Friday, May 26, 2017

A Gimp's Guide to Southeastern Utah

The gold cliffs and blue skies by Grey Canyon near the Green River

Adds for Utah travel urge you to see the big five--Arches, Canyonlands, Zion, Bryce Canyon, and Capitol Reef. Because I grew up in Utah and was blessed with parents willing to travel, I have seen them all--and seen them all grow more crowded especially Arches, my favorite (and apparently everyone else's). 

To avoid the crowds, my folks have become increasingly adventurous. They are always finding new wonders. Most of the beauty I saw on this trip lies outside of the national parks.

The ideal way to really see any place is to spend the time it takes to walk through it. That is the way to learn the flowers, stones, and animals. You need to see shadows move across the landscape and look at a scene from multiple perspectives. Usually my parents set up base camp and go on several long hikes.

But our itinerary was planned around my limited energy stores. We went to as many pretty places as  possible where I could enjoy redrock splendor with limited exertion. 
Street at is not limited to pavement: A sculpted metal tribute to Spanish explorers by Eldon Holmes from Cleveland, Utah
Most of the land between the Rockies and the Sierras looks dull and desolate. If you remove the artwork from the photo above and maybe turn down the red in the cliffs, it could be almost anywhere. There are huge gaps between wonders. So the truck, and my dad as driver, did a great deal of work. We drove bout 400 miles after parking the trailer in Green River.

The Green River State Park is an oasis of cottonwood trees (and mosquitoes) on the banks of the Green River. From the picnic table I could see a railroad bridge across the river. We compared how well each of us slept by comparing the number of train whistles heard in the night.

On the first evening, we drove to two nearby sights. Crystal Geyser is caused by chemical rather than geothermal forces. It was created by people who were drilling for oil, but hit carbonated water instead. No one I know has seen it erupt, but guide books claim it happens every fourteen hours and shows a picture as proof. Chemicals in the water stain the rocks in interesting colors that match the silk/wool scarf I knitted.

On the way out and back, we spotted two families of pronghorn antelope--a total of 12. We also saw two cottontail rabbits.

After that we drove out to Gray Canyon. There is a nice campground on the river at Swasey's Beach.

We enjoyed the chance to drive past some of the farms that produce famous Green River melons. Main Streets in rural towns don't show much of their stories.
Our only eating out was that first night, at the Tamarisk Restaurant. It is locally owned and top quality, though I must warn that the salads are enormous.

Tuesday was my favorite day. We first drove to Black Dragon Canyon. Dark desert varnish on the sandstone walls could easily inspire it's name. So could the shadowy twists of the canyon, but it was really inspired by pictographs we found after a gentle walk.
Natural black marks on the walls of Black Dragon Canyon.

It is easy to see the painted human shapes on the left side of the picture. If you look carefully for the same shade of red on the bottom left and use your imagination, you may see the shape of a dragon. 

If the "dragon" is a dragon, it would be the only one in known early American art.

We found even more elaborate art in BuckHorn Wash. There we found a large panel created by the Barrier Canyon Culture About two thousand years ago, vandalized by the Fremont culture 1000 years later and by modern Americans over the course of the last 100 years. It was carefully restored by Constance Silver in 1996. 

I am fascinated by mankind's universal drive to create art. I have bought a book about Utah rock art to learn more. Motifs from these panels will appear in my knitting soon.

An informational sign informed us that we were standing on rock formed in the Jurassic age and looking up at younger stone. Little wonder that we wanted to find a dinosaur footprint shown by a local guide. Directions were confusing. Dad and I scrambled up a likely-looking piece of sandstone, but directions were confusing and we had no luck dino hunting that day.
We did see two wild donkeys, not something we knew to expect from the area. Like all wild things, they were gone before we could take a picture.

The final stop on Tuesday was The Wedge, a great overlook into the Green. I adore heights and can no longer scale mountains, so overlooks are great for me. 

Tuesday's driving was mostly on dirt roads, some of them quite interesting. Wednesday was almost all highway. The first stop was Fisher Towers.

It would be a great hike for teens or young adults. It is mostly right on the redrock with ups and downs and interesting little canyons as well as a stunning view. 

I had fun and wore myself out within prescribed limits. We walked in for 15-20 minutes, then turned around and walked out. I would have loved to do more, but limits were wise. The little hike left me breathless in more ways than one.

A long drive, much of it in a red canyon right next to the Colorado River, brought us to the LaSalle mountains, quite a change of scenery. We drove up high enough to find a shady lunch spot under ponderosa pines. While there, a friendly man told us about dinosaur tracks just a little way up the road. 

These were much easier to find: big raptor tracks in an alpine setting. Amazing.

The final stop was our only National Park moment. 

Island in the Sky, in Canyonlands, is exactly how it sounds, a place of amazing views. Hikers, (like my parents  if I'm not along) find more fun in the the Needles area of the park. 

This is how I look on the edge of a cliff.

This is how I feel at the edge of a cliff.

There is more to tell, but I'm broken. I need to rest for a few more hours this afternoon before even thinking about dinner preparations.

Besides, the River Museum in Green River (highly recommended) sells a bumper sticker that says "Keep Green River Secret." So don't tell anyone that it is a better base camp than Moab.

I will show you my knitting next week.


  1. wow Beautiful photographs. I adore the Southwest and especially enjoy New Mexico and Arizona. I have not visited much of Utah, but now i have that bug as well.

    1. Thank you. Utah is terribly photogenic. If you want to visit in reality or on line, county websites give directions to hidden gems.