Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Scenic Highway 12, Kodachrome, Escalante and Boulder

April 28 - May 4, 2014:

We crossed paths with Jeanne and Glen Feilen and grandson Cade on April 28th.  We met them a few years back at our first RV Dreams seminar and then again last year at  the RV Dreams Boondocking seminar in Quartsite, AZ. They had been at Zion National Park and were on their way to Bryce National Park.  We got together and went to dinner and caught up on our RV travels and life in general, it was great to see them.

On April 29th, we made a short 50 mile hop to Kodachrome Basin State Park outside Cannonville, Utah.  As normal it was a windy ride, much turbulence.  Kodachrome Basin is a popular campground and we feel a little lucky to have gotten a reservation there a couple of days ahead.  It's a dry camping site, but it's easy when you are next to potable water and a Toilet/shower room.  We have a really great view right from our RV window and scenic views in every direction.  The one thing lacked is a phone signal or internet, this is "old school" camping ! 

View of the campground at Kodachrome Basin State Park
The weather has warmed a bit this week and for the first time in a while, by late afternoon it's hot inside the RV, 80 degrees.  We did a couple of short hikes in the afternoon.  The claim to fame here is the multi colored rocks and about 70 monolithic spires or pipes from 6 to 160 feet in height. These pipes are most unusual and there are several theories on how they formed but no conclusive evidence.  The only sure thing is that they were once covered by a softer rock which has now eroded away exposing the harder pipes.

These weird rock formations are called Pipes

Felt like I was walking the gangplank on this trail

I had to snicker when I saw this formation

They like to name them, this is the
called the Lone rock, that makes sense 

This is the Ballerina Spire

I call them chocolate Kisses

Interesting gas pump in Cottonwood, Utah

View from a hiking trail

We used our new portable heater for the first time Tuesday night, let it run all night although we were a little nervous about sleeping with it on. We had more than necessary window ventilation and it worked fine.  It was close to freezing temperatures outside overnight and it kept the RV interior at 60-65 without running the RV furnace. 

Wednesday we took a 3 mile hike on the "Panorama Trail".  I wasn't expecting it to be that great, but it was !  We then took a ride out of the Kodachrome Park and traveled 10 miles down "Cottonwood Canyon Road" to "Grosvenor Arch".  Grosvenor Arch is a double arch and is one Utah's most impressive arches. The Cottonwood Canyon Road in itself is a major scenic attraction.  There are many great dirt back roads here that travel through really scenic areas, way better than the paved roads.  They are rough in places, sometimes sandy, sometimes cross small streams and sometimes require a vehicle with high ground clearance and 4 wheel drive is always nice.  They are perfect for the Jeep.

The Grosvenor Arch

View along Cottonwood Road
Thursday, May 1st, we are back on route 12 heading towards Capital Reef National Park.  Scenic Byway 12 is a designated "All American Road",  the first one in Utah.  It is a great drive by any standards.  It passes through 2 National Parks, 3 State Parks, 1 National Monuments and 1 National Recreation Area.  It is a special area, very wild, isolated, undeveloped, with a few small towns, very Mormon, very much a frontier spirit. 

We stopped at Escalante Petrified Wood State Park and got one of three available campsites.  A tight site, but with a lake view on one side and a mountain view on the other.  We went to downtown Escalante for lunch looking for a rustic, western saloon kind of place.  Instead we ended up at "Circle D" with a clean, modern look.  The food was great however, my burger was about perfect and Twinkles Turkey Quesadilla was equally good. There is a hiking trail here, but not for me today, I'm hobbling around like a broken cowboy. Twinkles does go out for a hike, while I'm flat on my back, I think she trying to show me up.

View of the lake at Escalante Petrified Wood State Park

Friday morning, I stroll around the campsite attempting to work the kinks out of my back and take a very short trail to a spot overlooking the campground and lake.  It is a beautiful day, sunny and warm, it actually did help.  We considered staying another day, but decided to move on and left the campground about 10 AM continuing north on Rt. 12.  The plan was to stop at the "Calf Creek Recreation Area" about 25 miles away, see if we could find a campsite there.  If not, continue to the town of Boulder where we had been told there were a few campsites next to the "Anasazi State Park".  Calf Creek was a really beautiful campground, but most of the sites were too small and the ones we could have fit into were already taken.

So, we proceed to plan B.  Route 12 became a bit of a thrill ride at this point, narrow, twisting, steep inclines and long drop off's, but incredible scenery. They call this area the "Hog Back" as the twisty road follows a narrow ridge line with a drop off on each side.  

We stopped at Anasazi State Park, saw a couple of RV's in the parking lot, thought that was the place and asked inside about camping there.  There was a miscommunication as we thought it was Ok to stay in the parking lot overnight, it wasn't. We then toured the park museum and the reconstructed Anasazi ruins and then went out for lunch.  The "Burr Trail Grill" just down the road was excellent, highly recommended.  I had a phone signal there and was able to get on the internet to check for free camping spots nearby and saw a reference to a Deer Creek Campground about 6 miles down Burr Trail Road which was the road right in front of us.  We drove out there and found the campground but it was all small campsites, mostly tents, no good.  However a half mile before the campground was a great open area perfect as a campsite.

Reconstructed Fremont Indian dwellings

An earlier Pit house

So at 6 PM when the park attendant came over and told us we had to leave as the park was closing, we picked up and headed to the boondock site on Burr Trail Road. Amazing how sometimes it all woks out ?  It is a huge handicap when you have no phone service or internet to research things in advance.
The campsite from afar, pretty open area !

This cap rock has been eroded to ground level

This was the view behind our campsite

We had resident cows who visited from time to time

Our camp off Burr Road

Looking at a map latter, I saw that Burr Road was a big deal, goes 66 miles east to the southern end of Capital Reef National Park through amazing terrain.  So Saturday morning we started off with a short hike on the "Deer Creek trail" from the Deer Creek Campground.  It followed the clear, fast flowing Creek along a lush valley filled with Cottonwood trees.  There seemed to be trails all over along with lots of cow paths, very confusing.  I walked away from the creek to a rocky overhang and found lots of pieces of rock in various colors that looked to be the waste pieces from the chipping process when making arrowheads.

Deer Creek

We then drove 15-20 miles further on Burr Road, stopping a several places for photos and to explore.  The road drops something like 800 feet in a mile as it enters a geologic area called the "Waterpocket Fold" with huge red rock walls on each side of the road.  It is part of the amazing 1.9 million acre Staircase-Escalante National Monument.

View along Burr Road

The rock varnish streaks were beautiful

It goes on for miles like this

Immense rock wall on Burr Road

A short but beautiful slot canyon on Burr Road

We then had to return to Boulder and the Burr Trail Grille for a couple of beers and an appetizer, we are loving this place. It is definitely the coolest place to eat on route 12. 

Sunday I went off solo for a ride back route 12 through the "Hog Back" area to take a second look.  I didn't realize it was that steep, 14% grade for a couple of miles, no wonder the Hawk was dying going up it.  I then took a ride on another scenic back way road, the "Hells Backbone Road".  It's actually fairly smooth hard packed dirt but washboardy in places.  (does anyone still remember a washboard?)  It travels way, way high up, seemed like about 9,000  feet with huge canyons dropping off from the roads edge.  It was another incredible project of the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC).  I turned around when I got to the "Box-Death Hollow Wilderness" area, enough for me.

View on the Hells Backbone Road

Deep Canyons at every turn

Beautiful Trees, dead and alive

Aspen Trees
Then back to the Burr Trail Grill again to celebrate my birthday a day early as this place has such great food and deserts and we leave Boulder in the AM for Capital Reef National Park.

Sign behind the Burr Trail Grill

Stay tuned for more Canyon views !

Twinkles and Slick 

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