After weather sent us scurrying from the San Rafael Swell, we headed to the Book Cliffs. Although I-70 passes along their base from US-6 east to Grand Junction, they’re a relatively unvisited area. Our adventures in the Book Cliffs started in the (ghost?) town of Thompson. The remaining residents have put up a sign with a map detailing the recreational activities available from their little town:
We camped out for the night as it was getting dark and headed to the petroglyph (rock art carvings) AND pictograph (rock art painting) panels in Sego Canyon. Most of my experience with rock art in the Southwest has been with petroglyphs so I was really excited to see the pictographs:
After we checked out the rock art (and waited for the sun to peak over the canyon walls), we headed up Thompson Canyon to the end of the road then returned to head up Sego Canyon and the ghost town of Sego. Sego was a coal mining town that appears to have operated off and on from the 1890s through 1948.
The road goes about 15 miles up into the Book Cliffs and dead ends at the Ute Indian Reservation. We were able to drive almost all the way up (about 13 miles) and walked the rest of the way. The views were incredible!
I even spotted bear tracks in the sand near the end of the road:
We headed down the canyon and turned onto Book Cliffs Road (clearly marked as a 4×4 road…). It was quite an adventure, as the road dropped into a deep, narrow canyon and climbing back out wasn’t the easiest thing to do but Forrest and the van managed just fine (I tried to manage the chaos in the van and Sprocket slept…).
Eventually, we cut back south to I-70 and skipped east to Book Cliffs Over The Top Road. According to the map it was possible to make a loop up one canyon, over the top of the plateau, and then dropping down another canyon.
As we suspected, the top of the plateau was still pretty muddy and we had to skip our plans for making a loop. Despite the fact our plans had changed, it was awesome to be that high and have views out in every direction. I’m sure we’ll be back with the jeep in a more hospitable season to explore some more!
After a quick lunch in Hanksville, we headed for the San Rafael Swell. We’ve heard a lot about the area but have never made it over that way. As we started looking at maps, we realized that there really is a whole lot of exploring we need to do so away we went.
We immediately headed for the Behind The Reef road to hike some of the canyons. The weather was cold with snow and rain in the forecast and we figured there might be some shelter from the wind there. After waiting out a snow squall in the van (with a nice pot of coffee), we parked near a trailhead and did some exploring of an old mine.
It wasn’t immediately apparent what they were mining here as it was pretty shallow and there seemed to be a ton of petrified wood pried from the walls…maybe that is what the prospectors were after?
After our explorations, the snow picked up and we returned to the van. And it just didn’t stop. It was fun for a bit and then we started to worry about being downhill from the main road in conditions that were getting wetter and wetter (oh to have a 4-wheel drive van!). We hightailed it back out to pavement and decided to save the Swell for another time. We’ll definitely be back though!
We spent the night along the “shores” of Lake Powell at the Hite campground. We couldn’t believe how low the water level in the lake was! Since Sprocket is the spoiled puppy child, we still found him some access to the water—and access to lots of mud. He was one happy dog!
Since the lake level was so low, we decided to head away from the lake. Alongside the road, was a camping area at the mouths of the Irish Canyons, a canyoneering area. We’re not canyoneers (although we’d love to try canyoneering!) but we spent some time scrambling around.
Sprocket provided us some awesome entertainment as he tried to turn around within a narrow spot in the rocks. He’s such a good natured dog to provide us such awesome entertainment:
Although we’ve gotten glimpses from the Henry Mountains from the Moab area for years, we’ve never driven past their base. They’re such pretty mountains! The wet, muddy roads combined with the low snow level prevented us from exploring them. We’ll have to go back to this area sometime soon, there’s lots of exploring to be done!
“The sum of the whole is this: walk and be happy; walk and be healthy. The best way to lengthen out our days is to walk steadily and with a purpose.”
Sometimes it’s a little cold outside.
Our dog is also a little bit spoiled.
He quite loved his nest made from our dirty clothes and was quite sad when we did laundry.
It is a common occurrence in the life of 3Up Adventures to be driving along, spot an interesting road and explore it on the spot. As we were headed to Lake Powell, we spotted this road snaking up the mesa so we had to go check it out:
Sometimes I think Forrest just likes to pretend the van is a jeep.
Just west of Blanding, we visited the Butler Wash ruins:
In the morning, we found Haley and Scott and discovered they hadn’t been able to find Katie and Niko either. Back at camp, we shared our coffee with Mikey and Adam and talked about what our plans for the day were. Mikey and Adam were planning to climb South Six Shooter Peak and we asked if we could tag along on the hike to the bottom of the climbing pitch with them. They seemed happy for the company so we pulled out following them to the trailhead. They pulled over at a parking area and began to unpack their car, explaining to us that there was a “big drop off” ahead that we couldn’t drive down. Forrest suggested that they hop in the van and we’d go check it out. As we reached the “difficult” section, there was another climbing party unpacking their car for the hike in so we decided to invite them to hop in as well.
The afternoon turned out to be lots of fun—the hike up the talus slope kept leading to better and better views and hanging out at the base of the climb was actually a ton of fun. It would have been even more fun to climb ourselves (although Forrest scrambled up the first pitch to check it out). As I was relaxing on a rock, basking in the sun, another climbing party reached the top of the trail. It was Haley & Scott—this time rather than waking them up in camp, I properly introduced myself and found out that I “knew” Haley via Twitter.
Back in the campground, we talked to a couple from Canada who are traveling in a Unimog with a camper mounted on the back. It was really fun to talk to another couple who were on the hunt for the perfect adventure vehicle: 4-wheel drive, gas mileage, and livability. We also headed back over to our friends from Saturday night to hear about their climbing exploits of the day.
Thank you to everyone we met in Indian Creek. I was totally floored by how welcoming everybody was to a couple of maybe-sorta-wannabe climbers. You all made our time there so much fun. We’ll totally be back.