After flying to Spokane we made the drive to Rossland via the very scenic State Route 25. Route 25 originates in Davenport and ends just before the border with Canada so we were able to travel the entire route from start to finish. Lots of great scenery as much of the route hugs the river following the many bends and also rises above for spectacular vistas. The ferry is the Gifford-Inchellium Ferry. The church is located in the “town” of Hunters, WA.
On Wednesday afternoon we drove the Kolob Terrace Road to take in the views of the terrace and Zion NP to our east. The road ends at the Kolob Resevoir after 24 miles and an elevation gain of over 1000 ft. We traveled to mile 18 where the road is still closed due to remaining snow making the road impassable. Great views and a refreshing drop of about 10 degrees in temperature from the desert floor below.
On Tuesday we hiked the Middle Fork of the Taylor Creek in the Kolob Canyons district of Zion NP. We accessed the hike from the trailhead on Kolob Canyons Road. We followed the middle fork crisscrossing the creek multiple times. The canyon narrows and deepens until ending at a double arch alcove. Along the way we stopped to see two long abandoned cabins built by homesteaders around 1930.
On Tuesday we drove north 40 miles to access the much less visited Kolob Canyons area in the northwestern section of Zion NP. The road is paved and winds up along the western side of the canyon providing spectacular views of Nagunt Mesa, Gregory Butte and Burnt Mountain.
We traveled from Torrey to Escalante on Scenic Byway Route 12. The views from the sinuously curving road with were breath-taking, especially from the summit at 9,600 feet. Stopped at Lower Calf Creek to hike to the falls, and, finally in Escalante, a good capuccino (with a view) at Kiva Koffeehouse–Stephen’s vacation is complete!
Today we attempted to drive the Hells Backbone Rd. We knew that it was unlikely we could make it through but wanted to see if we could make it to the Hells Backbone Bridge which spans Sand Creek. The Bridge is 109 feet long and 14 feet wide. The drop is 1500 feet on both sides! Unfortunately due to a late winter storm the road is closed just short of the bridge. We spoke with another traveler who proceeded past the road closure sign but turned back when he saw a vehicle ahead of him stuck in the snow.
On Thursday road conditions allowed us to venture into the remote Cathedral Valley district of CRNP. The terrain in this area consists largely of Bentonite which when wet is virtually impassable for any vehicle. So with several days of dry weather behind us we set out to reach the Sun and Moon Temples. Our average speed was only about 15 MPH due the significant washboarding present along with the many washes that need to be carefully negotiated. We again had many hours of solitude and beauty in this very unique portion of the San Rafael Swell.
Sunday’s weather provided a beautiful backdrop for our drive and hike within the Waterpocket Fold District within CRNP. Our drive began with a thirty mile trek down the sandy and occassionally muddy Notom Road which provided spectacular views of the Reef and the Henry Mountains. We turned east at the junction with the Burr Trail to drive the incredible switchbacks to the top of the Reef. We then left the Burr Trail to journey up the 4WD track to the Strike Valley Overlook trailhead. After hiking up to see the impressive view of the full length of the valley we hiked back down and then hiked the Upper Muley Twist Canyon stopping at the Saddle Arch before returning to the jeep and back down the wash to the Burr Trail. The Burr Trail becomes paved after several miles and winds its way through numerous canyons ending at Rte 12 in Boulder. Boulder is an impossibly small town 40 miles from any other town but fortunately is the improbable home to a highly rated Zagat restaurant – Hell’s Backbone Grill. We had a great dinner and bottle of wine before heading north over the 9600 ft elevation of Deer Mountain within Dixie National Forest. A great way to celebrate Stephen’s birthday with a beautiful day and a wonderful dinner.
Today we traveled from Price to Torrey where we will be staying while exploring Capitol Reef National Park. Along the way we traveled through the northern section of the San Rafael Swell to visit the Cleveland-Lloyd Dinosaur Quarry which has one of the largest and densest concentrations of dinosaur fossils ever found.
From there we traveled further south with the intent of driving through the Buckhorn Wash to visit the Wedge (aka the Little Grand Canyon) but rain overnight made the sand and dirt roads impassable. Instead we ventured south on Route 72 which took us through Fishlake National Forest and over the summit at Hogan’s Pass where we encountered gale force winds and snow.
Tomorrow we begin our hiking at Capitol Reef National Park.
On Sunday we took the day off from skiing and snowshoeing and hit the road to visit the “big city” of Nelson (pop. 10,000). The ride up provided the excitement of driving through the Nancy Greene Summit Pass (check out the video) and then motoring along the Kootenay River (pictured below). Of course, a major goal of our trip was to find the best coffee roaster in the region.
Happily, we can report that we had productive and delicious stops at Oso Negro Coffee Roastery and John Ward Fine Coffee both located on Ward Street.