Sunday, February 1, 2015

Backway to the Bears Ears.

Finally I have the time to continue the adventure that began on South Cottonwood Road (CR 228); the green highlighted road on the map.  We already knew that going into Dry Wash via FR 095 would, more than likely, lead us into a snowy mess and along a narrow ledge road.  Using the National Geographic Map for the Manti-LaSal, we decided to follow South Elks Road (FR 092); the blue highlighted road on the map; towards the Bears Ears.  We were still in a relatively dry environment, so how bad could it be, right?  Ha!  Wait till you see what we went through, but we still had a ball doing it.

First, the map...

At mile 1.9, CR 229 leads off to the left; the scenery along FR 092 is stunning and we didn't officially enter the Manti-LaSal Forest until mile mark 3.2.  We certainly appreciated all the signs along the way that kept us informed as to where we actually were.
Black Steer Knoll, Abajo Mountains (in the distance)

Roy and Jenna
Mile mark 5.4 is the Cream Pots Trailhead leading down into Hammond Canyon; FR 399 or ATV trail 5399.  This trail can be used by hikers, mountain bikers, ATVers and high clearance 4-wheel drive vehicles.  By this time we began to see remains of snow and/or ice on the road, in the more shadier sections.  Up to then, the road (graded dirt and wide for two vehicles to pass comfortably) was dry, and the area warm enough not to need heavy outer clothing.  At 5.8 miles, we began ascending and saw to our left a beautiful sandstone ridge that resembled the spine of a dinosaur (we both have great imaginations).  This was Butts Canyon which stretches all the way into Arch Canyon.

Cream Pots and Hammond Canyon

Butts Canyon

...and then came the snow; well the snow covered road and forest off to both sides.  We stopped at mile mark 9.3 where a sign directs towards FR 0182/CR 2621 - Milk Ranch Point.  Luckily, other vehicles had been traveling along FR 092, so we just kept our wheels moving in the flattened ruts those others had left.  Along the sides though, the snow went from six inches to two feet; depending on how deep my feet and legs stepped in when taking photos outside the SUV.  Jenna loved running in the snow!  Oh, and it was definitely time to put the winter coats back on again.

We passed several trails along the way, but didn't want to deal with the snow as they obviously weren't being used.  At 10 miles is the Hammond Canyon Overlook (ATV trail 5301); 11.2 miles is FR 183 leading to Butts Point.  Now at 11.6 miles we came to a junction, FR 088, to the right, which lead to Elk Ridge, Big Notch and Gooseberry.  The road leading through Elk Ridge is a challenge in dry, warm weather; no way we were going near it in the winter and with snow on the ground.  We took FR 088/CR 228 Backway to the left and towards the Bears Ears.  13.1 miles is the Kigalia Trailhead, 13.8 is the Arch Canyon Overlook and 15.4 is CR 256, the Woodenshoe Trailhead; all were snowbound. 

At 16.5 miles we exited the dense forest; the sky behind us told of another storm moving our way; FR 184 leads off to the left, but we stayed straight with the Bears Ears (at 17.3 miles) looming before us.

Bears Ears

After the steep climb up and through the Bears Ears; a winding trail began downward to reach State Highway 95.  The views here were just as amazing as when we first began our adventure along FR 092.  We officially left the boundaries of the Manti-LaSal Forest at mile make 20.2; at 23.2 is CR 275 or the road to Natural Bridges National Monument; and at 23.9 we met up with Highway 95.

It was a thrilling adventure and thankfully we were able to complete it because of the high clearance on our SUV.  We are so looking forward to the warmer months when we can come back and do those trails that will no longer be snowbound.

Mary Cokenour

1 comment:

  1. I did not realize the viewing of Bears Ears was so close to a paved road... I believe 275 is paved. Google Maps says it's about 6 miles from 275 to Bears Ears on FR 92. I understand that driving on a dirt road will not be like driving on a paved surface.. but it may be worth trying. We are coming to the area around Christmas.