Saturday, May 23, 2009

Summer in Utah

Monday, May 18
We drove US491 from Cortez, CO to Monticello, UT. We visited the Forest Service and BLM field offices and the very complete town Welcome Center, gaining valuable information at each place. We decided to stay at Dalton Springs CG, which is on the shoulder of the Abajo mountains at 8,400 feet. Counting us and the park host, there are three campers here. The d├ęcor is aspens and oaks.

We have TV and a little Verizon, but no AT&T.

We took a short sunset drive a little farther up the road to an overlook of all of Canyonlands. We could see Dead Horse Point some 40 miles distant. Dorothy got a bit giddy over the vista’s and we clinked glasses.

On our sunset drive yesterday, we noted free camping on a small lake just north of the CG. Even though we had paid for two days, we moved to Monticello Lake after breakfast. We backed the rear end of KoKo up to the water. We have a completely open sky and can watch the big puffy clouds drift by. We are at 8,625 feet here. The only thing missing is a view to the north toward Dead Horse Point We will have to go a mile down the road to an overlook to observe sunset.

After breakfast, we drove part of the way into Canyonlands to find Lavender Canyon. We may have found it, who knows, no signage. Whatever we found was not all that spectacular, but we did enjoy seeing the rock formations again. Another day, we will try to get away earlier for better light.

We took a pull-out to make a picture. I was in front of the car fiddling with the camera. I heard a buzzing sound like a bee makes. When I put the camera down, I auto-focused on the source of the sound. It was a small diamond back about six feet from us. I pointed it out to Dorothy who said she was just about to walk in that direction. I had never heard a rattle before. It was not loud and sounded more like a buzz. Maybe because it was a small snake? It was a reminder to wear boots when hiking for some protection.

On this side of the mountain, we have no TV, Verizon or AT&T.

We had the mountain lake to ourselves for the evening. Deer came down at sunset and after sunrise to browse close to the water.

In spite of it being a faultless campsite, we both had wanderlust, so we went down the mountain to Monticello, got a jug of milk, filled up the water tank and headed south. We stopped at several places seeking another idyllic place to park, but found nothing that suited us. We pulled into the parking area for Comb Wash Ruins for lunch. It was warm, 83, at near 5,000 feet. I turned on the computer just for fun and in the middle of nowhere got a strong signal.





<=== Our home in Comb Wash

We drove a few miles down the road and decided to make Comb Wash our home for the night. Yes, it’s warm, but Comb Ridge is out our back window and it looks picturesque to us. We looked all over this area two years ago for the north side of Comb Wash road. We never found an un-gated road. Maybe tomorrow?

After it cools off a bit we will take Pelli down the wash and look for a cliff dwelling and supposedly outstanding geologic formation.

No cell signal on this side of the ridge.

Pork chops and corn on the cob for dinner.

4PM – We tried for the cliff dwelling, but it was on the other side of a dry wash and the sand looked too deep for Pelli. I was not in the mood to risk walking four miles back to KoKo and then locating a wrecker.

So we crossed US95 and there was the north side of Comb Wash road - that eluded us two years back. This time the gate was open. [I learned last night that some BLM roads are gated, but not locked] This is also the road to Arch Canyon. So we proceeded to the trailhead, parked and started to hike part of the canyon. In less than a ¼ mile, Dorothy was defeated by a cattle guard. The spacing between the grates was too wide for her feet. I went to the mouth of the canyon and it looked like it would be a scenic hike. The sand flies made me abort and we went home for a late drink and dinner.

The downside of parking here was the short windstorm that came just after sunset. We had the windows open and while the breeze felt good, the inside of KoKo was coated in light film of fine red dirt. Whatever we might be, no one can call us concrete campers. And we wear whatever badge goes with that with pride.

We headed a few miles west to higher elevation, 6,800, near Natural Bridges Monument. The CG in the monument was OK, but offered no amenities. Moreover, the sites could not accommodate both vehicles. So we exited the monument and went to the nearby BLM ‘Overflow’ facility. This is located on a mesa near Natural Bridges. We have it all to ourselves. Not bad views either. Sunlight would sure help. But that may not happen until next week. So we are just going to stay here until the weather improves. There are a half dozen places I want to hike/photograph around here, so we will just have to wait on the weather. No cell coverage here, we have to go 9 miles east to get a signal.

Anywho, we have a 360 view here, as opposed to no view in the monument CG. The only trouble with the Cedar Mesa area is water. There is none. The closest dump is 35 miles away in Blanding. The monument has water, but a sign limits you five gallons. Long term stays here require driving back and forth to towns. FYI, Indian ruins abound here, but when the water left, so did the Indians.

The rain came. We had a drizzle from midnight to almost dawn. No problem, except we are down a dirt road which will become impassable if we get enough rain. We have had a lot of cloud cover since Tuesday. This morning it was 100%. Mid-morning we went to Natural Bridges and drove the loop road. Even in lower light it’s an interesting canyon. Some of the rock formations look like soft serve ice cream. We identified one trail that we can take to the bottom of the canyon so we can get under the rock bridge.

After seeing White Canyon I realized that we blew through here in 1994. No small wonder I did not recall being here, as that day we drove from Monticello to Kodachrome, eight hours of driving and twisting our heads to see it all.

By mid-day, the cloud cover was about 60%, so there is enough sun to illuminate some of the red rocks. However, the weather forecast is for more rain for the next five days. The front is tracking from the Gulf like a hurricane would, not a Pacific system. I see another part of the system is producing intense rains in central Florida.

It was getting rather bright outside before we took a 20 minute nap. Our eyes opened to a much darker sky. What the heck, it might clear again. So we went south on UT 261. It is an unremarkable piece of road for the first 30 miles, then woo-hoo, the best view in the state. But first, on the unremarkable section of the road are several dirt roads that led into the several canyons on Cedar Mesa. All but one of the canyons are beyond our capabilities. If the rain will ever stop we are going to try Road Canyon, reached by the ineptly named Cigarette Springs Road.

Now back to the view. I have heard about and seen pictures of the view from Muley Point and I have been burning to see it myself. It’s the best! The overlook is at an elevation of 6,400 four miles out a not too bad dirt road. Stretched out 1,100 feet below for over 50 miles are the Goosenecks, Valley of the Gods and Monument Valley. KoKo could make it down the road and there is plenty of room to over-night.

We hung out on Muley Point getting our email and hoping the rain would clear a bit for pictures. The rain intensified, so before the road turned to mush we high-tailed it back to 261 and went down the Moki Dugway. I had heard this was a dangerous white-knuckle road, but I had no problems with it – up or down. I think it had been resurfaced in the last few weeks.

We went into Mexican Hat for gas and wound up having a frozen pizza for an early dinner.

The rain quit until we got back to KoKo, but started up again when we opened the Jeep doors. We had the place to ourselves last night, but now there is a fiver, two C’s, a pop-up and four tenters.

When it rains I have more time to Blog.

It rains!

But Sunday, was MUCH better

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