Alright, so here's the account of my recent 6-day solo trip through Southeastern Utah. I called it my "Utah Sampler" trip because I was determined to sample as much of the different varieties of environment as I could in my short, 6 day run.
Here's the breakdown by days:
Day 1, 23 March 08
Departed Englewood in a rain/snow mix early on Easter morning. After filling up with gas (the last time I would see gas under $3/gallon) I headed up I-70 Westbound. I was hoping to beat the ski traffic, and in fact, I did. After I got through a brief bit of very light snow, I broke into the clear and had no traffic problems at all. In fact, I made it to Glenwood Springs (about 180 miles) in exactly 2 ½ hours, I’m fairly certain that’s the fastest I’ve ever made it there. By 1pm I was in Green River, UT, filling up again and topping off my food supplies.
Here's a photo from the cliffs near Green River:
After that, it was off the interstate onto UT 24, a scenic route that leads into San Rafael Swell country. The further Southwest you go on this road, the more fantastic rock shapes you see.
My first destination was Goblin Valley State Park. My Delorme Atlas and Gazetteer indicated that there were two ways to get into Goblin Valley, one by way of a road that approaches from the North, and another by way of a road that approaches directly from the east. From the way the map was drawn, it seemed that the shorter road approaching from the east was the “main” road and the North road was a less-maintained dirt road. It was a mistake, not the first I’ve seen an a Delorme atlas. I bypassed the Northern route, which is well marked and paved, thinking the “main” route would be even more well designated. Well, it wasn’t. Not only was it not designated, it’s not a very good road: It is a narrow, sandy two-track blocked by an unlocked gate, and with a sign warning travelers that high-clearance 4wd vehicles only can take this road. Shrugging my shoulders, I went on in, heading towards the impressive rock formation called Molly’s Castle.
After a surprisingly rough road (that actually required me to shift into low range to climb a couple of rock ledges) and another unlocked gate, the road spit me out at the entrance to Goblin Valley.
Goblin Valley itself is a small park, but filled with amazing rock formations. When I looked out over the valley from the vantage point, I thought it looked like thousands of mud soldiers were just standing there, waiting for orders. A very weird and impressive place!
The people in the picture give you an idea of scale:
But I still had to get to my campsite so I headed back, this time taking the northern route which, not surprisingly, was not dirt and was in fact a well maintained hard surfaced road! All the way back out to Highway 24, I turned South again, briefly, and then turned East onto the dirt road that leads to Horseshoe Canyon and Hans Flat. This was about 45 miles of well-graded dirt that passes in between two large, flat-topped mesas, and eventually climbs up onto a high ridge that offers a good view of both the valley to the West and the Canyonlands to the East. After a fast and dusty drive, I got closer and closer to Hans Flat, each time hoping to find a decent place to camp. I passed a few likely spots, but they didn’t look ideal and in most cases there was not an established campsite.
Less than a mile from Hans Flat, I found a fantastic site, right off the road, and obviously well used. As it was Easter Sunday, there was nobody there. I pulled in, set up the truck tent, and pulled my cooking gear and cooler out into the campfire area, which was very well established. The site was not only well protected and off the road, it offered an amazing view of the Dirty Devil River canyon to the Southwest as well as the Henry Mountains to the South.
Since I was on BLM land and there were no fire restrictions that I was aware of, I decided not to use my propane stove and figured I would avail myself of the nicely constructed fire ring and copious amounts of dry firewood that previous campers had collected. A nice simple dinner by the campfire and a couple of beers under the amazing starlight and I was ready for bed.
To be continued....