September 17 – October 10, 2009

    Judy scheduled a race (Melon Run 5K) in Green River, Utah, our first stop leaving Colorado. From there we drove south across the San Rafael Swell, through Capital Reef National Park, to the St. George area where Judy ran in the Swiss Festival 5K in nearby Santa Clara, just a few miles from Snow Canyon State Park where we camped for three days. After a short visit to Zion National Park, we drove into the Arizona Strip to Pipe Springs National Monument, south to Jacob Lake, and then north to Kanab for six days and our volunteer duties at Best Friends Animal Sanctuary. We left Kanab for three days of camping at Kodachrome Basin State Park. On the way back to Nederland we camped in the canyon of the Burr Trail, and stopped at Green River again for a box of melons to enjoy at home. The red hearts on the map show best camping areas described below.


    This was intended to be a trip to explore the western part of the Utah—poking through old mining areas and ghost towns in the relatively unpopulated areas between I-15 and the Nevada border—and for Judy to run some out of state races before arriving in Kanab to work at Best Friends. We did not count on the extreme heat in late September and early October: we had several days above or near 100° which made dry camping in the desolate western part of Utah problematic, especially without shade or air conditioning (yes, we’re a bit soft, and so are the dogs).

    Nor did we anticipate a heartbreaking family tragedy:  the untimely and sudden death of our beautiful, gentle Sophie, who we think ate some poison put out to kill off coyotes, rodents, or other wild animals that are pests to area ranchers on or near BLM lands where we camped and hiked. Three days into the trip, near Torrey, Utah, this is how we described the events of Sunday, September 20:
Bella and Sophie
    [Judy and Sophie had a miserable and unsettling night trying to sleep. At one point Sophie jumped off the bed onto the floor, something she never had done. Judy lifted her back up onto the bed and she spent the rest of the night there, but when Judy woke she found that Sophie had peed in her bed. Worse, she was weak to the point where she couldn’t stand on all four feet and couldn’t hold her head up. It was as if the strength had left her muscles.

    We drove the few miles into Torrey and located an area vet who would see us as soon as we could get to his clinic, in spite of it being early Sunday morning. His place was about 15 miles west of town. Lowell Volden, who was having coffee at the Texaco station from where Judy called, generously offered to lead us to the vet’s place. We followed Lowell down the highway and dirt roads to Dr. King’s house/surgery.

    Dr. Verlin King confessed he is more a large animal vet than a dog or cat vet, but he looked at Sophie while she rested on his exam table, checked her gums (they were very pale) and felt her abdominal area. His best guess, without x-ray facilities, was that she was bleeding internally from either a rupture (perhaps a tumor rupture), or from eating poison preventing her blood from coagulating. He gave her a vitamin K injection to help coagulation. It was the best he could do for her. In any case, he urged us to drive the hour to Richfield where there were two other vets with equipment, though when he tried to phone them he got no response except a phone answering machine.

    We drove to Richfield, several times calling the vets in town, especially Dr. Deon Kelsey who at least left his home phone “for emergencies only.” We left at least three pleas for him to call us back as soon as possible. No response. When we were finally able to locate his clinic, we parked in front and called 911 (sheriff’s office) who sent a very concerned and helpful animal control deputy who contacted everyone he knew who knew Dr. Kelsey, checked where he went to church, checked his house, checked his secretary, and so on. He was not to be found.

    All the time, Judy was holding and comforting Sophie, who was still but whose breathing was quite labored. Shortly after noon, she took her last slow gasps and then very quietly passed away. She looked very comfortably asleep in her cuddle bed as she always did. When the animal control deputy came with another progress report—no news—we told him that Sophie had died and thanked him for all his efforts.

    We wept and mourned her passing, then thought what our next steps might be. Judy called Best Friends Sanctuary to arrange for burial at their cemetery, Angel’s Rest. Mary Pat at Best Friends said there would be a site at Angel’s Rest waiting for us that afternoon. So we drove south. As we were on our way to Kanab, about 130 miles away, we changed our minds: We decided that we wanted to have Sophie’s remains at home where we have graves and memorial markers for Gordie and Phoebe, as well as Michael and Cindy’s Bonnie. We will hang a wind chime in Sophie’s honor at Best Friends Angel’s Rest as we had for Gordie. Judy called Mary Pat back to explain our change of plans, and Mary Pat recommended that we contact Forever Friends Pet Cremation who did cremations for Best Friends in Toquerville, near St. George. Judy called Lisa Van Valkenburg, owner of Forever Friends, who sounded very kind and caring. In addition to cremating Sophie’s body, she would provide a handmade urn and a paw print for us to take home. She agreed to meet us that afternoon. It was a very hard thing to do, but we left Sophie’s body in her care, confident that she would be treated with respect.

    We returned in the morning to pick up Sophie’s ashes and urn from Lisa and her daughter, Angel, who works with her mother. She also gave Judy a card with a personal note and a print of Sophie’s paw next to the message. We could not have found a more wonderful and caring person to carry out our wishes for Sophie’s remains.]
    We spent several days in nearby Hurricane (pronounced HER-a-cun) at the very comfortable Willowind RV Park, coping as well as we could with the loss of our beloved Sophie and deciding whether to return home or continue with our trip. For two days we sat and talked, we biked, ran, walked Bella, or read, trying to ease the stress and come to grips with the unhappy change in our lives. In the end, we decided that home at that moment would feel especially empty and that the distractions of camping and hiking, as well as working with the dogs and other animals at Best Friends might begin our healing.


    Melon Run. Green River, Utah, is the county seat of Emery County. It boasts the John Wesley Powell River History Museum, located along I-70 on the banks of the Green River. The town is home to an attractive state park, a public golf course, the nearby Crystal Geyser and the San Rafael Swell, maybe the sweetest melons in the country, and nearly 1,000 folks who seem to be hanging on to a way of life that has gone through economic ups and downs.

    [How and why does a town go ghost? If the mine fails or if an industry goes belly up, the reasons are clearer. We don’t know what’s going on here, but you see in an instant that Green River is in transition: Empty buildings seem to outnumber the open stores; there is now only one small grocery store; the once-proud bank—built of brick to endure forever—in the heart of town had, on our last visit two years ago, been taken over by a T-shirt/souvenir shop, and today even that is boarded up. Only motels and gas stations thrive, though several gas stations and motels lie derelict along the main street. For a town that relies on tourism, Green River seems headed in the wrong direction.]

    However, melons remain their pride and joy. Family growers, like the Veteres, the Thayns, and the Dunhams, have built a reputation for raising the sweet melons over a half century. The annual Melon Days festival honors the local cantaloupes, Crenshaws, watermelons, canaries, Israelis, honeydews, and honeyloupes. The festival events include a craft show and sale with kids activities and free melon on the lawn of the attractive city park; a very entertaining hour-long parade featuring two marching bands and every fire vehicle, old and new, except for the ancient ladder engine with four flat tires; and, for the first time, the Melon Run. This low-tech, hand timed, paper and pencil 5K race attracted about 50 local runners and one older lady from out of town. Judy was the fourth female and seventh overall. Judy was pleased with her time: 27:11 for the 3.13 miles as measured on her GPS that she wears on her wrist. She agreed it was fun and her reward was all the watermelon she could eat.

judyrunning    •Swiss Days 5K. Just west of St. George is the small town of Santa Clara that honors its Swiss heritage by hosting an annual festival that features family oral histories, pie baking competitions, a “Little Swiss Mister and Miss” pageant, historical tours, and individually decorated cows in front of many homes in town.

judywithmedal    With nearly 600 runners, their 5K race is the biggest fundraiser for the community. With daytime high temperatures predicted to be near 100°, the race started in the pre-dawn light and finished just about the time the sun came up. The course wound through town, ending at the town hall where a generous and delicious pancake breakfast was served up, followed by awards and speeches. Judy’s time was good enough to win her age group and finish 70th out of 270 women. The scoring was efficient and prompt: about every five minutes, someone from the scoring team would bring several sheets of printed cards with runners' names, times, place, etc. and put them on a table so individual runners could get their personal results on a card.

    The parade that followed was a terrific typical small town event: three marching bands plus a spirited German oompah-pah quartet, local organization floats, majorettes, an old timers float, kids in traditional Swiss costumes, farm vehicles, old cars, a tank and other military stuff all followed by fire department vehicles. A ton of candy was tossed all along the route. We also stopped at several garage sales along the main street that had a few bargains which we picked up.

    [Speaking of purchases, we should go on record that we celebrated our 48th wedding anniversary a few days before with an exchange of gifts, which is not something we usually do. This year, however, we each received two decks of “Bicycle” brand bridge cards and we each now have a beaded seat cover for the long days of sitting in the RV. We are easily pleased, aren’t we?]
    On our return to Snow Canyon where we were camping, we drove to the small boutique community of Kayenta where well-off retirees live in high desert adobe-style homes at the base of scenic red rock cliffs in a planned a neighborhood with a swimming pool, tennis courts, lots of building restrictions, plenty of space between homes, a few expensive retail shops, and a place to have coffee and buy a paper. It might be very nice, we thought, for about six months of the year for some folks.


    Kanab is not a large town; just under 4,000 folks live there. It’s small enough to bicycle everywhere, but there are enough shops, stores, and sights to hold our interest for two days. We arrived a day or two early for our scheduled volunteer time at Best Friends, so we made it a point to see as much of town as we could. It was part of our “slow down“ strategy. We visited the historical museum and saw photos of early settlers, memorabilia about families, schools, and local organizations. The curator was a very pleasant woman who was happy to chat with us about the town's history. In the basement of the museum is an art gallery with a fine display of works by local photographers.
Angel Canyon
    The two grocery stores in town have about anything you need; there are several hardware (including Ace and Tru Value) and auto supply stores; there are three movie houses all of which operate on a part-time basis; the thrift shop is worth only a quick stop; and there are plenty of places to eat. We had lunch the first day at Lotsa Motsa Pizza, which offered a buffet lunch for two with fine tasting pizza, a really good salad bar, hot chili or soup, and dessert sticks, all for $2.50/person with a special coupon from the Hitch-N-Post RV Park. For lunch it’s hard to beat.

    Another nice thing about Kanab is the array of towers and antennae that stand tall on the vermilion cliffs overlooking town. Area residents have great cell phone and internet service, and a wide range of digital television stations are easily available. By the time we moved out of town to Best Friends just five miles to the north, we lost internet and television reception, though cell service remained strong.

    Angel Canyon, located along the Kanab River five miles north of town, is the 3,700-acre home to the country’s largest no-kill animal shelter. (Best Friends also leases another 33,000 acres from the BLM.) Before Best Friends came along, the canyon was first home to dinosaurs (visitors can follow their tracks etched in the sandstone left from Jurassic ponds and lakes); petroglyphs and caves attest to native cultures living there as far back as 6,000 BCE; European settlers seeking good pastures and protection from outsiders during the Mormon invasion of the 19th century; and Hollywood filmmakers lured by authentic backdrops for movie and TV westerns well into the 1980s. Today, the canyon is home to upwards of 1,500 animals—mostly dogs, cats, birds, bunnies, horses, and pigs—who are sick, have been abandoned, or have special needs, that are brought to Best Friends to be healed and cared for until they are adopted. The few who are too old, too sick, or too injured for adoptions live out their natural lives in the care of Best Friends.  The entire undertaking is supported exclusively by donations.
RV at Best Friends
    Volunteering at the Sanctuary is another way we help support Best Friends. We give our time to socialize, feed, and clean up after the animals, and have a working vacation at the same time. This year we planned five days working with dogs at “Dogtown,” featured on the National Geographic Channel program of the same name, as well as short stints with the birds and horses. We may never work with cats or rabbits, but at least one of us is going to work with the growing number of pigs on our next visit.

     We made reservations to park the RV at their new “RV Park,” a beautifully situated two-site area with all hook-ups that overlooks the canyon and Kanab River a mile from the Visitors Center. (You can just make out our white RV through the trees. Plenty of shade is a real benefit much of the year when the sun can be very intense.) In the past we have left the dogs in the RV for the day, returning at noon break to check on them and give them some exercise. This year, Bella was unhappy and unsettled being left alone which she let us know the first morning we went to work. We immediately changed our planned schedule: Hughes worked mornings, while Judy stayed with Bella—hiking, relaxing, etc.—and Judy worked in the afternoon. We went back and forth to our assignment on our bicycles, about 5-6 miles each way. The weather was blessedly cooler than we had experienced the previous part of the trip. In fact, one night the water hose froze when the temperature dipped well below freezing.
Hughes and Bella
    If you are interested in spending time volunteering at Best Friends, check with them online, perhaps visiting and taking a tour before you plan to volunteer; you’ll need a place to stay (Best Friends rents cabins and cottages as well as the two RV sites; there are several good motels in Kanab five miles away) and indicate your preferences for animals to work with. We can’t speak for bunnies, cats, or pigs, but working with the dogs involves some cleaning duties, but most of the time is spent walking the dogs—20-30 minutes per dog—and socializing the animals. An assignment with horses involves taking hay and feed to the several pastures on the property, some grooming, and, of course cleaning pastures near the main buildings. Volunteers in the bird area (mostly exotics: parrots, macaws, etc.) clean cages and floors, and provide food and water. In the hot seasons, when the birds are outside, they do like to get cool showers with the hose. There is a wide variety of classes for volunteers on everything from drawing to animal care.

    We spent a little time at the end of each day exploring the canyon near where we parked the RV and climbing to the caves across the road from our camping spot. Hughes introduced Bella to riding in his backpack, which came in handy riding through Kodachrome Basin State Park, as well as at Best Friends. She never protested; in fact, she seemed to like it more each time we put her in it. We also checked the memorial we placed at Angel’s Landing in honor of Gordie who came with us from Ohio and taught Sophie the dog lore of our mountain area: where squirrels and rabbits hide, how to handle elk, bears, and deer, ways of avoiding coyotes, and dealing with the much larger dogs that are more frequently found in mountain homes. Sophie passed that knowledge on to Bella; the two were a great team for sniffing our rabbits, voles, chippies and other small critters. We have arranged for Sophie to have a memorial at Angel’s Landing near Gordie’s.

 Snow Canyon State Park  
In addition to RV parks in Hurricane and Kanab, we found excellent camping at the following campgrounds:
    •Snow Canyon State Park. We needed a place to camp near Santa Clara while Judy was preparing for the race, and Snow Canyon State Park, a little over ten miles north of Santa Clara, provided us with comfortable camping in an area of spectacular scenery with great hiking and biking. The narrow canyon is about 12 miles long (all uphill from the south entrance to the end of the park road) and less than five miles wide, yet there are over a dozen hiking trails through varied landscapes, as well as paved and gravel roads for biking. Technical climbers will find over 170 designated routes covering the face of the Navajo sandstone cliffs. Our plan for a simple overnight expanded to three nights.

Hughes and Bella   Electricity and water hook-ups are available for RVs in the 14 closely bunched sites near the ranger station. Another 17 sites for tents or trailers are nicely spaced for privacy without hook-ups. Hot showers are, of course, for everyone, as is the most important feature of the park: the shaded lawn area where one can sit or lie on the grass in the warmest weather and yet be comfortable because of the shade trees. With temperatures at or above 100°, we hiked in the morning, relaxed and read on the lawn in the afternoon, and took an early evening hike or bike ride while the sun was going down. The Whiptail Trail (paved) and the West Canyon Road (gravel) were great for leisurely biking, a chance to see a great variety of scenery. The Hidden Pinyon Trail (It took a while, but we managed to find the lone pinyon tucked away amid the more prevalent Utah junipers), the Petrified Dunes Trail, and the Lava Flow Trail let us experience the total variety of the park’s geology. Returning from each of the hikes, our boots and socks were stained from fine red dust; Bella’s wheat-colored coat was as red as the Navajo sandstone. (Another feature of Snow Canyon and other Utah State Parks: pets are allowed on leash on all trails.)
Kodachrome Pipe
     •Kodachrome Basin State Park. Nine miles of paved road south of Cannonville off scenic State Route 12 is one of perhaps the most popular and best known of Utah’s state parks. Named by the National Geographic Society with the consent of the Kodak Film company because of the variety of contrasting colors in the sandstone formations (and, we suspect, to promote the recent release in 1948 or 1949 of Kodachrome film), Kodachrome Basin State Park also protects nearly 70 monolithic sand “pipes” created by injections of liquefied sand shot through the sandstone base rock. Erosion left the remnants of these pipes standing like giant fingers protruding from the ground. The result is an array of spectacular and unique formations seemingly placed at random throughout the park area.

    Hiking in Kodachrome is excellent: short hikes
(Angel’s Palace, Panaorama Point, and Sentinel Trails) lead to vistas that stretch to the edge of Bryce Canyon . Longer hikes (Cool Cave and Grand Parade Trails) pass hidden slot canyons and shadowy caves. The half-mile paved Nature Trail was an excellent opportunity to learn to identify the variety of plant life in this high desert region. On our final day, we drove to the trailhead to explore Shakespeare Arch, and to the site of Chimney Rock, an outlying monolith pictured in the September, 1949, issue of National Geographic Magazine.
Cool Cave
    Camping in the park is scenic, fairly private, and made comfortable even in warmer weather because of shade trees at every site. However, we lucked into the one site in the park that had electricity, water, and sewer hook-ups, plus internet service, plenty of privacy and our own spotless washrooms—all for a few dollars more than the regular campsites without any hook-ups. How did we do that?? Judy asked when we checked in, not in a whiney voice she assured me, if there were any sites with electricity. (After all, we expected below freezing temperatures at night and we wanted to keep warm with our space heater.) Yes, the ranger said. The host site near the ranger station was available now that the host had left for the season, and we could have that site for a few dollars more. Judy said that was good for her. Being close enough to the ranger station gave us wi-fi connection we hadn’t counted on nor were we told about. However, we were also a mile from most of the trailheads. Rather than walk a mile on the paved road, we put Bella in Hughes
s small backpack and biked to the trails near the campground. Bella seemed to really enjoy the ride and we saved two miles of walking on pavement each day.

    As most visitors to the park will agree, in addition to the hiking, the best feature of Kodachrome was the opportunity for taking great photos—of landscapes and vistas, unusual and imaginative formations, and desert plants. It was hard to choose from among the scores of images we captured which ones to include on this website or to make prints of for our album.
Hughes on Bicycle
     •Zion National Park. We were a few miles from Zion National Park poking through the ghost town of Grafton across the Virgin River from Rockville, and we remembered how impressed we were when we last visited Zion. So, that afternoon we decided to take a chance on finding an available campsite in this very popular park. We got one of the last two sites in the South Campground, a first come first served area with 180 sites without hook-ups. It took us a while to level the RV (which was likely why it was one of the very last sites to be taken), but we had shade and were next to the Pa’rus Trail, a scenic paved pathway for walkers and bicycles that runs several miles along the Virgin River from the Visitors Center to the Scenic Drive Junction.

    We had visited Zion a few years ago and hiked the major trails (Angel’s Landing, the Narrows, et al.). They were memorable hikes. This trip we had only one full day (and a dog who had to stay behind in the RV—park regulations), so we opted to ride our bikes to the Zion Lodge (not one of the “great“ lodges in spite of its inclusion in a book by the same title; the original lodge burned in 1966 and was rebuilt in three months.) and walk the Emerald Pools Trail System. This easy, short (three miles round trip) multi-path trail leads to a small oasis of water seepage and a thin waterfall (at least at this time of the year) cascading over a large rock face overhang. It’s a lovely spot with nice canyon views. The first evening we attended a campfire program on the geology of Zion by a young woman who grew up near Boulder, Colorado. Another evening we attended a less interesting campfire talk on stars/constellations. Some just have a knack for presenting information in a more interesting manner than others.
Emerald Pool Waterfall
    [It’s odd that we still call these evening programs “campfire talks” because we remember when there was a campfire at the site of the talk, but it’s been years since we been to one that actually had a campfire. In fact, our memories go back to when there would be group singing before the program, sometimes with a piano that was rolled out from behind the stage/platform to accompany the group.]

    •Jacob Lake National Forest Campground (Arizona).
When we finally left the Zion-St. George area to make our way to Kanab, we had the choice to drive east through Zion (waiting as all vehicles over 11' in height must in order to drive one-way through the tunnels that were built when cars were smaller and narrower); or we could drive south through the Arizona Strip and reach Kanab from the south via Pipe Springs National Monument and Fredonia, Arizona. We had never been to Pipe Springs and knew nothing of the reason for its existence. We did know that if we drove a few miles out of our way to the south, in the direction of the north rim of the Grand Canyon, we would reach higher elevations where temperatures would be well below the 95° range we had endured the past couple of weeks.

    [The Arizona Strip, one of the last strongholds of the practice of polygamy, is the area of northern Arizona that extends from the Utah border to the Colorado River, which can’t be crossed except at the northwest tip of Arizona (I-15 goes about 20 miles through the towns of Beaver Dam and Littlefield as it hurtles down to Las Vegas) or on the east side over Navajo Bridge bridge and the Glen Canyon Dam Bridge. It is a bleak area where few people have ever lived, save for small groups of Paiutes and, temporarily, cattle ranchers. Its significance to folks in Utah and Arizona is that Brigham Young claimed this area as part of his Mormon Empire and worked unsuccessfully to retain it when Utah became a state.
Pipe Springs NM
    We passed through the infamous neighboring border towns of Hildale (Utah) and Colorado City (Arizona). We did not see any of the alleged Mormon polygamists living there: actually it’s only the women who can be spotted, because of their identical hairstyles and their identical dresses, and the small groups in which they seem to travel. We suspect the men would “pass” anywhere.

    Pipe Springs National Monument, which is located on the Kaibab Indian Reservation, ironically is a tribute to Mormon settlers who built a fortification around a natural spring to protect other Mormons from attacks by Paiutes and Navajos whose land was being invaded. Our docent-guide seemed unaware of such historical contradictions as she proudly took us through the grounds of the fort which was restored by church and public funds. We were told by a ranger that it depends upon the guide of the day which historical perspective visitors learn.

    South of Fredonia the land rises from the high desert of the Paria Plateau into the Kaibab National Forest. Juniper and sagebrush give way to ponderosa and spruce forests. At 8,000' we left the heat behind and relished the cool comfort of a landscape more like home.  Jacob Lake names a crossroad settlement (motel, gas station, RV park, and small grocery all in one), a postage stamp size pond, and a national forest campground where the wind whispers through pines and the paths are softened by millions of needles that cushion the otherwise rocky ground. We shared the campground with a handful of other folks and saw no other hikers on our walks into the nearby woods. This is not a destination, but rather an overnight way-station for those traveling to and from the Grand Canyon. We did, however, enjoy the cooler weather at least for a day.



    Ghost Towns.
Grafton Utah
       Grafton, Utah, is an old Mormon farming town—primarily cotton—gone ghost on the south side of the Virgin River from Rockville, just few miles from the entrance to Zion National Park. At the end of two miles of good road, both paved and dirt, we found the cemetery and some of the original and reconditioned buildings along with information on how and when the community developed. A good effort by several local and state groups is successfully capturing the history of this once important town. Be warned: The road south past the cemetery, which connects with the Smithsonian Butte Scenic Backway, and on to SR 59 halfway between Hurricane and Hildale, is intended for 4-Wheelers and ATVs.
    [Just before the outbreak of the Civil War, Mormon immigrants from South Carolina asked Brigham if he would relocate them to a place where they could raise cotton as they had in “Dixie” just before the Civil War; Brigham granted their wish and sent them to this area. Grafton and elsewhere in SW Utah became, or had already become know as “Dixie,” which accounts for St. George’s Dixie State College, Dixie National Forest, as well as lots of Confederate Flags, photos of Jefferson Davis, and similar connections that show up here and there.]
Silver Reef
       Silver Reef, Utah, just off I-75 18 miles north of St. George, bet its future on silver mining. John Kemple discovered silver in 1866, but only when he returned eight years later that he found the source in a most unlikely spot: a vein that ran through the local sandstone—the only spot in the country where that geologic phenomenon occurs. Within a year the town of Bonanza City boomed with grocery stores, a half dozen saloons, a post office, several restaurants, and a Wells Fargo office. Bonanza City was soon renamed Rockpile and finally Silver Reef. The bust came around 1886 when mine owners lowered miners’ wages and the price silver dropped, turning Silver Reef into a
ghost town. Attempts to revive the town persisted several times through the 20th century, but each failed. Today, pricey modern houses are being built on the site of Silver Reef, creating a neighborhood that abuts the derelict buildings from the town’s mining heyday. The Cosmopolitan Restaurant boasts gourmet dining—“reservations recommended!“—next to the Museum and Art Gallery across from the historic Wells Fargo building.

    Off the Main Roads.

San Rafael Swell        San Rafael Swell. Surrounding Green River and on either side of I-70 is a large area multi-colored sandstone, buttes, slot canyons, reefs, mesas, and rugged pinnacles left over from a prehistoric ocean. Erosion and upheavals created one of this country’s most imposing and beautiful natural wonders. The government folks who write brochures for the BLM are skilled in persuading visitors to use the public lands under their jurisdiction. As we left Green River, we read through a brochure and looked at the photos about the
San Rafael Swell. We were persuaded to drive through that area instead of going straight to Hanksville on SR 24. We turned off on a pretty good graded dirt road at exit 131 (Ranch Road) and headed for Goblin Valley State Park about 30 miles away. The road surface was mildly rough, occasionally washboard, and uncomfortable in a few places. The stove, dishes, the contents of our bathroom cabinet and overhead compartments flew around as we dipped and bumped our way along roads intended for high clearance, 4-wheel drive vehicles. In fact, for the next couple of hours we saw only two trucks and several groups of ATVs. We were not able, because of some very tough roads, to see all the areas described. We did stop to hike around what looked like the remains of some early exploratory digging, but were rewarded with the solitude of the region and views of canyons and cliffs and high desert scrub.
Utah Petroglyph
    We’d heard some talk about making this area a national monument or national park to protect the natural beauty and cultural artifacts (petroglyphs can be found throughout the Swell), but our suspicion is that the BLM is doing just fine providing a network of trails for ATVs and 4-wheelers, with dispersed camping throughout. We saw not a single animal during our time in the area, so wildlife protection is not an issue. The Swell has its devotees, and several books area available on its geology, history, etc. (e.g., Stone House Lands: The San Rafael Swell by Joseph M Bauman, Jr. [Un. of Utah Press, 1987]). However, the area is an acquired taste and it’s not for everyone.

Tunnel at Red Canyon       State Route 12. Technically, State Route 12 is a main road, but one that can be overlooked by travelers heading through the state in a hurry to reach Salt Lake City, Las Vegas, the Grand Canyon, Denver, or San Francisco. R
ecognized as an American Scenic Byway, SR 12 starts on the south near Panguich and turns east through Red Canyon (shown in the photo here), a spectacular area of vibrant red sandstone formations that are the equal of anything in Bryce. A paved bicycle path has been recently constructed and will ultimately be completed near the town of Tropic nearly 20 miles away. It is is well worth stopping at the trailhead and taking a quiet, leisurely ride through this remarkably scenic canyon. Continuing to the north and east, you pass through Cannonville (erroneously listed as a ghost town in many sources, and where you turn to Kodachrome); Hennrieville (where a major CCC camp housed hundreds of men through most of the 1930s until WW II); Escalante and Boulder (the 27 miles between these two small towns offers visitors some of the most awesome and varied geologic formations anywhere in the country. There aren’t enough pull-outs to take all the photos you’d like.); and north into the higher elevations and tall trees area of Fishlake National Forest where the camping is outstanding. The end comes in Torrey where SR 12 intersects with State Route 24 and travelers can choose to go east to Capital Reef National Park, or west to Richfield or Salina and I-70. SR 12 is 120 miles of great diversity and landscapes that will take your breath away.

       Hell’s Backbone. Hell’s Backbone Road is a 30-mile loop road of good graded gravel that connects Escalante and Boulder on the north side of SR 12. The road passes by ranches, climbs through thick growths of ponderosa and spruce,
approaches the Box-Death Hollow Wilderness Area, and national forest camping, both dispersed camping and at two campgrounds that are open seasonally. On this trip our interest was in locating what was supposed to be a prime area for finding good jasper, that blood red agate that polishes into beautiful pieces for jewelry. To get there, we drove to Boulder and turned north on the Hell’s Backbone road. We drove only five miles up, past ranches and green pastures that belie the name of the area, to a spot where red jasper and agate litter the ground just off the road. It was as James Mitchell described in Gem Trails of Utah (Gem Guide Book Co., 2006): “The agate and jasper is so brilliantly red here that you can actually see it among the pine needles from your vehicle as you travel.” You got it right this time, James. We carried off all we could stuff in our pockets.
Entering Long Canyon
       The Burr Trail. We had known about the Burr Trail, but had avoided it in the past because we were not sure of how good the surface is. The trail (which is, of course, really a road) begins in Boulder, enters Long Canyon (shown in the photo) about five miles later, and continues for some 67 miles through The Grand Staircase–Escalante National Monument, across the south part of Capital Reef National Park, and ends at Bullfrog Marina on Lake Powell. We learned when we stopped at the Monument Headquarters in Cannonville, that the first 31 miles of the Burr Trail is paved. The next portion through Capital Reef is rough dirt, and the last 15 or so miles to Bullfrog is also paved. That gave us the green light to take our RV at least the first 31 miles, which includes one of the most scenic areas we visited in the entire trip. The National Park Service provided a mile by mile description of what visitors can see along the Burr Trail.
Camping On Burr Trail
        The drive through the narrow red sandstone of Long Canyon on the Burr Trail is spectacular. We could have stopped for photos every minute of the way. The sheer walls and formations we passed through almost shoulder to shoulder reminded us of Canyon de Chelly at its finest. Like most of Utah, the landscape changed from flat farming areas to dramatic cliffs to open valleys and flat high desert. The small campground at Deer Creek
(six sites, no water, $4/night) has lots of cottonwoods for shade, but we found the quietest place on earth for our overnight on the banks of an unnamed wash about five miles from the end of the pavement. Surrounded by juniper and pinions, we parked our rig in a secluded flat area 100 yards off the Burr Trail where we walked the creek bed in search of rocks and petrified wood. We sat in the shade for our afternoon cocktails and listened to birds and crickets as the sun set. While we were there we were the only people for miles: no sounds, no traffic, no movement, and so many stars! We will return again, the next time for several days of hiking and mountain biking using this spot for our base camp.

In the Cuddle Bec
     Losing Sophie was losing a member of the family. If you have pets, you know the heartbreak when an animal is taken from you. Three weeks since returning we are still grieving. We will get through the experience, but we’ll not get over it. If you’ve lost a pet—a member of your family—you know the truth of this.
    However, good advice from friends convinced us that adopting another dog would help both us and Bella, who has not ever known life without Sophie and who mourned the loss of Sophie in her way as much as we have. After a couple of weeks being home Judy worked the internet for days looking for just the right dog to become Bella’s new best friend. A week went by before we found Lucy, who, Judy maintains, is Sophie’s gift to us. In so many ways Lucy has many of Sophie’s traits: she’s alert, curious, and a quick learner; she is friendly toward people and other dogs, especially Bella.
She is a four year old poodle-bichon mix presently with short white hair (a close cut at the shelter) and very pink skin and has had at least one litter of puppies. After just one week with us, she and Bella already share cuddle beds and sleep together, and Judy knows she will become a hospital therapy dog just as Sophie was. She has won our hearts. Best of all, she makes us all happy again.

Judy and Hughes Moir
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