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|September 2020 — Wyoming to Home|
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Copyright © 2015 - 2020 Larrie Easterly
Ann has wanted to visit the National Parks in southern Utah for a while. The perfect opportunity presented itself at the end of my trip on the Colorado Backcountry Discovery Route (COBDR). Ann flew to Moab on her birthday where I picked her up at the end of my Colorado trip. We spent two days in Moab before heading across southern Utah to visit some of the national parks as well as friends on the drive home.
The COBDR was great fun, see that trip report below, and was going as planned except that we got to end of the route in Savery Wyoming two days earlier than expected. Frenchie, the group leader, and I headed south to Moab while the rest of the group headed west towards their homes. During the five hour drive I called our hotel to see if I could come in two days early. They were very accommodating and found me a room for the next two nights.
Arriving in Moab we were met with a four mile traffic jam. The traffic was caused by a major construction project that involves widening and rebuilding U.S. Highway 191 through town. It was slow going for a while. Once we were past the construction the traffic started moving normally.
View of JR — Photo Galley
Located on the banks of the Colorado River Moab is one of the top four wheel drive off-roading locations in the world. People come from all over the planet to drive its trails and experience the beauty of the area. Since I had a couple of spare days I took advantage of the location and drove out to some of the easier trails to see the sights. One afternoon was spent cleaning and dusting the inside and washing the outside of my Jeep Rubicon, affectionately called JR. I also had to rearrange my camping gear so that there was space for Ann to sit and a place for her luggage.
Moab airport is tiny so it was easy to find Ann when I got there to pick her up on her birthday. We headed back to Moab, got stuck in traffic again, and finely made it to the Apache Motel.
Built in the 1954 the Apache Motel was one of the first motels built in Moab and is listed on the National Record of Historic Places. It is family owned and operated. The name of the motel is interesting in that there never were any Apache tribes living anywhere near Moab.
We sat outside that night for dinner at the Hidden Cuisine Restaurant. The owner/cook was originally from South Africa. You can probably guess what type of delicious food we had.
The Three Gossips — Photo Galley
Having an extra two days in Moab was handy as it allowed me to check on Arches National Park and find out the best times to visit. Everyone that I asked said the same thing, “The earlier the better, as in 7:00 am”. Otherwise there are to many people at the viewpoints and on the trails. The park staff regulate the number of cars in the park. From morning to late afternoon is possible to be waiting for over an hour on the entrance road before even reaching the entry kiosk.
Bright and early the next morning we did the ten minute drive to Arches. We had no problem with traffic getting into the park. Arches is a beautiful place with rock naturally sculpted into arches and other unusual shapes.
Tunnel Arch — Photo Galley
Arches is aptly named as there are over 2,000 stone arches in the park. Some are small others are huge. We decided to drive out to the end of the paved road and work our way back to the entrance station and visitors center. This gave us a good overview of the park and allowed us time to decide what arches and other natural rock formations to see.
There are many hiking and walking trails from the parking areas out to the more famous arches. We did the 3/4 mile round trip out to Tunnel Arch and Pine Tree Arch. At Pine Tree we had to wait for a class of middle school students to leave before we could enjoy the arch in a quieter setting.
Pine Tree Arch — Photo Galley
On the way back we stopped at Fiery Furnace, Balanced Rock, and The Windows. By now it was around 10:00 am and the number of visitors and traffic was increasing dramatically. Stopping at the Delicate Arch we were lucky to find a place to park. We decided to walk to the lower viewpoint as there were lots of other visitors headed for the upper viewpoint. The arch is very impressive no matter which viewpoint you are at. We left the park around 11:00 am. There was already a long line of cars waiting to get to the entrance station. There was also the usual long line of cars trying to head south across the Colorado River into Moab.
Delicate Arch — Photo Galley
That night we enjoyed a dinner cruise up the Colorado River. Dinner was a cowboy barbecue consisting of several different kinds of barbecued meat, beans, corn etc. It was delicious. The cruise on the river took about two hours. On the way up river our guide told us about the history of Moab, how the canyons were formed, and pointed out interesting rock features along the way.
River Cruise — Photo Galley
It was dark by the time we were got to the turn around point. We were entertained on the downriver part of the cruise by a well done sound and light show. The recorded soundtrack told the some of the early history of the southwest including Native American tales of creation, early days of exploration by white settlers, and later Mormon settlers. While the narrative was being told powerful spotlights were used to display the different rock formation on the sides of the canyon. Although it was an interesting narrative I found it a little contrived. Even so, we both enjoyed the dinner and the cruise. We got back to JR about 9:30 pm. There was still traffic backed up going into Moab.
Spotlights on the Canyon Walls — Photo Galley
The next day we left Moab on the start of our journey home. We had plotted a course that would, as much as possible, keep us off the Interstate Highway System on our way across southern Utah. To do this we opted to drive State Route 24 across the San Rafael Desert, Red Desert and then Blue Flats on the way to Capital Reef National Park.
Just outside of Torrey Utah we turned left on to Utah Sate Route 12, an All American Highway. We crossed over Boulder Mountain and through Fishlake National Forest on our way to Boulder Utah. Our timing was good as the aspen trees were turning from green to yellow to gold.
View from Boulder Mountain — Photo Galley
The small town of Boulder Utah was founded in 1889. Boulder use to be known as the most isolated community in Utah. Mail, as well as everything else needed by the residents, was brought by horse and mule over the dangerous 28 mile trail from Escalante. In the 1930 a gravel road was built from Escalante to the Escalante River. In 1938 the Civilian Conservation Corp completed the gravel road to Boulder. The road was not fully paved until 1971.
While in Boulder we spent the night at Pole’s Place, a 1960ish motel. The rooms were neat and the bed was comfortable. There was no TV or wired telephone. There was wireless internet although we were warned that it was very slow and not suitable for streaming video or heavy web surfing. Surprisingly there was good cellular service.
On the recommendation from the motel owner we stopped at the Burr Trail Grille for dinner. Event though dinner came in a cardboard to go box, thanks to Caronavirus restrictions, this was probably the best tasting meal we had on the trip.
Translucent Arrowheads — Photo Galley
Right across the street from Pole’s Place is the Anasazi Indian Museum State Park. The interpretive center is one of the best I have seen. I was surprised by the huge collection of arrow and spear heads on display. The heads ranges in length from about 3/8 inch to six inch. Behind the museum is the partially excavated Anasazi ruins and a reproduction of a building. Much of the site is still un excavated.
After visiting the museum we continued west towards the town of Escalante. Along the way we passed through parts of Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument. The road through Grand Staircase was incredibly beautiful and a bit scary in spots. The road would follow the narrow fingers of land between the breaks (drop-offs on both sides) before steeply descending into a valley only to climb back up on to the top of another finger and then back down. We could understand why it took so long to put in a road from Escalante to Boulder.
Living Among the Breaks — Photo Galley
Arriving at Bryce Canyon National Park we drove out to the end of the road and worked our way back stopping at the different view points along the way. The views were beautiful although a bit repetitious after a while. As an employee at the park told me the last time I was there “Once you have seen one Hoodoo you have seen them all.”
Agua Canyon at Bryce National Park — Photo Galley
We spent the night in one of the rustic cabins at The Lodge at Bryce Canyon. The cabin was very nice on the inside. The bed was comfortable and the showers water hot. We had a very relaxing time there. Like Poles Place, there was no TV or internet. There was cell services.
Rustic Cabin — Photo Galley
The rustic lodge and adjacent cabins were built between 1925 and 1927 by the Union Pacific Railroad. It along with lodges at Zion National Park and the Grand Canyon were part of the railroads effort to bring tourists to the area. The lodge and cabins are a National Historic Landmark.
We both thought that the best views of Bryce Canyon were at the lodge overlook. The reason we felt the views are so good at the lodge is that there is no fence or retaining wall at the edge of the canyon. All of the other viewpoints we stopped at had larger timber fences to prevent people from going into the canyon. The huge fences, while necessary, detracted from the view.
View from the Lodge — Photo Galley
Our last stop in southern Utah was at a Cedar Breaks National Monument overlook. I really liked the view and felt at home there. The feeling of being at home probably came from a past life remembrance. From Cedar Breaks we made our way to Interstate 15 and then north to Salt Lake City where we stayed with a friend and also met for dinner with our two nieces that live there.
Ceadar Breaks National Monument — Photo Galley
Leaving Salt Lake City we headed west on Interstate 80 across the Great Salt Lake Desert towards Nevada. The road is straight as an arrow and seemed as flat as a table. We passed numerous places where the Morton Salt Company was mining and processing the salt.
Just east of the Nevada border we stopped at the Bonneville Salt Flats for lunch. People come from all over the world to the salt flats for Speed Week. The salt flats were first used for motorsports in 1912 and became very popular in 1930s. The first land speed record was set in 1935 at 301.129 mph (484.620 km/h) by Sir Malcolm Campbell in the Blue Bird. In 1970 Gary Gabelich drove his rocket powered Blue Flame to 622.407 mph (1001.67 km/h).
At Bonneville Salt Flats — Photo Galley
Custom cars are not the only vehicles to run at Bonneville. In 2018 Sigeru Yamashita drove his street legal Kawasaki Ninja H2 motorcycle to 209.441 mph (337.06 km/h) and Denise Mueller-Korenek road her bicycle behind a pace vehicle to 183.9 mph (296.0 km/h).
Next up was the long drive across Nevada to Winnemucca. Driving Interstate 80 across Nevada is weird. There are approximately 11 mountain ranges that run north and south that you need to cross. It is sort of like a slow paced rollercoaster. You go up the hill then down the hill. Up the hill and down the hill. Then repeat and repeat and repeat.
We were back in the smoky haze from the California wildfires by the time we got to Winnemucca. Our plan for the next day was to visit a friends farm in Grass Valley California. We took the precaution to check some of the websites that show the current and forecasted wildfire smoke patterns. They were predicting moderate to heavy smoke for the Grass Valley area. We called our friends to find out how bad the smoke really was. After that conversation we decided go ahead and visit them as planned. It was a good visit.
Our original goal for the trip was to head west from Grass Valley to San Francisco and then drive up the California and Oregon coasts on the way home. The smoke forecast showed very heavy smoke along both the California and Oregon coasts. We also considered driving straight home up Interstate 5 through California and Oregon. That route also showed heavy smoke for the next few days.
It looked like the best way to avoid the worst of the smoke was to backtrack on Interstate 80 the 90 miles to Reno Nevada, then head north past Goose Lake to Lakeview Oregon and then home. This route added a day to the trip but kept us out of the worst of the smoke.
Neither of us had driven US Highway 395 north from Reno before. We were both surprised by the beauty of of the countryside as we worked our way through the very north east corner of California towards Lakeview Oregon.
The following day we drove through Central Oregon past Summer Lake, then through La Pine, Bend and over Mount Hood to our home. There was very little smoke, as predicted, along the the route we chose.
I hope you enjoyed reading about our trip and seeing the photographs.
Our trip videos are posted on YouTube.
Baja California Mexico
Barrancas del Cobre
282 feet below sea level
Summer Lake Hot Springs