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Post by DaveK » Thu May 16, 2019 2:45 pm


Well, we all made it back, physically safe and sound. There were a few mechanical difficulties that we will reserve for a later discussion but overall, it was a fabulous trip. A few preliminarily details:


1826 - the number of total miles traveled (both on pavement and dirt.)
6 - the number of campers
7 -good weather days (more to this story below)

One preliminary note. Preparing for any trip involves more than just “pre-departure” planning, and that includes knowing the weather as you travel. At exactly the half way point in the trip, we realized (by listening to the NWS weather reports on our Ham radios) that a huge storm was due to hit central and southern Utah - exactly in the location we where we planned to be. At that point, we were three hours from civilization, and given the NWS high probability of rain, the decision was made to get to paved roads as quickly as possible, as the dirt roads we were on would become impassible with significant rain. In the latter pictures, you can see cloudy skies which were the front edge of the storm.

In an uncharacteristic turn of events, the NWS prediction actually came true, and the storm hit with massive wind, rain and lightening. Before the storm hit with all its energy, we had decided to bag the second half of the trip, and the wisdom of this decision became quite clear as we approached St George.


We ended up with a total of 6 campers, and down to the very last one, they were all great chefs, campers, off road drivers, and friends. The food on this trip was some of the best of any trip, including, Volcano Dutch Oven Chicken Pot Pie, steak and potatoes, Beef Stroganoff, Korean BBQ, Chicken Adobo, and more.

Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park
Alstrom Point (overlooking Lake Powell)
Water Holes Canyon
Navajo National Monument (Betatakin Anasazi Cliff Dwelling)
Valley of the Gods
Natural Bridges National Monument
Hole in the Rock
Devils Garden


1. Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park, (

One of the many planning challenges this year involved finding a detour around a closed road which we had planned to use to access Alstrom Point. The detour we located took us by Coral Pink Sands State Park in Utah, and while we didn’t stay overnight, it is definitely a destination for future trips. Both the scenery we observed from the road and the park’s description, were incentive enough to see more.

This is what the Utah Parks Department says:
The geology of the sand dunes is an intriguing subject. The sand comes from Navajo sandstone from the geologic period call Middle Jurassic. The same iron oxides and minerals that give us spectacular red rock country are responsible for this landscape of coral pink sand.

Sand dunes are created by three factors: Sand, high winds, and a unique influence upon the wind. The notch between the Moquith and Moccasin mountains causes this unique influence. The wind is funneled through the notch, thereby increasing wind velocity to a point where it can carry sand grains from the eroding Navajo sandstone.

This phenomenon is known as the Venturi Affect. Once the wind passes through the notch and into the open valley, the wind velocity decreases, causing the sand to be deposited. These dunes are estimated at 10,000 to 15,000 years old.

Coral Pink Sand Dunes support a diverse population of insects, including the Coral Pink tiger beetle that is found only here. Melting snow sometimes creates small ponds in the dunes that support amphibians such as salamanders and toads.
From the Road, it actually appeared that trees were growing from the dunes.

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Dunes without trees

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2. Alstrom Point (overlooking Lake Powell)

Alstrom Point is situated on the mesa above Lake Powell. The road to the point is long and bumpy, occasionally traveling over solid rock, making it difficult to actually see where the trail went. Good navigation by means of the Topo! Program kept us on track. At camp, the views were spectacular, and so much so, that we spent two days.

One of the surprising sights on the point was the water level of the lake - down by over 120 feet, despite a very wet winter (well over 100% of normal.) The reason appears to be bug related, see: . Regardless, the scenery was as good as it gets!!!

On the way

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The Point

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3. Water holes Canyon

Water Holes Canyon is located in the Glen Canyon National Recreation area and specifically, on the Navajo Nation land. See: . Waterholes is very similar to Antelope Canyon but without the crowds. There are essentially, 2 different levels of difficulty, the easiest being the most spectacular. The other level requires some form of canyoneering (rapelling) skills and the equipment to go along with the skills.

We selected the easier level. The Navajo have established a great tour, which is about 2 miles in length, and requiring about 2+ hours to complete. Our tour had about 10 people and we were allowed to spend as much time as it took to soak it all up and take pictures. By comparison, as we passed the Antelope Canyon area, there were literally hundreds and hundreds of people, and parking lots filled with cars. Bottom line: Water Holes = a good choice.

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4. Navajo National Monument (Betatakin Anasazi Cliff Dwelling)

From the National Park Service:
Navajo National Monument represents a long cultural history. The monument was first created in 1909 to protect the remains of three large pueblos dating to the 13th century, viz., Keet Seel, Betatakin, and Inscription House. In addition to these large pueblo villages, archaeological evidence documents human use of this region over the past several thousand years.

The earliest people to live in the Tsegi and Nitsin Canyon regions were hunters and gatherers, who relied on hunting wild animals and gathering wild plants for food. These early people were highly mobile, and moved around a large region to gather food with the changing seasons. Their archaeological footprint is limited.

The Ancestral Pueblo culture emerged as these early farmers began to depend on farming for most of their food. They built above-ground masonry houses, farmed the canyon streambeds, and interacted with far-reaching communities across the Colorado Plateau.
Today, there are three sets of ruins at the Navajo National Monument - Betatakin, the Inscription House and Keet Seel. Inscription House is closed to the public due to its advanced state of deterioration and unsafe condition. Betatakin and Keet Seel however, are spectacularly well preserved and both are open to the public. Both are located in a deep canyon and require a significant hike. We did Betatakin this year as we didn’t have reservations for Keet Seel, as well as the hike to Keet Seel is 18.5 miles and requires a 1000 foot descent into the canyon. The 5 mile hike to Betatakin was a little disappointing, as the Park service no longer allows visitors into the site itself. Despite this, we got very close and were able to get a good sense of what the structures looked like. Anyway, I have posted pictures from our visit a few years ago, when we were allowed to actually walk in the ruins as well as some from this trip.

Make no mistake about this however, even though we did not get to walk the ruins, it was worth the 5 mile hike and I would do it again.

One important note: The campsites at the Navajo National Monument were some of the best I have ever seen. All were situated in a dense forest of Juniper and Pinyon pine trees, the tables and BBQ stands were in great shape, and the scenery was terrific. In addition, the restrooms were very clean and well maintained, and to top it off, it was all free. They also had a more primitive campground which had a great view of the canyon.


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5. Valley of the Gods

Valley of the Gods (VOG) is a true anomaly in Utah. It is not part of the Navajo Nation, and thus not subject to restrictions of travel and exploration, and it is not a national park or monument, and thus there is no charge to visit. Just so there is no confusion, these are all good things.

As you view the photographs below, you will see why it is often regarded as a smaller Monument Valley. The scenery is spectacular and looks like it would have been the perfect location for a John Wayne movie (look him up if the name is unfamiliar.) In past visits, I had scoped out one location that offered a primo camp spot, and our luck held out - we got it. The VOG should be on everyone’s list of exquisitely scenic places to visit.

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We woke up the morning of our departure and were treated to a most unexpected thrill, as the pictures below show.

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Here is a little known fact - in this vast area of scenic land, there is but one parcel of private property, and upon it sits an incredible B&B, which is actually in the VOG. It is an absolute certainty that we will be visiting the VOG again soon, and staying in the “Valley of the Gods Bed and Breakfast,” See: A spectacular place to visit, with all the amenities of home.

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Moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue.

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Post by DaveK » Thu May 16, 2019 3:15 pm


6. Natural Bridges National Monument

Bridges was the first national monument in Utah, being established in 1908. This is from the National Park service information brochure:
Natural Bridges sits high on Cedar Mesa, 6,500 feet above sea level. Intermittent streams
have cut two deep canyons and three massive bridges in sandstone formed from what was
once the shore of an ancient sea. At each of the bridges, trails descend into the canyons
from the loop road. A longer trail meanders along the canyon bottoms through oak and
cottonwood groves (shown above), connecting the three bridges in one loop hike.
Our initial thought was to camp there, and take a quick vehicle tour of the natural arches or bridges. As it turned out, this place was a whole lot more popular than we imagined, and there wasn’t a single campsite to be had. So we decided to do the “quick vehicle tour.” Big mistake!!!

As it turns out, there is really only one bridge that is visible from the road, with the rest requiring hikes ranging from less than a mile to over 8 miles. As an additional benefit to each hike is a greater opportunity to see much more of the area. So, without a campsite, we zipped through the loop road and took a few pictures, and committed to visiting again, but giving it more than a day. For more information, see: .

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7. Hole in the Rock

The actual “Hole in the Rock” is situated in the Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument. The Hole in the Rock name comes from a narrow gorge of rock through which Mormon settlers traveled in an effort to create a settlement in another location in Utah. The descent through this gorge starts at the plateau above Lake Powell and goes all the way to the waters edge. This journey, took place on January 26, 1860, and consisted of 26 wagons, multiple livestock and 250 people. No wagons or lives were lost in this incredible journey, a miraculous testament to the faith of the Later Day Saints who realized the power available when on the Lord’s errand.

The road to the actual gorge starts in the town of Escalante, and is commonly known as the “Hole in the Rock Trail. The hike to the bottom no longer ends at the Colorado river, as it did when the Saints reached this point, but instead, it now ends at Lake Powell. Making it to the Lake is a trek over and around house sized boulders and steep drop-offs. Not for the faint of heart, but definitely worth it.

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I had a little incident strike my equipment as we started back up the gorge. It seems that the maker of my boots used an adhesive that decided to give way, on both boots, at the very same time. On both boots, the soles started to separate from the boot and it became necessary to sacrifice a boot lace to tie the sole to the boot, Fortunately, another pair of boots was in the back of my vehicle.

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8. Devils Garden

The Garden is a wonderland of hoodoos and other unusual shapes. The area where this garden is located is a unique confluence of geologic occurrences, and with the help of erosion, these amazing shapes have taken form. This was the last day of the trip, and the dark clouds seen in these pictures is why.

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Extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice.
Moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue.

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Post by Jeepergeo » Thu May 16, 2019 8:43 pm

Here's a few photos from the 2019 Utah Expedition.
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Post by KK6DYO » Fri May 17, 2019 3:39 pm

Trip Route, starting and ending at St. George, UT
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Passing Cima Dome
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Part of the view from Alstrom Point
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French toast breakfast on the point
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Video: Road from Alstrom Point

Betatakin Ruins from overlook through binoculars
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Betatakin Hikers from overlook through binoculars
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Nobody around here knows how to spell M-o-u-n-t-a-i-n H-o-u-s-e (Thank you, Jeepergeo!)
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Some of the balloonists at Valley of the Gods
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Video: Balloonists navigating the canyon

Video: "You guys don't don't need that tent, right?"

Video: Quickly through Moki Dugway

Trail Boss Dave at Hole-in-the-Rock
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Weary Hole-in-the-Rock hikers arriving back on top after a steep ascent
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Leading wave of the multi-day storm system
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Driving back to Escalante
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Video: Driving Through the Storm

Cedar City News (April 29, 2019): Ferocious storm brings lightning, hail and flooding to Southern Utah

Fox 13 Salt Lake City (April 29, 2019 9:31 PM): Severe weather impacting much of southern and central Utah; watches and warnings issued
SALT LAKE CITY -- Severe weather hit many parts of southern and central Utah Monday evening.
Torrential rains pounded much of the area around St. George and other parts of Washington County.
There has also been lightning, hail and even snow at higher elevations.
The National Weather Service issued several severe thunderstorm warnings during the evening.
Flash flood watches over many parts of the state will remain in effect until midnight.
A flash flood warning is in place at Zion National Park until 10:30 p.m.

The next day's storm
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Those crazy rocks on the way back from Las Vegas
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Post by brentbba » Fri Jun 07, 2019 5:27 pm

Superb write up and pics!!

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