Our friends in Huntington, Utah were aware that we had been a bit disappointed with the crowds we found at Utah?s Arches National Park. They told us there was other scenery equal to, and possibly better than what we had already seen and that they were willing and ready to take us out to view them.
It was made clear to us that the areas that we were going to visit were off the beaten track; most of them accessible only via 4-wheel drive vehicles. Our friends were familiar with the area and have spent many hours in their four-wheel drive vehicles and all terrain vehicles exploring the countryside throughout the entire San Rafael Swell in Utah. The area is rich in history, many Indian petroglyphs and pictographs are to be found scattered throughout the area. The Cleveland Lloyd Dinosaur Quarry lies within the area. This is the territory of the Robbers Roost Gang, in the Buckhorn Wash about 50 feet above the pathway they name ?Matt Warner? and the date Feb 1920 can be seen printed in black paint on the sandstone wall of the canyon. Matt Warner robbed his first bank with Butch Cassidy at Telluride, Colorado – their loot was $12,000. Because they were recognized, Matt Warner had to leave his $50,000 ranch. After many years of robbing banks in Oregon, Matt Warner came back to Utah and gave himself up to several years in prison. After his release he became Deputy Sheriff of Carbon County, Utah, and wrote a book pointing out that crime doesn?t pay!
We started out on an overcast afternoon, our intention was to just take a quick look at the ?Little Grand Canyon? about half-an-hours drive away. En route we passed the Cleveland Lloyd Dinosaur Quarry, it was closed to visitors at this time as there had been quite a bit of rain over the past few days and the road into the quarry was built mainly on clay and was practically impassable as long as the clay was wet. After traveling over the first part of this road it was obvious that it was meant strictly for 4-wheel drive vehicles. The bumps and dips were separated by potholes and mounds, the inclines were greater than most automobiles would be able to climb and the road at one spot ran perilously close to a sudden drop-off that looked to go down 40 to 50 feet in spots. In many ways it reminded us of some of the roads we?ve traveled in the Lillooet – Bralorne area. We pulled into a clearing near the edge of a canyon, climbed out of the 4wd and walked over to the edge to have a look. Far below us the San Rafael River winds its way along the bottom of this 1,200 foot canyon; across the canyon the bedrock is a striking scene with red, brown and white colours predominating and alternating from the canyon right up to the crest of the canyon. It might not be as deep as the Grand Canyon in Arizona but its beauty is certainly comparable – it?s easy to see why they call it the Little Grand Canyon.
From this point, we retraced our path to the main road, then went east for about two miles where we took the right-hand fork in the road, the road going down Buckhorn Wash. In this wash beside the ?Matt Warner? printed on the cliff-side and the Indian pictographs and petroglyphs, a dinosaur footprint is found about one and a quarter miles from the fork. From a sandstone point it is reached by climbing 20 to 30 feet up the left-hand side bank, and then walking about 150 feet north. The track is in the slick horizontal sandstone and measures about 12 inches by 14 inches. It is often found to be covered by a piece of rock placed there by someone hoping to protect it. About two miles further down the canyon there are figures apparently doing a rain dance painted on the canyon wall. The Bureau of Land Management has fenced the area in an attempt to protect these historic paintings, but they are marred with peoples? names and gunshots. A sign by the fence tells us that these pictographs and petroglyphs are over 1,000 years old, created by people of the Fremont culture. Today their meaning is a total mystery.
Some miles further on we reached a suspension bridge crossing the San Rafael River. It?s only about ten feet above the water and it looks rather shaky. It sways as we drive over it, being assured by our friends that much heavier vehicles have crossed it safely. At the other side of the bridge there is a B.L.M. campground in a grove of cottonwood trees. There are picnic tables and a water tap – what a lovely place to camp for a day or so. We?re not prepared for camping though so we move on.
We soon come to an area about 15 feet by 20 feet fenced off by a pole fence, about 30 feet from the road – it?s a sinkhole – a hole formed when an underground cave in the limestone collapsed. About three miles further we come to 1-70 and head west; by this time its evening and the sun is going down. The outlines of the mountains silhouetted by the setting sun form a fitting end to the near perfect day – the sunset seems to hang on for most of the hour or so that it takes us to return to Huntington.
Like so many places that we?ve been, there has been just too much to absorb while we were traveling across this area. Our friends Helen and Arvin were very knowledgeable about the area and traveled over most of it on their four wheel all-terrain vehicles with which they could reach many scenic and historic spots not accessible by other types of four-wheel drive vehicles. They have invited us to return later on in the year, preferably around the beginning of October when it?s cooler and when there aren?t so many mosquitoes and flies. If we do that, they suggest that we take our motorhome plus their motorhome pulling a trailer with two four-wheel all-terrain vehicles and spend a week or so out in the boonies ?just funnin? around?. It?s certainly something that we look forward to doing in the future.
Leaving Huntington we headed for California following 1-70 to 1-15, then across Nevada and into California on 1-15. Desert, desert and still more desert, so different from the prairies, and so hot! Nope, we didn?t even stop in Las Vegas to gamble, just kept right on going and stopped instead at a new place beside the road just a few miles from the border where we ate a fantastic meal for a most reasonable price and played the slot machines for about 10 minutes. No – no jackpots, but we did walk away from the slot machines with a few more dollars than we had in our pockets when we started playing them. More desert and we?re coming into Victorville, California – we arrive in a cloud of steam, our radiator sprung a leak and we have to be towed to a service station where they can take the radiator out and get it repaired. Two days and over $300 later we?re on our way, engine damaged from overheating when the radiator went, we?re limping our way home. A stop to visit relatives in the Riverside area, then more limping, limping and limping and we?re home once more.