November 28 & 29, 2016
After spending about 10-days in Moab, I got an itch to move on. It was November 29, 2017. Winter was fast approaching, the odd winter storm was blowing in, temps at night were around 26 degrees. There was a lot of area to cover between Moab and Arizona, and I didn’t want to rush it. I wanted to stay in Utah for as long as possible, because there is so much to see and do there. The desert of Arizona is a great place to spend the coldest months of winter, but frankly, I find that kind of desert very boring compared to the Colorado Plateau.
I have a tradition of going to The San Raphael Swell, and then having breakfast at Blondies in Hanksville, UT., after leaving Moab.
I often stay in a particular spot in The Swell, because I have some good memories from there, and it feels like I’m Coming Home (link to another post).
And well Hanksville, what can I say. As of the census of 2010, there were 219 people residing in the town. There were 94 housing units. It’s not an especially attractive town, but I’ve got to know a few of the residents, and I love to catch up on the latest when I’m there. The people of this town won my heart back in 2012. It was my birthday, and a group of total strangers made it a very special day indeed. Here’s the post I wrote on it: A Room at the Inn (A Special Birthday in Hanksville, UT). (link to another post).
Blondies has a breakfast sandwich that is to die for. There is no scrimping on the eggs and bacon, I mean it is a big, fat, juicy, heart-stopping sandwich, guaranteed to keep a person going all day.
I had an interesting meeting with someone in Blondies this time. I was getting a refill on my coffee, and an elderly gentleman came up to the area I was at and stood staring at me. I asked him if he wanted coffee, and held out the pot to pour for him, but he shook his head and with a glare said, “No, I’m having the stuff that is permitted by The Church.” His disdain for my sin of drinking coffee was palpable, and although I smiled and nodded at his wife who was sitting at a table, she and the other people sitting with her ignored me completely. Not even a smile or nod back.
I’ve spent a lot of time in Utah, but this is the first time a (Fundamentalist?) Mormon has actually shown their disgust with me directly by saying something. I’ve been ignored, and frowned on, but never spittled on before.
After having my sandwich, I had to decide where to go next. Should I go through Capital Reef, or The Glen Canyon National Recreation Area? I mused over it, and finally decided on Glen Canyon, because it had been a couple of years since I’d been that way. It was now November 29, 2016.
It’s such a beautiful drive from Hanksville heading south, I decided to make a video of it. You can view it on my YouTube channel here: San Raphael Swell to Valley of the Gods.
Here are some pictures of the drive:
After passing The Henry Mountains, the road continues south, and then south-east a bit. Shortley after passing Hwy 276, on the left hand side of the road, is a place to camp. This is a great place to hike if you love exploring slick-rock, because there are enormous slick-rock domes here. There are also some slot canyons, called The Irish Canyons. One of them is called Lucky Charm and is just a sweet fun thing to do, but another is called Sandthrax and few can do it. I mean this is dangerous!!! If you choose to explore these slot canyons, be sure to do your research first and know your canyon and skill level, or you may never come out again.
I’d been driving for a few hours by now (I don’t rush) and right here, at this bridge I saw another vehicle, my first (second?) since leaving Hanksville. We waved at each other, and smiled, people do that out here in the winter because other cars are a rare sighting.
When I’m in this country I can’t help thinking of Edward Abbey’s book The Monkey Wrench Gang. If you’ve never heard of Edward Abbey and are interested in exploring Utah, I highly recommend that you pick up one of his books along the way, or before you go. I read The Monkey Wrench Gang after I’d visited these areas, and it made it so much easier to picture the places he was talking about. Of course, Edward is also famous for his other books, such as Desert Solitaire, the book I read first.
Studley and I took a break at the next bridge, the one that spans The Colorado. I didn’t want to leave this breath-taking view of The Colorado River.
The bridge over the river made a lot of noise. I recorded it, and you can hear it if you watch the video I told you about somewhere up above.
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It was now afternoon, and there was a threat of snow in the forecast. Actually, one of the reasons I’d decided to come this way was because the chance of snow was a little less, than going through Capitol Reef National Park.
I wanted to get to a lower elevation before I camped that night, I wanted to get off The Cedar Mesa, and down the Moki Dugway before it froze.
When I saw The Bears Ears in the distance (big news in the media these days, because the native tribes and other people have worked hard to get it protected) I knew I was getting close to my turn off, but the road showed signs of a recent snow shower.
I turned onto Hwy 261, which is south of Natural Bridges National Monument (a fantastic place for star gazing. It has been dubbed a Dark Sky Park. I love it there, because the stars actually ‘drip’ all the way down to the horizon). It is totally awe-inspiring. I highly recommend you take the time to stay in this area one moonless night. There are plenty of boon docking areas nearby, but please respect this beautiful and fragile desert, and follow the rules of the Grand Gulch Primitive area and Plateau. It is protected land, ripe with Native American artifacts and ruins.
Hwy 261 isn’t one of my favorite roads, unless I’m actually heading into one of the dirt side roads to do some hiking and exploring. The road just seems to go on and on and on…forever!
After forever passed, I was finally almost there…
At last! The Moki Dugway. I was a little concerned about how icy it would be, but I wasn’t turning back at this point.
At this point the road becomes dirt. I’ve done this many times, and love it, but never when it was wet, slick mud, with the potential for ice. And there was ice.
Part way down, and a nice view of the road ahead.
Obviously I made it down safely, because I’m here to tell the tale. Unfortunately, I can’t find the pictures I took of my camp site that night.
I’d intended to camp at The Valley of The Gods, but the roads were horrendously muddy, and if my memory serves me correctly, there is bentonite clay there, something to be avoided at all costs when wet. (Truly the nastiest, slickest stuff imaginable. Far worse than snow or ice), so I ended up camping by the entrance sign.
Throughout the evening and night, only two cars drove by on their way up The Dugway.
So this brings me to the end of this long and breathtaking day.
Please watch the video I made on my YouTube Channel ~ San Raphael Swell to the Moki Dugway, and sign up for future videos and VLogs, and sign up to get notifications of this blog. Also, please feel free to share this blog and my YouTube Video’s with anyone you think might be interested.
Until next time, enjoy the journey and treasure the horizons.
Roxy ~ A Nomad for Nature
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