Taking the scenic byway to an unexpected challenge

Dirty Devil River Camp is windy.

Our front yard is a canyon where the Dirty Devil River flows

I parked so the wind strikes the BLT at the back.

All night long the wind increases, howling and nudging the Best Little Trailer on her perch above the wide canyon through which the Dirty Devil River meanders.

The first morning of our camp here, Friday, May 17, the crew and I play on the slickrock.  All the while I’m evaluating the cloudy sky and the nature of the warm and constant wind.

“We’d better pull up stakes and move on.”

It’s not my practice to tow in wind. 

This is different.  This wind isn’t just passing through.  It lives here.  My hunch is, once we’re away from these massive cliff walls, the wind will die down.  Since I didn’t unhitch the night before, it’s not long before we’re on the road.

A short distance from camp, we turn off Highway 95 to drive up to Hite Overlook.

1-P1040367From this viewpoint I can see last night’s Dirty Devil River Camp.

1-P1040370Highway 95 from Hite to Hanksville is known as The Trail of the Ancients Scenic Byway. 

1-P1040374I get a glimpse of some water flowing into Lake Powell and soon we leave the Glen Canyon Recreation Area.

1-P1040375Mammoth rock formations and enchanting glens of cottonwoods make every turn of the road, every hill and dale, a delight to the eye.  (The photo below doesn’t adequately represent the incredible scenery.)

1-P1040381The road winds through rock cliffs with scant shoulder which makes photos difficult.   I put down the camera and enjoy the ride as we roll along.  Bridget and Spike are asleep behind me.  The wind is slight and not noticeable when driving.

Around noon we reach Hanksville.

I stop at the Chevron station and buy gas and propane.  I notice a short cell tower on the rocky hill across the road.  I walk the crew around, toss them back into the PTV, open up the laptop, turn on the Mifi aircard, and answer some comments on this blog.

Before pulling out, I buy a chocolate milkshake at The Burger Shak.  I don’t eat burgers.  There’s nothing easy to fix for lunch in the BLT.  And I haven’t had a chocolate milkshake in decades.  No kidding.  It’s a darn good milkshake and sets me up for the next leg of today’s travel.

Okay, I need to make a decision.

I can turn west and go through Capitol Reef or I can continue northward to Goblin Valley State Park.  I choose the goblins!

1-P1040385Beyond the irrigated green fields of Hanksville, the landscape changes to flat desert pocked with sagebrush.  The Lower Blue Hills lightly touched with snow serve as a backdrop.

1-P1040388We pass Big Wild Horse Mesa on the left.  To the right the San Rafael Desert stretches in a seemingly endless plain of sagebrush where cattle roam in free range.

1-P1040386After about twenty miles I turn left toward Goblin Valley State Park.  An information kiosk appears at a turn-out.  A large map of the area is pinned to the bulletin board.  The San Rafael Reef is ahead and apparently, given the information on the board, it’s a popular place for hikers, climbers, and OHVers.

I make another left turn onto the road to the park’s entrance.

1-P1040394Oh boy.  It’ll be good to stop for the day and relax.  I’m getting tired.  I’ll set up in a campsite, take it easy for a bit, walk the crew around the campground . . .

1-P1040397I drive up to the entrance gate. 

An ominous sign on the toll booth states Campground Full.

“Oh no!  The campground is full?”

I ask the lady in the booth if it’s possible a site has opened up. 

“I passed three RVs leaving as I drove up this road.”

Without hesitation, she replies, “No, every site is reserved except for six sites that are non-reservable.  They filled up at ten this morning.”

“Gee, do you have any suggestions where I can camp tonight?  I’m self-contained.”

Cheerfully she tells me to go back to the info kiosk, turn left and I’ll find a BLM fenced-in area with vault toilets.  This I do and find it totally unacceptable.  Flat, red dirt.  Welcome to Camp Ugly.

I continue down the road leading into a canyon.

1-P1040398My heart skips a beat as I approach beautiful campsites.  Then my spirits drop.  Every gorgeous campsite has a toy-hauler or trailer with one to three Off Highway Vehicles.

1-P1040400I turn around at the first chance and drive back out of the canyon.  Well, whaddya expect.  It’s Friday afternoon and time for weekend off-road roaring and racing!

Where will we sleep tonight?

Gee, this is quite a challenge.  I don’t want to camp on a sagebrush plain and I don’t want to get caught in a narrow canyon with no way to turn around.  My next post I’ll tell how I found a lovely, quiet boondock in an unfamiliar, challenging area and without the help of the internet!



About rvsueandcrew

Fulltime nomad
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66 Responses to Taking the scenic byway to an unexpected challenge

  1. Reine in Plano,TX says:

    We are going to start calling you RVTease instead of RVSue. But I understand the “full”. We had to camp the last two nights in a “gasp” commercial RV park because 6 months ago we couldn’t get reservations in Escalante State Park – two hours after reservations opened! We’re headed for NO reservation Red Canyon NFS park tomorrow but we plan to arrive early so should be no problem. This country ain’t Texas but it surely is fascinating.

  2. Alison - Pacific Northwest says:

    Can’t wait to hear your story! It’s not all sagebrush plain around there, is it…
    I don’t even remember how I found anything before the internet.

    • rvsueandcrew says:

      No, it’s not all sagebrush plain. The San Rafael Reef offers mesas and canyons. It’s a twisty maze of dirt roads climbing in and around rock formations.

  3. Wow I can’t wait to hear. We will be headed west in August. I look forward to learning again from reading about your adventure.

  4. tinycamper says:

    Loved the photos with the explanations of what I’m seeing. That last site is fantastic. Lucky them! 🙂

    Looking forward to seeing what you found.

  5. cinandjules (NY) says:

    Pretty scenery. You didn’t want to be around OHV’ers anyhow! Glad you found something that is acceptable. Sleep tight………

    • rvsueandcrew says:

      And I probably would hate Goblin Valley State Park’s campground!

      • Chuck says:

        Actually Sue, it was pretty spread out and several hiking paths leading out from it. The formations that the park is named for are strange and fascinating. Sorry you missed it
        Geri and I loved it!

        • rvsueandcrew says:

          I didn’t miss the goblins, haven’t taken the blog to that point yet. It’s the campground with all the children that I’m happy I missed.

  6. mockturtle says:

    Weekends (Friday and Saturday nights) are the times I usually stay in private RV parks. Public campgrounds are too busy for me on the weekends. And noisy. Besides, it gives me a chance to charge all my electronics, take a ‘real’ shower in my motorhome without worrying about filling up my tanks, cook rice in my rice maker, do laundry; grind coffee and fill my water tank. Maybe watch a little baseball on TV, too!

    • rvsueandcrew says:

      Goblin Valley is out by itself… No towns around, no RV parks, just the state park or dispersed camping on your own. I expected to find weekend crowds but I didn’t think about most of the sites being reserve sites and therefore not open. Oh well, live and learn. It turned out I was forced to find something better!

      • mockturtle says:

        Yep, who’da thunk? Glad you found a better place–one without ATVs! I’ve never taken that part of 95 but, my! It looks breathtaking!

  7. mockturtle says:

    PS: Is the road good?

  8. Sue Malone says:

    Oh, Sue….Capitol Reef is the absolutely most gorgeous park in Utah, the very best. There are boondock sites around Boulder City, south of Boulder Mountain on the Burr Trail, along Cottonwood Creek, and then again large tracts of BLM land just before you go back into the NP along the western boundary, before the Burr Trail switchbacks. Of course you don’t want to do those. I have NEVER camped at Goblin, it is always crowded. There is another place up near the San Rafael Swell, north of Goblin, I have boondocked and slept in the back of my pickup alone there a lot, on the road leading into Little Wildhorse Canyon. Best slot to hike if you like slots but are a bit scared of them. It is only 2 km in the narrows and gorgeous. This is heaven on earth country, my country, soul of the earth country, but you have to know where the good spots are. I hope you have found some of them by now. I really hope you don’t bail before you see Capitol Reef, really. It is a secret park, looks like nothing when you are in the NP campground and visitor center, but the waterpocket fold is 100 miles long and open to magic. sigh. I guess I am wishing i was there right now.

    • earthdancerimages says:

      Sue Malone and RV Sue… if you haven’t yet read any of the books by Chinle Miller (available on Kindle) you should! Her books are fun adventures all along the San Rafel, Capitoal Reef and Moab areas! She lives there and describes the area the only way a person who loves her life there can! The books are fun and describes the area through Chinle’s eyes! I think you both would enjoy them! I believe there are 4 in all.

    • rvsueandcrew says:

      Hello, Sue!

      I think you like Capitol Reef. 🙂 I appreciate all the detailed information. Stay tuned!

  9. Sue Malone says:

    maybe your lovely quiet boondock is my favorite place in the San Rafael Swell!! I can’t wait to find out.

  10. Alphonso Lewis says:

    Thanks, I am see the United States through your eyes. I have one question, how do you avoid the bad weather?

    I hope you fine a sleeping site.


    Alphonso Lewis

    • rvsueandcrew says:

      I could write pages and pages on how to avoid bad weather. The most important way to stay out of bad weather is camp in the Southwest! I don’t know how much you know about U.S. weather. Tornadoes, hurricanes, and snowstorms are more frequent in other parts of the country. As for methods, I simply read weather forecasts online.

      The key in the Southwest is elevation, because extremes in temperature and wind are what you want to avoid. I stay in the low desert of southern AZ for the winter and I’m careful not to drive into higher elevations too early in the spring. It’s not difficult to travel so that many days are mild with no rain.

  11. dawnkinster says:

    Can’t wait to find out. Darn. Now I have to go to work wondering…

  12. Ron says:

    I’m anxious to tell you about it! I have to stop at some point or my blog posts will be too long.
    Your post are never to long for us. I am always disappointed when I hit the end of your daily post.

  13. Ladybug says:

    Oh, gee, a cliffhanger!! (cliffs, canyons, get it? anyway….)

    As for that milkshake, I would have conked out about 30 minutes later. Those darn things put me to sleep! Must be the carbs.

    • rvsueandcrew says:

      Hi, Ladybug! I’ll probably wait another 20 years before I have another milkshake. I remember that days I could eat anything I wanted and not gain a pound.

  14. Paula says:

    This is like watching the final season episode of your favorite TV show with the “big cliffhanger” and then having to wait until September to see what happens — except, we get to find out in the next 24-48 hours!

  15. Mary Ann (Pontotoc, MS) says:

    Sue, the sights are so spectacular–the only times I’ve visited the Southwest I was in the back seat of the family car between my older brother and my grandmother, traveling back and forth between California and Mississippi. Making the trip with you is so much better, as you can imagine! 🙂

  16. Roger Norris says:

    If you are still in the area, you might try the boondocking sites in Capitol Reef NP. We rented a jeep when we were there and traveled down the unpaved, but passable, Notem-Bullfrog Road that goes south through the park from the main road. We stopped at a campground in a beautiful area (hardly anyone there) to do a great hike (Red Canyon). The campground was virtually empty except for some geology students and their professor. It might be your kind of place. The unpaved road was in decent shape last year and the scenery was like nothing I have seen before, or since.

  17. Dixie says:

    Sue,You are a TEASE!! I look forward to your post every day!! They are NEVER too long!!! Gorgeous pix! Hugs to the pups,Dixie

    • rvsueandcrew says:

      Hi Dixie …I really didn’t intend to tease you! (Classic statement of Teases the world over, right?) Glad you like my ramblings and the photos.

  18. Roger Norris says:

    Just to clarify, the Notem-Bullfrog Road is on the east side of the park and is not the paved road that runs south in the center of the park at the former town of Fruita. The Notem-Bullfrog Road follows the water pocket fold that Sue refers to.

    • rvsueandcrew says:

      Thank you, Roger, for all the good information. I know the crew and I aren’t up to the level of hiking that you and Dianne do. We shall see what we shall see . . .

  19. Sue Malone says:

    The No Tom Road can be a bear with washboards, not so much from the north, but toward the south and the Burr Trail connection. You might be able to get there with the BLT and I have photos of parking a 17 foot fifth wheel in that campground. (very tight junipers, not level area at all, it is on the side of a hill up a short road.We almost didn’t get out) We had a bunch of my friend’s window casements come loose on the NOTOM road. Shera swore she would never again take that road with a rig. I never heard the end of it. In fact, it was one of the things we laughed about together on the day she died ten years later. The campground is small. There are 6 sites. Red Canyon is one of my favorite hikes. There is a long stretch of BLM land before you get toward the campground, so if the washboards are too tough, you could head east at the intersection that goes to Mt Ellen and camp with the cows there. It is magnificent. I guess I am getting repetitive. Magnificent. the center of the world. I hope you see it

    • rvsueandcrew says:

      Great comment: “You MIGHT be able to get there with the BLT.” Ha! I’ll get out my Benchmark atlas and look up the places you and others have mentioned. Thank you.

  20. Bev Deem says:

    Utah is a very enticing State and you are in some of the most enticing area. I never got tired of the formations and the beauty during the 4 seasons we spent in that area. I watched a program about people who spend time on a space ship near Hanksville. Hope you get to spend time at Capitol Reef! Safe travels!

  21. Ms. Minimal says:

    What beautiful photos… nothing like an RV Sue cliffhanger!!

  22. MKReed says:

    Well if I could post an emoticon here it would be a bug eye…Now I’ll be checking every few hours until I know where you found to lay your head. I love the photos and give some smoochies to the pups.

    • rvsueandcrew says:

      So sorry to keep you waiting, MK! I want to post right this minute but I’m still in the process of coming out of the migraine I woke up with this morning. It’s the kind of headache that drains the energy out of me and leaves me with waves of nausea for several hours. I’m feeling pretty good right now (late afternoon). I slept all morning.

      The “pooches” are taking care of me. 🙂

  23. Marilyn Eykel says:

    Hi Sue, Could you please include your elevation when possible? I’m off the road awhile due to illness, but plan to get right back on and can’t go over 5,000 feet for more than 24-48 hours at a time. Thanks. Love your life. Thanks for sharing it. You kept me going when I was ill! Lots better now & getting RV out today to pack for trip to somewhere..Marilyn

    • Cherie H from OH says:

      I used to think Utah was nothing but hot barren wasteland that should be avoided. But thanks to you Sue, Utah is now at the top of my list of places to visit if I ever get the chance. Gorgeous scenery! Thank you so much for sharing your experiences with us.

      • rvsueandcrew says:

        Hi Cherie! You’re welcome.

        One thing I’ve learned since hitting the road and traveling through the Western states — All my preconceived ideas about the West are not worth much. I’m frequently surprised. I’ll never forget the time I saw a cactus growing at the base of a pine tree in Arizona. Never thought those two would grow together.

    • rvsueandcrew says:

      Hi Marilyn… I looked up Hanksville on wikipedia and it says the elevation in 4,295 ft. Goblin Valley SP is probably close to that because I don’t recall much change in elevation. Maybe a search of the park will tell you better.

      I’m glad my blog gave you some diversion while you were sick. And I’m very glad you are feeling better and getting ready to take the RV somewhere!

  24. SSI John says:

    Wow Sue I am watching the news and the horrible tornadoes that hit Oklahoma. I hope you were not hit with any of that bad weather!

    • rvsueandcrew says:

      No tornadoes here, John. Nice of you to think of us. I’m worried about reader Emily O and others who are in Kansas, maybe some in Oklahoma.

      • EmilyO from KS says:

        Doing fine, we had 2 the other day but were about 10 miles south of us. Am feeling very down for those folks south and east of me – in Kansas and Oklahoma and any other areas in the path of this huge, huge system.

  25. Susan in Dallas says:

    The photos were beyond wonderful. No camera on earth can do justice to the beauty your eyes must have seen on this drive. Years ago I visited the Grand Canyon and thought (before I got there) that it would be pretty. When I got to the viewing place I could not even speak I was so overwhelmed. Glad you’re feeling better.

  26. Rattlesnake Joe says:

    Swimming I have been told is the best excersize. I think walking comes in second. The natural rythum of the human body with swinging arms is all I do and I have lost 13 lbs in the last couple of weeks. You’ll probably have a hard time excersizing by walking the dogs as they stop and go all the time. Have to get the heart beat up a bit but I don’t push it. Speaking of milk shakes, I went to a 1950’s cafe today called Debbie’s Dinner in Medford Oregon and had a strawberry malt. It sure was lip smacking good…it was fun celebrating the lost 13 pounds ha.

  27. Billiam says:

    Hi Sue. I haven’t heard from you for a few days and am wondering if everything is OK.
    Bill in Alabama

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