How I found a boondock in the San Rafael Reef, Utah

In the last episode of rvsue and her canine crew . . .

(No peeking at the slideshow at the end of this post!  Eat your dinner before dessert!)

We discover Goblin Valley State Park’s campground is full.  The BLM “campground” suggested as an alternative by the toll booth lady is too ugly to consider.  Our exploration of the canyon directly west of the information kiosk reveals it is filled up with weekend campers and their Off-Highway-Vehicles.  I’d rather sleep in a subway tunnel.

I’m tiring and Bridget and Spike are getting restless.

I park us at the information kiosk located at a T intersection.

Let me give you the lay of the land.  The state park is nine miles of paved road to the southwest of where we’re parked.  Think of that as the “vertical” part of the T.

Right before the park entrance Little Wild Horse Canyon Road swings westward around Little Wild Horse Butte.  Both times we pass this road, several cars and RVs are streaming onto it.  I’m too worn out to drive eight miles back and then more miles down that road only to find too many weekenders already there.  If I can’t find anything else, I’ll check out that road.

Directly to the west is Camp Ugly and OHV Playland, as outlined above. 


Directly to the east is the road across flat sagebrush plain to Highway 24. 

No possibilities there.

I climb out of the PTV to look at the map pinned to the bulletin board.  The crew begins to wail and hop around in protest while the wind whips me so hard I have to hold onto my glasses lest they be blown clear across the San Rafael Desert.

As I try to make sense out of the map, a young couple joins me. 

They are soon followed by a guy with an Class C rental.  Hmm . . . fellow state park campground rejects?  The roads on the map look like bacteria in a petri dish, twisting this way and that, and each with a number.   Correctly deciphering the number code requires the skills of an experienced Egyptologist.  Some are county roads, some are state roads, some are EM.  EM? What the heck?  Are there no BLM roads? Everyone present admits to confusion.

Ownership of lands is indicated by color. 

Or more accurately, at one time in the past  the ownership of lands was indicated by color.  Now the map is faded to an almost uniform white.  Plus one corner of the map has come loose and needs to be held down against the wind.  BLM, private, national wilderness study, county, state . . .  No way to tell the difference.  I give up!  I’ll have to ferret out a good campsite entirely by my wits.  If I’m illegal, well, I’ll deal with that later . . .  We have to camp somewhere.

I go back to the PTV to analyze the situation.

Well, what am I looking for?  I want peace and quiet, solitude if possible.  Some place where the crowds wouldn’t think to go.  Safety for the crew, no perilous precipices.  Level, of course.  Out of this godforsaken wind — a sheltered spot — and not uglier than a coonhound’s a*#.  

Hmmm . . .  I survey the landscape.  East, west, and south are no good.  Not this weekend anyway.  That leaves north.

I look to the north across sagebrush plain.

Blah . . . . Wait a minute . . . .  A few miles in the distance, give or take, a dirt road climbs over a small hill.  I wonder if that road makes a turn into the San Rafael Reef (the same gorgeous reef where the OHVers are camped but much further north).

I follow my gut feeling and fire up the PTV.  I find the start of the road not far from the kiosk.  I bet the other people are thinking I’m nuts to go camping in an open plain in this wind.  Good.

We come to a fork in the dirt road.

I turn left toward the hill and the reef!   We go over the hill and I take a spur road to the left.  It goes up.  Great little campsite.  Drawbacks:  a precipice looking down into a narrow canyon and no shelter from the wind.

We continue on the dirt road and take another spur road.

This campsite is very nice, it’s level, and it’s not at the edge of a cliff.  Not a lot of shelter from the wind, but it’ll do for one night.  I climb into the PTV to position the BLT on the most level place.  I glance through the windshield and stop cold.

“Oh no!  This is terrible!  We can’t stay here!” 

Way far in the distance I see the itty-bitty kiosk with a little toy Class A motorhome and ant-people walking up to the bulletin board.  If I can see them, they can see me.  “Oh look, Honey.  Someone’s camped way over there.  See that white speck?  Let’s go camp next to them!”

We continue on the dirt road.

It dips downward and a lovely campsite beckons my tired self.   No, that’s a wash.  There isn’t enough water around here to fill a bathtub, but, still, I’m not camping in a wash wondering about precipitation in the mountains. 

From this point on, the road is questionable.

Several times I park the PTV, get the crew out, and together we walk up the road to make sure it’s passable.  We come to a fork.  To the right is a sign warning that the road sucks.  We walk up the left fork.  Hmm . . . looks good.  All this walking has me practically exhausted.

Was it this morning we were at Glen Canyon Rec Area?

Gee whiz.  (No wonder this blog post is so long.) The road goes into a narrow canyon.  In spots deep sand threatens. Boulders are scattered about the sides of the road.  I look up.  Boulders are ready to join their friends down below.  Nope.  I’m not sleeping under the threat of a 16-ton rock hitting the roof of the BLT.  I stop, walk ahead, come back, drive a little further.  Rinse and repeat.  And again.

Mistakes are made when you’re tired.

I take a chance and drive further into the winding canyon without walking it first.  Of course, I get us into a jam.  I can turn around in a tight spot and probably scrape the side of the PTV or BLT, or I can back up through the narrow, winding canyon, past evil boulders out of my line of sight, for a MILE or so.

The best thing to do in this kind of situation is sit for a bit.

As I’m sitting at the wheel, contemplating my options, reassuring the crew that we aren’t going to die, what should appear?  A man strolls around the rock wall jutting out ahead of us.  He’s about forty, beginning to paunch, an open face, walking along enjoying himself.  He comes over to my window.  I’m ready.

“Hi!  Maybe you can help me.  Can you tell me what the road is like up ahead?  I really don’t want to back-up out of here or scratch everything turning in this tight spot.”

“Oh, the road isn’t bad.  You can make it fine.”

“Towing this trailer?”

“Sure.  There’s a turn-around where you can camp.”

“There IS? ”  Suddenly the Vienna Boys Choir starts to sing up the canyon.  “How far?”

“About three-tenths of a mile.”

“Will rocks fall on my head while I sleep?

He chuckles.  “No, it (meaning the canyon) opens up.  I’ve camped there before.”

I’m all smiles as I thank him and as we continue to our camp.

Bridget and Spike hop out onto the soft sand.  They’re ecstatic.  Off-leash!  Running around!  Peeing on bushes!  Climbing rocks!  Sniffing flowers! (Bridget)  Rolling in something smelly! (Spike)  Doing a happy dance! (me).

I twirl around, head upturned, taking in the beauty all around us.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.


Note:  What are the white flowers Bridget is posing next to?

Posted in Simple living | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 161 Comments