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Sunday, September 20, 2015

BACK IN RED ROCK TERRITORY


We love Utah. On our last trip we explored lots of National Parks here, but there are so many more. We plan to add a few more before we carry on north.

We leave our new friends and continue along the now dry track. This section is much more scenic, but also much windier & bumpy. We stop to peer down in to Bull Valley Gorge and then on to Willis Creek. Here there are quite a few vehicles – most have come from the other direction. We head out to explore the slot canyon. Finally! And it is lovely. We give up trying to keep our feet dry – and it is lovely padding through the creek surrounded by curved, convoluted walls of rock. Nothing better than a picnic lunch inside a canyon.

Not much more dirt track before we reach the Cottonwood Rd we had wanted to take. This leads us to Kodachrome State Park, but first a detour down the Cottonwood Rd (the first part is still open) to view the huge Grosvenors Arch. Then back to lovely little Kodachrome. Few tourists and yes lots of red rock – this time with lots of pillars. By now it is getting late, so we leave the park & camp beside the river. A pretty spot with cows mooing & even maybe a coyote howling.

Today is Bryce Canyon National Park day. We plan to get there early in the hope of missing the crowds, but it is not to be. We try out our new washing machine – and it passes the test. Then head through Tropic & stop at a walk – have to do it. So we arrive later at Bryce and yes it is packed. Car parks are at a premium inside, especially where the most popular walk heads off. Second time around the loop we grab one, get ready & set off to hike into the canyon. Phew it is a long windy way down. Those coming up look pretty pooped! John thinks maybe I shouldn’t go, but no ‘if those oldies can do it, so can I”

It is a magic walk inside the rim. Hours later we reach our exit point at Wall St – an absolutely amazing climb through a towering red canyon – but what a climb, hairpin after hairpin. Plus it is pretty hot by now.  Phew. A great hike. Then drive on along the scenic drive stopping at all the viewpoints to gawp at the staggering views, then fielding all the questions of people gathered beside our truck. Kind of a relief to finally exit the park & head up to the local reservoir to find our camp for the night, as suggested by Beat & Betti.. A magic spot for another roaring fire. Those great fires are my excuse for not getting my blog done. Much nicer sitting outside than typing on my laptop!

Our plan is to head directly north on a back road, but I have seen pictures of a red rock tunnel on Highway 12 & want to get one. So we turn west and drive the scenic route to Red Rock Canyon. Good choice – it is a gorgeous drive & I do get the photo. A short hike up the hills, but both of us has sore legs, so no more. Decide not to retrace our steps (John really hates driving the same road twice) so head on to the town of Panguitch. The brochure looked great – but in reality there is only a very short row of old shop fronts – nearly all empty, and not much else. We decide to head on along the main road through farming areas before heading along more mountainous back roads. Magic. Finally reach Fish Lake in time for lunch. Lots of great camping, but too early to stop. As we crest another mountain range we get views all the way to Capitol Reef – yes red rock territory again. As we head into another badlands area we start looking for a spot to camp. We spy a side road & head down it. About 2kms down we find a great flat spot near an old homestead with magic views. Great for yet another fire!

Back to the main road & on through some same farming towns – Ferron, Clawson, Castledale & Huntington. Yes, mining is huge here – especially coal. We head off on another scenic Drive – The Energy Loop through the Manti La Sal National Forest – gorgeous. There are camping spots everywhere. We could spend years in Utah! At the summit there are numerous shimmering lakes with even more camping. But on we move, back down to the main road & yet another rocky canyon to the mining town of Helper then Price, where we finally track down the Visitor Centre. Loaded down with more brochures we head in to the Nine Mile Canyon – home to some amazing petrographs (we are told). Fortunately it is a magic drive – all tarseal, and we do finally find some drawings – signage leaves a lot to be desired. We end up overnighting at one of the picnic areas.  

We head out of the canyon on a back road – a few miles of dirt – but not too bad, before we are back into badlands territory, covered with oil rigs. Miles & miles of them – sucking out as much oil & gas as possible. Finally back to crop growing areas and a more main road. We are heading to our final National Park in Utah. Flaming Gorge. At Vernal (home of the dinosaurs – and no we don’t go to the famous dinosaur Nat Pk – now we don’t have our boys with us there is no need) but we drive through some rainbow coloured rocky territory with signs up telling us what dinosaurs walked here & what kind of rock they are (a great area for you Brad). On to our gorge…hmmm, doesn’t look all that red & exciting. We head to the dam and go on their free tour, then drive out to Red Canyon – and here is the wow! Amazingly layered cliffs dropping into the lake. Again it is getting late and the ranger tells us where we can free camp – just up the road at the start of the Geological Loop that we had planned to drive. So yet another roaring fire & quiet night. A chilly night – we even haul out our winter jammies.

We wake to a cool gray day. But despite the clouds, the Loop drive is truly sensational. The road surface is bad, but scenery staggering. So many diverse rocks in such a tiny area. Plenty of wow here. Back to the main road – we are heading to Salt Lake City. To get there we have to cross in to Wyoming – lots of wide desolate pastures & then long straight motorways. Kind of suits the gray drizzly day. Stop at Evanstown for new wiper blades – they are dry and useless after sitting outside in San Diego for months. Then on across another Scenic Drive – The Mirror Lake Highway – and yes lots more wow as the Aspens are turning gold. Haven’t seen such magic autumn colours since leaving Auckland. Again heaps of amazing places to camp, but we want to get to the Isuzu dealership (to get a slight oil leak fixed from a previous repair in Suriname) in Salt Lake City before closing to make a booking at the workshop. We get there before 5pm and are booked in for Wednesday morning. Today is Monday – so we decide to head to Bonneville Salt Flats. We already know that Speedweek has been cancelled – the salt is not thick enough, but we will still go and have a look. So we head out of town in rush hour – actually not too bad. As we head along beside the huge lake I look for campspots & suggest we head out to Stansberg Island. So we turn off, head through the salt farms and settle for the night on a salt “beach”. No fire tonight – too chilly & wet. Pretty windy too in the middle of the night.

A slow start in the morning – we have heaps of time – then on across miles of flat to the lookout over the actual Bonneville Salt Flats. On a sunny day it would be blinding! Then on to the starting area. Not much more to see. Cross over the border into Nevada so we can go to a Casino for lunch (sadly very disappointing) Then we retrace our steps to Salt Lake City where we find a spot at Sam’s Supermarket only a short drive from the Isuzu place. Great to be able to Skype Claire, Sam & Toby and then Stacey. And finally get an update on our blog.

Bright and early we head to the Isuzu workshop. A perfect chance for me to update paperwork (yucky MYOB stuff) and get our blog right up to date. John can hang out with the mechanics – keeping an eye on the work been done. It also pours with rain, so a good day to be inside a workshop.

Coming up: Yogi Bear & Booboo (in Yellowstone)                                               

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