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Exploring Southern Utah, 2017

November brings some colder and wetter days to central Oregon.  It was time to head south, for a week, southern Utah was the destination.  It’s a bit of a drive to get there so the first day was all windshield time.  We ended the day just as dark settled in at Cathedral Gorge State Park in Nevada.  It seemed like a nice spot but it wasn’t until morning that we were able to get oriented.  The sun was just up as we headed out but we stopped to take a look around before hitting the road.  It looked like an interesting place surrounded by highly eroded hills.

Cathedral Gorge

A sign indicated that this picnic ramada was built by the CCC’s in 1934.  1934!  They have apparently done a bit of maintenance on the willow thatch roof every so often, but what a testament to the value of the work done in those days.

Picnic Ramada

After that it was on to our first destination, Zion National Park.  Arriving on a Saturday we found the typical crowds encountered in most national parks these days.  We were still able to find a place to camp that allowed a place to base a days worth of exploration out of.

Kolob Canyon, Zion National Park

The view from camp was entirely acceptable.

Zion Camp View

We didn’t get too far of the beaten track but took a good tour of the canyon and enjoyed the fall colors on the cottonwoods as well as a couple hikes. With temps in around 70 it was a pleasant day to see the sights.

Zion Vista


Emerald Pools


Zion Canyon


Prickly Pear

The days start getting so short in November that it seems like the day just got started and it is already coming to a close.  That would become the recurring theme of the trip.


Evening Shadows on Rimrock


Weeping Wall


Last Light on the Rimrock



We enjoyed a nice night around the fire and were up early the next day to keep us moving to the main reason we came to southern Utah, the White Rim Trail, but more about that in another post.  For today the first stop was Bryce.


Rainbow Point

Bryce is near the top of the list as far as favorite parks I’ve visited.  High elevation forests coupled with awesome rock formations and great hiking.  This time around we decided there wasn’t enough time to get into a good hike so it was just some sightseeing from the rim, but there are plenty of sights to see.


Bryce Canyon


Bryce Close Up


Bryce Trails

Next up, to keep things moving in the direction of the White Rim but also experience an area I hadn’t seen yet we headed to the Burr Trail.



We started out in the small town of Boulder, received the obligatory warning and continued on.  We were treated to quite a sight through impressive geology and canyons of red rocks.




Four Wheel Hits the Burr Trail



Pavement transitioned to dirt, then we approached the waterpocket fold.  The waterpocket fold is a 100 mile long monocline located in Capital Reef National Park.  The Burr trail is one of the few roads that cross the fold and the switchbacks are pretty impressive.


Burr Trail Switchbacks


Burr Switchbacks From Below

The dramatic drop was soon behind us and the followed the fold north to our camp that night at the tiny Cedar Mesa Campground.  As the sun went down the coyotes started talking.  They carried on for quite a while as we enjoyed the warmth of the campfire.  The next morning they were up to their antics again which made me wonder if they had a den nearby.  Regardless, it made the camp a special one, with coyote serenades at dusk and dawn.

Next day we were up early again, always moving in the direction of the White Rim. I was really impressed with Capital Reef and hope to explore it more in the near future.


Waterpocket Fold



Farewell Capital Reef


Then it was on to Arches National Park.


Arch at Arches

I have one of those early childhood memories of Arches.  It was the hike to the cowboy pants.  Some people call it Delicate Arch, but obviously the lower half of a bow-legged cowboy stood there and turned into rock.


Cowboy Pants (aka Delicate Arch)

We made it around to a few other impressive arches as well.  It was another stunning blue sky day with perfect temperatures.


Tunnel Arch


Landscape Arch


Double Arch

The red rock and the light is mind-boggling here.  But alas, the light was fleeting.  Did I mention the days are too short in November?


Arches Sandstone with the La Sals in the background


Balanced Rock

We made a quick retreat to Moab to restock for our trip around the White Rim, then found a camp up the Colorado River.  It was a great tour of a few parks in southern Utah but we were left with a feeling that we needed many more days to see everything we didn’t have time for.  I guess that is the sign of a decent trip, we ended up in a place where you only scratch the surface in the limited amount of time you have.  Up next, time to dig in and spend a few days on the White Rim…

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