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?

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