edit: Map plugin is working! I’m using WP GPX Maps. Many thanks to the developer (Max – a super good guy) who jumped on the issue I was having, figured out in a couple of hours, and had a new release fixing it up in less than a day!
Date of ride: 21 June 2011
When I woke up at The Hitch-N-Post Campground at 5:45 AM (home of the cat from this post) it was 33 degrees and everything was covered in frost – the tent, the bike, the grass, the picnic table, everything.
Since I decided to abandon my trek up into MT due to snow-covered roads and was going to play in the desert for a couple extra days, I left most of my cold weather gear with a friend in Salt Lake City (thanks Scott!). Thankfully, I kept my fleece, and that made all the difference as I made my way along the Sevier River towards Route 12.
Route 12, designated an All American Road in 2002, is simply stunning. Running from just west of Bryce Canyon National Park to Capitol Reef National Park (W to E), it was one of my favorite roads of the trip. Traffic was a bit heavy due to construction coming out of Bryce Canyon, but all in all it wasn’t nearly as bad I feared it was going to be.
On the western end of 12, the road cuts through the Red Canyon Tunnels. This stretch of the road was opened up in 1925 specifically to grant access to Bryce Canyon.
I’d heard there was an entrance fee for Bryce Canyon, and almost decided to cross it off my itinerary. I’d never been to this part of the country before, but during my trip research I looked at hundreds of pictures of the canyons, knew the names most of the overlook points by heart, and figured I could justify giving it a pass since I am, deep down, a penny pincher.
Oh what an idiot I almost was.
Thankfully, I decided at the last second to turn into the park’s entrance just to see how much the entrance fee would cost me. Good thing! For whatever reason, the $10 entrance fee listed on the park’s website was waived. Most of the overlooks are on the east side, so I decided to ride straight on up to Rainbow Point and work my way back. I won’t bother trying to describe the views. Suffice it to say that at least one trip to Bryce Canyon should be mandated by law for all Americans. I took enough pictures to completely fill the memory card on my camera. It was that gorgeous.
I spent about 3 or 4 hours in Bryce, but knew I wanted to land on the other side of Escalante National Monument (The Grand Staircase) for the evening, so I forced myself away from the canyon’s rim and back onto the road. I stopped in Cannonville, UT at the Visitor Center to check on road conditions in Escalante and have a bite to eat. My plan was to take Skutumpah Rd across the Monument and down towards Pariah (just west of Lake Powell).
“Oh! You’ll love that ride! I just did it yesterday!” said the woman working the counter. “If I had a few extra hours I’d come with you!”
Confirmation enough for me.
Skutumpah Rd. turned out to be another one of my favorites. I actually preferred it over Cottonwood (which I would take the next day). It’s not too difficult, with only a couple of water crossings, minimal washboards, and very little rutting. Particularly nice were the elevation changes and stunning vistas. At the south end, it meets up with Johnson Canyon Rd, a very nice paved road that twists along between the glorious coloring of hills and canyon walls.
My plan was to make camp at or around the Old Paria Movie Set. From the 30s all the way through the 80s the location was home to television shows and movies like Gunsmoke, Daniel Boone, and my all-time favorite film The Outlaw Josey Wales. Unfortunately, the set itself has been burned to the ground by vandals not just once, but twice, and all that remains is the cemetery. The road in is a 9 mile dirt track that’s heavily washboarded in quite a few places. Even though it’s steep and rough, I did pass a small two-wheel drive car on her way out, so it should be easily passable in good weather by most vehicles.
Beyond the cemetery, the road quickly deteriorates and turns sandy. When I finally decided to turn around, the sand was deep enough that I buried the rear tire trying to muscle the bike around. I ended up having to unload all the luggage in order to get it out, and with temps over 100 it was exhausting. Add in the swarming black flies and things were downright miserable there for a while.
I decided not to camp in the valley and instead found the Paria River Guest Ranch on the south side of US-89. What a find! The place was almost completely empty, as typically they cater to large groups and happened to be between clients that day. I truly can’t say enough about this place. Everyone I met was amazingly friendly. When I asked how much for a campsite, the response was, “hrmm… I dunno… just you? How ‘bout $10.00?”
Done and done. They had extremely well-maintained showers, which I was really looking forward to after the dust bowls of the movie set and Skutumpah Rd. Setting up camp in 106 degree heat also contributed to my desire for a nice cool shower. As I made my way there, Easton, the owner, said he was throwing some rib-eyes on the grill and asked me if I wanted one. How much? “Hrmmm…. I dunno… how ‘bout $10.00?”
Done and done.
After the shower, I went over to the office and sat and chatted while Easton grilled up the steaks and a bunch of chicken. I was expecting to take it and head back to the picnic table at my site, but he invited me inside. Wouldn’t you know, I sat down with his entire family… uncle, mother, daughter, sister… about 10 or 12 people all gathered around a long wooden table with a spread suitable for an episode of Bonanza – big ol’ rib eyes, bbq chicken, teriyaki chicken, spinach salad, lemonade, sweet sun tea, beans – it was amazing. I fully expected Hop Sing to come out of the kitchen and join us. It was a surprising and somewhat humbling experience, listening to their family stories and sharing some of my own. Hopefully, I’ll get to make it back there someday.
All in all, of the ~6,300 miles I travelled on this trip, this was, I think, the best of the best of my saddle days.