Category Archives: BLM

The San Rafael Swell, Utah and North to Idaho.

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The San Rafael Swell is, like the Waterpocket Fold at Capitol Reef, an uplift.  The swell runs for many miles from just north of Hanksville, Utah, north through the I-70 corridor almost up to Price.  We had not really planned on driving through the Swell, but Cheryl found a road that would allow us to spend a couple of days driving through and still end up on our planned route.

The 1012 Road

The road, the 1012 road, is what’s known as an improved gravel road, suitable, that is, for most on-road vehicles, but still may be rough, rutted and washboarded.

In a vehicle like ours which is large and heavily loaded, even though it has high clearance and 4 wheel drive, most roads like this are good for about 15 – 25 MPH, sometimes as much as 45 MPH, but that is rare so a 40 or 50 mile trip can take quite a while.  The road varies from well graded red dirt / gravel. to bare rough slickrock.  There’s also lot’s to see and plenty of real nice campsites so we decided to make it a 2 day trip and spend the night somewhere along the way.

Now, in truth we did not get to see much of what makes the San Rafael Swell so attractive.  It is full of beautiful canyons, some historical towns and mining sites, and lots of great hiking.  We’ll have to go back sometime to get to that stuff, this was just a quick trip through.  We found a great campsite.

The campsite was absolutely quiet, and we had a great sunset.

And a fabulous sunrise.

Cheryl also managed to catch a couple of good shots on the way out the next morning. 


The San Rafael Reef.

On the way north we got sidetracked by a Forest Service road leading to “Soldiers Summit”, which we never found.  We did, however find an very nice campsite in an Aspen Grove about 6 miles up the road.

We ended up staying for 3 days. It was a beautiful spot and we knew the weather north of us was iffy at best.  The road by the campsite went on forever, with multiple forks leading who knows where, but one in particular looked like a good bike ride.  It was tough, uphill all the way for about 3 miles to a magnificent view of the mountains.  Fun coming back down.

The Aspens positively lit up in the late afternoon sun.

Afternoon Sun on the Aspen Grove.

There wasn’t much for wildlife, just some birds and this inquisitive little prairie dog.  This was an interesting section of the Uinta National Forest because much of the land was still held on private hands…and they were sure to let you know which sections.

Serious about KEEP OUT.

Well, north to Idaho didn’t quite work out as we planned because the weather was still socked in in Idaho, the kids weren’t ready to move into the new house, and we found this interesting little place on the map called Mount Timpanogus in the Wasatch Cache National Forest just south of Salt Lake.


Wolverton Mill, Hanksville, Utah

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On our way north from Capitol Reef we stopped at a BLM visitor center to view the Wolverton Mill, a historic gold mining operation.  The mill was located in the nearby Henry Mountains and has been relocated and recreated here in Hanksville.  The only original part of the mill is the impressive overshot water wheel and some of the iron fittings for the wheel and the crushing mill.  We only have this one picture but here’s a link to the BLM information handout on Wolverton Mill.  It’s amazing to see what people accomplished in an era that we often consider as void of technology.

The Wolverton Mill

P. S. I know someone is going to mention it so right from the better writing skills guide “A historic is more common in online writing, but both usages are sufficiently common to be considered correct”. 🙂

Valley of the Gods, Utah – A special hike and a storm.

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Arroyo, wash, draw, dry wash, slough,…Call it what you will it is basically a dry creek bed, that flows only during times of high water.  There was a pretty good size wash just behind our campsite so on the last day at the Valley of the Gods we decided to see where it goes.  When free hiking in the desert, that is “off Trail” there are certain rules to follow. First and foremost, Don’t damage the “Crypto”.  Crypto is cryptobiotic crust, a combination of red or brown sand, some small amount of moisture, and minute plant life that binds it all together into a crust about as tough as pie crust.  It’s tough enough to keep the wind form blowing the soil away, but not tough enough to withstand a footstep.  When damaged, it can take decades to repair itself and vital soil may be lost before the crust re-establishes itself.  Therefore, off trial hiking is done on durable surfaces such as rock or gravel and in washes which periodically get rinsed out anyway so there is no permanence to the wash soil.

Crptobiotic Crust

There was actually a small flow of water near the beginning of our hike, but it was due to a small seep or spring, not an actual creek.

In the beginning

Long nosed leopard lizard

Long Nosed Leopard Lizard

Up the wash

Red blvd

The Red Boulevard.

Walking the red blvd

Most washes are primarily sand and gravel with boulders strewn about, this one, near the beginning, had long stretches of red slickrock, sandstone smooth enough that you could drive on it.  We’ve done lot’s of wash hikes and never seen one like this.  It was like a solid rock road.

Walking blue blvd

The Blue Boulevard.

After a mile or so of red slickrock we passed through a gravel area and then found blue slickrock for another half mile.

Close up red purple blvd

Purple and blue blvd

The Red, Blue, and Purple, Boulevard.

Finally we found several sections of red and blue mixed together, often with purple highlights, and inclusions of various types in the rock.


Funny rock

Shortly after we got back from the hike, the wind blew up and storm clouds started to build all around us.

Wind+ desert=

Post storm rainbow

Post Storm Rainbow.

Rainbow over TC

Where we went

When the storm cleared we could see back into the layers of canyons where we had hiked. The storm finally blew itself out and presented us with a beautiful sunset.

Sunset in the VALLEY

Sunset – Valley of the Gods.

The next morning was Saturday and in the distance we could see the dust trails of cars and trucks heading into the valley so we left for Lake Powell.

Someone s comin

Valley of the Gods, Utah – The Valley

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Valley of the Gods is in the BLM area of southeastern Utah, just north of Monument Valley in Arizona. The valley is a flat arid plain riddled with huge sandstone monoliths and rising in the north to Cedar Mesa. A 17 mile gravel road traverses the valley, winding around the monoliths and skirting the southern edge of the canyons of cedar Mesa.  There are ample dispersed camping sites along the road.  There are no facilities and the rules are leave no trace, anything you bring in, take out.  Perfect territory for a self contained unit like our truck camper.  There is not much to say about the area so I’ll let the pictures do the talking.

The getting there

TC at Valley of Gods

In the land of red and green

In the morning light

Sun on towers

View from Our Campsite

Sunrise on the cliffs

Sunrise on the Cliffs

NewTC friends

We met some Truck Campers from Washington State.

The road out of the Valley

Leaving the Valley of the Gods to head north is via the “Moki Dugway”.  The Moki Dugway is a series of switchback on gravel roads that climbs 1500 feet in 3 miles to ascend Cedar Mesa.  The Dugway was built to allow large haulers to make the journey from the Uranium Mines in Utah to processing areas around Los Alamos, New Mexico during the “Cold War”.  It’s a fun trip.

Moki Dugway warning

A camper on the Moki

A camper on the Moki Dugway


art therapy in India

Winter in the Desert, Summer in the Mtns

Sharing our love of America's Natural Wonders


Sharing our love of America's Natural Wonders