Cottonwood Canyon Road

After completing our tasks in Escalante, we packed up our caravan and headed to Kodachrome Basin State Park. It was too late in the day to do the planned hikes in the park, so we asked the Ranger for a good place to disperse camp outside of the park. She directed us to the Rock Spring Bench Campsite off Cottonwood Canyon Road at marker 410. We set up camp in a field with an incredible view of the surrounding geology.

The mouse appeared in the morning and Clark saw it jump outside before it could be captured, never to return. I guess it liked the drier, warmer climate.

Kodachrome Basin got its name from a 1948 National Geographic magazine shoot that called the area Kodachrome Flat after the brand of Kodak film known for its vibrant colors. Utah purchased the land from the US Government and made it a state park in 1962.

The next day we went back to the park and did two hikes. The first was the 3-mile Panorama Trail which lives up to its name. Everywhere you look you are surrounded by natural beauty on this trail.

There are a lot of spires of various colors throughout the park. Some of these formed from water springs that filled with material that became a harder rock than the water spring walls that eventually eroded away. Other spires were volcanic shafts that pushed a different rock material up through a rock formation that has also eroded away.

This is the view from Panoramic Point looking towards the basin. It is hard to believe that less than 100 years ago this area was the beautiful, “undiscovered” region within the US for the National Geographic photo shoot.

After lunch we did the shorter Angel’s Palace Trail. This trail jumps up onto a local plateau that gives a great view of the park below. This is also looking towards the Basin.

This is a view from one of the many narrow elevated pathways along the hike looking to the west, away from the Basin. Besides the incredible beauty, the building along the road was a park laundromat. We will have to remember that the next time through here.

We camped at the same spot that night. The Rangers in the visitor center let us rent their corn hole bags and boards. It was a competitive happy-hour where all three couples won in the round-robin tournament.

The next morning, we packed up, returned the corn hole game, and headed south down Cottonwood Canyon Road. We stopped at Grosvenor Arch for a few pics of this unique rock formation. The 150-foot tall arches were named after Gilbert Hovey Grosvenor, the first fulltime editor of the National Geographic Magazine and later the president of the National Geographic Society.

Not all the interesting things are from looking up, or even rocks. Pam found this great looking lizard making his way around the base of the arch. Nice polka dots.

As we continued south you could now see the Magnum Fire smoke cloud that was blowing to the northeast. We dropped into “the squeeze” where the trailheads for the cottonwood canyon narrows are located. The area gets its name from the near vertical tilt of the many rock formations in the area. This must be a geological stress release point where a lot of ground shifting and rotating has taken place over the years.

The narrows hike is a 3-mile hike through a slot canyon wash in the area.

Given the COVID concern, many of our hikes luckily had very few other folks on the trail with us. As we hiked the narrows “downstream”, a young woman was hiking up and stopped to chat with Clark and Jill. It turned out that she was a BLM (Bureau of Land Management) intern and was just getting to know her job area better. The next generation may not be as bad as we think.

The area is also called “candyland” due to the many colors of the rock formations.

We hiked back to the vehicles on the road because the scenery along the road is just as spectacular as within the slot canyon. Also, the road traffic is light – lol.

We left there and continued south to Lower Hackberry Canyon trailhead. The trip so far had been low maintenance for all three vehicles. I had to replace a bolt in our stairs when we were in Blanding, add DEF to the Roamer reservoir when the warning flashed on my dash, and the macerator in our sink drain was flowing slower than usual, which Pam fixed. Clark and Jill had their mouse hunt, and Mike and Nancy had to replace a hold-down bolt and reseat their microwave when it popped out due to the rough roads we were traveling on. However, a bolt through the scissoring support arms of Clark and Jill’s pop-top bent, preventing easy operation of the assembly and the fear if it broke when up, the top would be stuck in the up position. Mike and I headed up Lower Hackberry trail while Pam and Nancy relaxed at the vehicles. Clark and Jill continued south along Cottonwood Canyon Road to find a connectivity signal and figure out how to remedy their bent bolt issue.

The Lower Hackberry hike was pretty, but tough as we made out way up the wash. It was like a beach hike through soft sand. After about a couple of miles, Mike and I turned around and headed back to the vehicles.

We knew we wanted to camp somewhere south of Lower Hackberry so we started heading that way towards Clark and Jill. As we made our way along the road, we ran into Clark and Jill returning to the trailhead. They had found connectivity, purchased a replacement bolt in Page, AZ and scouted a spot just a few miles south while attempting to resolve the pop-top issue. The fix would require internal bracing of the pop-top in the up position while a come-along unloaded the hefty spring mechanism that aids with the lifting of the 350-lb pop-top assembly. Therefore, their top would remain down the rest of the trip and the fix completed upon return to the valley.

The campsite was a dispersed camp spot just off the Cottonwood Canyon Road with a colorful rock wall as a backdrop.

Looking to the south you could see the smoke from the Magnum Fire around Jacob Lake, about 50 miles away. Luckily, we were north-northeast of the fire and the smoke was tracking northeast, just missing us.

We had some hummingbird visitors, so Pam put out our hummingbird feeder on the table as we enjoyed happy-hour, a nice dinner and a campfire. I must have sold Mike on the versatility and safety of our Volcano grill during this trip. He sent a picture after we got home of his new Volcano grill for their future trips. I was amazed how clean it looked. I guess ours has seen about 1000 nights of camping by now and the second carrying bag for the grill is held together with bungee cords. The grills are nearly indestructible and in addition to regular cooking, work extremely well for having a safely contained, off the ground campfire in the wilderness.

The next day we headed to Stateline campground only to find a Ranger there saying Rock House Road south of Wire Pass trailhead was now closed. We camped on the hill above the trailhead parking lot as we had done before with Lou and Nancy a few years ago. The only downside was that the trail to the maze petroglyphs is south of the closure so we could not visit it this time.

Thinking that maybe with the COVID scare less people would be at the daily lottery for The Wave at the Kanab BLM office, I called the office and found out that the previous days all had over 100 people there for the lottery of 10 spots, similar to a normal year. Therefore, we decided to just hike Wire Pass and Buckskin slot canyons.

Jill, Mike and Nancy took off early to hike the canyon. Clark and I hiked into the slot along the Wire Pass trail a little later in the day. Pam was not feeling 100% so she stayed at the rigs and read a good murder mystery in the shade.

There was no ladder at the drop in the Wire Pass slot, but Clark and I were tall enough to reach the rock steps below before we had to let go of the top rock at the drop. It was nice and cool in the slot canyon.

We hiked to the confluence where Wire Pass and Buckskin meet and turned north towards the Buckskin trailhead.

We spotted this lizard that was similar in color to the gold and orange shades of the sandstone walls. Obviously, his camouflage was not good enough seeing that something nearly got him for a meal before he shed the end of his tail and got away.

It was my first time hiking so far up Buckskin and the canyon was wider and just as beautiful as Wire Pass. Near the end of the canyon I spotted a rock formation that reminded me of an elephant head and trunk coming down the canyon.

As we hiked out of the Buckskin slot canyon and approached the trailhead, we ran across a cow that looked a little parched.

Clark and I then turned around and hiked back down Buckskin to the confluence with Wire Pass and then continued south further down Buckskin. This section was rockier on the canyon floor and made for a slower hike. Some sections were sandy, and we caught the light making its way down through the slot at the point we turned around.

We got back to the confluence for a third time during this hike and then headed out Wire Pass. The entrance to the slot canyon looks very narrow as you approach it from the confluence.

The Magnum Fire was now only 25 miles away from our campsite at Wire Pass. We were a little further to the north, so the smoke traveling northeast was missing us still. The area of the fire around Jacob Lake is around 7,900 feet in elevation. The North Rim of the Grand Canyon is covered with Ponderosa Pine and Aspen that turn gold, orange and even red in the fall due to the colder air at that elevation.

The original itinerary was to show Clark, Jill, Mike and Nancy one of our secret camp spots just outside the National Park. It is located on the east side of Hwy 67, overlooking the Vermillion Cliffs and the Colorado River entrance to the Grand Canyon. The area should be untouched by the fire because the 80,000-acre fire was contained to the west side of Hwy 67, which runs from Jacob Lake to the North Rim. This campsite disclosure will have to wait for another trip.

So instead of heading to the North Rim we had to turn east to Page due to the fire related road closures and then south to Flagstaff. We stopped just outside Flagstaff for gas and to restock on food. Clark and Jill headed for the dispersed camp sites near Walnut Springs National Monument to find a spot.

Clark found a nice spot tucked in some trees and we had a nice happy-hour in the shade.

The next morning we hiked the rim trail of Walnut Springs National Monument because the visitor center and the access to the cliffside trail was closed.

We then headed into Flagstaff for lunch. We had to wait for the trains to pass so we could cross the tracks and get into town. It was a case where we really were on the wrong side of the tracks.

The last time we were in Flagstaff we found a good butcher shop that also serves meals and beers from the local breweries. Proper Meats + Provisions is right on Historic Hwy 66 and worth a stop if you are hungry and thirsty.

Our travel group split up after lunch to head on home. Clark, Jill, Mike and Nancy headed south back to the valley. Pam and I headed southeast to the Rim Country and our place there. Another fire, the Bush Fire, was between us and the valley once we made it to Payson. It is contained now after consuming 193,000 acres, but had caused the closure of the road from Payson to the valley for over a week. It was a little smokey coming into Payson.

Our place is 30 miles and 2500 feet higher in elevation from Payson. We were not sure how smokey it was going to be there. As with most forest fires, the smoke lays down at night, but gains altitude in the late afternoon before sunset.

While it was nice when we arrived at our place, it slowly became smokier in the afternoon. By sunset, it was pretty smokey at our place, even with the fire about 100 miles away.

The next day we decided to drive back down to the valley. Because of the Hwy 87 road closure we had to drive through the Salt River Canyon between Show Low and Globe. It took a couple more hours than normal to reach home, but the drive was nice, and we even saw another Earthroamer on the road traveling in the opposite direction as we were climbing out of the canyon.

It was a great trip with the three vehicles. COVID did not impact our adventure because we visited remote places where social distancing is easy to do. So the question is – where to next?

The Burr Trail

We headed out of the backcountry and the gnat-infested camping spot to Blanding, UT. We filled our rigs with gas and water and headed to the Edge of the Cedars State Park Museum. We’ve traveled through Blanding several times over the past few years but had never visited the museum.

The museum was incredible, especially when you consider that Blanding only has a population of 3,700 folks. Many of the artifacts that have been found in the region reside in the museum. There was an entire room of the pottery collected, representing the four major periods in native history they were created. The pottery also varied in color and patterns by the different people that inhabited the region.

The macaw feather sash ceremonial piece was carbon dated to 1150 AD, but still had the bright colors of the scarlet macaw feathers. Trade was extensive between the folks from this region with folks all the way down into Mexico, the home of the macaw, and folks along the Pacific coast who brought shells other items to trade.

We then went to explore the “house on fire” ruins in the Bears Ears National Monument. The variation in color in the layers of sandstone give the appearance of flames above the ruins.

That night we headed back to Muley Point and another gorgeous happy-hour sunset.

The next day we visited Natural Bridges National Monument. Again, the visitor center and campground were closed, but the trails were open. We hiked down to the Sipapu Bridge overlook.

Sipapu Bridge is named for a Hopi term for the opening of the worlds. It is 200 feet tall, 31 feet wide, with a span of 268 feet.

We then hiked down to the Kachina Bridge overlook. On the way we saw this tree that has somehow figured out how to grow out of a rock and survive.

Kachina Bridge was named after the pictographs and petroglyphs of dancing kachina figures found on the base of the bridge. In 1992, 4,000 tons of sandstone fell from the inside of the bridge, making the opening slightly larger. It is just slightly smaller that Sipapu Bridge at 210 feet tall, 44 feet wide and 204 feet in span.

After our hikes, we headed west towards Hite, UT. Hwy 95 runs through Fry Canyon and some very colorful country.

We stopped at an overlook after passing Hite and crossing the Colorado River. This is effectively the entrance to Lake Powell and was at one time submerged when the water level was closer to the full water level value. Lake Powell is currently 90 feet below the full water level and has been that way for decades. Even at this lower level it currently contains over 4.4 trillion gallons, or 13.6 million acre-ft of water.

This is a view from the lookout of the Colorado River as it flows towards the Lake Powell entrance.

We turned south after Hite on the 276 Hwy towards Bullfrog, UT. Given the boat traffic on the road towards the marina at Bullfrog, I now realize that boat accidents occur because boat owners cannot drive on the road or in the water. Many must have a death wish as they try to get to the marina at maximum speed.

Before reaching Bullfrog, we turned west onto the Burr Trail, a 68-mile backcountry road that connects Bullfrog, UT with Boulder, UT. The drive is spectacular and is paved except for the section that runs through Capital Reef National Park.

At roughly 28 miles after the turn onto the Burr Trail you begin to see the “waterpocket fold”. This geological feature is made up of 100-foot layers of sedimentary rock that were bent into a 100-mile long colorful spine of rocks that formed 60 to 70 million years ago when the Rocky Mountains were uplifted and formed.

This is the approach to the Burr Trail switchback, a true dirt switchback that climbs up the face of the waterpocket fold.

This shot is looking down the face of the waterpocket fold through the slot where the road enters the switchbacks.

Once on top of the switchbacks we began to look for a good camp spot for the night. We found a pull-off just before Long Canyon with an incredible backdrop provided by the local mountains. As the sun was setting, we noticed what looked like a forest fire smoke cloud dispersed across the sky, which are common in the summertime in the west. We did not have a connectivity signal to locate the fire, but I expected it to be from somewhere in the southwest of Utah near Bryce Canyon or the Sierras of California based on the wind direction. We did not know that the smoke meant that our last part of our itinerary was about to change.

When we do have connectivity on our travels I like to look ahead and see if there are interesting places to explore. A few days before, I found a posting for the Singing Canyon, a short slot canyon within Long Canyon that looked like a good stop.

The singing canyon gets its name from the acoustics within the short canyon. It was a nice morning stop and short hike into the beautiful slot canyon.

Before reaching Boulder and the end of the Burr Trail, we stopped for another hike on an interesting sandstone hill. The hill is covered with shattered rocks that appear to have a lot of iron content. It looks like thousands of volcanic iron balls were launched in the air during an eruption many years ago, cooled in the air and then shattered on impact with the sandstone.

We finally made it to Boulder and got some gas at one of our favorite stops in Boulder. When we were there last a couple of years ago, we signed a petition so that they could get support for a liquor license. The closest beer or liquor was an hour away. The little market now has beer and liquor – yeah!

Boulder, a small but very pleasant town, also has a museum we had not visited before. The Anasazi State Park Museum was a surprisingly nice museum with some excavated ruins of an ancient community in the back that you could see.

The museum also had a taco truck in the parking lot. We ordered lunch there while we listened to a band that was playing on their lawn. It was the first “dining out” Pam and I had done since the beginning of the COVID panic in early March. The tacos and the band were good. Hopefully, things will return to normal soon.

We left Boulder and headed into the Dixie National Forest along the Hell’s Backbone Road. Before Hwy 12 was carved through the sandstone rock formations and paved between Escalante and Boulder, Hell’s Backbone Road was the only way to get to Boulder. Hell’s Backbone bridge was originally built by the CCC back in 1933.

The bridge’s location is the “backbone” where two gorges, the Death Hollows gorge on one side and the San Creek gorge on the other, fall off for 1000 feet or more. To build the original bridge the CCC felled two huge ponderosa trees to span the gap. A bulldozer driver, “Sixty” McInelly, moved the construction equipment across the fallen tree span with just a rope tied around his waist in case the dozer went over. OSHA was obviously created after the CCC – lol.

The original bridge held until the 1960s when folks became worried about the groans and creaks it made during each crossing. It was replaced with a steel and concrete bridge and then update to today’s bridge in 2005. The 360-view from the bridge is spectacular and photos just do not adequately capture the place.

We were able to get the last spot in Blue Spruce Campground along the Hell’s Backbone road, squeezing all three rigs into the single spot. The elevation of the campground is roughly 7,800 feet, and therefore, back into the cool forest.

There was a nice stream that ran next the campground.

Being out first campground for this trip, it was also our first campsite picnic table. Jill pulled out their tablecloth for the site’s picnic table. The pink and turquoise flamingoes were perfect.

During the night Clark and Jill picked up another passenger, a mouse that had obviously spent the night chewing through their paper products. It could not be found within the rig, even after the removal of many items, and so we left the site with a possible stow-away.

We stopped in at Posey Lake for lunch along the route to Escalante.

There were a few Ruddy Ducks on the lake, which are a colorful bird with a light blue beak.

Two fishermen headed out with a canoe and a cooler outrigger that one of the guy’s brothers had fabricated. The PVC structure looked like it worked well. We saw them pull in a few rainbow trout while the coolers provided easy access to food and beer while they were out on the water.

We made it to Escalante, UT and did some laundry at a local campground. We had connectivity again in town and found out that the forest fire smoke was from the Mangum Fire located near the north rim of the Grand Canyon National Park. That was to be our last campsite area for this trip so a change in plans would be required.

Four Corners

With the COVID-19 virus dominating everyone’s thoughts and actions, it was a good time to hit the road and explore the natural beauty in some remote places. I put together an itinerary for a southern Utah road trip for Pam, myself, Clark and Jill to get out of town for a couple of weeks. It turned out that other friends, Mike and Nancy, had just purchased a Ford Sportsmobile and were enroute back to the valley when they saw the itinerary and decided to join this adventure. It would now be a Roamer, a Mercedes-Benz Sprinter and a Ford Sportsmobile trek.

Due to the heat this summer in the valley, Pam and I headed up north with the Roamer into the cooler mountain forest and waited up there until Clark and Jill could leave the valley. Mike and Nancy would join us enroute in southern Utah after they got home and stocked up their new rig.

Before any trip I like to practice taking some pictures with our camera to learn more about photography and how the camera works in different conditions. While most of my pics are of stationary objects, I would like to get better at capturing action shots. I am not there yet.

I caught this rabbit trying to hide behind some ferns in our yard.

Steller’s Jays are all around our yard, especially when we put the peanut feeder out. I think they eat as many as the Abert’s squirrels and the two are always stealing from each other’s stash – lol.

We have had a couple of bald eagles at the pond near our place this summer. We typically get osprey that come over from Willow Springs Lake to fish in the pond, but the eagles are a new guest.

I caught a couple of Canada geese resting at the pond during a migration stop. It looked like they were possibly staying, but with the eagles keeping an eye on them from above they moved on the next day.

A great heron was fishing in the pond. Fish and Game are stocking the pond this year so there were a lot of small fingerlings to eat in the shallows since the larger stocked fish now command the center of the pond.

A northern flicker was drinking from the water dish on our deck. I guess they cannot suck so they get some water in their beak and then tilt their heads back to let it run down their throats.

Chipmunks are making a comeback to our area. Alfie, our neighbor’s male cat, pretty much decimated the chipmunk and snake population for over a decade. He even attacked a coyote that was in his hunting territory. Now he is getting older, slowing down, and staying close to his house. The local wildlife appreciates his aging. He still comes over for a scratch when we are in the yard.

An Arizona Gray Squirrel was interested in posing for the camera on a fallen tree.

When Clark and Jill arrived, and we took off north for the four corners – that place where the state boundaries of Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado and Utah all join together at a singular point. We passed through Petrified Forest National Monument to get to the four corners area. The road through the park was open, along with the trails, but the visitor center and campgrounds were still closed due to COVID.

It was nice to see that every bridge in the park was being rebuilt during this period of partial closure. The impact of the COVID shutdown is not all bad. It is a great time for road work and construction with the reduced daily traffic.

As you can see from the pictures, the place is no longer a forest. The large trees that once stood there were buried under layers of mud, volcanic ash, and other minerals. The lack of oxygen prevented decay and over millions of years the wood’s cellular structure crystallized, transforming into petrified wood. Chunks of the old trees are still visible everywhere and the colors within the crystallized wood are beautiful.

The four corners region is on the Navajo Nation lands. While the majority of the Navajo Nation is in Arizona, it does extend into Utah, New Mexico and Colorado. The Nation is 27,400 square miles, roughly a 160-mile by 160-mile square. If it were a separate US state it would rank 41 in size, being just larger than West Virginia in size, with a population of roughly 200,000 people. While the area is sparsely populated and remote, the Navajo family-oriented society has suffered significantly due to COVID relative to the surrounding areas in the West. Because of this, much of the Navajo Nation is still closed, which includes businesses and even the National Parks and Monuments within the Navajo Nation.

We caught an afternoon dust storm as we made our way through the beautiful landscape of the Navajo Nation on our way to southern Utah.

We climbed the Mokie Dugway switchbacks and finally made it to our first campsite of the trip, Muley Point. A rain cloud hung low to the ground in the south over the four corners region as we looked out over the beautiful landscape. Luckily, it did not rain so the dirt roads we were driving on were dry.

From Muley Point you can look past the lip of the plateau and see Monument Valley on the horizon about 10 miles to the south. Having grown up in Western Pennsylvania, surrounded by trees, I now prefer the majestic horizon-to-horizon vistas that most of the West provides.

Soon after we arrived, Mike and Nancy arrived to complete our travel group. We had the plateau to ourselves again, which was why I chose this spot for our campsite given the COVID social distancing requirement. I think the closest neighbor to our three rigs was about a quarter of a mile away on the next plateau.

As an added precaution, we had happy-hour every night during the trip to ensure that the alcohol killed any growing COVID cultures in our throat – lol.

Sunsets up on the plateau are spectacular.

The next day we dropped back down the Mokie Dugway switchbacks and explored Gooseneck State Park. The San Juan River cut this gorgeous formation through the rock on its way westward to the confluence with the Colorado River at Lake Powell. We saw some rafters on the river 1000 feet below from our lookout vantage point, making their way through this section of the river.

This entire region of the country is breath-taking if you like colorful, unique rock formations. To the east of Gooseneck State Park is a mountain side with a few million years of erosion history beautifully displayed.

From up on top of the Muley Point plateau you can see Monument valley on the horizon to the south, Gooseneck State Park just a little way to the south, and a dirt road that runs along the southern base of the plateau that we have always wanted to explore, Johns Canyon Road.

Both the Roamer and the Sportsmobile are high-clearance four-wheel drive vehicles so we let Clark and Jill lead with their two-wheel drive Sprinter. We figured if they led and got stuck, we could pull them back to a good section of road with our winches, rather than let them follow and attempt to pull them through a bad spot or force them to scrape their undercarriage to keep up. The idea worked well. Both Mike and I were impressed with the rough road sections Clark was able to get the Sprinter through without scraping the bottom. However, as a future note, the rougher four-wheel drive sections are typically not areas with a lot of room for recovery options. But then again, you only need one good option that works.

Most of the road looks like the picture below, so most of it is an easy drive. However, the sections of easy road turn to clay in the rain and become impassable even for four-wheel drive vehicles.

We ended up stopping near a cattle guard gate that blocked the road. Due to the slope and erosion of the road after the gate, the Sprinter would have modified a few components under the vehicle attempting get through.

Instead of doing vehicular damage, we parked on a nice bluff overlooking the San Juan River gorge and had lunch. The picture below is from the cattle guard gate looking back the way we came.

Here is our Roamer advertisement shot for the trip that Pam took at our lunch spot along the road – lol. It was a beautiful spot.

The original itinerary had us using Muley Point as our social distancing nightly base for a few days as we explored the local area. However, we are always looking for a new and better place to camp so we decided to check out the Valley of the Gods for a good afternoon hike and a campsite.
The colors within the Valley of the Gods are spectacular.

The road winds through the rock monoliths.

We found a good spot for a hike. According to Clark the trailhead sign told of beautiful petroglyphs, so we all headed up the trail.

The trail ran up the rock-bed wash, but no petroglyphs were found.

There were many spots along the road where you could pull off and camp. We found a great spot to spend the night and enjoy the stars.

The next morning, we continued along the road to the other side of the picturesque valley.

One of the rock monoliths was called “sitting hen” for an obvious reason.

After leaving the Valley of the Gods we headed east towards the Colorado border and Hovenweep National Monument. Again, the park and trails were open, but the visitor center and the campground were closed. We hiked the 2-mile loop around the ruins that were built between 1200 and 1300 AD.

It is estimated that roughly 2500 people lived here during that time, and that most of the ruins are the food storage granaries.

After lunch at Hovenweep NM, we decided to explore the dirt roads in the area for a good campsite. We drove up Montezuma Canyon and Montezuma Creek roads until we came to Three Kiva Pueblo.

It was a BLM (Bureau of Land Management) site with a preserved kiva out in the middle of nowhere. As with all kivas, you climbed down the ladder into the kiva, symbolic of re-entering the earth where the ancient Pueblo people originally emerged during creation.

The inside of the kiva was well-maintained and is probably still used by some locals for native ceremonies.

We camped near the kiva that night, which turned out to be a huge mistake. The area was covered in sage, which always smells great, and cottonwood trees running along a submerged stream nearby. It was an active cattle grazing area, which meant there were a lot of biting gnat-like bugs that made for an evening of advanced deet-related skin protection. Clark and Pam were the gnat’s food of choice based on their quantity of bites, but we all suffered enough irritating bites when we took inventory in the morning that should remind us to never, ever camp there again.