Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Price Canyon Recreation Area, near Price, Utah

           A cool mountain getaway lies hidden in the hills near the desert town of Price, Utah.  Price Canyon Recreation Area, half an hour north of town, invites you to drop by, inhale the pine-scented air, and linger for awhile.
          You'll feel far from dusty desert environs as you camp or picnic beneath the shade of ponderosa pines or hike the Bristlecone Ridge Trail.  Bristlecone Pines—the oldest living things on earth—thrive in this arid alpine location.  Several of these venerable trees stand alongside the trail, welcoming you to their mountain home as they've welcomed visitors for thousands of years.

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          The following photos were taken on two separate outings to Price Canyon Rec.  On an October Saturday I hiked with an employee of the BLM (Bureau of Land Management) and several other friends on a trail maintenance outing.  You can see the shovels and pick axes to the right of the picnic table in the third picture.
          The final two photos were taken on a September hike with family members visiting from Pennsylvania.  Notice the differences in fall colors, and in clothing choices, between the September and October hikes.

A Bristlecone Pine (left) frames the view from Bristlecone Ridge Trail.


Friends and dogs take a break along the steep path.


A post-hike picnic under the pines. 


Tim surveys the Central Utah landscape from a rocky prominence
along the trail.


The trail continues for several miles past the Bristlecone Pine ridge.
This meadow provides a quiet place for a rest stop.


If you're traveling south from Salt Lake and need an overnight campsite or a pleasant place for a picnic I highly recommend a stop at the BLM managed Price Canyon Recreation Area.  Read more about it by visiting their website:  http://www.blm.gov/ut/st/en/fo/price/recreation/pricerec.html

Read about the amazing Bristlecone Pine Tree here:  http://www.blueplanetbiomes.org/bristlecone_pine.htm

Monday, May 12, 2014

Primitive Camping in Southeastern Utah's Valley of the Gods

       On a warm Friday evening Tim and I entered the Valley of the Gods.  This “Mini Monument Valley” is traversed by a 17 mile dirt road and views of the real Monument Valley, 20 miles away, can be seen along the drive.  We’re on BLM (Bureau of Land Management) land, and dispersed camping is allowed throughout the valley.  After passing several spots outfitted with campfire rings we pulled into a site tucked between sandy hills and rocky outcrops.  Home for the weekend!


View of Monument Valley from our campsite.

        We set up our bedroom (tent), bathroom (portable toilet) and kitchen (folding tables and Coleman stove), then cooked our camp staple of mac n’ cheese with sausages and stewed tomatoes. 
       After dinner Tim started a campfire and we lounged by the blaze sipping from mugs of Earl Grey tea.  Sighing breezes, trilling rock wrens and distant whining traffic interspersed with the desert quiet. This being her first camping adventure, our dog Annie wasn’t exactly sure of the protocol.  She enjoyed exploring the desert around our campsite but, as darkness fell, she thought we should be jumping into the truck and heading for our real home.  After a bit of coaxing we herded her into the tent and soon she was snuggled by my side.

Evening in our desert home.

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           Early Saturday we crawled from the tent and started the morning with Annie's daily walk.  Rounding a bend in the road we noticed hoof prints, then saw cows in a desert wash.  So those were moos which woke me at dawn.  With sparse vegetation and little rain this seems a terrible place to graze cows.  But here they are.

Annie, out for her morning walk.

In the west we share our public lands—even these seemingly
 inhospitable locales—with cows.

          Back at the site water boiled for coffee and tea while we started breakfast of scrambled eggs, potatoes and sausage.  I love breakfast in the wilds.  And this spot qualifies.  We ate gazing south and west toward Monument Valley, its rocky spires reaching into the sky.  It’s easy to understand how this landscape inspired classic western movies.  John Wayne with his posse of cowboys was the only scene lacking from our morning vista.

Where is John Wayne when you need him?  Tim relaxes in the morning at
our classic Western campsite (sans a cinematic cowboy).

          Today we drove the Moki Dugway road, a 2.2 mile, 10% grade switchbacking road which climbs high above the Valley of the Gods.  At the apex we stopped to let Annie stretch her legs and we all met a couple from upstate New York, completing the final few days of a southwestern road trip.  They exclaimed over the 20-30 mile views, views we sometimes take for granted.
         Back in camp the evening’s dinner was followed by another of our camp traditions—s’mores with a big glass of milk.   Tonight, as we turned out our headlamps and unzipped the tent door, Annie crawled right in.  Her second night of camping and she’s learned the routine.

The Moki Dugway road inspires awe among tourists and travelers.

High above Valley of the Gods Annie poses on a ledge along the Moki Dugway road.

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          The final day.  After a morning walk Tim cooked breakfast while I rolled up blankets and sleeping bags.  We savored Sunday morning quiet while downing our eggs and hash browns.  Then it was time to pack up the tent and tables, load everything into the truck and be on our way. 
         Primitive camping is not for everyone.  But with an adventurous spirit and willing companions—both human and canine—Valley of the Gods is an ideal destination for a spring weekend.   

Learn more about Utah’s Valley of the Gods by visiting this website: https://www.utah.com/monumentvalley/ValleyOfTheGods.htm

If you’re intrigued by Valley of the Gods but not interested in camping, you’re in luck—check out Valley of the Gods Bed and Breakfast