Food poisoning got better, weather got worse

Friday (Oct 25) 

I think I’m gonna be OK. I ran a light fever yesterday afternoon and most of the night. My sojourn at this pleasant place is just a blur … take a feverish shower in the public bathroom then go to bed forever. But that was yesterday; it’s a new day today!

I drove a half mile back to the Wild Rabbit Cafe, a nice place I discovered on the last trip and where I had a strange conversation with some old evangelical dude, It is was all very tame this time.

zoom on Circle Cliffs from Larb Mountain Overlook

For my money, Utah 12 is the most interesting road in the world. Head south from Torrey, through bucolic fields and horse farms. It’s easy to see why the Mormons thought this was the promised land. Then the road starts going up, up, up, through pine forests and then Alpine meadows to near the top of of Boulder Mountain (elevation 9,400′). There are a couple fop must-see turnouts with great views of the red rock country. I just discovered a New York Times travel feature on it: The Rhythm of Utah’s Highway 12: Climb, Turn, Gasp. “Climb, Turn, Gasp” is a nice description.

Boulder Utah is a lovely little town where I want to stop and stay forever each time I drive through. North of town, my approach. is pines and juniper scrub. South of town is the start of the amazing white rock country, a long upgrade to the top of the plateau. Up there Calf Creek Canyon is on the right and a slightly less spectacular vista to the left. Then the town of Escalante, where I have fond memories from my “motel and pickup truck” days.

I wanted to stay in Kodachrome State Park last trip, but it was full. I called ahead this morning, and even though it’s a Saturday night, this crappy weather has scared enough happy campers that the ranger was pretty sure there will be spots available tonight, so that’s where I’m headed. Drive through the Blues, a lovely badland of gray-green shale west of Escalante, then Henrieville, then take a left at Cannondale to:

Bryce View Campground:  

Nine miles south of beautiful Utah 12. Yet another scenic red rock wonderland.

Basin Campground is the main one, with a paved road, hookups and running water.

This one is a short ways off on a gravel side road, pit toilet and no other amenities. But it's quiet and very pleasant.

tonight:

The only sites available were no hookup sites in this secondary campground off on a gravel side road.

My site was really nice, relatively private, with a great sunset view.

My campsite at Kodachrome State Park was quite artful.

This is a really pleasant place. I am still pretty low energy after the tummy troubles, so I am not tempted to head out and explore the area, but it looks like it would be fun. Most of the hiking trails, and indeed most of the action of any kind is back at the box canyon at end of the paved road, where Basin Campground is.

The main feature here is something called sandpipes – quite remarkable looking freestanding sandstone columns that even the smartie geologists don’t have a convincing explanation for. I was so low energy I didn’t even get a picture, but click on the name to see one from Wikipedia.

I spend a restorative evening at my beautiful picnic table, next to my beautiful cedar tree, enjoying a even more red-tinged sunset than usual, since I am in a desert of red rocks.

Saturday 

Cows are funny.

On the way out of Kodachrome State Park heading back to Route 12, I ran head on into … a cattle drive! Thirty or so black and white steers coming right at me. They sauntered past with no particular drama, followed by three bored looking dudes on horses and a bored looking woman in a pickup. They made cattle-driving look pretty boring :).

Restaurants are a challenge in most rural areas, but in my wide experience the food in this part Utah is especially bad. Panguitch, Bryce, and here in Tropic – my dining experiences have been really grim. Today I have adjusted my expectations so low that it was actually better than I expected!

I parked at a likely looking place in downtown Tropic, Rustler’s Restaurant., with the notion of peeking in to see how terrible it looked. There was on pair of diners. The waitresses were at a table folding napkins and clearly didn’t give a hoot whether I stayed or not. To my surprise they said YES to the wifi question, so I stayed!

My waitress turned out to be quite nice really! She mumbled, probably because she had an accent – eastern European I believe. My one minute backstory is that she married a local fella and found herself in this godforsaken but beautiful place. The locals are resigned to outsiders in the form of tourists, since they after all pay the bills around here. But they aren’t comfortable with outsider locals, so she mumbles to hide her accent. I’m making every bit of this up out of thin air, but it works for me.

Bryce vistas from Utah 12

Since I’m not actually going into Bryce Canyon National Park today I’m paying more attention to the road that passes through a corner of it. As you probably know, the main deal in Bryce is the rim view. You are up on the mesa looking DOWN on the crazy visuals of the Flamingo pink hoodoos and such. But there’s a sweet little pullout on Route 12 where you can look UP at the hoodoos. I’ve never stopped here before because I was heading to the main part of the park, but since this is all the Bryce Canyon I’m gonna get today I stopped.

Up the hill, on to the mesa, past the big Bryce intersection, I passed the weird place I had breakfast on the last trip. One of those “end of the universe” experiences I was ranting about above. After a few more miles the road descends through the Red Canyon, which really is red and really is a canyon. It’s pretty spectacular. I stopped at the Vis Cen and picked up some baubles for Christmas. I always love the Red Canyon.

After Red Canyon, at the bottom of the valley, turn right north on US 89 (not to be confused with my beloved California 89 that I travel so often) up the Sevier River Valley was quite beautiful to me today, except for the 10 miles or so of thickish wildfire haze I drove through. I’m leaving super-scenic southern Utah for one fun-filled hot springs night in medium scenic central Utah.

Towards the end of the day the Sevier Valley narrows into Sevier Canyon, another low key Utah scenic wonder, then the canyon opens up into a wide agricultural valley, and I am almost to:

Mystic Hot Springs:  

There is one big pool with a little waterfall, then up the hill are some bathtubs for your own private soak overlooking the wide valley. Really cool setup.

Camping area is 200 yards down the hill.

The pools are spectacular and the actual camping area is pleasant but rest of the property is extremely derelict.

Walking up the crappy trail to the bathtubs in flip flops is hard for a 70-year old. It's pretty dangerous coming back down in wet flip-flops!

Electric hookups and tent/van sleeping seem to be the same price.

tonight:

Still awesome. Biker party at the cabin 80 yards away (just far enough :).

Good innovation since last time: good wifi in the campground. Bad innovation: Stupid wristband you have to wear to the hot spring, and therefore all night if you want to soak in the morning.

In general the place seems to be getting less derelict in small steps.

This place has gotten even hippie-dippier since my last visit. You have to go in the office to register, but you have to take your shoes off to go in the office – really!?! They have good wifi in the campground now, which is pretty awesome. Wifi password Joyousmystical – haha. Of course it is…

I’m here pretty early in the afternoon, so after fooling around a while I take my first shower in a couple of days and head up to the pools. There was a extremely social group of three young, white and (I feel safe in assuming) Mormon couples in the main pool. Perfectly nice and even mildly interesting conversation, but it was harshing my mellow as we old hippies to say, so I headed up to the bathtubs. The best two tubs at the far corner were occupied, so I took the other solo tub and had a delightful soak.

The path up and down is pretty rough. It’s hard enough going up, but coming back down in wet flip flops kind of dizzy from the hot water it’s pretty challenging for me. But it was all good, great even! Later I remembered it’s easier barefoot, duh.

Back to camp. I’m hungry. I seem to be pretty much back to normal digestion-wise. I mentally run through what’s available for dinner, and by far the tastiest item I’ve got stashed in the ole fridge is the other piece of questionable chicken from three nights ago. No I did not throw it away, and yes I am going to eat it right now! And I know what you’re thinking, yes I am a bit of an idiot sometimes. It tasted really, really good! :)

Seven-ish I took another run up the hill to the hot pools. The best bathtubs were still occupied, and there were yet more painfully sincere, chatty, and all around nice young white couples. Back at camp I slept with the annoying wristband on, in case I want to hit the pools again in the morning.

Sunday 

It was very cold last night, and it’s still pretty cold this morning. I decide to NOT hit the pools again, so I immediately rip the wristband off.

I don’t hit the pools, but I DO hit the bathroom twice in two hours. That pretty much clinches it that the chicken was the culprit. But I really am back to normal after that. No fever, no headache. Got all that out of the way the first time I guess. I got off easy, byt still eating that second piece of chicken was a questionable move …

Richfield is what passes for civilization in this part of Utah. I have a favorite place there, Big Daddy’s, that I was quite looking forward to today. So I was a little bit crushed when Yelp told me they’re closed on Sunday. That leaves the little place around the corner – the Little Wonder Cafe – where I ate once. I thought it was pretty bad then, thought it was pretty good today! Crowded on Sunday, but the waitresses and bus-dudes were efficient and helpful.

heading into a snowy day at the end of I-70

The theme of the next few days will be WEATHER!

I get on I-70 heading west through the Sevier Valley to Clear Creek Canyon through the mountains to Cove Fort and the end of I-70. The weather is already looking ugly,  spitting snowflakes. At Cove Fort we merge on to I-15. It does not seem very mountainous in this stretch, but in fact it gets up to 6,5-7,000′ for a while, and I drove through pretty heavy snow. I drove out of it as I lost elevation headed south. Good!

It’s forecast to be very cold tonight. I’ve done my research and my number one pick for lodging is:

Rodeway Inn:  

Very basic motel on Center St, about five blocks south of Center and Main, the core of any good Mormon town. A lot of semi-permanent residents. Not really sketchy, just poor.

Indoor pool and jacuzzi were very nice.

Man this place sucks. It seems to be the winter haven for the tweeker and disability crowd. But the tv works and the wifi is good. And I even use the jacuzzi!

Deciding which direction to leave Cedar City tomorrow is my job on the internet tonight. The very excellent plan of this trip was to head west from here, to Caliente Hot Springs, Tonopah, Benton Hot Springs, and somewhere around Mammoth/June Lake. With normal October weather, that is a great plan! But this cold snap is going to last a few days, and both Benton and Tonopah are forecast to be around 10° on the nights I’ll be there. I can certainly whip out the Visa card and stay on motels and survive that, but sooner or later my van water system will freeze and break. Also, it just won’t be that much fun.