips From a Pro

Photographers Gathering

Without Reflected Light

House On Fire

House On Fire Ruin
Gas Station In The Mountain
Resisting Government Stupidity
Colorado River Overlook
Entering Red Rock Country
Campsite Natural Bridges National Monument
Overlooking Horsecollar Ruins
Horsecollar Ruin
Kachina Bridge
Hike To Kachina Bridge
Stepping Off The Edge
Crazy Steep Winding Steps
At The Bottom Of The Canyon
Taking A Break
Sipapu Bridge From Above
Rickety Ladders On The Trail
Looking Up At Sipapu Bridge
Climbing Out Of The Canyon
Mule Canyon, North Fork
Bushwhacking The North Fork
Trying To Find The Nonexistent Trail
I Don't Think This Is Right
Realizing That We're In The Wrong Place
A Ruin, But Not The Right One
Scrambling Down From The (Wrong) Ruins
Trail South Fork Mule Canyon
Trail To House On Fire
Getting Tips From a Pro
Photographers Gathering
Without Reflected Light
House On Fire
House On Fire Ruin  thumbnail
Gas Station In The Mountain  thumbnail
Resisting Government Stupidity  thumbnail
Colorado River Overlook  thumbnail
Entering Red Rock Country  thumbnail
Campsite Natural Bridges National Monument  thumbnail
Overlooking Horsecollar Ruins thumbnail
Horsecollar Ruin  thumbnail
Kachina Bridge  thumbnail
Hike To Kachina Bridge  thumbnail
Stepping Off The Edge  thumbnail
Crazy Steep Winding Steps  thumbnail
At The Bottom Of The Canyon  thumbnail
Taking A Break thumbnail
Sipapu Bridge From Above  thumbnail
Rickety Ladders On The Trail  thumbnail
Looking Up At Sipapu Bridge  thumbnail
Climbing Out Of The Canyon  thumbnail
Mule Canyon, North Fork  thumbnail
Bushwhacking The North Fork  thumbnail
Trying To Find The Nonexistent Trail  thumbnail
I Don't Think This Is Right  thumbnail
Realizing That We're In The Wrong Place  thumbnail
A Ruin, But Not The Right One  thumbnail
Scrambling Down From The (Wrong) Ruins  thumbnail
Trail South Fork Mule Canyon  thumbnail
Trail To House On Fire  thumbnail
Getting Tips From a Pro  thumbnail
Photographers Gathering  thumbnail
Without Reflected Light thumbnail
House On Fire   thumbnail

 

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