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Old October 25th, 2010, 05:44 PM
chris snell chris snell is offline
Christopher Snell
Join Date: Jul 2007
Posts: 1,384
Two Weeks in Utah

I recently spent two weeks in Utah, travelling with a buddy who just got back from Afghanistan. The trip was inspired by previous trip reports here; I knew that two weeks was not nearly enough to experience all that this area has to offer but I hoped to scout locations for more focused future travels.

My friend drove up from Texas and we started the trip from my house in the Springs. It was a quick highway drive across Colorado.

We camped that first night on the Uncompaghre Plateau, high above the Paradox Valley of far Western Colorado. The next morning, we descended into the valley on forest roads and visited the town of Paradox.

I've driven past Paradox many times when travelling to the San Juans back when I lived in Utah, but I'd never stopped.

There's not a lot going on here. This valley boomed back in the mining days before falling uranium prices closed the mines. There's not much left except for some farm houses and center-pivot sprinklers.

After climbing out of the valley and entering Utah, we cut the corner to Monticello via the Lisbon Valley.

Lunch at the Shake Shack.

I can't say that I recommend the Shake Shack. It's one of those places where they have rules for everything and there are a hundred little signs to regulate your dining experience. Also, they charge for tap water here: water refills are $0.50.

Bathroom rules. No wonder the employees are so unhappy.

After Monticello, we made a beeline for Hall's Crossing. I had originally planned to camp along the Comb Ridge but we kept encountering no trespassing signs put up by the Ute Nation. We decided to head to the lake that night; we set up camp at the Dennis the Menace park above the marina. As much as I hate to admit it, the camping was enjoyable and the morning light was great.

It was also a good opportunity to test out the new cooking gear.

We woke up early the next morning and caught the first ferry to Bullfrog.

We set out for Boulder via the Waterpocket Fold.

We had a fine night of camping.

The next morning, we stopped for breakfast at the Hell's Backbone Grill.

I had the Jenchilada. I still dream about that flour tortilla.

After breakfast, it was back through Capitol Reef NP on our way to the Henrys.

We explored a number of roads around the southern half of the range. Not all of them panned out. The heavy rains of August and September have torn this area up badly.

On our way up into the Henrys, my friend's D2 began to have major problems. First, a serious coolant leak developed from an inaccessible spot over the bell housing. Then, he got a flat. I had bought a Power Tank for the trip but decided against bringing it at the last minute because of space constraints. I wished I hadn't left it at home.

We pushed on, only to find that the designated campsites were full of vacationing families in RVs. One of the RVs had a big flat screen LCD and they were all clustered around it watching satellite TV. We decided to bail and head for Green River to get the tire fixed and check out the coolant leak.

This was a major detour off of the planned route. We decided to pick up the trail again but do it in reverse from Moab. We started off with a day in the La Sals.

We took a seldom-travelled four wheel drive road from Spanish Valley to a meadow in the shadows of Mount Peale and Mount Tuk.

It was in this meadow that I had the finest night of camping in my life. We built a massive fire pit, cooked a nice dinner and stayed up half the night with the cameras.

The next day, we headed back down to the valley and through town to the northern terminus of the Lockhart Basin Road.

We followed the trail and had almost cleared the first difficult 4WD section when we came to an exposed off-camber corner that had been washed out--I'm guessing--by recent rains. We considered the problem for some time but the high angle and consequences scared us. It was a huge bummer to have to turn around and it only got worse when this guy came bounding down the trail.

We returned in disgrace to Moab, where we got hotel rooms and got drunk at the bar. This was, after all, vacation.

The next day, we took backroads to the Needles District and with the sun setting, we crossed over Elephant Hill.

It was an exciting nighttime drive through the park to our designated campsite on the southern end. I had studied satellite imagery and pictures of the area and it all seemed very familiar. When we got to the entrance to Devil's Lane, I recognized it immediately.

We spent the next few days hiking and driving around the park.

On the third day, we started to feel very uneasy in the Canyonlands. We had spent most of the previous week alone and all of the sudden, we were surrounded by campers in the Devil's Kitchen campsite. Some of the campers were quite strange. One of them wandered into our campsite one evening and that's when we decided that we'd had enough. We would escape the crowded canyons that night and head south for peace and quiet in Beef Basin and the Abajo Mountains. Large thunderstorms were approaching from the north and we had to move quickly to outrun them.

At 1 AM, we crossed over Bobby's Hole for the first time. There was almost no talking. Just very intense driving and occasional stops to check the maps.

To my regret, we drove across Beef Basin without stopping. I vowed to return here again and take the time to explore.

We camped in a high meadow in the Abajos that night.

This was the last night of our backcountry adventure. The next day, we headed into Moab for our rented house and the National Rally.

We did the organized trail runs for a couple of days.

I got a lot of use out of the Jetboil and french press.

At last, it was time to head home. Back into the Paradox Valley and into the snow storms that would follow me back to Colorado Springs.

Dinner in Telluride.

On my way out of town, I ran into this guy in his 83 110. Matt is driving his truck across country, looking for the right ski town with the right vibe. He was camping outside of town while he looked for a job with the resort for the season. He told me his stories and it brought back lots of memories. Fifteen years before, I was doing exactly the same, albeit in a beat-up old Ford pickup and not a sweet 110. His truck was loaded to the hilt with all of his crap, his bikes, his skis... He's got a blog: "One Life, Live It."

Dallas Divide. That's Ralph Lauren's ranch in the foreground and behind it, Mount Sneffels.

Mr. Lauren's ranch is surrounded by a very nice fence, which runs along the highway for over ten miles. I had once heard a story about this fence: when it was built, it was constructed as a proper cattle fence should be: with crossbars on the inside to keep the cattle from pushing them out. This did not appeal to Mr. Lauren's aesthetics, so the story goes, and he had the entire fence rebuilt with the crossbars on the outside. That's awesome.

Back over a now-snowy Continental Divide and back to home.

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