This travel blog has been completed. To read the posts from beginning to end, start here.
The trip is from Lewis & Clark Monument, Illinois, to Kickapoo State Park, Illinois, by way of the North Rim of the Grand Canyon, Arizona
Lewis & Clark Monument, Illinois
I and my wife began this camping trip by heading northwest up I-74 out of Cincinnati, Ohio, into Indiana. At Indianapolis we turned west on I-70. The Interstate became extremely rough through western Indiana. We were happy to cross over into Illinois, and much smoother pavement.
This leg of the trip remained uneventful until we reached Effington, Illinois, where I-70 crosses I-57. There is a huge cross erected there. I found these images online:
This was an impressive sight, but we continued without stopping. We had just begun our journey and didn’t want to get sidetracked so early.
We continued west on I-70 until nearly all the way to the Mississippi River. We exited the Interstate onto Rte. 3, also known as Lewis and Clark Blvd., and headed north. Our first stop was at a replica of the fort Lewis and Clark constructed. It was on the actual site where the actual fort had been built. It was from this location Lewis and Clark launched their historic overland expedition to the Pacific coast in 1803.
We continued north on Rte. 3 to the Confluence Tower. This monument is located on the Mississippi River across from the mouth of the Missouri River. Lewis and Clark began their expedition by heading west from here across the Mississippi and canoeing up the Missouri.
Unfortunately, the tower was closed and we couldn’t ascend to the top. The view would have been great. Instead, we continued north.
Next Location – Pare Marquette State Park, Illinois
The trip is from Lewis & Clark Monument, Illinois, to Kickapoo State Park, Illinois, by way of the North Rim of the Grand Canyon, Arizona
Pare Marquette State Park, Illinois
After stopping to see the Confluence Tower, we drove north on Rte. 3 to Wood River, where we turned onto Rte. 143. We continued north along the Mississippi River to Alton, where we turned onto Rte. 100. Heading north on 100 was a very scenic drive. On the left the road closely hugged the river, providing great views, while on the right it passed below towering bluffs. It proved very difficult keeping my eyes on the road. We didn’t make any additional stops since we had been driving all day and were anxious to reach our destination.
We arrived at Pare Marquette State Park and set up in their campground. We relaxed the rest of the day. The next morning we began exploring the park. There was a picturesque log cabin next to the campground.
And a historic church.
The park is on the Illinois River where it merges with the Mississippi.
Outside the lodge trees were just beginning to bloom.
There were also several interesting statues outside the lodge.
Inside the lodge there was this enormous fireplace.
Also, a collection of leaves hanging from the ceiling.
That afternoon, we drove around the park and stopped to hike a trail.
From which we had a good view of the rivers.
Of course, whenever you hike up you have to hike back down.
We spent a second relaxing night there, then continued our trip the next morning.
Next Location – the Cofluence of the Mississippi River and the Missouri River
The trip is from Lewis & Clark Monument, Illinois, to Kickapoo State Park, Illinois, by way of the North Rim of the Grand Canyon, Arizona
The Cofluence of the Mississippi River and the Missouri River
We drove south from Pere Marquette State Park on Rte. 100. Well-rested, we stopped several times to enjoy the view. Our first stop was in Grafton at the confluence of the Illinois River and the Mississippi River.
Gazing across the Illinois River we saw a barge coming down the Mississippi.
Leaving Grafton, we continued south on Rte. 3. Although we were backtracking, we now were refreshed enough to want to stop and see the sights. This is a shot heading south on Rte. 100 as it closely follow the river on the right, with the bluffs on the left.
We stopped at Alton and walked around their riverfront.
Here is a better shot of the bridge over the Mississippi we would take into Missouri.
On this bridge we drove from the Alton riverfront on Hwy. 67 across the Mississippi River into Missouri. Less than a mile into Missouri we turned south onto Riverlands Drive. It started out paved, but soon turned to gravel. The road wound through open country into Confluence Point State Park. This Missouri state park is not developed at all. There is only the gravel road that leads to a parking lot on the Missouri River. A short hike through some trees along the river.
They lead to the confluence point with the Mississippi.
That is the Mississippi just beyond the island in the center of the photo.
There are markers at the point.
Looking across the Mississippi you can see Alton.
And the Confluence Point tower in Illinois we had stopped to see 2 days ago.
We walked back to our motor home and drove back out of the park back to Hwy. 67. This whole time the only other people we encountered were several workers planting trees. We continued southwest on 67 to I-270, and skirted the northern edge of St. Louis. Most of the time we try to avoid large cities, unless there is some point of interest we want to see. The traffic was heavy, and it was slow-going until we turned off the circle freeway onto I-70. As we continued west on the Interstate, the traffic grew lighter and the driving more enjoyable.
Next Location – Arrow Rock State Park, Missouri
Arrow Rock State Park, Missouri, & Wilson Lake State Park, Kansas
We drove west on I-70 until we came to the exit for Rte. 41. We drove north to Arrow Rock State Historic Site. We set up in their campground and relaxed the rest of the day. The next morning we left the campground to see the old town. It had originally been an important trading stop along the Missouri River for pioneers heading west, and a ferry had operated there. But the course of the river changed, leaving the town high and dry. But the state has maintained the old pioneer town.
This was the jail. They couldn’t have had too many criminals since it was so tiny.
Since we were 10 miles or so north of the Interstate, we decided to roam through the countryside and get back on I-70 further west. Big mistake. The road we turned onto soon turned to gravel, and sections of it was very rough. We wound all over creation trying to get back to the Interstate. Although it took much longer than we wanted, we did see some nice countryside.
Finally arriving back on I-70, we continued west. We drove through Kansas City out of Missouri into Kansas. There is the World War One museum there I would have liked to seen. I also would have liked to spend more time in Flint Hills. I realize we can’t stop for every little thing, even with us being retired. But since I’ve learned more about Flint Hills, which is west of Topeka, Kansas, I really want to spend some time there. Here is a Wikipedia entry about it:
The Flint Hills, historically known as Bluestem Pastures or Blue Stem Hills, are a region in eastern Kansas and north-central Oklahoma named for the abundant residual flint eroded from the bedrock that lies near or at the surface. It consists of a band of hills stretching from Kansas to Oklahoma, extending from Marshall and Washington Counties in the north to Cowley County, Kansas and Kay and Osage Counties in Oklahoma in the south, to Geary and Shawnee Counties west to east. Oklahomans generally refer to the same geologic formation as the Osage Hills or “the Osage.”
The Flint Hills Ecoregion is designated as a distinct region because it has the most dense coverage of intact tallgrass prairie in North America. Due to its rocky soil, the early settlers were unable to plow the area, resulting in the prevalence of cattle ranches as opposed to the crop land more typical of the Great Plains. These ranches rely on annual controlled burns conducted by ranchers every spring to renew the prairie grasses for cattle to graze. This has created in an unusual alliance between the native ecosystem of the Flint Hills and the people who use it.
The rocks exposed in the Flint Hills were laid down about 250 million years ago during the Permian Period. During this time, much of the Midwest, including Kansas and Oklahoma, were covered with shallow seas. As a result, much of the Flint Hills is composed of limestone and shale with plentiful fossils of prehistoric sea creatures. The most notable layer of chert-bearing limestone is the Florence Limestone Member, which is around 45 feet thick. Numerous roadcuts of the Florence Member are prominent along Interstate 70 in Riley County, Kansas. Unlike the Pennsylvanian limestones to the east, however, many of the limestones in the Flint Hills contain numerous bands of chert or flint. Because chert is much less soluble than the limestone around it, the weathering of the limestone has left behind a clay soil with abundant chert gravel. Most of the hilltops in this region are capped with this chert gravel.
Four tallgrass prairie preserves are in the Flint Hills, the largest of which, the Tallgrass Prairie Preserve, (the former Barnard Ranch) in the Osage Hills near Pawhuska, Oklahoma, also boasts a large population of bison and is an important refuge for other wildlife such as the greater prairie chicken (Tympanuchus cupido). The other preserves, all located in Kansas, are the 17-square-mile (44 km2) Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve in northern Chase County, Kansas near Strong City, the Flint Hills Tallgrass Prairie Preserve east of Cassoday, “the Prairie Chicken Capital of the World”, and the Konza Prairie, which is managed as a tallgrass prairie biological research station by Kansas State University.
Here are a few photos I found online:
So much for what we didn’t get to see. We continued west on I-70, exiting at Wilson. We drove north on Rte. 232 to Wilson Lake State Park. At the visitor center they informed us they were full, but recommended a campground on the northeastern end of the lake called Lucas Park Recreation Area. This was a primitive campground with no hook-ups, but it was spacious and more away from everything else. So we set up and spent the rest of the day in the campground. We hiked a trail beginning in the campground through some interesting rock formations.
We also saw a lot of old fence posts. There was scarce wood on these prairies, so settlers used the abundant limestone instead.
Next Location – Wilson Lake State Park 2
Wilson Lake State Park 2
We woke up to a rainy day, which we spent touring around Wilson Lake. First, we drove north on Rte. 232 to the town of Lucas to see the Garden of Eden.
Here is some information I found online concerning this site:
S. P. Dinsmoor was a retired schoolteacher and Civil War veteran who moved to Lucas, Kansas in 1891. During most of the remaining 31 years of his life, he created a unforgettable legacy in three parts:
The “log cabin” was completed in 1907. The “logs” are up to 27 feet long and are carved from limestone. Dinsmoor called the home “the most unique home for living or dead on Earth,” and conducted tours of the 11 room house.
The garden surrounding the home was built during the following 22 years. Built of limestone and 113 tons of concrete, the garden tells the history of the world starting with its creation. There are 150 figures plus other forms, from insects to 40 feet tall trees in the Garden of Eden. Sunflower Journeys calls it a work of art, a statement of political & religious beliefs, and a record of Kansas history.
The pagoda at the northeast corner of the Garden of Eden is a stone and concrete mausoleum. It houses Dinsmoor and his first wife in a glass lidded coffin.
After, having nothing better to do on a rainy day, we drove an entire circuit of the lake.
The next day was much better. We left the campground to hike the Rocktown Trail along the lake. Note the limestone fenceposts.
It started with an easy hike through prairie.
Down to the lake.
Where there were some unusual rock formations.
Then it was a hike back up from the lake.
Past some forlorn limestone fenceposts.
And back up to the motorhome.
After completing the hike, we drove south from Wilson Lake on Rte. 232 to I-70, and continued west.
Next Location – Monument Hills, Kansas
Monument Hills, Kansas
Early in the afternoon, after finishing our hike on the Rockhound Trail at Wilson Lake, we continued west on I-70. Since we got such a late start we didn’t get very far. We pulled off the Interstate at Oakley, about 70 miles east of the Colorado state line. We set up in a private campground and crashed for the evening. There was a glorious sunset.
A serious storm was predicted for eastern Colorado, so we sheltered in place for 2 more days. The first day was nice, so we explored. People at the campground told us about Monument Rocks Natural National Landmark. We drove south from Oakley on Hwy. 83 to turn east onto Jayhawk Rd. At the junction with 460 it went from paved to gravel, and we continued east on Grove 3. We followed this until it ended, then turned south on Grove 14. This gravel road zigged and zagged until it reached Grove 16, which we turned south on. We followed this to Monument Rocks. Kansas is supposed to be so flat, but these rock formations were impressive since they rose up out of such flatness.
This photo with our motor home gives some sense of scale.
We were the only people there. So we parked and roamed all over.
On the way back to Oakley, we stopped to see a Buffalo Bill Memorial.
The next day we stayed in, since it stormed all day long. So by the next morning we were antsy go go.
Next Location – I-70 into the Rocky Mountains, Colorado
I-70 into the Rocky Mountains, Colorado
You don’t notice driving out of Kansas into Colorado on I-70. Eastern Colorado is as flat and barren as western Kansas. People tend to think of mountains when they think of Colorado, but the eastern third of the state is flat. A lot of cattle ranches. But once you can see the Rocky Mountains in the distance the drive becomes much better. Although the mountains don’t ever seem to come any closer. That’s because they rise up out of the flat plain without the benefit of foothills, which makes them even more impressive. Driving through Denver wasn’t bad. We arrived in the middle of the day, no rush hour traffic. Driving up out of Denver into the Rockies on I-70 is one of the best drives you’ll ever do.
We pulled over frequently to take pictures.
This lake was ice-covered, even though there was no snow on the surrounding mountainside.
The original plan had been to camp at Frisco, but none of their campgrounds had opened yet. So we went a little further west on I-70 and exited at Copper Mountain. We drove south on Rte. 91 and took the east leg of the Top of the Rockies Scenic Drive. It was beautiful, but we were tired and anxious about finding a campground. We found one at Leadville. It was only a parking lot with the units squeezed in as tight as possible, but that didn’t bother us at all. The view was fantastic.
Next Location – Leadville, Colorado
Leadville, Colorado, is the highest incorporated city in the country. At 10,152 feet, they call themselves the 2-Mile High City. We had crossed Freemont Pass, which has an elevation of 11,318 feet, yesterday coming into Leadville. Visible side by side to the south of Leadville are Colorado’s 2 tallest peaks – Mt. Elbert (14,440 ft.) and Mt. Massive (14,429 ft.).
After resting a bit, we took a walk through the historic old mining town. It was a sunny day, but at this altitude chilly.
There were a lot of murals.
This mural was especially eye-catching. This is an actual event the town holds in the winter: horse-drawn skiing.
And this statue of a prospector, which I didn’t get a good angle on.
This old saloon looked impressive.
By the time we finished our walk through town we were finished. At this elevation we were gasping for breath. We had not had a chance to get acclimated, passing from the flatlands of Kansas up to over 10,000 feet in one day. That night it got down to freezing, but we turned on our tank heaters and we were okay. But the next night it was supposed to get even colder, so we decided not to risk it. We left the next morning for lower elevations and warmer temperatures.
Next Location – Top of the Rockies Scenic Drive & Glenwood Canyon, Colorado
Top of the Rockies Scenic Drive & Glenwood Canyon, Colorado
The next morning we drove north on Hwy. 24 from Leadville on the west leg of the Top of the Rockies Scenic Drive (which took us across Tennessee Pass (10,424 ft.). This time we stopped frequently to look around.
This is an abandoned mining town.
I could have hiked down for a closer look, like this guy in the bottom right did.
But it was a steep climb, so I just zoomed in.
Both the drive in and the drive out on the Top of the Rockies Scenic Drive were incredibly beautiful. We roved around mountain after mountain, one fourteener after another, up and down high mountain passes. An impressive drive. Eventually, we arrived back at I-70 just west of Vail. We continued west on I-70 into Glenwood Canyon. The Interstate through this canyon is an engineering masterpiece. The road follows the Colorado River through a canyon so narrow often the east and west bound lanes are stacked on top of each other. As you can see in these photos.
The Colorado River.
There are several tunnels.
We stopped at a rest area to hike the Hanging Lake Trail. It was rocky and very steep.
But well worth it. Hanging Lake at the end of the trail was a wonder.
There was a higher waterfall feeding into the waterfalls feeding into Hanging Lake.
You could walk behind it.
After sitting down for a while to admire the lake, it was a long rocky way back down.
Near the bottom the Interstate came into view. Almost there.
Then it was back in the motor home to crash. That’s one of several advantages of traveling in a motor home. Your bed is always with you. Anytime you get tired just stretch out in back. After a good rest, it was back onto I-70 to continue west.
Next Location – Rifle Gap State Park, Colorado
Rifle Gap State Park, Colorado
Since we were tired from our hike, we didn’t drive very far on I-70. We exited at Rifle, and drove north on Rte. 13 to north on Rte. 325 to Rifle Gap State Park. We set up on the side of a lake.
That evening after dinner we walked around the campground. We realized we were in Colorado when we saw one camper had set his marijuana plants out to get some sun. The next morning we went exploring. We drove further north on Rte. 325 to Rifle Falls State Park and hiked all around the falls. I don’t know what this was growing on top of this stream.
The falls were running good since it was spring.
You could hike beyond the falls…
…to shallow caves.
You could enter the larger ones.
We also hiked to the top of the falls.
This is the creek feeding into the falls.
And going over it.
The view from the top.
After hiking all around the falls, we backtracked south on Rte. 325 to east on 226 to south on 247 to reach Harvey Gap State Park.
We drove around the lake, then got out to eat lunch, then hiked around the lake.
We returned to our campground and hiked around the lake there. The water looked so cold.
Believe it not, there were people out on it. The kayak wouldn’t be so bad if you were careful, but the paddleboard is a different matter. At least he was wearing a wet suit. But it didn’t look like his dog had one on.
We had another relaxing evening, then early the next morning we drove south to I-70 and continued west.
Next Location – Colorado National Monument, Colorado
Colorado National Monument, Colorado
We drove south from Rifle Gap SP to the city of Rifle, where he got on I-70 and continued west. The drive was uneventful until the Interstate caught up with the Colorado River just beyond Grand Junction. It was much more scenic as the Interstate followed the river into Fruita. We exited there and turned south on Rte. 340. This took us into Colorado National Monument.
A twisting road wound from flat plains up into towering mountains.
There were a lot of bicyclists, and we had to carefully work our way around them. There was not much sight clearance on this twisty road. Also, there were many interesting sights on the route drawing my eyes off the blacktop before, and the bicyclists all around, me.
Near the highest elevation, we came to a visitor center where we could park and explore on foot.
My wife kept urging me to take another step back for this picture.
Notice in the picture I took of her she refused to back up any.
Note the visitor center at the top.
There were also some interesting trees along the way.
We got back in the motor home and continued driving the road that ran along the top of the monument. Of course, we stopped often at scenic vistas.
This picture gives some scale to the monument. See the two people at the railing?
After an afternoon of exploring, we exited the monument and found a private campground near the entrance. Following a late dinner, we walked next door to a Dairy Queen. Blizzards were a good way to cap a beautiful but tiring day.
Next Location – Moab, Utah
The next morning we got back on I-70 at Fruita and continued west. The drive was striking as it followed the Colorado River, with the rugged landscape of McInnis Canyons behind it. Just before reaching Loma the paths of the Interstate and the river diverged Yet it continued to be a scenic drive even without the river as the Interstate plunged into the canyons. We emerged from the conservation area when we crossed from Colorado into Utah. We exited I-70 onto Rte. 128. From here we wouldn’t see an Interstate for weeks. We drove southwest on a rough blacktop road to see the ghost town of Cisco. There wasn’t much to see there except for these critters.
After Cisco, we turned south on Rte. 128. This section of the road was in much better condition. Our route took us back to the Colorado River.
It was a beautiful drive, one of the best of the entire trip.
As always, we picked scenic vistas to get out and stretch our legs.
We also stopped at several small BLM campgrounds along the river, but they were all full. We saw a lot of people from these campgrounds swimming and kayaking in the river. We continued on Rte. 128 along the Colorado River into Moab.
Moab was a huge traffic jam. We checked with Arches NP just north of Moab, but their campgrounds were full. So we drove back into Moab and found a private campground. It was merely a parking lot, with campers squeezed tightly together. What I remember most about this place was the cottonwoods were in bloom and white fuzz filled the air like a snow storm. Everything in the campground was covered in white. We walked around Moab a little, but there wasn’t a lot to see. So we went to bed early in order to get an early start in the morning exploring Arches NP.
Next Location – Arches NP, Utah
Arches NP, Utah
The next morning we got an early start into Arches NP.
As you can see in this picture, there was already a long line to gain entrance. Arches is a very busy national park.
There is a reason for this.
It has singular rock formations.
We pulled over at nearly every stop to look around.
Or course, we parked and hiked to see several formations.
For perspective in size, note the people at the bottom left.
Some formations seem impractical.
Others, just impressive. One arch after another.
How big are some of these arches? Check these photos out.
And still more arches.
And other interesting sights.
It was too much to see in one day. So after we wore ourselves out, we left the park and returned to Moab to crash at our camp site.
Next Location – Arches 2
Arches NP, Utah 2
We rose early the following morning to continue touring Arches. It’s easy going in the morning, but as more and more cars and tour buses pour in, the trails get crowded and the parking lots full. Still, Arches is such a large park it can accommodate crowds. We zipped through the front of the park to reach the point where we had stopped yesterday.
In these photos you can see snow-capped mountains in the background.
We drove deeper into the park.
And stopped for one of my two favorite hikes in Arches.
After, we continued driving and parking to look around.
Then we took the second of my two favorite hikes.
Finally, it was back out to the parking lot.
Exhausted once again after two long hikes, we drove back out.
Of course, we still pulled over to look at interesting stuff that caught our eye.
Finally, we drove out of the park back into Moab to crash once again at out cottonwood-infested campground site. Fun can be so exhausting.
Next Location – Canyonlands NP Island In The Sky District
Canyonlands NP Island In The Sky District, Utah
The next morning we drove north from Moab on Hwy. 191 to left onto Rte. 313. This short drive took us to Horsethief BLM campground. It was primitive with no water whatsoever, but it was an isolated beautiful place. So different from the private campground in Moab where we had been squeezed in for the last 2 nights.
We drove to Canyonlands NP Island In The Sky District and saw the visitor center, then decided to save the rest for tomorrow. We had already spent most of the day in Arches. We returned to Horsethief to spend what was left of the day lazing around our site. The weather had been pleasant, but it turned cold and windy and rainy that night. We got an early start the next morning and spent the entire day in Canyonlands.
We drove all through the park.
We hiked to Mesa Arch
After, I hiked on the Taylor Spring Trail down from the road as far as the cliff face. It was a challenging hike.
You can see how the trail continues down to and across the bottom.
But that wasn’t for me. I had enough trouble getting back up.
I also hiked the Upheaval Dome Trail.
We both hiked the Rim Trail.
Then drove back to Horsethief. It had been a long exhausting day. That night it was even colder than the night before, with rain and sleet.
Next Location – Dead Horse Point State Park, Utah
Dead Horse Point State Park, Utah
That morning we had to work our way through herds of cattle on the way to Dead Horse Point SP. We saw the visitor center then I hiked the West Rim Trail from there to the Colorado River overlook.
We then drove to the Dead Horse Point overlook. It started raining, so we parked the motor home and had lunch, then a short nap. By the time we woke up the rain had stopped. It is so convenient traveling in a motor home, especially such a small one you can take nearly anywhere. We walked to the overlook.
And hiked along the rim. Notice all the puddles from the just-ended rain.
Notice the trail marker. They are all over the trails, makes it hard to get lost.
The view was spectacular.
By the time we got back to Horsethief I wasn’t ready to quit, so I hiked on a trail from the campground that led far into the trees below our site. This is the view of the trees from our site.
After cloudy skies the two previous stormy nights, this night it was clear and, although still cold, a great night for bundling up in a blanket and laying out gazing at the stars.
Next Location – Canyonlands Needles District NP, Utah
Canyonlands Needles District NP, Utah
Early the next morning we left Horsethief and drove back into Moab. We had run our 30 gallon water tank completely dry. We refilled it at a gas station then stopped at a grocery store to stock up on supplies. After, we headed south out on Hwy. 191. I was glad to get out of Moab. The traffic was crazy. It was much better away from the city. We pulled over to see Wilson Arch, which was right alongside the road.
Continuing south on Hwy. 191, we turned west onto Rte. 211. We stopped to see Newspaper Rock.
Here is a Wikipedia article about it:
Newspaper Rock State Historic Monument is a Utah state monument featuring a rock panel carved with one of the largest known collections of petroglyphs. It is located in San Juan County, Utah, along Utah State Route 211, 28 miles (45 km) northwest of Monticello and 53 miles (85 km) south of Moab.
It is along the relatively well-traveled access road into the Needles district of Canyonlands National Park, 12 miles (19 km) from US 191 and 30 miles (48 km) from the park boundary. The 200-square-foot (19 m2) rock is a part of the vertical Wingate sandstone cliffs that enclose the upper end of Indian Creek Canyon, and is covered by hundreds of petroglyphs—one of the largest, best preserved and easily accessed groups in the Southwest. The petroglyphs feature a mixture of human, animal, material and abstract forms.
Newspaper Rock was designated a State Historical Monument in 1961, and was added to the National Register of Historic Places listings in San Juan County, Utah as Indian Creek State Park in 1976.
The first carvings at the Newspaper Rock site were made around 2,000 years ago, left by people from the Archaic, Anasazi, Fremont, Navajo, Anglo, and Pueblo cultures.
The petroglyphs were carved by Native Americans during both the prehistoric and historic periods. There are over 650 rock art designs. The drawings on the rock are of different animals, human figures, and symbols. These carvings include pictures of deer, buffalo, and pronghorn antelope. Some glyphs depict riders on horses, while other images depict past events like in a newspaper. While precisely dating the rock carvings has been difficult, repatination of surface minerals reveals their relative ages. The reason for the large concentration of the petroglyphs is unclear.
The pictures at Newspaper Rock were inscribed into the dark coating on the rock, called desert varnish. Desert varnish is a blackish manganese-iron deposit that gradually forms on exposed sandstone cliff faces owing to the action of rainfall and bacteria. The ancient artists produced the many types of figures and patterns by carefully pecking the coated rock surfaces with sharpened tools to remove the desert varnish and expose the lighter rock beneath. The older figures are themselves becoming darker in color as new varnish slowly develops.
We drove on west on Rte. 211 to Canyonlands Needles District NP. We stopped at the visitor center and learned their campground was full. So we backtracked to just out of the park to a private campground. It was quite beautiful, just as good or better than we could have gotten in the park.
Here’s a better shot of the teepee the campground rented. See the little horned guy on the side of the teepee? I saw that image all over the southwest. It represented a Native American spirt, but I’m not sure from which tribe.
After securing a site, we drove back into the park.
The Dutch Shoe Arch.
Here are some of the camping sites in the park campground we couldn’t get into.
Cactus and a lot of other stuff was blooming.
We returned to our campsite late that afternoon. We had a nice sunset and a beautiful night sky for more star gazing.
Next Location – Canyonlands Needles District NP 2
Canyonlands Needles District National Park 2
Early the next morning we returned to Canyonlands. We got a lot of hiking in. We hiked the Cold Springs Trail, the Pothole Trail, the Roadside Ruin Trail, while I hiked the Slickrock Trail by myself.
Note how well the trail is marked.
In this photo you can see the road. It winds all through the park past some great scenery.
There were some ancient Native American ruins.
And pictographs along the trail.
There were also artifacts of settlers who lived here after the Native Americans.
We returned to out site late that afternoon and crashed after a full day of hiking.
Next Location – Natural Bridges National Monument, Utah
Natural Bridges National Monument, Utah
Early the next morning we drove back out east on Rte. 211 to Hwy. 191, where we turned south. We continued to Blanding, where we found a private campground with hookups. We refilled out water tank, then continued south on Hwy. 191 to Rte.95, where we turned west. Along Rte. 95 passing through Bear Ears National Monument was another beautiful drive.
We turned off onto Rte. 275 and continued west to Natural Bridges National Monument. At the visitor center we learned their campground was full. We continued on through the park, and parked several times to hike.
Ruins of Native American habitation were scattered throughout the park.
We found more blooming cactus.
After we’d hiked our fill, we drove back to Blanding and stayed at the same private campground as before. We weren’t having much luck in Utah with national and state campgrounds.
Next Location – Hite & Glen Canyon, Utah
Hite & Glen Canyon, Utah
We left Blanding and retraced our route to Natural Bridges National Monument, but continued past the Rte. 275 cut-off. We continued on Rte. 95 through Fry Canyon. More beautiful scenery.
On to Hite, located at the northern edge of Lake Powell in Glen Canyon National Recreation Area.
We crossed the Colorado River.
And ascended Glen Canyon.
By the time we came up out of Glen Canyon we were in flat unremarkable scrubland.
Next Location – Goblin Valley State Park, Utah
Goblin Valley State Park, Utah
We drove northwest out of Glen Canyon on Rte. 95. This was flat desolate country with little sign of humanity. At the small one-diner town of Hanksville, Rte. 95 turned into Rte. 24, which we continued north on. We turned west off Rte. 24 onto a gravel road that led us to Goblin Valley State Park.
The park was filled with weirdly-shaped hoodoo pinnacles, where over the years soft sandstone had eroded underneath more solid rock. After setting up in the campground, I hiked the deep narrow winding Entrada Trail through some of these hoodoos that led from the campground to the Goblin Lair, an open field that contained thousands of hoodoos.
Reaching the Goblin Lair, I turned back the way I had come, wanting to save this for the next day.
Early that morning we drove from the campground to the parking lot at Goblin Lair, where we set out on foot to explore all these weird shapes. There were 3 separate fields of these, but we only walked through the nearest.
This one gives some perspective of size.
Some with us.
This was the wall at the back of the first field. Beyond it were two other fields like the one we explored.
There were trails leading all through and around the hoodoos.
It was late morning by the time we wore ourselves out and left the park.
Next Location – Capitol Reef National Park
Capitol Reef National Park, Utah
We drove east out of Goblin Valley State park back to Rte. 24, then turned south. Back to Hanksville, we continued west on Rte. 24 into Capital Reef National Park.
We parked for lunch, then hiked up to see Hickman Natural Bridge.
And here is Hickman Arch
We could get under it.
The hike back out could be just as nice.
And back to the parking lot.
We stopped at the visitor center and learned the campground was full. But a ranger told us of BLM land just outside the park were we could camp for free. So we continued west on Rte. 24 out of the park, and just beyond the park boundary was a field next to the road where dozens of units and tents were already set up. So we pulled in, staked our claim, and camped the night for free.
I still had too much energy, so I climbed the hills we were camped at the foot of. There wasn’t a trail, so I blazed my own.
From on high I could look down on the campers.
Our motor home was parked next to a green bush.
There was a nice view from up there.
I finally reached the top.
Then it was time to come back down. I had a bit of trouble. I thought I had marked my way well, but I couldn’t find the way I had come up. So I had to blaze another trail down. This wasn’t as good a way as how I had come up. It was steeper, and I had to do a lot of hand over hand scrambling and sliding.
But I made it.
We spent a pleasant night there. With this being unpoliced by rangers, I expected a lot of drunkenness and loud music, but everyone was respectful of each other. We spent hours that evening talking to several of the other campers. It was a good experience.
Next Location – Capitol Reef National Park 2
Capitol Reef National Park 2
Early the next morning we drove back into Capitol Reef National Park and took the scenic route south from Rte. 24. We stopped to see a ranch that had been preserved.
Then we drove deeper into the park.
The mountains are tilted here at all kinds of odd angles due to geological pressures.
I am holding my camera level. They really do tilt up like this.
We kept driving deeper and deeper into the park.
The pavement ended at the entrance to Capitol Gorge. We stopped to read about it.
We proceeded into the gorge on a dirt road. This is the advantage to having such a small motor home, you can drive it practically anywhere.
Several miles later we came to the end of the road. We parked and continued on foot.
There were some Native American pictographs along the way.
At the end of the Gorge Trail was the beginning of the Tanks Trail. This went straight up, kickback after kickback.
From here I could look down to some people who had chosen not to climb.
I continued going up. Yet another great hike.
At the top were rainwater-filled depressions. These are the sinks.
This one had dried up.
It looked like most of them were dry.
But a few held water.
There was also an arch up there.
Then it was hike back down.
And hike back out to where we had parked our motor home.
We drove back north the way we had come. There is only one paved road going through the park.
We turned west on Rte. 24. We stopped several times at nice vistas.
We continued west on Rte. 24 out of the park and past where we had spent the previous night. We found a private campground in the small town of Torey, where we had running water and electricity. We crashed for the evening.
Next Location – Rte. 12
Rte. 12, Utah
Torey marks the eastern terminus of Rte. 12, one of the most amazing roads you will ever drive on. It starts out by ascending over 9000 feet to the top of Boulder Mountain.
Here we are nearing the peak.
Coming down off Boulder Mountain, the Hogback Highway…
…which is what Rte. 12 is called, began winding up and down and around and across mountain after mountain. This narrow two-lane blacktop road takes you through some amazing scenery. It’s difficult to keep your eyes on the road, but you have to because there are no guardrails and scant shoulder. You could run off on either side and roll for hundreds of feet down a mountainside. The drive was great fun.
We stopped to eat lunch and stretch our legs at the Escalante National Monument visitor center.
Then continued west on the Hogback.
The scenery continued to amaze.
We came out of the west side Escalante in the little town of Cannonville, ending one of the best drives of my life.
Next Location – Kodachrome Basin State Park
Kodachrome Basin State Park, Utah
…we turned south off Rte. 12 onto Cottonwood Canyon Road. It twisted and turned its way to Kodachrome Basin State Park. We selected a site, then drove all through the park.
We parked and hiked Angel Palace Trail.
Up to the very top.
We had a nice view from on top.
After our hike, we drove to the campground and set up for the night.
But I didn’t want to quit. So I took off on another hike, the Panorama Trail, that took me through the best formations along the bottom.
I came off the loop trail and walked along the road back to the campground.
I got back to the motor home totally exhausted, but exhilarated.
Next Location – Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah
Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah
The next morning we drove from Kodchrome Basin State Park north to Cannonville, where we turned northwest on Rte. 12. At Rte. 63 we turned south. We stopped briefly at the Bryce Canyon visitor center. We continued on south to Bryce Canyon National Park. We secured a good site in the North Campground.
We walked to the visitor center, where we caught a shuttle that took us all around the park. We got off at every stop to look around. Like Kodachrome Basin, the attraction here were the rock formations, only on a much vaster scale.