Car-camping Tour de Utah 
Saturday, May 28, 2016, 07:57 AM - Trips
Posted by Administrator
My uncle spent some of his 20s and 30s in the West and always wanted to reconnect with this part of the country. After retiring at 64 in St. Louis, he made good on that dream and I decided to help him see some things that he would normally not be able to. He also told nonstop stories of 'how it used to be' without the crowds, endless rustic camping site, and far fewer rules.

I landed from my Atlanta work trip at 4:00. Randy's car was packed up and we were on our way by 5:30. We hightailed it to White House Campground past Page for the night. After a short night's sleep we entered the North Coyote Buttes raffle in Kanab. The 6 mile hike felt too big for Randy, so he was hoping that we wouldn't win the pass, but I really wanted to see the wave, so I had my fingers crossed we'd win. The room was packed with about 80 people looking to get one of the 10 slots. I was shocked that we were drawn midway through the raffle! Randy was bummed. I picked up our permit for the following day.

We then headed into Zion, through the tunnel and landed one of the last campsites at the South campground after sweet-talking the ranger. The weather for the weekend was not expected to be good, but we hopped on the tram and headed up the Virgin River to see the sights. I hadn't been to Zion since I was ~10 years old, so it was great to see the place again. We settled on trying to go up Angel's Landing and I told Randy he could stop up at any point. It was a very slow hike, but my uncle did manage to make it up Walter's Wiggles to the Scout Lookout. I decided to jog to the summit, but it was packed with people and the going was slow. Sidetracking the trail for efficiency, I watched as the dark skies closed in, and by the time the wind and first heavy drops of rain hit, I bailed. Randy didn't have any rain gear, so I knew we needed to head down. Then the rain really came in with a few blasts of lightning, but it cleared out a half hour later as we finished the canyon stretch. It was a good idea to bail.




We grilled up a monster steak and ate beans and rice at camp as the rain came back. It poured all night. In the morning, we took a rainy hike to Emerald Pools. The waterfalls were on high after all the rain. It was nice and without the endless stream of people Randy cheered up a little. He kept talking about the West that he knew where there were only a few people. He also loves embellishment, so there's nearly no way to know if anything he says is accurate. In fact, recounting things that happened as little as 5-10 minutes prior will be twisted in ways to make the experience seem more emotional. Randy will also begin many of his stories by saying, "This is a true story..." which makes you wonder if he doesn't say that, it must be a complete fabrication.




At any rate, we managed to make it back to the 4Runner and out to House Rock Valley Rd as the rain kept coming down. The road can be impassible after rains because it's normally dirt, but quickly turns to mud. Randy said we'd make it, but grew more skeptical as the depth of the mud increased. We had the Toyota sideways on many, many occasions, but forward momentum was retained and we plowed deeper into the Vermilion Cliffs area.

In the end, Randy decided to save his back and not risk another rainy hike, so I headed off to visit The Wave. The whole hike was spectacular and The Wave was gorgeous too. Something about those swooping lines is so peaceful and mathematical. I snapped a bunch of photos and wondered my way out. I took a new way out and ran across a huge heard of long-horned sheep. That was awesome. Randy and I headed south to get out on what was supposed to be an easier road, but took a wrong turn and nearly got stuck again. It was hairy driving and Randy was exhausted by the time we hit pavement.




The next day, we headed up to the north side of Zion to Lava Point Campground, but it was closed because the road was flooded. After hemming and hawing for an hour about crossing the overflowing lake, we made a run at it and got across. There was no one on the other side and we had a quiet lunch at the Lava Point Overlook. My original plan was to camp there and then do Pipe Spring Canyon, but it was a long approach, bad weather, Randy hadn't seriously rappelled, and the campground was closed. So I left that on the to-do list. We did find a nice spot to camp just outside the park on Smith Mesa Rd. And as an added treat there was a little canyon walking distance from our camp site.



The following day we circled around to Bryce Canyon across a snowy Cedar Canyon Rd. We had lunch at Rainbow Point and then worked our way into the Escalante. I suggested checking out Golden Cathedral from Egypt TH. On our way out, we found a neat canyon that was nearly impossible to get into but I could free climb out of, so we decided to give it a look. Randy rappelled using a harness for the first time, but didn't like it much. He rather hand-over-hand the line. Inside the slot canyon, we walked a ways down and then came to a rap ring. Interesting, I thought; so this is a real canyoneering spot. But without knowing the length of the canyon, difficulty, weather, or longest rap, I decided it was time to call it a day. I climbed out on gradual slope on the West wall, tossed the rope down to Randy, and he pulled himself out. We then found a killer campsite overlooking Glen Canyon National Park near our trailhead. I flipped through the canyoneering books around the campfire and found our impromptu adventure: Egypt 1.



The next day, I pushed Randy to his limits and we hiked to Golden Cathedral. It was a ~9 mile round-trip hike down into Glen Canyon, through a number of river crossings, and then up to the cavern. We took it slow, but made steady progress. He later called this the "hardest hike of his life." Excellent. The Neon Canyon portion was the funnest for me because it winds its way through the sandstone and then dumps you out at the cathedral. The climb out was toasty once leaving the Escalante river, so I wouldn't recommend this hike for any time in the summer. We kicked back in our camp chairs on the rim of the canyon, cracked a beer, and watched the sunset across the UT canyon country.







The next morning, we decided to reattempt Egypt 1. On the way, I scoped out Egypt 2, which starts with an 80 m rap from the road. That's cool! But Randy wanted no part in it, so we went back to the far more mellow Egypt 1. The beginning was great with some 10-15 ft rappels and tight crawls through the narrow slot. It gets surprisingly deep quickly. The end had one spot of mud that I stemmed across, but Randy took a swim. Luckily the Escalante warmth was upon us and he started to dry quickly. He later said, "That was the craziest thing he's ever done." Perfect.





The next day, we considered exploring Robber's Roost, but it was too far out of the way. Instead, we made a quick stop at the Dan O'Laurie Museum of Moab to learn about the history of the town. Randy was livid at how Moab had grown since he was there in the 80s. It didn't seem that bad to me. We then shot south toward Canyonlands. Instead of fighting for a place to camp in the park, we took an side road in Indian Creek and had the place to ourselves. Unfortunately, the next front was rolling in and there were 30 mph and intermittent rain storms. But we got lucky the next day and got to see some of Randy's old favorite Needles spots. We hiked the rock behind Squaw Flat Campground and did the Slickrock Hiking loop. He spared no opportunity to talk with the rangers about how it was when he was there decades ago, how he nearly got swept downstream in Salt Creek when you could drive to Angel Arch, and his love of Peekaboo campground.

But our time was up and I needed to get to Cortez to register for the 12 hours of Mesa Verde. We got squared away in town, ate some authentic Mexican food from a hole-in-the-wall joint, and met up with the crew at the race start.

Spencer led off the team, I rode 2nd, and Josiah was our 3rd man. Spencer crushed his first lap in 1:22. I was riding hard, but then the rain/snow/sleet started again (just like last year!!) and soon the trail turned to mud. All the people that had passed me, I was suddenly dropping in the mud pit. Maybe I have more experience in those conditions? I was just happy to make it too the finish line. 1:36 first lap wasn't terrible. Plus, my back had tightened up with my backpack. The trail was dry for my 2nd lap and I improved to a 1:30. Randy watched the excitement from his camp chair and particularly liked the little jump the group built at the start of the racecourse. The big question was whether I would have the "joy" of getting a 3rd lap in. Spencer took the baton with 1:35 before the cut-off time. So I waited, fully kitted up, to see if he would make it in. He did, with 5 minutes to spare. I rode a completely flat, unmotivated 16-mile lap in 1:39 and came into the staging area just as Josiah cracked an Elevated beer for me. Hurray! The the party really kicked into high gear around the bonfire back in camp.






To wrap up the trip, I treated Randy to monstrous breakfast burrito from Dona Maria in Farmington. He said it was "The best burrito he ever had." Great. Then it was south on 550 and back to work reality.

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