Saturday, December 8, 2018

Southeastern Utah; Part 1 - Fall 2018

October and November 2018

Fall is a great time to visit southern Utah and the southeastern part of the state is relatively convenient to reach from central New Mexico. I wouldn't be able to get away for a long trip, only for a couple of nights in October. But when November rolled around I decided to squeeze one more short trip in before the end of the season. Both trips are covered in this post, which will be light on narrative, but with lots of photos. I will break the post in two for more efficient distribution of photos.

(I also took a number of videos, but those will have to wait until I upgrade my computer this winter. I will update this post when those are uploaded to YouTube. If you are subscribed to my blog notification list (see link above) I will let you know when the post has been updated.)

For both trips I left the Albuquerque area mid-morning, driving my usual route up US-550 to US-64 through Farmington, then west to Shiprock, into Arizona and north on US-191 to US-163 and the east entry to Valley of the Gods in October, or to Mexican Hat Rock in November.

Part 1 of 2

Remember to click on a photo to view a larger version.

Thursday, October 25th

Valley of the Gods 

First look at the central area of the valley

This BLM recreation area is one of my favorite places to disperse camp. I love to admire the towers, pinnacles, buttes, and mesas with their strata, and colorful rocks and soils. The wide vistas also beautiful. There were quite a number of other visitors in the area, but there was room for all.

The road leads us into the towers

Glancing back, I noticed the great light on this bluff and the pattern in the clouds.

Looking far to the south we can see interesting landforms.

Beautiful view from a campsite along Lime Creek, but it was too windy this afternoon.

I looked for a campsite near the northern portion of the road. I found a beautiful spot overlooking Lime Creek, but it was strongly buffeted by the wind, situated as it was. I moved to another spot, near one of the towers, that was farther from the edge of the canyon and therefore less susceptible to wind gusts.

My campsite

Looking down on my campsite with the last of the sun's rays touching the far off bluffs.

Sunset silhouettes of the towers.


Just a little color left in the sky

Friday, October 26th

Dawn was chilly, but beautiful. When the sun had cleared the bluff to the east I tried to get an image of the moon above Castle Peak.

Sun touching the towers and the moon about ready to sink behind.

Here is a Spherical Panorama taken near my campside just after dawn. Click-and-drag to move your viewpoint. I highly recommend you click the four-cornered icon in the upper right corner to open the image in full screen.

Aerial view of my campsite in the early morning light

After breaking camp I proceeded toward the west entrance of the valley.

Castle Butte and tower from the other side.

Here is a Spherical Panorama taken from the other side of the towers. Click-and-drag to move your viewpoint. I highly recommend you click the four-cornered icon in the upper right corner to open the image in full screen.

Mexican Hat

Bridge across the San Juan River

When I reached the pavement I headed down to Mexican Hat. I got gas and had lunch at the cafe next to the bridge.

View east, up the San Juan River. Taken in the same spot as the photo above.

Mexican Hat Rock

After lunch I stopped at Mexican Hat Rock. I'd never even noticed it before this trip. If you're not looking the right direction at the right time, you wouldn't even see it. There is a small sign and a dirt road off the east side of the highway that leads to the rock.

Mexican Hat Rock with the San Juan River

The county road dead ends at a gravel pit, but if you take the small spur around the north side of the rock it leads down to near the San Juan River. There are about 3 dispersed campsites along there, none particularly close to the water. I chose to head back to Valley of the Gods for the evening.

This ends Part 1. Continue on to Part 2.

Southeastern Utah; Part 2 - Fall 2018

Friday, October 26 (continued)

Part 2 of 2

Continued from Part 1

Remember to click on a photo to view a larger version.

Valley of the Gods

There was a strong breeze again, so looked for a campsite that might have a bit of a windbreak. I found a spot with a great view, behind a small hill that deflected much of the wind. I took a few photos, but there were no clouds to create a sunset, so I haven't posted those.

Saturday, October 27

I took a few photos from my campsite around sunrise.

The sun is still below the horizon, but providing glorious color to the sky.

The sun is just touching the edge of Cedar Mesa across the valley.

As I was breaking camp I noticed a cyclist. I waved hello and spoke for a few minutes. I offered him water, but he said he had plenty. He was touring across the U.S. headed now for Mexican Hat. He was European; I cannot now remember from which country.

It was time to head toward home. I took more photos on the way out of the valley.

The cottonwoods were just beginning to change.

On US-163 headed east, Comb Ridge is in shadow. You can see the mountains west of Monticello, UT

When I turned south on US-191, I noticed a road dropping off the west side of the highway, just before the bridge, down toward the San Juan. I made a last second decision to check it out.

San Juan River

Turns out there are a couple spots to fish or camp along the river. The farthest one would be a very nice campsite. Though it looks like the area gets muddy and impassible at times.

San Juan River east of the bridge near Bluff.

There was a scenic campsite at the end of the little road.

Thursday, November 15th

Mexican Hat Rock

This trip I thought it would be fun to camp at Mexican Hat Rock. I'd seen an interesting rig there last month, which may have put the idea into my head. I drove up onto the middle terrace, south of the rock formation (high-clearance 4WD recommended.) I did a little hiking around the bluffs, then found a campsite. Fortunately there was no wind on this trip.

Campsite next to Mexican Hat Rock

Friday, November 16th

Interesting rock formations near Mexican Hat Rock

I did a little more hiking, admiring the views, then headed up to Goosenecks State Park.

Goosenecks State Park

Here is a Spherical Panorama taken from the parking area of the state park. Click-and-drag to move your viewpoint. I highly recommend you click the four-cornered icon in the upper right corner to open the image in full screen.

Butler Wash Road

From Goosenecks I drove back to US-163, headed east. I wanted to explore up Lower Butler Wash Road, CO-262. I'd seen the turn-off near the Bluff Airport on a number of previous trips, but had never driven up that way. I'd driven up Comb Wash Road before, all the way to UT-95. This seemed like a good time to give Butler Wash a try, maybe take it up to UT-95, if the road condition was OK.

The south end of the road has great views of the white sandstone of Comb Ridge to the west and before long steep, redrock cliffs of a large mesa rising to the east. Great scenery. For some reason I expected to be the only person along here, but I passed a couple of campers and some hikers, too. Please note: I saw many areas deeply rutted indicating that the road would be impassable when wet.

There are many side roads leading, I suspect, to dispersed camping spots and trails. I imagine some of those trails lead to ancient ruins and petroglyphs. The Wolfman Petroglyph Panel is shown on Google Maps (with photos.) There must be many others, unmarked.

Here is a Spherical Panorama taken from a campsite just north of a slot-canyon section of the wash. Click-and-drag to move your viewpoint. I highly recommend you click the four-cornered icon in the upper right corner to open the image in full screen.

I found a nice campsite and settled in for the night.

Late afternoon at my campsite

Saturday, November 17th

Morning view of my campsite. Butler Wash is surrounded by cottonwood trees and Comb Ridge is behind.

The temperature was down in the high teens in the morning. I broke camp and continued north up the road, passing more campsites and the junction of CO-230 that leads toward the east and a whole other area to explore another time, perhaps.

Typical view along the east side of the road

The northern end of Comb Ridge as seen from the road.

The northern part of Butler Wash Road has some rough, rocky stretches and steep ravines to cross. I'd recommend high-clearance for this area. There continued to be lots of dispersed campsites. The road parallels UT-95 for a while, then less than a half-mile to the highway is a small parking area for the Butler Wash Dinosaur Tracksite. It was a short walk to where the tracks were supposed to be, but they are not easy to find - I only saw one. So maybe don't drive out of your way to check it out.

Informational sign in English and Navajo.

The area where the tracks are to be found. That is Butler Wash Road skirting the ancient mud bed.

A close-up photo of the only dinosaur track I was able to find.

Once on the highway, I turned east toward home. I stopped at the Twin Rocks Cafe in Bluff and had a "Baby Navajo Taco" for lunch. I great menu item, as a normal sized Navajo Taco is way more than any normal person should eat in one sitting ;-)

Thanks for coming along with me. Hope you enjoyed the trip.