Thursday, October 31, 2013

Only Thing Flat in Sand Flats is the Road.

Sand Flats Recreation Area, located in Moab, is a world upon itself filled with domes, fins, bowls, formations, trails and nature. Sand Flats Road is indeed flat for the most part, but becomes a bit roughed once you reach the Porcupine Rim area.  Those with two wheel drive vehicles (cars) should not be discouraged, as it evens out quickly and you can continue the trek towards the La Sal Loop Road.  ATVs, Jeeps, SUVs and even Mountain Bikes have more trails to choose from, some exclusive to whichever mode of transportation chosen.  There are many camping areas, or you can do what Roy and I did; simply get yourself a picnic meal, find some nice slickrock to sit on and enjoy the scenery.

Lion's Back
If you read my food blog, Food Adventures of a Comfort Cook, back in May 2011 I wrote about Milt's which has the best burgers and fries. See, if you're not reading my food blog, then you are missing out on hints I give about places to have an adventure in.  Anyway, after we picked up our order, we headed out to Sand Flats to enjoy the meal, do some exploring and just have a grand day out.  It was still pretty empty in the area as tourist season had only just begun in April, so finding a place to sit, eat and have to ourselves was very easy.  Even Lion's Back wasn't too busy that day; it is usually full of Jeeps or SUVs traveling up and down.  Roy wanted to know if we should try it out and I told him only if he wanted me screaming in his ear the whole way.  He decided not.

Driving along Sand Flats Road, it was very difficult not to keep stopping and go hiking over the slickrock and sandstone.  I tell you, it is absolutely gorgeous out there and each turn brings you scenery that is just as awesome as what you just passed by.  I kept seeing so many areas I wanted to climb up and around in.

Traveling through a narrow section of the road, the walls climbing up high around you and suddenly you'll see a formation to your left.  It simply looks like a jagged piece of rock sticking out and you may just bypass it if you don't look for it; this is Diving Board Rock.  Actually we did miss it the first time we went through; Roy was driving, so couldn't be looking around for interesting sites, being on the passenger side, I didn't see it till we came back through and it was now on my right side.

Diving Board Rock

Our journey ended at the Porcupine Rim Trail parking lot, and you're going to have a good laugh when you find out why. Looking out into the distance and you'll be able to take in the beauty of Negro Bill Canyon; notice the play of light and shadow on the ground and formations due to the clouds.  That trail running down and through the canyon floor is the mountain biking trail; motorized vehicles are not allowed on it.

So now is the time for the funny part of this story; Sand Flats Road doesn't stop at the Porcupine Rim parking lot, it continues on as a shelf (this is where the rough part of the road begins too).  As I stood there taking photos, I noticed a SUV and a Jeep continue on through, so knew we could keep on going.  What do I find as I turn around though?  Roy had pulled the SUV onto the road and was pointing back in the direction we had come.  He said that he'd only had the SUV for a month now and wasn't sure about its handling on such a road going around the hill, or what was beyond.  Now I don't know if this was spite about Lion's Back, or what, but....  Anyway, I just gave him details about how the road does even out again, how it comes out onto La Sal Loop Road and then you're choice is to either go to Castle Valley or Spanish Valley. His reaction was "Great! We need to go back and do the whole road this time".

Oh, the funny part, I wouldn't go four wheeling up the Lion's Back, but yet didn't think twice about going on a cliff shelf around a hill.  Yeah, I'm funny like that.

All in all, this was a great day; great food, great ride and we're both looking forward to going back and doing it all again....this time to the very end of Sand Flats Road.  Oh, will Roy get me up on Lion's Back....hell no!

Mary Cokenour

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Oh Swell, the San Rafael Reef.

This is going to be one of those "wonder where this road goes" type of adventure stories.  After leaving Goblin Valley State Park, we decided not to go to Little Wild Horse Canyon as we were too tired from playing with the hoodoos for three hours.  That canyon area requires a bit of hiking and we didn't feel quite up to it at that point.  As we drove along the road back towards Route 24, we came to a junction with no name sign, but it did have a sign saying (I-70) and an arrow.  Well we did have to get back to I-70 to get home, so what the hell, might as well explore an alternate route.  Now here is the biggest mistake we map; that's right, we didn't have a decent map of the area, just one of those state of Utah maps, and it wasn't helpful at all.  It wasn't until I began writing this travel blog that I found out that if we had had a better map to follow, we would eventually have come out on either Exit 114 or Exit 129 of I-70.  It would have been a much longer ride home, but the memories and photos would have been very worth it.  Instead we turned around after an hour, went back to the Goblin Valley junction, and returned home the original way we had come to the park.  Now we know better; I'm going to post two maps to help you know better too, and not miss out on a great adventure.

BLM Visitor's Guide

San Rafael Reef (Route 24 near Goblin Valley State Park)

I guess I really should start the adventure with a little background from Route 24 as that is where you will get a good viewing of the San Rafael Reef. The Reef is on the eastern and southeastern side of the Swell; the tectonic plates were lifted up to form sharply edged fins layered against each other.  By the way, you might be sharing the roadway with the locals (antelope), so keep an eye out for them.  I can tell you right now that they demand right of way, and don't give two hooves about the road signs.

Now back to the road with no name sign; I've seen it referred to as "Temple Mountain Road", "Temple Junction" and "Hidden Splendor Road"; I like the hidden splendor theme and you'll see why once you get past the tall walls of weathered rock. 

The road beyond becomes an unpaved, but well maintained trail of dirt; mountain bikers travel it, so a two wheel drive (car) vehicle should be able to make it as long as you don't pretend your vehicle is an ATV or SUV.  Since this was April, the melting snow had formed a small river that needed crossing; our SUV has high clearance, so our doors only became wet because of the water splashing off the tires.

Temple Mountain

Anyway, once you hit the dirt road, it is referred to as "Temple Mountain Trail", since that is the first named formation you'll end up near.  It is pretty impressive and I made sure to take photos from several angles to get its complete story.  This area was mined heavily for uranium, so you will come upon abandoned mines, equipment and building ruins.  Look, but don't touch, or go into, as they are unsafe.


San Rafael Swell
By the way, you're now traveling though the San Rafael Swell; a giant dome-shaped anticline of sandstone, shale, and limestone that was heaved upward during the Paleocene Laramide Orogeny Era (60-40 million years ago). The Swell is approximately 75 miles long by 40 miles wide, but don't let those numbers deceive you into believing you can travel the Swell in very little time.  Enough words, let the photos do the speaking for me...


Look at the sandstone walls, all those multicolored strata indicate different millennia of formation.  An opening in a wall might be the site of an abandoned uranium mine, or the den of one of the local desert residents, like the rattlesnake.

Two more formations to show you, and then this adventure comes to a close.  A common formation is the pyramid shape and not every one you see in every area has a name associated with it.  However, Flat Top Mesa (6480 feet above sea level) is along this road; once we reached a point of decision (fork in the road), well not knowing where we actually were, or what was ahead (no destination signs), we decided to turn around and go back the way we had come.

Flat Top Mesa

We're hoping the winter snows do not come early this year and that we can make a complete trek to one of the I-70 exits in November.  Snacks, bottled water, full tank of gas and, most definitely, maps in hand should get us through this time.  Oh yes, and the cameras, cannot forget the cameras!

Mary Cokenour

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Goblin Valley State Park - A Prehistoric Playground

"Magic Dance"
~ Lyrics by David Bowie from the movie, "Labyrinth" ~

"You remind me of the babe. What babe? babe with the power. What power? power of voodoo. Who do? you do. Do what? remind me of the babe."

Formations near park entrance
Even though these are the lyrics David Bowie wrote, sometimes the word "hoodoo" is substituted for "voodoo" by whomever is singing them.  Hoodoo?  Why Goblin Valley State Park of course; thousands of hoodoos make the landscape of this park resemble an alien world. 

Wild Horse Butt in background

Unfortunately this prehistoric playground of goblin formations has come into the news (October 2013) due to the destructive nature of three people.  I really do not want to refer to them as "men" as that would be insulting, in my eyes, to the entire male half of the human species.  These "things" pretended to represent the Boy Scouts of America as leaders; they were supposed to teach their charges about nature, conservation and respect for the planet.  Instead they decided to teach the boys under their care to destroy what nature had formed over millions of years.  Though these "things" were dismissed from the Boy Scouts, they should be seriously fined and most certainly given jail time; this is my personal opinion about the entire issue.  Unless you have been living under a rock, no pun intended, here is a link to the story (with video) on CNN: , and this photo I'm posting was taken in April 2012 and could be the very formation that was destroyed.

Alright then, lets get back to the park; Roy and I visited in April 2012, spent three hours climbing over, under, around, through these marvelous formations and had so much fun!  It is definitely a playground for young and old alike and should not be missed when driving on Route 24, whether to or from Green River, in Emery County.  The Entrada sandstone dates back 170 million years (Jurassic Period); evidence points to the formations being created by the tidal flows of a sea, rather than just the weather elements alone.  The term "hoodoo" refers to the mushroom shape of many of the formations; a free standing pinnacle with an overhanging cap.  The term "goblin" refers to the spirited, whimsical, perhaps even malign forms of many; I even found one that resembled a whale.

I usually don't post photos that have people in them, but I will today as I want you to get a good perspective on the sizes of many of these hoodoos.

This is a playground where the goblins form little tunnels that an adult can crawl through, not recommended if you don't like spiders, and they can form an excellent framework for photos...the sandstone formations that is, not the spiders.

Take a walk towards the Carmel Canyon Trail and Molly's Castle Overlook; it's an outstanding scene!

Goblin Valley State Park, I don't know how anyone could not have fun here; no matter what age you are, as soon as you see those hoodoos, you will want to play!  Go play, have fun, and appreciate what the natural elements have given you.

Not tired yet after being at a prehistoric playground?  Hope you brought a picnic meal and then after that go work it off at Little Wild Horse Canyon; just follow the sign once you leave Goblin Valley State Park.  Carpe Diem!!!  Seize the Day!!!

Mary Cokenour