Not all of Southern Utah is Red Rock. The ranch exit of Floy (near Crescent Junction) has a great collection of strange grey lumps that may make you think you are on another planet. I last visited in early February and it was much to muddy to go exploring off the road. The time before it was around 100˚ with no shade. This landscape at the base of the Book Cliff does not fail to inspire.
Above: When driving Utah 152 watch your speed. Because the road is empty 99.99% time, it’s tempting to drive in the middle or left side of the road to avoid potholes and rough section. Beware though that the road does have blind areas and would be terrible to have a head on collision in such a remote place (or anywhere). On a technical note these images were shot using Nikon’s 24mm PC-E lens. I’m finding it to be a great lens for the landscapes I’m photographing. Any thoughts on the lens flair in the right corner. Some people like it, I usually get rid of it.
Above: Contrail in the Southern Utah sky.
Above: Open Road at the Floy ranch exit near Crescent Junction. Note the lack of shoulder and no fence so watch out for the wildlife.
Grove of Aspen trees in Northern Utah. Until recently I did not know that a grove like this can be all one interconnected living thing. Pretty amazing. Below, another view of the same stand of Aspen.
Crescent Flat just north of I-70, August 2012. This primitive detour made me think of the hazards of early automotive travel. By the way it was really hot.
Train moving uranium tailings from Moab to Crescent Flat.
My past eight posts have been about Southern Utah and my trips to Canyonlands and Arches National Parks. The landscape is so dramatic there that it has been a struggle to get back in a Northern Utah frame of mind for the blog. However slow posting does not mean I have not been out looking at the west and exploring. Shortly before leaving for Moab I met up again with the Utah Xterra Owners Club for an afterwork outing on Skyline Drive above Bountiful. When the outing was first being discussed I had misinterpreted where we were meeting and discovered that there are many skyline drives in Utah. Our trip that evening was cut short due to a gate being locked but we did find a few nice spots to pull over and enjoy the sunset. Though the view is nice the overall experience is a bit squalid. The area was crawling with people most of whom were on ATV’s and dirt bikes and many more camping on the side of the road. Literally on the side of the road. Like not even ten feet from the road. Needless to say this area is not on my list of places to camp. However the view is worth it and I saw more than a few 2WD cars up there so give it a look if you are in the area. The road starts near the big “B” above Bountiful. When the road is fully open you can drive all the way up to Bountiful Peak (elevation 9259 ft.)
The photo above is from another Skyline Drive. This road is in the Caribou National Forest just over the Idaho border. Given the location you will see more cattle than people and the area was ATV free during our visit. I would recommend starting from the Cache Valley side vs. the I-15 side as it’s a bit tricky to find the road on the west side. From the small town of Weston head west toward Weston Canyon. The road to Dry Canyon Campground is the road you want to start the drive. It’s a decent gravel road and not challenging. The views are not spectacular in a postcard kind of way but subtle, relaxed and quite. When I came across this small herd of cattle tucked away along this creek I had to stop and take a picture. It really says “the west” to me.
The Shafer Switchbacks have been on my to do list since I caught the off-road, 4-wheeling, Overlanding bug a few years ago and on this last trip to Moab I had the opportunity drive them. This route was on my mind both from reading the Guide to Backroads around Moab and from viewing posts from the blog New Mexico Backroads a few weeks before my trip. Needless to say I was psyched! Above: Evaporation ponds and red rock. Below: Really red rock! If you look close in the center of the picture you can see a few ladders that are part of a ropes course.
Below: Looking up at Dead Horse Point State Park from Potash Road. Classic western landscape.
Below: Thelma and Louise Point looking at the Colorado River.
Below: Looking North from Thelma and Louise Point. The rock wall in the image produces amazing echo with 4 or more distinct slap backs. A very cool stereo experience. Give it a yodel and see for yourself. A few miles later we would enter Canyonlands National Park and be greeted with a small but very rocky section of road that required low range gearing and all of the driver’s attention (thus no photos of this section). My stock Xterra handled the rocky section beautifully. (edit summer 2014 the road has been improved and is now very smooth. Conditions can change with one good rainstorm, if in doubt contact the National Park.
Below: Shafer Switchbacks. Notice the very small people in the top right corner. Next time I’ll have to remember to stop at a few points and get some pictures. For my first time up I just kept my hands on the wheel and eyes on the road. The switchbacks and the climb were not that bad however I was not ready for the long drive on the narrow shelf road once we were at the top. That section was a bit nerve racking.
Below: Looking down on a group of cyclists that were starting multi day trek on the White Rim Trail. The road was first used as a cattle trail and later as a road for mining trucks. The thought of driving trucks on that road makes me think of the movie The Wages of Fear.
Researching one of my favorite areas in Cache Valley (Bear River Narrows) I came across Red Rock Pass. It is at the northern most end of the valley and the site of the cataclysmic event that partially drained the ancient Lake Bonneville. Located about an hour north of Logan, it is one of my favorite new places. The hazy light really brought out the red colors in the rock.
Looking South toward Caribou National Forest. The white on the poles is wind blown snow from earlier in the day.
The above shot looks at the western side of Red Rock Pass. The large hole above the corral looks like a mouth, above it an upturned nose and eyes. My lens could not fit the entire scene in so this is stitched from 5 exposures. On this first trip we returned to Logan via 15 South, took the first exit (Utah 36) Deep Creek Road and Weston Canyon. See my post Rolling Hills for a view of that area.
A few days later the weather improved and I headed up to Red Rock Pass to photograph the area in better light. Above view from the bend in the road. Very different light than the first visit. Stronger contrast and feel for the height but loses the subtle colors of the hazy image. This time I took S Back Red Rock Road and photographed the power transmission lines that I had seen on the first visit. Below view looking south across Red Rock Pass. The power poles below that look like giant pins are double circuit 345 kV lines.
With clearer skys to the North I traveled a short distance to Downey Idaho explored the small town on foot until it was dark. I returned to Red Rock Pass on my way back to Logan. Hoping for a patch of clear sky to illuminate the area as it was full moon. As I waited a short time before bailing do to it being cold, very windy and very creepy. Put it on the list of places to revisit in different weather. Definitely worth the effort to exit I15 drive and drive a few miles to check this location out if you are in the area.