Maybe Utah will be warmer

Sunday (Oct 20) 

Taken from my window early Sunday morning. Very pretty!

Part of my motel routine is setting my iPhone alarm and my mental alarm to be up and rolling by ten-ish so I can be out of the room by checkout time. Today, I’m setting the mental alarm a little earlier because Cody’s, the very pleasant restaurant that is literally steps away, stops serving breakfast at 11 (such an unfortunate practice), andI want to make that.

Bear Lake form the back of Cody's ... where the front door is :)

I have everything out of the room and into the van by 10:45, so all is well. I leave it were it is, and just walk over. This is the second breakfast in a row where the eggs are overcooked to the point of tastelessness. Maybe it’s a Utah thing. I got the same waitress that I had yesterday afternoon, which is cool, I liked her. Since it was the same person I got to share my story of losing/not losing my credit card! She did a good job of pretending to be interested :) That is a small downside of these solo trips, busy servers are the only humans with whom I can share my fantastically interesting observations. :-

Bear River Mountains and LDS Church parking lot from Cody's. This is why no street-side door!

I asked her why this place does not have a front door, so she shared the much funnier story of why they have a brand new restaurant with a long frontage on the main drag, but you have to walk an extra 50 steps to the back to get in. The walls are all glass, so part of the entertainment of your meal is watching everyone park, walk around the side, between the restaurant and my motel to the back, then reappear at the cashiers station in the back to get seated … then reverse all that when they leave. There is a very large LDS church across the highway (Is there any other kind in Utah?). They were not able to serve beer here because of the zoning laws – too close to the church. The main street/highway is very wide right here, so the problem was the front door being something like 17′ too close to the church. The eventual compromise was that an entrance in the back would be far enough away to be in compliance … but it would have to be the ONLY entrance. They have a nice outside eating area, but it is fenced in with NO gate. You must go inside through the back then out to the patio. There is a fire door in front, but it does NOT allow entrance. Ah Utah….

Bear Lake looking north

I spent a couple of hours yesterday obsessively researching the weather situation south of here. It looked like it will be ok, and in fact it was! After such a bitter night of weather, it’s bright and sunny (but still cold and windy) today. I am right at the main corner where US 89 turns west and heads up over the Bear Mountains (not a good drive today). But I’m not doing that. I’m heading south on Utah 30 to Utah 16.

20 miles out of Bear Lake on Utah 30 there is a 6,650′ pass. It was completely clear. After that was a lot of high desert. I clipped a little corner of southwest Wyoming (Evanston) where I picked up I-80 east. My research had told me that the snow situation could get dicey around the turnoff on US 189 at Park City.

Happy to see that the weather looks better to the south, where I'm going!

There was some snow along the road, but the road was completely clear. In fact, the drive was unusually, spectacularly beautiful! I really miss my younger and foolisher days with the 4-wheel drive pickup when I would just go and not be not afraid of the weather. I have become more risk-averse … probably not the worst thing for a 70-year old, but still kinda boring.

From those days I have a memory of holing up in a crappy motel in downtown Ely, NV during a snowstorm, then driving homeward on US 50 the next day in a stunning winter wonderland of ice-coated sagebrush. An hour later, the road cuts and ravines were snow-free on the south-facing side and still winter wonderland on the north-facing side. Today was kind of like that. Mundane, boring red dirt road cuts were transformed into colorful, glittering glaze of re-frozen snow.

It was quite cold till I got to the Utah Valley (the I-15 corridor between Utah Lake and Provo). The dashboard temp had not gotten above 37° all day until I came out of the canyon into the outskirts of Provo. It was 40’s the rest of the way after that. US 189 goes right past the BYU campus, which is strung out for miles between 189 and the mountains. And the mountains here are very dramatic. If it wasn’t for the Mormonism it looks like it would be a pretty cool place to live. Certainly very beautiful.

Sheep Creek dispersed:  

Quite a nice semi-dispersed camping area. One mile off US 6 on paved Sheep Creek Road. A big field on a bluff overlooking the valley. It would be nice if they had a portapotty, but they don't.


Real nice place as dispersed camping goes. I parked as far away from the ATV's as I could get, at the far end overlooking the valley. Very pretty view from here.

Ready for a nice evening at Sheep Creek.

I pulled over for the evening at this desolate dispersed camping spot at 4 pm, Really, I coulda gone another hour or even two, but I kinda want to get back into my routine. And my routine I mean … parking the van, crack a beer, get the chair out and enjoy the evening. Take a walk and explore the area, do a little blogging. enter tonights spot into the database – the routine! Motel nights are terrible for the routine because I have internet and tv. For that matter, hot springs nights are terrible for the routine also, since I kinda go into party mode and smoke and drink and soak.

Keeping the cows out or the ATVs in?

So even though I’ve been sitting here for an hour and there’s still a lot of daylight left I guess I’m glad I stopped … I guess.

Wind dies down. The evening is almost pleasant! There’s a charming wooden fence around this camping area, more to keep the grazing cattle out than to keep us in I think. I hike the perimeter, and out into the hills a short way, first decent exercise I’ve gotten in days. The main customers here seem to be ATV users. There was a little rash of noisy engines right around sunset, but happily I seem to have come on a mellow night.


I'm very glad it was a slow night for ATVs

Nice night! Slept well. Having decent phone reception kept me entertained. My skepticism on arrival notwithstanding, this is a really cool spot. On top of the hill with a commanding view of the whole valley, free, free, free, and except for a little burst of loud engine activity at sunset, quiet!

It’s about 50 miles to the nearest coffee, in the little towns of Helper (what a classic Utah name, right up there with Orderville) and Price. While driving I realize this is the same US 6 that starts in Bishop, CA and ends in Provincetown MA on Cape Cod. I’ve been at both ends – Cool! It was a generically pretty western drive until the last few miles before Helper when it dropped into Price Canyon, which is a series of quite dramatic bluffs and buttes. My geology book says it is Mancos Shale overlaid by the Mesaverde Group. I will see plenty more dramatic Mancos shale outcrops over the next few days, so that works for me.

Coffee and stale donuts at a weird little Mormon hangout called Coffee Shop. A mom, a girl and a random high schoolish dude took up the whole counter area with the other daughter (I’m guessing) behind the register. Coffee plus two items (weird pumpkin-spice donut and a pice of chocolate cake) from the day-old pile cost a mere $2.19. I took them up front and did my wifi thing while they gossiped about everybody that wasn’t there.

After this little oasis of civilization there’s nothing till Green River, and I already know their food sucks, so I decided I should also get food here. So I drive down 100 St a few blocks to Moe’s Bakery and Diner for breakfast and a club sandwich to go. Moe’s was pretty good, way better than anything but the Mexican food truck in Green River.

The long stretch from Price to I-15 is flat with huge sheet cliffs off to the east. It looked like class block faulting, a la my beloved basin and range in Nevada, but not according to the geology book. I am driving on top of Mancos Shale now, and those giant cliffs are a Mesaverde Group formation called the Book Cliffs. I think Book Cliffs is a very cool name.

Exited the interstate and drove through Green River, to give myself one final chance to decide to head up the 12 miles of bumpy gravel road to Swasey’s Beach, but in the end I decided not to. Second-guessing myself is one of my favorite internal sports, so I am still alternating between kicking myself and agreeing with myself over the decision.

Horsethief Campground:  

This is where you camp when Island in the Sky is full ... which it always it. The method is to stop here on the way in, nail down a site then continue on another 20-odd miles to the Grand viewpoint ... then come back.


Campsite 3 is already taken, as were almost all the sites along the outside edge of this loop.

So I settle for campsite 3.

BLM raised te price again. I don't blame them, this is a very popular spot.

Wow, I was here two years ago almost to the day, and the weather was soooo much warmer!

Here's the Real Story on the rock layers around here.

I drove straight through to this dusty outpost. Like Moab and everything else around it, it gets a little more crowded and hectic every time I visit. All the spots on my favorite row – along the southern edge with a sunset view – are taken, so I settle into what looks like a harmless little spot around the corner from where I’d like to be. Park, pop the sliding door and do my thing in the cool, shaded van. A dumb ass SUV comes roaring past too fast, and a giant dust cloud wafts into the van and settles on everything. I don’t like it here.

Sunset is quite pretty at Horsethief.

My usual trick is to rush to the Grand View Point (the main rim overlook at Canyonlands) for sunset, then rush back before total dark sets in. Something about this place today has kind of dispirited me, and I don’t do that. I just hang at the picnic table, well away from the road dust. It was pretty nice really, but I am over this campground. I think I’m annoyed with myself for being here instead of Swasey’s Beach.


Island in the Sky, White Rim below

It’s boring here, so I don’t tarry too long. Pack up, eat a little granola, drink a little leftover coffee, and head for Grand View Point. So fucking cool.

Grand View Point

Like the Grand Canyon, no matter how many times you see it it takes your breath away every time. The general idea out here on the Colorado Plateau (which includes the Grand Canyon) is really thick soft layers of rock with an occasional layer of really hard, erosion-resistant rock. Island in the Sky (the top-of-the-mesa part of Canyonlands)  has two major sets of those. We are on the upper one – Kayenta Sandstone. Then when you look over the edge, a thousand feet STRAIGHT below is middle one, called the White Rim around here formed by (duh) the White Rim Sandstone. It’s its own little world down there – a few miles wide, giant cliffs going up one side, giant cliffs falling away on the other side. Another thousand feet below the White Rim are the Colorado and Green Rivers, whose confluence is out of sight down there somewhere.


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