Thursday, October 18, 2018

Back in Zion Country


We left Thompson, Utah on Friday heading southwest on I-70, one of the most scenic parts of any interstate we’ve driven. A lunch break at the San Rafael Swell viewing area felt like it could be a national park.

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I-70 cuts through the reef just past the rest area.

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We stopped for the night in Joseph, UT at the Flying U Country Store and RV Park, just a gravel lot behind the convenience store, $20 for full hookups. Only a few other RVs came in for the night, surprising since it was Friday.

Flying U RV Park, Joseph, UT

Went for a walk around the very small town and found a paved bike trail near the RV park, which took us out through some pretty farm land.

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That evening we found out that our good friend Suzanne was at a different RV park just 6 miles away, so she stopped by for a visit before we left on Saturday morning. Three hours later we could have talked for three more, but we were anxious to move on due to high wind warnings on our route, and to escape the lows in the 20s in the Joseph area. It’s always surprising how many times we run into people we know in places we would never expect.

Arriving in Virgin on Saturday, we were a bit concerned about finding a dispersed campsite, but even though there were more RVs in the area than we’ve ever seen, one of our favorite spots was open.

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The predicted strong winds began blowing early Sunday morning and were not letting up for another 24 hours, so we decided to kill a few hours at the movie theater in Hurricane, where we saw First Man, a great film about the life of astronaut Neil Armstrong.

While we were gone Mark and Bobbie arrived and parked a mile or so down the road. Their favorite campsite has been blocked off, and they spoke with a local who said that the BLM is planning to restrict this area to camping in a certain number of designated sites only. Sadly this may be our last time coming here.

On Monday we took a hike on the Chinle Trail, starting near a subdivision in Springdale and entering the Zion Wilderness. Because it’s outside of Zion Canyon the national park crowds don’t hike there. We saw four other people during our 9 mile trek. Except for the start of the trail through the subdivision it’s a fairly level trail.

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Chris arrived while we were out and managed to get a site near us where someone had just left. Our group is a little smaller this year and we miss our other friends who have shared hikes and happy hours with us here over the years.

On Tuesday we had some errands to run in St. George and Hurricane, so we stopped at the Anytime Fitness on our way home for a workout and shower. After that it was dinner out at River Rock Roasting Company in La Verkin, which started as a coffee shop but has expanded into a very busy restaurant. None of us had ever eaten dinner there but they now serve pizza and beer, so it sounded like a good place to celebrate Jim’s birthday.

He doesn’t look a day older.

Chris, Mark, Jim and Bobbie, after we ate all of our excellent pizza. They even have cashew “cheese” for us vegans. We will be going back again before we leave.

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Yesterday Mark suggested a hike in one of the many canyons on the east side of Zion past the tunnels. Jim had some computer stuff he wanted to do so he passed, but I jumped at the chance for some red rock scrambling.

After driving through bumper to bumper traffic in the park and waiting for RVs coming through the tunnel, we arrived at a parking pull-out just before a big horn sheep jam.

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It was amazing watching them jump off this cliff right down onto the road.

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Although we only hiked about four miles, we spent over four hours playing in the red rock and taking way too many photos.

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Up and down we went over slick rock, sand, and through some occasional brush with no real destination in mind. This is my favorite kind of hiking, although not having done it for a year it took me a little while to “trust my shoes” on the steep sections.

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Chris’s big find.

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The vastness is mind-boggling.

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We started with temps in the upper 40s and wind, then went from cold to hot and back, with a few raindrops sprinkled in. We saw one other group of eight, who gave us an idea for a future trek in the same area. What a wonderful hike, although I’m not sure I even know where we were, since I was just along for the ride.

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I went a little crazy with photos, but have to add a few more from Jim’s walk from our site while we were gone. It’s all good around here.

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Muddy Virgin River.                                                               A tall dark stranger.

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Monday, October 15, 2018

Ballard RV Park, Thompson, Utah


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Tuesday turned out to be a good weather day for travel but we weren’t sure where we were going from Provo. More rain was in the forecast and we didn’t want to boondock in the mud in Moab so I called around and found that Ballard RV Park, about 35 miles north in Thompson, had a vacancy for two nights. I swear I remember taking photos of our site there but they don’t seem to be on either camera card so not sure what happened. It’s just a gravel lot and the sites are fairly close but we were happy to have a place to wait out the rain. Plus they have two very nice washers and two dryers that are free to use, and we were in need of doing some laundry.

It did rain most of the night and was supposed to again on Wednesday, but it turned out to be a fairly nice day. After laundry we took a drive a few miles up Thompson Canyon Rd, just behind the RV park, to check out some rock art and a ghost town in beautiful Sego Canyon.

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Three types of rock art are found here. This is a Ute panel which has unfortunately been vandalized.

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Fremont style, also vandalized.

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And our favorite, and most unusual, Barrier Canyon style.

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From the pictographs it’s about a half mile to a fork in the road, with a right turn leading to an old cemetery.

Thompson, Sego Canyon, Arches NP

Another mile farther takes you to the ghost town of Sego, a coal mining town established in the 1890s and in operation of some sort or another until 1947. The only building still standing is the former American Fuel Company Store.

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More decay. This wooden boarding house did not hold up as well as the company store. I read that it collapsed in 2011.

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Bridge over a wash.

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Jim tried to find something on this old car to identify its make but had no luck.

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This is just a beautiful area, and we wished it hadn’t been so wet and muddy in the canyons, as you could hike for miles. Instead we walked on the dirt road and found some higher ground that was dry. I think we only saw three or four cars all afternoon.

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It definitely lifted our spirits being back in one of our favorite parts of the country. Jim was especially happy to be out of the trees.

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Our plan was to move on to Moab on Thursday but it began raining during the night and was a steady rain all morning. Not to mention that it was cold. Jim called the office and they said we could stay another night, so by noon when the rain was still pouring down, we decided to drive down to Moab for lunch and a visit to the recreation center. By the time we got there the rain had stopped and the sky was clearing.

We had a fantastic meal at Arches Thai, a belated celebration of our wedding anniversary which was actually on Tuesday. After our workout, as we were driving back to the RV park, I noticed there were only a couple cars in line at the entrance booth to Arches National Park so we decided to drive in since we had not been there in many years.

We drove to the Windows section and walked the mile loop trail. We forgot that Arches is so spectacular, and were really glad we decided to make a brief stop there.

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On our way home we drove down the three roads north of Moab where we have camped previously to scope things out. With all the rain they were rutted and muddy, so we decided to skip Moab this time around and go directly to Virgin, where it was predicted to be much warmer and dry. But that’s for the next post…