Southwest Part III: From Newspaper Rock to Home

posted Jun 17, 2019, 8:06 AM by Paul Wagner
With legs and arms itching from all the gnat bites we got in Hovenweep, we drove north to Lowry Pueblo, and camped in a small campground near the highway at Devil's Canyon. 

This gave us time to revisit the Edge of the Cedars Museum in Blanding, which has an astonishing exhibit of Ancient Puebloan artifacts, and this year also has a major exhibit encouraging those who find such artifacts to report them and document them, rather than stealing them.  Good advice, and it was missing last year. 

And while Hovenweep was warm and full of nasty gnats, Devils Canyon was cool and pleasant.  We really enjoyed camping there in the pines and near the mountains. 

The next day was the gorgeous drive into Canyonlands National Park.  This time we were visiting the Needles District, and that meant driving by Newspaper Rock, one of the best rock art sites in the Southwest.  We spent quite a long time there, working our way through the more than one thousand images on the rock. 

We had a reservation at the Needles Campground, but at least in the morning when we arrived this proved unnecessary, as there were still six or eight sites available in the other section of the campground.  We drove the scenic loop, hiked the Roadside Ruins, Pothole, and Cave Spring Trails, and generally explored this part of  Canyonlands.  We even took in a ranger talk at the amphitheater before taking in the magical sunset. 

From here, we had a free-from outline for the rest of our trip.  We had reservations at the Fruita Campground in Capitol Reef in a few days, but other than that, our itinerary was open.  We decided to see if we could get a campsite at Natural Bridges National Monument, so drove there directly in the morning.  And we were successful, although we got the very last site available in the campground. at noon. 

That allowed us to wander back down the highway to hike the Mule Canyon Trail for a while, checking out the canyon floor and the amazing ruins above.  We really liked this hike, and saw only a few people on the trail all afternoon.  The year before, we had stopped at Butler Wash Ruins, so we passed on those this time. 

It was getting warmer, summer was arriving, and we ate our dinner in the shade on the table P had made using a portion of our bed platform and some crew-in legs.  And it worked like a charm!

The next day we took advantage of the cool morning hours to hike down to Sipapu Bridge and wander around through the White River Canyon to the Horsecollar Ruins and beyond.  This might have been our favorite hike.  The drop down into the canyon was fun, with a few ladders and rock stairs, and then once in the canyon we were delighted by the cool burbling water of the stream, the singing birds, the lush vegetation, and the trail itself.  And then we discovered the wall of handprints, and the Horsecollar ruin, and our adventure was complete. Really cool.

We decided to take the rest of the day to drive to Torrey and camp up in the trees on Boulder Mountain.  This is a truly scenic drive, and we loved every minute of it.  But the closer we got to Torrey, the worse the weather looked.  Traffic onto the Bullfrog Notom road was being monitored by local law enforcement because of flooding, and Boulder Mountain was invisible in the thunderheads.  So instead of camping, we took our second hotel night of the trip, and stayed in a hotel in Torrey.  Cleaned up and rested, we then invited ourselves to go out to dinner at the Capital Reef Café, a favorite from our visit last year.  It did not disappoint.  Really good, honest food served with charm. 

We could still use our reservations at Fruita, but we decided to start our way West again.  So we cancelled those and drove to Fremont Indian State Park, highly recommended by a ranger in Zion.  His recommendation was spot on.  This is an absolute treasure of rock art, and the museum also has quite a few nice artifacts, all rescued when the State Highway was routed right through an ancient Fremont Indian village site.  We loved it.  In fact, we loved it so much that we decided to camp there for the night, in a leafy campsite along side a chuckling brook.  This in western Utah.

We spent the rest of that day and the morning of the next exploring about eight of the various numbered viewpoints and trails within the park, often using the free trail guides that were provided by the visitor center staff.  Just wonderful.  In the morning, after we explored the Cave of a Hundred Hands (we didn't think there were quite so many) and the museum again, we aimed Le Vin Blanc towards the Pacific and started driving. 

There were quite a few options for a stopping place for the night:  Cathedral Gorge in Nevada (we stopped there for lunch), or one of the USFS camping areas North of Tonopah.  But we were tired, and home was calling.  By the time we stopped for gas in Tonopah and had a brief chat with the local Sheriff about our speed (just a warning, no citation) we decided that we would see how far we could get. 

And it turned out that was pretty far.  We drove right past Boundary Peak (over 13,000 feet and completely snow covered near the California border) through the fascinating area to the South and East of Mono Lake, and by the time we were in Bridgeport, it was time for dinner and we were only two hours from our cabin. 

Besides, we wanted to see what kind of snow was still on top of Sonora Pass, where we hope to do a little hiking this summer.  And after hot showers, we dropped off to sleep in our own cabin beds before ten o'clock. 

Here's a link to the photos from the whole darn trip;