Tuesday, May 24, 2022

Spring Fling, UT - April 2022: Part 2

Bears Ears National Monument in Two Parts

Part 2 of 2 — Begin with Part One

Friday, April 29th (continued)

UT-95 and not quite the Blue Notch

Leaving White Canyon North Road I turned left, southeast, when I reached the pavement of the highway. Some maps show White Canyon South Road continuing on and it looks like it once reached Lake Powell. From the satellite images it seems to slowly deteriorate, though it does pass along some interesting looking canyon scenery. I may check that out another time.

In that same "another time" spirit, a friend mentioned Blue Notch Road. She had driven it years ago all the way to Lake Powell. I actually found the unmarked road. I wound myself up the first set of switchbacks which were narrow and steep, but not particularly difficult. Not particularly photogenic either, so no photo. At the top I got my first look at the Blue Notch. Wow, that is one gigantic blue hill. I knew the road twisted and turned for miles beyond the pass and I was eager to continue to my planned destination, so I told myself, "another time."

Sandstone window on Blue Notch Road

There was a place to turn off the road where I could reverse direction. I was going to walk back to the high point for a photo of the Blue Notch. Just then I was amazed to see a white pickup pulling a bass boat come up the switchbacks and pass me. Either the road does still reach the lake or there was going to be one disappointed fisherman. At that moment I forgot to get a photo of the pass—-sorry no photo of the Blue Notch. On my way back to the highway there came another pickup and bass boat headed for the lake. Hmmm.

Jacob's Chair Butte as seen from UT-95

Fry Canyon

Back at the highway I turned south. Now, shortly before (or after depending upon your travel direction) there is a small dirt road off the north side of the highway (actually east) with a small sign, Fry Canyon Road. I blew past as I was on my way to what I used to call Fry Canyon Road which I now know is actually Radium King Road. But became curious later. I looked it up at home and Google Maps has labelled it Fry Canyon Ruins Road. Turns out there are Cedar Mesa style ruins in the canyon at the end of that short dirt road. A brief internet search shows they are under an overhang and can just be seen from the rim. Looks like there may be a way down into the canyon, but I don't know how difficult that is. If anyone checks it out, please let me know.

Radium King Road

As you might imagine with the name Radium King, the area the road passes through contained many uranium mines, as do many areas in UT and Navajo lands. From what I've read, peak production here was during the late 1950s though some continued to operate into the '60s and a few into the '70s. 

The turn off for Radium King Road is easy to find if you look for the (now closed) Fry Canyon Store & RV Park. There is a brown road sign with an arrow pointing to Fry Canyon. As you drive down the gravel road you can see the top of Moss Back Butte ahead, but the Tables of the Sun Buttes, which will dominate the sky soon, are as yet not visible. The gravel gives way to dirt, but the surface is smooth.

Driving southeast into Fry Canyon with a view of Moss Back Butte.

At the head of the canyon the road climbs with mild switchbacks. I took a couple of photos looking back down the canyon. I apparently wasn't paying enough attention as I had a difficult time determining exactly which butte is centered in the image (and you know me, I am compelled to identify landmarks or species.) Looking at maps from home, by process of elimination, it has to be Jacob's Chair Butte from an unexpected angle. Right?

Looking back down Fry Canyon to Jacob's Chair Butte (?)

One of the maps I consulted before my trip showed the legend "arch" near the top of the road. I asked John about that and he replied "you can't miss it." When I hear that, it usually means "I'll never find it." In this case, however, you really can't miss it as it's right before your eyes as the road climbs. (If you were driving down, you might miss it.) It is a window, not an arch, and is in white sandstone, so not your typical Utah arch in red. 

Window near the top of the road.

Boulder with feet across the road from the window.

Tacoma with camper for scale.

There are a few, limited sites to disperse camp on the Fry Canyon side of Tables of the Sun Buttes, if needed, but you will miss the amazing views available from the SW side. 

Also note, the restored Bears Ears National Monument border follows the ridgeline SW of UT-95 all the way down to UT-276 where it follows the ridgeline north of that highway until roughly Glen Canyon NRA. Mancos Mesa is an "island" of Bears Ears to the west. For more info on Bears Ears NM visit the Bears Ears Education Center, a service of the Friends of Cedar Mesa. This means all lands that drain into Red Canyon are not in Bears Ears; most of it is BLM, however. There are private in-holdings throughout the area.

Moss Back Road

After driving across the pass (and exiting Bears Ears NM) I was on the lookout for Moss Back Road, my objective, on the left. The road was named for the Moss Back member of the Chinle Geological Formation. John cautioned me that Radium King, Moss Back, and Red Canyon South Roads were the only ones maintained by the county and considered passible (in dry weather only) by standard vehicles. It was a happy discovery that, where exposed, the sandstone surface of Moss Back Road had been smoothed by carbide tipped drum-mill or other machinery.

Within a quarter mile after turning onto Moss Back Road I was treated to an extraordinary view off across the broad Red Canyon valley with the red cliffs, buttes, canyons, and hills of colorful bentonite all around. The road travels over a bench supported by white sandstone. Not only that, but the Tables of the Sun North towered on the west more than 1000' above the road; the drop off the bench varied between 100' and 200'; then the low point east across the valley was nearly 1000' feet below the road. Wow! 

Aerial photo taken the next day, but appropriate to the narrative to put it here.
You will want to view this panorama as wide as possible.

I very soon saw a great campsite on a flat slab of sandstone with a superb view. I marked it in my mind, but I wanted to drive the length of the bench to look around before setting up camp. Who knows, there might be even better campsites ahead.

Turns out there are many dispersed sites with amazing views for camping on Moss Back Road. There were interesting rock formations and rocks, boulders, and soils of various compositions, textures, & colors. Wow. I probably drove a little too far. Once you see a good size hill of bentonite on the left, it's best to turn around unless you're in a jeep or ATV. The road farther on wasn't bad, exactly, but narrow, twisty, & steep and there were no more campsites that I could see. I had a dickens of a time finding a place where I could turn around.

As I drove back on Moss Back Road, I gave consideration to possible campsites. Not unexpectedly with this exposure, the wind was a major factor. As I sampled wind speed at each location (by opening both cab windows) I discovered the site I'd originally spotted had significantly less wind than the others. So I backed in and set up.

Tables of the Sun North Butte as seen from my campsite.

There were a number hours of sunlight left in the day. I sat in my camp chair and enjoyed the view for a while. The wind dropped and I was able to get my camera drone in the air for a few photos and video. 

Aerial view from out over the canyon back toward the bench and butte.
Can you see the little white dot that is my camper just above the rim?

My campsite along Moss Back Road with Wingate Mesa in the background.

As the sun moved low in the sky I took a walk back toward Radium King Road with my camera. The golden hour was beautiful on the cliffs to the east. 

A small spire up the slope from my campsite.

The low sun angle reveals a yucca "comet."

Colorful clay hills.

There was a bit of a sunset, but I had to tweak it in photoshop to get something to show.


I was just about drifting off to sleep when the wind kicked up...

Saturday, April 30th

Moss Back Road (continued)

...OMG, the wind, comparable to that I experienced the one time I camped near Muley Point. It slammed into my camper, tin-canning the roof for hours. It finally waned about 2:30am and I was finally able to fall asleep. I had originally intended to camp here another night, but decided my nerves couldn't take another night like that one.

If I wasn't going to camp here tonight, I'd make the best of the day before moving on to tackle the rest of Radium King Road and perhaps I'd find a new site out of the wind down along Red Canyon Road.

Claret Cub Cactus in bloom.

I took a three hour walk/hike south along the road and canyon rim. As I ambled along I took photos of all the interesting rocks, plants, and vistas. Looking at them now, most do not come even close to conveying the experience of seeing these spectacular vistas in person. I did get a few beautiful photos and one extraordinary panorama, though. I recommend you view this full screen. If your browser has a problem displaying the panorama, such as the Full-Screen icon not working, click this link to view on the Kuula site.

A view of the mesas across the northern branch of Red Canyon.

Colorful clays and sandstones with Wingate Mesa in the background.

Another view across the canyon with an emphasis on the canyon rim.

Desert Paintbrush

Around noon the wind had let up enough for me to get my drone in the air. This spherical panorama provides a bit of the feel of this amazing scenery. I strongly recommend you click the full-screen icon. If your browser has a problem displaying the panorama, such as the Full-Screen icon not working, click this link to view on the Kuula site.

If you were to look at a USGS map, you would see my campsite is at the junction of two roads. Let this be a caution to those who use those maps. Here's a photo of my camper sitting at the top of the old mining road which led to the Maybe Uranium Mine. As you can see the road has been derelict for 50 years, but looks just as viable as Moss Back road does on the map.

The derelict road leading to the Maybe Uranium Mine.

When I returned to my campsite I enjoyed the view with my lunch. I then broke camp in preparation to  continue my journey.

Radium King Road

I turned left, westerly, on the road I drove up on. It continues at the same elevation for about a half a mile then dives down below the bench. Here is a photo looking back at the canyon rim near where my campsite was located.

Looking back toward Tables of the Sun North Butte.

The road runs parallel with Wingate Mesa for a few miles.

Radium King Road was in very good condition, especially considering how remote it is. There were plenty of tracks in the road, presumably from ATVs, but I saw none. The road would periodically pass through areas of bentonite, then a long stretch of relatively mild grades. There is a junction at the first gully the road crosses. My understanding is that the spur leads to the last working mine in the area. This crossing and two more were the only places where high clearance was useful.

Radium King Road

This is some of the most rugged and most beautiful southwestern country I've ever passed through. I took lots of photos, but looking at them now they just don't convey the magnitude of the features, the colors & textures, the feelings of traveling through miles and miles of spectacular, raw terrain. There is no camera lens that can capture the experience of being one small human in the midst of this gigantic, geologic treasure house. Nonetheless, I will post a few attempts.

View off the side of the road.

The road continued in very good condition and smooth for the most part. There were a few short stretches that were very narrow and steep toward the western end. 4WD was not needed, though I engaged it a couple times just for more secure traction on the steepest climbs.

Looks like it wouldn't take much to topple this rock onto the road—just sayin'.

It had been well over 24 hours since I'd seen a single person or vehicle. I stopped at a saddle in the road for photos and spied a white rectangle that must surely be a parked vehicle far in the distance and about 500' lower in elevation. Some time later after a winding descent I saw a large white pickup with Utah plates and camper shell parked in the middle of the road. There was a man wearing a sun hood with a backpack wandering along the base of some bentonite hills. Looked like he was searching the ground for something that washed down; perhaps pieces of petrified wood that is found throughout the area.

Multi-image panorama. View as large as possible.

In any case I was very lucky. Just after I passed his truck there was a gate in a barbed-wire fence—-the type where the strands of wire are attached to a pole and the pole fits into a wire loop at the bottom of the fence post, and you drop another loop over the top of the pole to close the gate. I could no more lift the top loop off the pole due to the tension in the wire than I could sprout wings and fly. The man saw me walking back toward him and came to meet me with words acknowledging how difficult that gate was to open. I asked for his help and this much younger man was able to open the gate and closed it after I drove through. I thanked him, but neglected to ask what he was searching for along the ground.

Multi-image panorama. View as large as possible.

A few miles farther along I can across this monument to broken dreams. From there it was only half a mile to where the road crosses the main drainage of Red Canyon. Should there be enough rain to produce flow, it would drain NNW toward Lake Powell, supplemented by the many canyons south of UT-95. 

Note: for some reason many maps do not show Radium King Road connecting to Red Canyon Road. Let me assure you that they not only connect, but the road is easily passible (in dry weather.) 

This modern ruin is near the end of Radium King Road.

Red Canyon Road

Once up the other side the road 'T's into Red Canyon Road. John advised that although the route northwest looks like a good road it quickly deteriorates. I turned southeast toward UT-276.

FYI, it took approximately a half hour to drive Radium King Road from UT-95 to Moss Back Road; by rough estimate it took 2 hours plus to drive from Moss Back Road to Red Canyon Road.

Southern branch of Red Canyon.

Red Canyon Road was in good condition, though there were a few very sandy areas where you should keep your momentum. I'm going to guess it would take an hour to reach the highway, but I tried a couple side roads looking for potential campsites, so don't have a reliable estimate.

The road basically parallels the southern branch of Red Canyon. It rides on deposits that have washed down or slumped from the red sandstone cliffs to the south. The scenery is not as dramatic as along Radium King Road, but there are wonderful vistas of the buttes and mesas off to the north. The terrain becomes less interesting as you approach the highway.

Southern branch of Red Canyon.

I had hoped to find a dispersed campsite along here somewhere that would be out of the worst of the wind. Although there were several sites with attractive views, I found none that were sufficiently out of the wind. It became clear I'd have to try somewhere else, but where? I hatched the idea to head back to Burch Canyon Road where there were many dispersed campsites and many are within piñon/juniper woodlands that might afford shelter from the wind.

I turned left, northeast, on UT-276 which lead back to the "main" highway, UT-95. From there it was only a few miles east to the turn-off to Natural Bridges, then Burch Canyon Road.

Burch Canyon Road Redux

When I drove up lower Burch Canyon Road earlier in the week around mid-day, there were very few campsites open. Surprisingly, on Saturday evening there were many sites available. I'd seen a couple of interesting sites a few miles along that I wanted to check out. When I was nearly there I stopped to chat with a gentleman who was out walking along the road.

It turns out we had more in common than our ages. We both had pop-up campers, both from the outskirts of Albuquerque, both an interest in photography, and I later learned we were both retired engineers. I said I was going to look at sites a bit farther along the road. The gentleman said if they were taken there was a spur just this side of his camp I should check. If I camped there he invited me to walk over to his site and visit. Turns out the sites I'd seen earlier were taken, so I returned to where my new friend had suggested. 

My campsite out of the wind.

The spur off the road that lead to my campsite.

After setting up I took my camp chair and walked over to visit. Ralph and I had a very enjoyable evening sitting next to the (non-burning) campfire and swapping stories about travel destinations, camping, and photography.

Colton's Milkvetch looks very similar to Locoweed.

Sunday, May 1st

Burch Canyon Road (continued)

My campsite in the morning sun.

Western Wallflower beneath the junipers.

I slept well as the campsite was indeed sheltered from the wind. I debated my options as I was not quite ready to return to civilization, but I needed to keep in mind that my gasoline was limited. Driving the relatively short distance across the top of Cedar Mesa to Arch Canyon Road seemed like a good option, especially as most of that distance was toward the gas stations on US-191.

Dog Tanks Springs

My favorite site at North Mule Canyon was occupied so I drove a couple miles farther up the road to the site I stayed at once before, Dog Tanks Springs. This was probably a better site under the conditions. It is located down in a small dell and thus sheltered from the wind. The view is not quite as scenic as North Mule Canyon, but very pleasant. There are a few mature cottonwood trees next to the spring, though only one was showing spring leaves and the scrub oaks had not begun to bud.

My campsite along Dog Tank Springs.

I sat under the trees and read, listened to the birds and tried to get photos of those feathered friends who stopped by. I got a good one of an Ash-throated Flycatcher, which I will share here. I got a poor one of a Plumbeous Vireo which I will not share, but allowed me to ID the song I'd heard also at Lost Canyon.

Lounge chair near the spring.

Ash-throated Flycatcher.

I'd camped here once before, while waiting for the campsite at the Arch Canyon Overlook to be passed along to me. At that time I sent my drone up to look around. When I got home and viewed the video on my desktop I realized that Arch Canyon was really close to this campsite. When I looked on a topo map, the canyon was only about a quarter mile away, as the flycatcher flies.

Arch Canyon

I couldn't find a trail from the campsite so bushwhacked my way over. I hiked just under half a mile to get to the canyon rim. By that time in the afternoon clouds had moved in unfortunately, so the light wasn't the best for photography. If you missed my Arch Canyon photos from previous posts, check them out. I enjoyed the spectacular views, nonetheless. I apparently wasn't paying enough attention earlier, so wandered a bit on my way back to camp, but with the help of my inReach device I did find a slightly longer route. I think that longer route was much easier and I'll share below the photos.

Looking NW up Arch Canyon.

A slightly different and wider perspective.

In case you ever camp here and want to walk to the canyon, I suggest: walk almost 400' back down the road (SE) until you come to a wash with a sandstone bottom; walk east along the wash bottom; just past another large section of sandstone look for a little wash that heads NNE (about 700' from the road); the wash doesn't go very far, but keep heading NNE and you will get to the canyon in about another 600'. That's an easy walk.

Colorado Rubberplant

Monday, May 2nd

Dog Tank Springs (continued)

After a pleasant night, shielded from the wind, I packed up and started out for home. No photos from camp or from the road as it was hazy and/or smokey this morning. I made it to White Mesa with gas to spare, then aimed the truck at New Mexico. 

On the way home

I stopped at my favorite place in Shiprock to grab a bite to eat, the locally owned "That's A Burger" just north of the junction of US-64. In addition to all the burgers and things you'd expect, they have a Navajo menu, too. I decided to try their green chile stew. It surprised me as I'm used to the green chile stew in Albuquerque being made with diced potatoes, but this Navajo style was made with posolé... it was so delicious! They served a generous portion, too. I ate half at an outside table, then put the rest in my fridge to enjoy at home.

The drive home was uneventful, which is good. It was warm, but not too bad.

Summing up: this was a wonderful trip—-one of my favorites (but as was pointed out to me, I say that frequently.) It was especially sweet as I spent most of my journey exploring new places, and those new places were so beautiful and even spectacular!

Spring Fling, UT - April 2022: Part 1

Bears Ears National Monument in Two Parts

April 26 - May 2, 2022


A year ago I asked my readers if anyone knew what was down Fry Canyon off UT-95, between Natural Bridges and the Colorado River. The road is about 12 miles west of the junction with UT-276. John from Arizona kindly replied that is was a very interesting place which he'd visited a number of times. We exchanged several emails. He described Radium King & Moss Back Roads and the interesting terrain & geology. I navigated to the area in Google Earth, looked around at ground level, and got quite excited by the potential. 

I wanted to go last fall, but John warned all the bentonite clay soils made the roads impassible when wet, and the forecast was chancy. I hoped this spring would be my opportunity as the forecast was dry, dry, dry. I shouldn't need to remind regular blog visitors that there is very little shade in these mid-elevation Utah landscapes. The piñon and juniper trees are just not tall enough as you can see from my photos. Spring and Fall are the times to visit and camp. Winter is chancy as at 6000 to 7000 feet elevation it will be cold indeed during the night, and snow is not unheard of.

He had also mentioned Burch Canyon Road as interesting. I saw that there were backroads beyond Burch Canyon that ran northwest roughly parallel to UT-95 though BLM lands along ridges and canyons that looked worth exploring. I knew no one who had been that way, but the roads looked OK in the satellite images, so I was determined find out. I'd do that loop first as it was higher in elevation and the weather forecast had the warmer temperatures early in the week. When it cooled off I'd explore lower down.

Part 1 of 2

Click photos to view larger versions in a view screen where you may use the arrow keys to move.

Tuesday, April 26th

Angel Peak Scenic Area

I again chose to only drive as far as BLM's Angel Peak Recreation Area in northern New Mexico the first day. This spot is a few miles off US-550, south of Bloomfield. It is situated on the edge of a plateau and overlooks the eponymous Angel Peak and the banded colors of the badlands below. My previous blog posts on Angel Peak contain more details and more photos. I also have a spherical panorama that gives a sense of the location. 

A short first day also allows me to finishing my packing in the morning without trying to rush. I left the house about 3:30pm and arrived about 6pm. I drove through the official campground and, as usual, the sites with a view of the peak and badlands were taken. I drove back to the excellent site where I camped last time along the road to "The Cliffs Picnic Area".

My campsite at The Cliffs

Before setting up I walked the short distance to the picnic area where there are tables under ramadas and a vault toilet. I saw a pickup truck and "baby" Airstream camped at one of the tables. As I was admiring the view an older couple (though probably younger than me) and their very enthusiastically friendly dog said hello. This was Dane and his wife (whose name went in one ear and out the other, sorry) are from Wyoming, near the north entrance to Yellowstone. They love the southwest and make a trek down every year. They were camped here as the campground at Chaco Canyon was full, which is par for the course (reservations are recommended.) We enjoyed swapping stories for a little while before I returned to my camper and set up. It was a cloudy evening, so I didn't take many photos, but the wind was mild.

Wednesday, April 27th

Angel Peak (continued)

The light wasn't that great for photos this morning, so I only took a few and am only posting this one. 

View north from my campsite showing the badlands and the oil rigs & roadways

I packed up and hit the road just after 9am, headed north on US-550. I took my usual Bloomfield/Farmington bypass route (drop me a line if you want details,) US-64 west into Arizona, then north from Red Mesa to Montezuma Creek.  I topped off my tank at White Mesa on US-191 before heading west on UT-95.

Burch Canyon Road

Lower Burch Canyon Road. The gentleman driving the Jeep apologized for ruining my photo; "Not at all I,"  replied. "I'll just add to the caption: Jeep for scale."

I took the turn-off toward Natural Bridges after crossing Cedar Mesa. The first dirt road one comes to leads up to Elk Ridge. The second dirt road to the right has a sign for Deer Flat; this is Burch Canyon Road. Burch Canyon is the larger of the two canyons which comprise Natural Bridges NM, the second is Deer Canyon. The first few miles has many dispersed campsites. Many of these sites fill up with Natural Bridges campground overflow, but as you drive farther the sites become nicer and slightly less likely to be taken. However, once you make a sharp turn around the end of the first white sandstone canyon there are no more sites. 

A partial view of the Bears Ears behind the bluff.

Fringed Puccoon blooming along the road.

The road is generally in good shape and easy. The final climb affords the best view of the canyon complex and is quite scenic. The last section has very steep climbs, is narrow, and with a drop off right there. 

Deer Canyon in the foreground; Burch Canyon beyond. Both feed into Natural Bridges NM.
This is a very wide, 3-image panorama, so click then widen your browser window.

Deer Flat

Once on top the terrain opens up. You are now headed NE on Deer Flat Road. The flat is mostly sagebrush and clump grasses. There were a few spring wildflowers. The road then reenters piñon/juniper woodlands.

Deer Flat with Wooden Shoe Buttes in the background.

Arrowleaf Balsamroot.

Tiny flowers on Spiny Phlox.

Wooden Shoe Road

I passed the left turn labeled as Wooden Shoe Road, which was my ultimate travel direction, but first I wanted to look for a campsite in the lee of Wooden Shoe Buttes as the wind was picking up. I went straight, which is the eastern section of Wooden Shoe Road, CR-256. However, my maps didn't seem to match where I was traveling, they didn't match each other either. In retrospect I should have been using one of my GPS enabled maps on my phone, but the way seemed straight-forward. I thought I was going around The Heel Butte, but was actually going around The Toe. I was on Wooden Shoe Road, so I wasn't lost. I came out where I expected, so no problem. If you look at Google Maps it shows lots of roads that are not really there or are not suitable for highway vehicles.

The Bears Ears seen from Wooden Shoe Road.

The road curved toward the southeast. The slopes leading toward Dark Canyon were thick with scrub oak that had not put out leaves for the season. There were no campsites, zero. I finally found one, just before the national forest boundary. It was a lovely green meadow beneath mature pine trees and a view of a butte. Unfortunately, due to the terrain it was too much of a wind tunnel than I would wish to subject myself to. 

Mature pines shading a lovely campsite.

Tiny flowers cover the ground.

I continued on into the forest and down the side road to Wooden Shoe trailhead, but there were no suitable campsites. In a pinch I suppose you could camp at the trailhead, but as it was only 3pm I turned around and headed back the way I'd come.

I made the turn onto west Wooden Shoe Road, CR-256, which I would follow the rest of the day. The road was interesting in parts with views off the ridge and at other times just a road though the pine/piñon forest. The road was in good condition overall, though there were a few bumpy spots. There were no campsites. There were cattle ponds. I kept following the most traveled path at junctions. The side roads, some of which I peeked down, were in poor condition and gave no indication of possibly having good campsites. The road began to take on a straighter NW orientation and dropping in altitude. At close to it's northern most point there is a spur to a landing strip, which I also didn't take.

Lost Canyon

The road turned southerly with red cliffs and ridges on the left and open canyons bordered with Cedar Mesa sandstone on the right. There were wide vistas far to the west. I spotted a large flock of Piñon Jays moving though the trees, calling out to one another. The road was now well out of the pines and into the junipers. Approximately 5 miles after turning south, right where the road makes a sharp curve west was a slab of sandstone reaching out to the road on the inside of the curve. There was evidence of previous campers in the form of rock fire rings.

Lost Canyon campsite with my chair set up on the "patio."

I pulled off there and surveyed the site. It was beautiful. It was near the head of a white sandstone canyon surrounded on three sides by high cliffs of layered, red sandstone a thousand or so feet away affording an effective wind break. The sandstone on which I parked was enclosed by vibrant piñons and junipers, though there were also the inevitable dead trees one now sees everywhere in the drought stricken west. Far off on the horizon, mountains could just be seen through the thick haze. These were the Henry Mountains and the nearby Little Rockies. Through a gap in the distant cliffs I later discovered a glimpse of Jacob's Chair Butte.

Orange Sunburst Lichen—about 6 inches across—growing on the sandstone.

It was 6pm. It was a very long day of driving, but I was rewarded with nature's beauty. I got set up by 7 and wandered around the immediate area looking down into the canyon and generally admiring the scenery. I set out my chair and enjoyed a little bit of a sunset over the Henry Mountains at 8pm.

Sunset over the Henry Mountains.


Thursday, April 28th

Lost Canyon (continued)

My Benchmark road atlas called this Long Canyon, but several sources I've checked from home confirm it is named Lost Canyon.

Westerly morning view from my campsite across to the Henry Mountains.

Nature's bonsai, a piñon growing from a small pocket in the sandstone.

It was a beautiful morning with a few clouds, though the haze was still pronounced along the horizon. It was chilly enough I set my camp chair in the sun to relax and enjoy my morning coffee. Ah, it felt good. I took a few photos around camp, including two with my telephoto lens. In retrospect, I should have taken the extension tube off for the Henry Mountains photo, or at lest framed it a bit better. Oh, well.

The back of Jacob's Chair Butte from my campsite using a telephoto lens.

Mt. Hillers of the Henry Mountains seen from my campsite.

There was no doubt in my mind I would stay the day here to recover from my drive and the several days effort to mount my camper and prepare for the season. Seems preparations took a bit more out of me this year. It can't be because I'm getting old, no, perhaps I just sat on my butt too much last winter. I'll do better next year.

A Colorado Rubberplant growing from a crack in the rock.

Around 9am I took my drone up lest the winds pick back up in the afternoon. I took some photos and video. Here is a photo showing the beauty of my campsite, Jacob's Chair, Lost Canyon, and the far off mountains. The canyon looks more shallow than it is due to the angle of the photo. Not that it is that deep here near its head. I'm guessing it is about 20' deep at my campsite, then it drops off a ledge and is maybe 30' deep. Looked like there were places someone younger and more agile would have little trouble getting in and out. I figured I could get down, but might never get back out!

Aerial view of my campsite, Lost Canyon, Jacob's Chair, and the Henry Mountains.

A good sense of the entire area is provided by this spherical panorama. The light was challenging, especially toward the sun, so please ignore the seam in the sky. If your browser has a problem displaying the panorama, such as the Full-Screen icon not working, click this link to view on the Kuula site.

After lunch I took a modest hike up a dry wash to get a closer look at the cliffs to the east. I was able to walk around a few of the obstacles, but finally had to give up as my agility was not up to the terrain. I returned to camp for more relaxing!

View looking up the dry wash toward the cliffs.

A blooming Double Bladderpod plant seen on my hike up the wash.

There were several birds vocalizing around camp. One was singing often across the canyon, but never came close for a look. There was a flycatcher that came through. His call was much like an Ash-throated specie. I did get a good photo which had me scratching my head as his chest and belly was so white, but studying the books there really is no alternative ID.

Ash-throated Flycatcher

At some point in the afternoon, a few desultory cattle came walking up the road. They seemed shocked to see my camper and stopped dead in their tracks. It took them a quite a while to decide I was no threat and resume their trek. It appears to be a harsh land for cattle with little forage. I took no photos of the sun-baked beasts.

Looking back at my campsite from the canyon rim.

A pretty sunset to bring a close to a lovely day.

Sunset as seen from my campsite.

Friday, April 29th

Lost Canyon and Wooden Shoe Road (continued)

I enjoyed a leisurely morning soaking up the beauty of the area. I broke camp and got on the road about 10:30am. From here Wooden Shoe Road runs NW along the area between a ridge on the west and Lost Canyon on the east. The vegetation went from desert woodlands to bushes to scrub to low plants and native grasses. There were a few flowers beginning to bloom, too. There were a couple of Fremont's Barberry next to the road that were more heavily laden with blossoms than I'd ever seen. 

Fremont's Barberry blooming alongside the road.

A closer view of the profusion of blossoms.

Here is where I stopped to photograph the Barberry. Note the smooth road surface--this is typical for this entire stretch. There seemed to be a few dispersed campsites long this stretch of the road, but I didn't stop to check them out.

Stopped to photograph the barberry plants.

Stopped again here to photograph the flowers and the sandstone cliffs.

White-stemmed Evening Primrose blooming in the morning light.

For what it's worth, the entire time I was driving on Burch Canyon and Wooden Shoe Roads I saw not one single person. The entire time I was camped at Lost Canyon only two ATVs, traveling together, passed my campsite. When I reached Sun Dance trailhead there was one SUV driving out and several vehicles parked. I didn't see another vehicle or person until I came out on UT-95.

Looking back toward this butte along the road.

Sun Dance Trailhead

A Western Wallflower posed alongside the road to the trailhead.

About an hour after starting out I saw a sign pointing down a side road for the Sun Dance trailhead, 1 mile. I decided to explore. There is quite a bit of exposed sandstone in the roadbed leading to the trailhead, so the going was very slow. High clearance is recommended, though I saw compact SUVs parked at the trailhead. 

View northwest from San Dance Trailhead.

If you chose to visit, be aware that Google Maps and other sources show the road going much, much farther than a street legal vehicle can go. In fact, while I was there looking around I didn't even see tracks going farther. And I cannot see any sign of a road in the photos I took. There were about a half dozen vehicles parked at the trailhead on a large sandstone bench.

Vehicles parked at Sun Dance Trailhead

Piñon and Paintbrush

The views toward Dark Canyon and the Colorado River were dramatic. You could, if you wished, proceed (very slowly) about 50' farther along the sandstone where there was evidence of previous campsites. The views would be great as long as you didn't mind the parked cars and trucks in the foreground. There was also evidence of poor human hygiene practices, there being no toilet at the trailhead, so keep that in mind, too.

Canyon view from near the trailhead.

The same view, but farther back from the sandstone rim.

Sundrops, not primrose.

I enjoyed the view while having lunch, then drove slowly back to Wooden Shoe Road and proceeded westerly. There are number of intersecting and branching unmarked roads, but the "main" route was easily determined as it was the only one showing signs of traffic. The main road merges with Fortknocker Canyon Road and takes that name.

View along Wooden Shoe Road.

Looking northerly from Wooden Shoe Road

Junction just over the rise. Don't know if this is Fortknocker Canyon Road, or not.

White Canyon North Road

I finally came to a junction where both directions looked equally well traveled. The map showed both reaching UT-95. The northwest route enters Glen Canyon NRA. It may be slightly shorter before it gets to pavement, but the southeast route both looked more interesting and came out farther south on 95, which was my intended travel direction. So I turned southerly on White Canyon North Road (not that any of these backroads are marked or signed.)

Along White Canyon North Road.

These white flagstones had naturally washed down to form this "path."

Looking southerly toward UT-95.

White Canyon, Red Canyon, not the most original names and White Canyon looked pretty red to me. There were some interesting rock formations and views. The road was in good condition, as were all the roads I drove on this loop. I took a few photos before reaching the highway.

Interesting cliffs along White Canyon North Road.

Trip Continues in Part Two