4th of July in Kanab, Utah – Stars & Stripes in the Red Rocks!

July 2019 – One of the great things about traveling in the summertime is being able to enjoy the 4th of July celebrations in a special place. This year we were near the small town of Kanab, Utah, and we eagerly went into town to see the parade.

4th of July parade Kanab Utah-min

Uncle Sam greeted us as we came into town!

We were staying over the border in Arizona, and we’d forgotten that in the summer months Arizona and Utah are in different time zones. Utah is always in Mountain Standard Time while Arizona floats between Mountain and Pacific Standard Time depending on the time of year because they don’t change their clocks for daylight savings.

We’d planned to arrive about a half an hour before the parade started, and as Mark parked the truck he glanced at the clock on the dashboard and was about to say, “Perfect timing, it’s 9:30,” when he noticed our truck’s clock said 10:30.

Oh no!

4th of July parade Kanab Utah Parry Lodge-min

We missed the start of the parade, but what we saw was wonderful.

Luckily, the parade was still going on and we saw some fun things roll by. A bright red fire engine went past and then there were a bunch of RZRs all dolled up in red, white and blue. There were some other interesting contraptions too.

4th of July parade Kanab Utah RZR group-min

A RZR brigade in red, white and blue (hey, what are they passing to each other?!)

4th of July parade Kanab Utah RZR group-min

More RZRs!

Tricycle Kanab Utah 4th of July parade-min

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4th of July celebration in Kanab Utah-min

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A few antique cars beeped as they passed by the historic Parry Lodge where all the Hollywood stars of the Golden Age stayed when they made hundreds of movies in the beautiful red rocks around town.

Parry Lodge 4th of July parade-min

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Antique car 4th of July parade Parry Lodge Kanab Utah-min

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Antique car 4th of July parade Kanab Utah-min

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Smokey Bear made an appearance in the back of a US Forest Service truck. And then one of the Hot Shots standing on a Forest Service fire truck gave us all a big spray.

Kanab is an hour’s drive from any town big enough for a city-sized supermarket, but the grocery store in town, Honey’s Market, keeps everyone’s pantry full. A lady clown from Honey’s Market brought up the rear of the parade, slowly making her way down the street, chatting with friends and neighbors and giving out goodies to the kids.

Kanab was settled in 1864 when Fort Kanab was built, and in 1870 ten Mormon families moved into the fort to establish the town. A huge mural on the side of a building depicts the arrival of a wagon train at Fort Kanab.

Mural Wagon trains arrive at Fort Kanab_-min

The full mural of the wagon train arriving at Fort Kanab

There is lots of detail in this mural — the excited pioneers at the front calling out to the people at the fort, the weary travelers further back in the line, and the folks hanging out at the trading post as the wagons slowly come in.

Mural Kanab or Bust-min

“Kanab or Bust!” – The wagon train was greeted warmly when it arrived.

Mural in Kanab Utah weary wagon train travelers-min

It was a long journey, and some walked much of the way…

Mural in Kanab Utah welcoming party at Fort Kanab-min

Shooting the breeze at the trading post

Back in the glory days of Hollywood, Kanab played host to visiting celebrities making movies, but today it is a tourist town. It isituated conveniently between three of America’s major National Parks: Grand Canyon (North Rim), Zion and Bryce Canyon.

It is also close to Coral Pink Sand Dunes, Cedar Breaks, Lake Powell, Horseshoe Bend and Best Friends Animal Sanctuary.

Kanab Utah is near many national parks-min

Kanab is conveniently located in between many gorgeous places.

Over in the town park the 4th of July festivities were in full swing when we walked up. The lush green grass and the vibrant red rock backdrop were beautiful, and the mood was decidedly festive and upbeat.

4th of July celebration Kanab Utah-min

Kanab has a beautiful town park and the party was well underway when we got up there.

Red, white a blue stencils of all kinds had been spray painted on the grass, and lots of people were decked out in stars and stripes.

4th of July party in the park Kanab Utah-min

An old windmill honors Kanab’s ranching history.

Dressed up for 4th of July-min

Everyone was wearing red, white a blue, and some outfits were really cute!

Tents were set up with all kinds of beautiful arts and crafts for sale, and the food court was humming.

4th of July party in the park Kanab Utah-min

There were arts and crafts and food galore!

4th of July party Kanab Utah-min

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The most fun — and coolest — spot to be was near (or in) the water fountain. The water jets sprayed on and off in all directions, and the kids had a blast.

Playing in the fountain 4th of July-min

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Playing in the fountain 4th of July-min

What a great way to cool off!

Buddy wasn’t sure what to make of the constantly moving streams of water, but he was grateful for a drink from Mark’s helping hand.

Puppy gets a drink-min

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It was a wonderful and hearwarming day and a great way to celebrate the 4th of July. If your travels take you near Kanab, Utah, on Independence Day some year, stop on by. This town puts on a wonderful celebration!

4th of July Celebration Kanab Utah-min (1)

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Mexican Hat, Utah – A Special Hoodoo in the Red Rocks

March 2019 – The Utah red rocks are full of whimsical formations that are easily recognizable. One of the most charming is Mexican Hat, a rock formation that unmistakeably resembles a sombrero.

Mexican Hat Utah RV trip adventure

A Mexican sombrero caps off the landscape in Utah.

We were traveling through southeastern Utah with our RV, and before we arrived at this fantastic stone hat we found some wonderful patterns in the red rocks. We spent a little time doing some wide angle photography, playing with the colorful lines in the sandstone.

Leading lines in wide angle photo in Utah-min

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As the golden hour unfolded before sunset, I was astonished to look down at my feet and see a rainbow of colors!

Wide angle photography in Utah-min

So much color right at my feet!

The red, yellow, orange and gray stripes were beautiful, and we explored these unusual patterns at dusk and again at dawn.

Sunrise with puppy in Utah-min

Buddy watched the sunrise with us.

In some cases we focused our photos on the tiny patterns at our feet, but the size and scale of these immense rock landscapes was mind boggling.

Utah landscape-min

Huge landscapes dwarf Mark and Buddy on a rock outcropping.

In many places the sandstone was solid underfoot, but in other places it gave way to patches of red beach sand and small dunes.

Red rock patterns in Utah-min

Ancient sand dunes turned to stone — lines and patterns everywhere.

Buddy loved lying in the hot sand in the heat of the day and rubbing himself in its toasty warmth.

He also got a kick out of chasing the lizards and birds that live in this exotic land. Of course, the bigger birds just stood their ground when they saw the excited puppy coming.

One crow began to tease him, flying just out of reach and squawking. Buddy took the bait and tore after the crow, running and jumping as the bird swerved and dipped his wings near him.

Suddenly Buddy took a big leap, eyes focused intently on the crow. He misjudged the uneven ground beneath him, lost his footing, and crashed into the sand chest first in a cloud of red dust.

When he stood up and shook himself off he was wearing a pink bib and gloves!

Puppy in red rock sand Utah-min

Buddy sports a peach bib and gloves after taking a flying leap after a bird and crash landing in the sand.

Rivers and waterways are responsible for the fantastic landscapes in this area, and when we drove over a bridge crossing the Colorado River we loved the contrast of the crimson cliffs and snowy mountains in the background.

Colorado River in Utah Glen Canyon-min

Snowy mountains and red rock cliffs.

The landscapes were filled with color and vibrance.

Colorful landscape at the golden hour in Utah-min

Vivid colors at the golden hour.

We crossed the San Juan River at the town of Mexican Hat. After driving over a hundred miles through vast empty landscapes, this village perched above the river was a fun surprise, and we got out to explore a bit.

Colorado River Bridge at Mexican Hat Utah-min

The village of Mexican Hat is perched along one side of the river.

Someone had put a three-legged chair in a spot with a great view of the village on the opposite bank. You never know what you’ll find out here!

Town of Mexican Hat Utah-min

Have a seat — but don’t fall over!

We continued on and the skies clouded over. Storms brewed in the distance while the sun lit portions of the land here and there. What a magical place.

Storm clouds and rain over red rock landscape in Utah-min

Storm clouds and rain drift across the red rock landscape.

Storm and dark clouds in the Utah red rocks-min

The rain never made it to us, but what a wonderfully brooding sky this was!

The village of Mexican Hat is named for the fun rock formation that looks like a Mexican sombrero. It was easy to spot and made us smile. What a perfect name for this formation and the village nearby!

Mexican Hat rock formation under storm clouds in Utah-min

Mexican Hat is impossible to miss!

Buddy decided to try it out and see how it fit.

Sombrero Mexican Hat over puppy-min

Buddy tries the hat on for size.

Catching it from different angles and zooming in, the hat really dose look like a sombrero.

Mexican Hat Utah-min

It’s a true sombrero from this angle!

Just how big is this rock formation? Enormous! There were some hikers standing at its base…

Hikers at Mexican Hat Utah-min

It doesn’t look that big until you notice the hikers!

As the afternoon wore on, the hat cast its shadow across the valley below.

Shadow of Mexican Hat rock formation in Utah-min

In the late afternoon Mexican Hat cast a shadow across the valley.

And as the sun set it became a silhouette against the sky.

Mexican Hat Utah sunset silhouette-min

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And then it grew wings.

Sunset at Mexican Hat Utah-min

With colorful flying clouds!

Continuing on, we saw incredible wavy patterns in the red rocks.

Clouds over red rocks in Utah-min

We noticed vivid patterns in the distant hills.

We hopped in the RZR to drive into the landscape a little further. We rounded a bend and found a couple taking a break from their Jeep ride to enjoy a quiet moment in their camp chairs with a fabulous view.

Polaris RZR ride in Utah red rocks-min

We followed a jeep road into the landscape.

Exotic landscape in Utah-min

A couple relaxes in their camp chairs in the middle of their Jeep ride!

These landscapes just begged us to head off into the red rocks to take photos.

Photographer in Utah red rocks-min

Mark heads out to take some pics.

We were drawn to the swirling patterns on the hillsides and couldn’t stop our cameras from clicking away.

Swirling rock formations in Utah-min

Triangular patterns swirled across the base of the mountains.

Red rock swirl formations in Utah-min

Red rock waves.

Wave patterns in Utah red rocks-min

An undulating landscape.

Just how big are these wavy patterns? I had wandered around on foot exploring and then I looked up and noticed our RZR leaning up against this jaw-dropping landscape. Wow!

Wavy patterns in red rocks with scale shown by Polaris RZR-min

How big are those patterns? Pretty big!

With that in mind, here are a few more images taken as clouds rolled in overhead.

Wavy red rock patterns and swirls in Utah-min

Approaching clouds played with the light.

Utah red rock wavy patterns and swirls-min

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We wanted to stay longer, but it was still quite cold in this part of Utah. Our fingers and toes were tired of being numb! We had been in long pants and jackets for too long and we were ready to get back to central Arizona where the temps were hovering in the high 70s. Ahhhh….!

Fifth wheel trailer RV triple tow-min

What a great area. We’ll be back!!

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Traces of Antiquity and the Not-So-Ancient in Utah!

March 2019 – Over the years we’ve been asked how we plan our travels, and we’ve usually said that we move on or stay put on a whim. But it might be more accurate to say that we generally follow the weather, staying put when it’s nice and moving on when ugly conditions are expected.

This has made for some hasty departures with rain, sleet or snow looming, but until this past week we have never been stuck right where we were because of deep mud!

Utah RV trip

Hitting the road is easier when you don’t have to drive through a foot of mud

The Utah desert is filled with sandstone, sand and silty stuff, and when it is dry it hardens to something like concrete with a soft layer of dust around the edges. But when it rains for 48 hours, as it did while we were camping, the water soaks into the silty sand and makes a very squishy mud.

Factory Butte Utah-min

An immense tower rises out of Utah’s red rocks courtesy of rain, wind and sometimes drippy muddy conditions

As we drove to and from our campsite every other day or so, our truck swam through portions of the road, even in 4×4 low gear at 5 mph. There was no way we could tow our 14k lb. trailer out of there.

So, we stayed put and we waited for the mud to dry!

Utah landscape near-far wide angle image-min

While we were waiting for the mud to dry we practice the near-far composition techniques we’d learned in our photography workshop the week before.

We kept busy practicing the wide angle photo techniques we had just learned. The key to putting some real zing into this kind of photography is having a fabulous sky and a fabulous foreground right at your feet. Finding those things is no small trick, though, even in this wonderfully scenic part of Utah.

Puppy Uah landscape near-far wide angle image-min

The near-far wide angle view is a new way of seeing for us, but we’re starting to get the hang of it!

We spent hours scouring the area looking for engaging backdrops in the distance and fascinating foregrounds at our feet while hoping we’d get a jaw-dropping sunrise or sunset to top it off.

The sky didn’t cooperate, but we did find some lovely places and really enjoyed the search.

Utah red rock landscape-min

Low toadstool hoodoos and softly rounded mountains

Of course, what’s funny about doing this kind of photography with our pooch Buddy along is that he has a habit of photo-bombing our shots. We’d get everything set up just so, and then Buddy would suddenly wander right through the middle of the photo, sniffing around and curious about what we were up to.

Utah red rock landscape with puppy-min

Buddy stops by right in the middle of things to say hello!

While I was crawling around on my hands and knees to try and capture these ground level images, Mark hiked up onto the colorfully striped mounds in the distance and took some stunning pics of the softly rounded shapes from eye level.

Striped hills in Utah-min

Up close, the softly rounded mounds were very beautiful

Colorful hills and mounds in Utah-min

The hills were a wide variety of earth tone colors

Utah striped mounds-min

Natural patterns

Slowly, the mud slowly began to dry everywhere, and it made pretty patterns of cracks as it shrank. Mark noticed the pattern of a tree in one set of cracks.

A tree in the cracked mud in Utah-min

The image of a tree appeared in the cracking mud

With the mud quickly drying, we realized our escape from our campsite had to be timed so that the mud on the road was sufficiently dry but the predicted strong winds hadn’t yet begun whipping dust around. Everyday we surveyed the mud and it seemed like our leave-taking was still a few days away.

But Mother Nature has her own sense of timing and her own schedule.

One day, just as we were returning from a walk down the road and agreeing that we should give it another day or two, the predicted winds suddenly arrived and kicked up some huge clouds of dust.

Yikes!

Dust and high winds in Utah-min

Buddy squints his eyes as he makes his way through a swirling dust cloud.
Wild dust storms are the desert West’s answer to the hot and muggy stickiness of mid-summer in the East!

When the desert becomes enveloped in dust storms you can get white-out conditions, and that thin layer of silt finds its way onto everything in the camper, even with the doors and windows closed. Just one swirl as you open the door and dash inside can be enough to coat the counters and table with grit.

It was time to leave!

Within an hour we were swimming down the muddy section of the road, but we had just enough traction to make it out.

Once the tires hit the pavement we heaved a huge sigh of relief!

We headed south on US-95 which is also known as the Bicentennial Highway because it was completed in 1976. It is one of Utah’s most spectacular scenic drives with occasional pull-outs where you can stop to take a photo or rest a bit. After driving for a while we pulled over to stretch our legs.

Hog Canyon Utah-min

The beautiful scenery on the Bicentennial Highway was a welcome sight after our great escape!

A gorgeous yellow Corvette had stopped too. We’ve often said that if we ever stop traveling by RV we might start traveling by sports car and motel. Wouldn’t that be fun! What better way to see America’s incomparable scenic drives that in a zippy and maneuverable Porsche?! We had the chance to do just that in Colorado a few years ago, and what a blast that was! (Blog post here).

RV and Porsche and side by side-min

There are many ways to travel and they’re all fun!

We wandered through the brush by the side of the road and crossed a narrow stream and found ourselves in a shallow cave. Such wonders. Our spirits soared as we roamed around.

View from cave in Utah-min

Mark takes a pic from the floor of the cave

One of the things I love most with Utah’s red rocks is the “desert varnish” on the surface of many cliff faces. It appears as though the gods have taken cans of paint and spilled them over the edges. Jackson Pollack may have made human drip painting famous, but for me, these paintings made by Mother Nature have him beat.

Desert varnish on red rocks in Utah-min

Nature’s drip paintings on towering red rock cliffs.

Artistic expression fill human history back to prehistoric times, and the ancients who lived in Utah thousands of years ago were no different. Using some kind of method to impregnate the smooth cliff walls with various colors, they created pictographs that remain to this day.

Buddy came across an especially beautiful one.

Puppy finds Moqui Queen pictograph in Utah-min

“Look what I found!”

It was about five feet tall and seemed to depict a person wearing a crown of some kind, along with decorations across the neck and shoulders as well as earrings. The figure appeared to have bird wings with long flight feathers, or perhaps it wore a cape that concealed its arms.

I have no idea what the thing next to this being was. But surely the person who meticulously created this image eons ago knew exactly what it was. If only it were possible to know the origins of the artwork in the context of the culture that created it.

Gazing at this image of a very specific something — human? god? — I remembered my astonishment when we watched a school field trip of young kids visiting the evocative ancient pyramid ruins at Monte Alban near Oxaca in southern Mexico.

As the kids sat attentively listening to a guide teach them about some huge stone carvings the Zapotecs had made, he pointed to various images in the stone sculptures and asked the kids if they recognized who they were.

With each question, a few kids’ hands shot up and they answered eagerly. They had studied the ancient mythology that had its roots right where they were sitting.

Moqui Queen pictograph in Utah-min

This intricately detailed pictograph is about five feet tall and appears to be a person wearing a crown and ornaments around the neck and shoulders, and it seems to have either an elaborate cape or wings.

Not too far from this incredible pictograph we found some more recent petroglyphs. The difference between pictographs and petroglyphs is that the pictographs are made by impregnating pigments into the rock face while petroglyphs are made by pecking out an etching.

It’s not so easy to make images by pecking, and in many places we’ve seen poor modern attempts to scrape the rock alongside the expertly made petroglyphs that are hundreds or thousands of years old. However, in this spot some enterprising people whose petroglyph efforts are now fading into recent history did a pretty good job of making a lasting impression.

These petroglyphs dated back as far as 1941 which was long before the Bicentennial Highway was built in 1976 and also before Glen Canyon was dammed to form Lake Powell in 1963.

In the 1940s there was just a rough 4×4 road that, legend has it, a local miner had built between Hanksville and Hite using a borrowed bulldozer!

Modern petroglyph in Utah-min

“Roy Despain + Madeline II – September 1, 1941”

Roy and Madeline covered some rugged terrain to put their mark on these rocks. I wonder if they are still around and if they ever return to see their names on the cliff wall.

Nearby Brig Larsen left his or her name and listed the town of Moab, Utah (his/her hometown?) and the full date of May 21, 1947.

Modern petroglyph in Utah-min

“Brig Larsen – Moab Utah – 1947”

In 1946, a year prior to Brig pecking out his petroglyph, a geological survey described the concept of a future road going between the mining town of Hite (now submerged under Lake Powell) and the Mormon farming town of Hanksville. A quote from that geological survey says:

“Plans are being considered for a road across the Colorado River at Hite and eastward… At the present time (1946) the road follows the bottom of North Wash and a cable-barge ferry is maintained for crossing the river. In time, no doubt, an improved road will be built that avoids the canyon bottom and crosses the river by bridge, probably near the mouth of the Dirty Devil river. Such a road would be one of the most scenic highway in America.”

How right they were as they looked 30 years into the future!

Nearby a Mr. (or Ms.) S. Allan also made a petroglyph with the date “41.” Was he (or she) traveling with Roy and Madeline in 1941? Maybe they all reached this spot together and decided to put their names on the rock much as the Mormon pioneers had done at the Mormon register which is now inside Capitol Reef National Park.

Ironically, someone named Lockyer visited to the same spot in 1978 after the Bicentennial Highway was fully built and paved with asphalt. I wonder if he intended to write over S. Allan’s date or if he realized only after he got going with his rock pecking that he hadn’t allowed enough room for his name.

Modern petroglyph in Utah-min

“S. Allan 41” and “Lockyer 78”

Either way, I’m just assuming that the numbers “41” and “78” refer to years these people were here in the 1900s. But who knows, they could be their birth years or they could be numbers from their high school varsity sports jerseys!

So it goes with the masterful guesswork of archaeology, whether studying the artistic footprints left 80 years ago or 800 years ago or more.

One thing we’ve noticed in the shifting sands of time here in southeastern Utah is that it is not so easy to leave an indelible footprint. We’ve been here only two weeks, yet the footprints and tire tracks we first put down two weeks ago have almost disappeared. The rain and wind have all but erased them from ever being.

Even the muddy tracks on the dirt road had already begun to flatten out.

Photography in Utah landscapes-min

Happy times in Utah.

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Map of the Bicentennial highway

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SE Utah – A Mars Colony, Wide-Angle Photography & Snowy Mountains!

March 2019 – We arrived in southeastern Utah just as snow flurries were abating. It was unseasonably cold, but at twilight the Henry Mountains were utterly radiant, a visual gift that was a happy exchange for having to run around in hats and mittens in mid-March!

Henry Mountains Utah at dusk-min

Henry Mountains at dusk

We snuck out at the first light of dawn and found the red rocks were glowing with an inner beauty.

Utah Red rocks glow in early morning light-min

Radiant red rocks at dawn

When a thick blanket of clouds filled the sky and chased the sun away for a few days, we could see the myriad of colors that are hidden in many of the exotic rock formations.

Colorful rocks in Utah-min

Lots of earth tone colors in the rocks

Off in the distance the classic desert mesas led the way to the horizon in receding layers.

Layered mesas in Utah-min

Mesas on the horizon

An excursion to the Dirty Devil River revealed an immense canyon reminiscent of tributaries within the Grand Canyon.

Dirty Devil River and canyon-min

Dirty Devil River and Canyon

We got a few sunny days, and with the ground still damp from the recent rains, we enjoyed some dust-free rides on our Polaris RZR.

Polaris RZR and puppy with driver in Utah-min

“Are we going for a ride? Yippee!”

Puppy and Polaris RZR in Utah-min

“I want to run alongside for a while.”

These UTV rides took us into the back country of Southeastern Utah where we went from one jaw dropping landscape to another. In some places the desert was flat and wide with immense jagged boulders balancing on the soft soil here and there.

Rock formations in Utah-min

It’s easy to get lost in these rocks!

In other places vividly striped mounds formed a gently rolling landscape.

Puppy explores striped red rock dunes-min

Buddy checks out the rounded mounds of purple, pink and deep brown rocks

Snow capped mountains and purple striped red rocks in Utah-min

Moonscape

“It feels like we’re on another planet!” We kept saying to each other!

This land is so photogenic it’s hard not to take a photo with every step. And it is so whimsical and cheery you just have to strike a pose in a lot of shots too!

Rock formations in Utah-min

Buddy watches Mark pose praising the heavens under a jagged spire.

Utah’s breathtaking and otherworldly landscapes are beloved worldwide, and lots of folks from all over the place come to visit in large numbers between Spring and Fall.

Purple striped red rocks in Utah-min

A huge labyrinth of a layer cake.

When we arrived in Hanksville, a massive and sweeping public land bill had just become Federal law with enthusiastic support from almost everyone in Congress.

We hadn’t known anything about it, but as we talked with the locals we soon discovered they weren’t too pleased. They were frustrated that motorized and mechanized vehicle access to some of the most popular places nearby will be prohibited because they’ll be designated “Wilderness” areas. Also, the locals hadn’t been notified of the bill until three days before it was voted on, so their views were never heard.

With those conversations still ringing in our ears, we were astonished to take our RZR around a corner on a well trodden road on the Bureau of Land Management’s vast square miles of open public land and suddenly see a sign planted in the ground that said:

“The Mars Society. Private Property. No Entry Please.”

Mars Desert Research Station Utah-min

Mars…or BLM land in Utah?

We stood by the sign and stared at the buildings lined up against the striped red rock mounds in the distance. There was a collection of what can only be described as Mars Pods along with a large solar panel array installed on the ground nearby.

We looked at each other in amazement. What in the world was this?

Mars Desert Research Station Utah-min

A Mars colony

We heard voices yelling in the distance and saw the door of the main pod opening and closing repeatedly as young, energetic people ran in and out the door. The yelling didn’t sound like English.

I cupped my hand to my ear to see if I could figure out the language they were speaking, but I couldn’t tell. My first guess was Spanish, and then I thought I heard some French.

Main Pod Mars Desert Research Station Utah-min

There was lots of commotion in a foreign language.

Suddenly, a side-by-side four wheeler came driving out from the pods towards us. There was no engine noise. It looked to be a Polaris Ranger UTV that had been converted to run on an electric engine.

Then two more Mars Rover side-by-sides appeared behind it.

The three vehicles zoomed passed us in a flash and disappeared down the road. One had the word “Opportunity” across the front hood, and they all had a pair of young folks in the seats.

Mars colonizers at Mars Desert Research Station Utah-min

Three UTVs converted to electric engines zipped by

We decided to head into the compound and see if we could learn a little more about what this place was. Driving a short distance, we arrived at the main pod and were greeted by a friendly dog and a young man.

“What is this place?” I asked him.

“Private property.” He said with a strong accent.

“I thought this was BLM land. Public land.” I said.

“We’re borrowing it.” He told me.

Mars Desert Research Station-min

Mars Desert Research Station

I asked if he meant they were leasing the land from the BLM, rather than borrowing it, and he nodded, and then I asked where he and his friends were from, and he said Peru.

He went on to explain that international groups of kids visit this place on two week rotations to live in the Utah desert and drive around in electric UTVs so they can get the feeling of what it would be like to land in a desolate landscape on Mars and establish a human colony.

We later learned that one of their current tasks is to fly teams of 8 drones at a time over the Utah landscape to make digital image maps.

We also learned from some Utah Capitol Reef area tourist literature that describes this Mars colony that whenever the kids step out of the pods into the Utah landscape they are supposed to be wearing space suits just as they would on Mars.

Curiously, we did not see a single space suit on any of the kids going in and out of the pods or driving the UTVs across the desert. They were in street clothes and they looked no different than any other ATV/UTV owners who like to cruise around on dirt roads and go exploring.

Mars colony rovers in Utah-min

Future Mars colonists drive off into the desert in their UTVs to map the desert by flying teams of 8 drones at a time! Despite claims they wear space suits, they actually wore street clothes and looked no different than any other ATV/UTV group playing in the desert.

When we left, we saw a large sign on one of the building pods that said, “All funding by private donations. The Musk Foundation.”

The Musk Foundation-min

Major Sponsors (all funding via private donations)
The Musk Foundation

As I’ve said many times before, the public land debate is immense and complex and there is a lot more to it than meets the eye.

We continued on our own little safari at a modest 18 mph down the dirt road, lost in our own thoughts.

Suddenly, a huge SUV came up behind us from the direction of the Mars colony at about 40 mph and swerved around us, narrowly missing the left side of our little open air buggy. The driver hadn’t beeped to let us know he was coming, and we were left in a cloud of dust.

Dust flies off fast car on Utah desert road-min

Yikes! That was close!

We had come Utah very early this spring to attend a photography workshop with Ian Plant that soon got underway. It was focused on how to take wide angle images that emphasize near-far contrasts.

This was fascinating to study, and we had some outstanding experiences both in the classroom and out in the field.

It will take us a while for us to master the techniques we learned, but we had a lot of fun starting to retrain our eyes to look for interesting patterns at our feet and combine them with interesting things in the distance.

Near-Far wide angle perspective-min

We practiced near-far compositions that go from the shapes at your feet to shapes on the horizon

Morning glow on Utah red rocks-min

More practice with some red rock hoodoos at dawn.

Utah pinnacle at sunrise-min

Early morning light envelops a distant pinnacle.

There are quite a few slot canyons in the area, and these proved to be wonderful for wide angle photography and playing with the shapes created by shafts of light.

Leprechaun Slot Canyon Utah-min

Beautiful light inside Leprechaun Canyon

At one point our instructor, Ian, walked towards Mark as he was taking a photo. The light hit Ian perfectly and suddenly he looked like he was receiving a message from God or being beamed up to the USS Enterprise!

Ghost in the light in a Utah slot canyon-min

The ghost of our instructor

Mark also got a fantastic selfie at a slot canyon opening.

Slot canyon in Utah-min

Mark took a selfie.

There are sand dunes in the area too. Talk about an other-worldy landscape!

Sand dunes in Utah-min

Maybe this really is Mars

After the workshop was over, the rain and snow returned. We watched in awe as banks of black clouds came in.

Incoming storm in Utah red rocks-min

An approaching storm

The snow-covered Henry Mountains were suddenly surrounded by swirls of clouds that changed shape with every passing minute.

Henry Mountains with snow panorama Utah-min

Clouds surrounded the Henry Mountains

Clouds over snow capped Henry Mountains in Utah-min

Late afternoon light on the clouds and snow on the Henries

Henry Mountains with snow and red rocks Utah-min

Snow-capped peaks above and red rocks below – Magic!

Snow and clouds on Henry Mountains in Utah-min

The mountain was whisked away by the clouds…!

Snow on Henry Mountains Utah-min

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There is so much to see in southeastern Utah that we feel like we’ve barely scratched the surface despite several return visits. We think we’re headed back south to Arizona now to finish up a few things there, but the lure of these exotic red rocks and spectacular vistas will probably keep us here a little while longer!

RV Camping in the Utah Red Rocks-min

Southeastern Utah is a beautiful area.

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Monument Valley & Hite Scenic Overlook – Stone Towers from Below & Above!

March 2019 – What with triple-towing and having a new Polaris RZR side-by-side these days, we had decided not to travel long distances in 2019. But when I got an email announcing that a photographer we admire, Ian Plant, was hosting a four day workshop in southeastern Utah, we decided to make a run for it and take our RV on a nearly 500 mile adventure ride past stunning scenery between Phoenix, Arizona, and the tiny village of Hanksville, Utah.

Monument Valley framed by Navajo jewelry stand-min

Monument Valley framed by a Navajo Jewelry stand.

After a crazy cold winter in the Arizona deserts, the temps had just started to warm up in the Phoenix area. But we we hightailed it north for Utah’s higher elevation (and colder) red rock and snowy mountain scenery anyway. Brrr!

What were we thinking?

Just as we crossed through the Navajo Nation into Monument Valley on the border of Utah, the navigation screen on our truck began to flash a Severe Winter Storm Warning for the area!

Monument Valley skyline RV trip-min

Monument Valley skyline

Despite (or because of) the incoming storm, the towering rock formations that form the gateway to Monument Valley stretched across the horizon in dramatic fashion, and we just had to get out and hike down one of the dirt roads to get a better look at them.

Puppy at Monument Valley Utah on RV trip-min

It was time to stretch our legs — whether we had four to stretch or just two.

The clouds intensified as we walked. Every once in a while the sun swept across the vast landscape with the dark storm clouds in hot pursuit. Um… in cold pursuit!! Over on the other horizon a row of red rock cliffs lit up as the sun brightened.

Red rocks in Utah with puppy-min

In another direction a line of red rock cliffs glowed for a brief moment in the distance.

Turning back towards the monuments we noticed a cool cloud had formed above them in the sky.

Monument Valley Utah at twilight with clouds-min

An unusual cloud drifts by in the sky.

We hopped back in our truck for another twenty miles or so and were pelted with rain. But when we turned the corner at Mexican Hat the rain abated just long enough for us to get out again and have a look around.

The Mexican Hat rock formation is very easy to spot!

Mexican Hat Utah

There’s no doubt how the town of Mexican Hat got its name!

Just south of Blanding, Utah, we turned west onto US-95, also known as the Bicentennial Highway, and plunged down lots of 8% to 10% switchbacks to the desert floor far below. This is a fantastic scenic drive that leaves our jaws agape every time we drive it. Even this time in the rain and fog — and snow in the mountains we were passing! — it was still a glorious drive.

How funny, though, in the middle of all that majestic scenery to see an old dilapidated Winnebago sitting in the middle of nowhere. Mark hit the brakes so he could run back for a shot!

Old Winnebago in Utah-min

It might be a little drafty sleeping in there!

Some of the best views on this drive are when it descends into Glen Canyon. I fondly remember how the first time we drove it I was so excited by the beauty that I sat in the window of the passenger’s seat snapping pics as Mark drove!

This time we were driving in rain and mist, but as we pulled into the Hite Scenic Overlook the sun made a valiant effort to push its way out from behind the heavy blankets of clouds.

Hite Overlook Utah-min

The Hite Scenic Overlook is well worth a stop.

The view from the overlook was out of this world.

Hite Overlook Lake Powell Glen Canyon Recreation Area RV trip-min

What a view. That is Lake Powell down there!

What a spot for photography!

Photography at Hite Overlook Glen Canyon Recreation Area Lake Powell-min

Mark sets up a shot of the valley (he’s on the far left side with Buddy!)

We hung around for several hours taking photos. We were standing on a peninsula with views in every direction, and the views went on forever.

The massive stone towers on the desert floor below us looked like they had strayed from Monument Valley.

And how amusing it was to look back at a blog post I wrote about this same area seven years ago and find that I took almost the exact same photo (in sunshine) when we were there!

Hite Overlook Glen Canyon Recreation Area Lake Powell Utah-min

I took almost this exact same photo 7 years ago!

The tiny ribbon of US-95 snaked around in front of the enormous stone towers.

Hite Overlook Glen Canyon Recreation Area Lake Powell RV trip-min

Dazzling scenery, even in mist and fog.

Even Buddy seemed to appreciate the view. He was very cautious looking down over the edge too, holding his weight back as he craned his neck forward to look down at the flat land below.

Puppy at Hite Overlook Glen Canyon Recreation Area Lake Powell RV trip-min

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Behind us a row of red rocks that stood cheek-by-jowel like city buildings overlapped snowcapped mountains in the distance.

Snowcapped mountains and red rock pinnacles Glen Canyon Lake Powell Utah-min

No wonder we were in jackets and hats — there were snowy mountains right there!

The skies finally began to clear and the last miles of the Bicentennial Highway were flanked with red rock cliffs as we approached the village of Hanksville.

Views on the Bicentennial Highway Utah RV trip-min

Once the rain cleared I got a few pics of the gorgeous winding road that is US-95
The Bicentennial Highway.

At Hanksville, the Bicentennial Highway joins up with Scenic Highway 24 which heads west into Capitol Reef National Park and Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument.

All of the land in the lower half of Utah is spectacular beyond words.

Red rocks on the Bicentennial Highway Utah RV trip-min

Views on the Bicentennial Highway (US-95).

Hanksville is home to about 250 people, and its two gas stations, restaurants and motels are all clustered around the intersection of US-24 and US-95. Most of the back streets in town are dirt. We went exploring and came across the ruins of an old stone homestead. We learned later that this is part of the Giles Ghost Town.

Stone house window Wayne County Utah-min

Someone put some care into building this solid home.

Those stone walls were pretty thick!

Stone house ruins Wayne County Utah-min

This is part of the Giles Ghost Town

All around the area there were lots of exotic rock formations. Some formed beautiful patterns…

Red rock patterns in Utah-min

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And others made recognizable shapes!

Pinocchio in the rocks in Utah-min

Pinocchio!

Exploring the Utah desert-min

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We’ll be in this area for another week, improving our photography by day and fending off sub-freezing temps by night!

Sunrise on the Henry Mountains Utah

First light!

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Bryce Canyon in Winter – Snow and Lace on the Red Rock Spires!

January 2019 – When we dashed out of Phoenix and headed north towards a blizzard that was raging at Arizona’s Grand Canyon National Park, the weather forecast was for an even bigger snow storm at Bryce Canyon National Park in Utah!

Bryce Canyon has been among our favorite National Parks since we first saw it while tent camping nearly fifteen years ago, and we have visited many times since we started traveling full-time in an RV. But we had never seen it with snow. What a fabulous opportunity this was!

Bryce Canyon National Park in winter with snow

Bryce Canyon is spectacular when blanketed with snow!

Since we were dressed for cold weather and ready to romp in the snow, this was the perfect time to trek another 285 miles from the South Rim of the Grand Canyon around the east end of that great chasm and then northwards to Bryce Canyon National Park.

Happy camper and puppy in snow-min

Buddy loves the snow — and so do I (in small doses in scenic places!)

Of course, the problem with blizzards is that things tend to shut down due to the snow.

So, we were totally shocked (but shouldn’t have been) when we started heading east on AZ Route 64 on the way to Bryce Canyon and found that it was closed!! Argh!! Now the only way to get to Bryce was to go SOUTH back down to Flagstaff and then north on US-89, adding about 80 miles to our trip.

Well, ya gotta do what ya gotta do when chasing beautiful scenery in unique conditions. So off we went to Bryce via Flagstaff!

And how worthwhile this trip turned out to be. When we arrived, we went straight to the rim of Bryce Canyon National Park at Inspiration Point and were blown away by what we saw.

Bryce Canyon National Park view with pine tree and snow-min

Bryce Canyon is stunning all year long, but what a place it is when laced with fresh snow!

Snow at Bryce Canyon National Park-min

Snow and red rock pinnacles right to the horizon!!

The only overlooks that were officially open were Sunrise Point and Sunset Point (interestingly, both of those overlooks face east, so the names don’t really relate to sunrises or sunsets!).

Luckily for us, the parking area at Inspiration Point had been plowed too, and eager visitors had trampled a narrow trail through the deep snow to the incomparable views along the rim there.

Inspiration Point view with snow at Bryce Canyon National Park-min

The view at Inspiration Point

Bryce Canyon National Park is a fairy tale land of charming red rock turrets and castles nestled into a vast amphitheater that makes for jaw dropping images at any time of year. Now, in mid-January, the red rock spires peeked out from under a blanket of fresh snow.

Looking down into the snow at Bryce Canyon National Park-min

Looking down into the depths between the spires.

Trail with snow at Bryce Canyon National Park-min

A magical walk along the rim!

The views at Sunset Point were spectacular as the sun began to cast deep shadows across the landscape.

Limber Pine at Bryce Canyon National Park-min

A limber pine looks out at the Canyon at Sunset Point.

All three overlooks — Inspiration Point, Sunrise Point and Sunset Point — were connected by a narrow trail that had been made by boots in the snow. We wandered between the overlooks, snapping photos with almost every step.

Deep Snow at Bryce Canyon National Park Sunset Point-min

Late afternoon shadows at Sunset Point.

Snow at Bryce Canyon National Park with snow Sunset Point-min

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Blanket of Snow Bryce Canyon National Park-min

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Sunset Point View Bryce Canyon National Park with snow-min

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Over the years, Rubys Inn, located 3 miles from the Park entrance, has grown from a small hotel and restaurant to a sprawling complex that now includes several motel buildings, a huge restaurant, a massive RV park, an expansive gift shop, a grocery store and a tiny US Post Office.

In the past we’ve stopped at Rubys Inn to relax in its beautiful hotel lobby, explore the gift shop and grocery store and do laundry at the laundromat, but on this trip we stayed in the Lakeside motel building which is pet friendly.

Icicles at Rubys Inn Bryce Canyon City Utah-min

Icicles hang from the roof at Rubys Inn.

Buddy was absolutely loving the snow, and each morning we went for a fast paced run in the powder out behind Rubys Inn between the snowed-in RV campsites.

Puppy in snow at Bryce Canyon-min

Buddy loved sprinting through the snow and then eating it!

All the trees in the woods around Bryce Canyon and Rubys Inn were heavily laden with snow, and the air was so crisp it felt brittle and harsh on our cheeks.

Snow on trees at Bryce Canyon National Park-min

The trails around Rubys Inn were delightful. Some folks rented snowshoes.

Rubys Inn had a few big pull-through RV campsites in the center of the complex that were open to campers even now, but we saw only one pair of hardy souls camping in this bitter cold. They were in a truck camper, and they explained to us that Rubys Inn has full hookups in the summertime but at this time of year there are only electric hookups so no one has to worry about freezing pipes.

There is a shower building with hot showers, and of course the restaurant offers a full buffet breakfast everyday that is so filling you won’t need lunch and might even want to skip dinner!

Truck camper in snow Rubys Inn Bryce Canyon National Park-min

Campsites were available at Rubys Inn (electric only) and they even had some very hardy customers!

In the National Park one loop of the North Campground was open for dry camping too. We were impressed to see a van, but were frankly quite shocked to see two guys setting up a tent and then to see another tent already set up and waiting for its owners to return from their hike!

Tent camping in snow North Campground Bryce Canyon National Park-min

The nights were in the single digits…!

Out on the trails the days warmed up to 33 degrees each day we were there.

Deep Snow at Bryce Canyon National Park-min

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And the snow was deep!!

Deep snow at Bryce Canyon National Park in Winter-min

Buddy isn’t very tall, but still, this is deep snow!!

And each time we walked out on the rim our jaws dropped yet again. Bryce Canyon is such a unique and special landscape. To see it with snow is a divine treat!

Inspiration Point with snow at Bryce Canyon National Park-min

These were the views we had driven all those miles to see.

Stunning Bryce Canyon National Park view with snow-min

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Snow at Bryce Canyon National Park-min

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Several of the trails that go down into the Bryce Canyon amphitheater had been cleared by the boots of eager hikers.

Navajo Loop Trail Hikers at Bryce Canyon National Park with snow-min

Hiking the trails was a lot of fun!

Hikers at Inspiration Point Bryce Canyon National Park with snow-min

Hikers on the trails below us showed the scale of this place!!

The white snow made the perfect backdrop to show the diminutive size of the hikers in comparison to the red rock spires that surrounded them in the Canyon.

Hikers at Bryce Canyon National Park with snow in winter-min

Two hikers approach an overlook on Queen’s Garden Trail below Sunrise Point.

Navajo Loop Trail with snow Bryce Canyon National Park-min

Hikers on the Navajo Loop Trail.

We walked down the Navajo Loop Trail a ways. It was steep in places, and we were grateful for the railings at the beginning of the trail because it was pretty slippery on the ice there!

Hiking in the snow Bryce Canyon National Park-min

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Overlook at Bryce Canyon National Park with snow-min

What a view!

Selfie shot at Bryce Canyon National Park with snow-min

A moment to remember!

Hikers were having fun getting selfies, but not every spot was a great place to stand!

We noticed that the Park Service had posted a few signs warning the most daring selfie-takers not to venture out on the puffy snow in places where there might not be much support underneath!

Do Not Enter sign at Bryce Canyon National Park with snow-min

“Do not enter!”

As we progressed down the Navajo Loop Trail we felt that familiar sense of inspiration and awe that always envelops us as the red rock spires rise up around us at Bryce.

Drifts of snow Bryce Canyon National Park-min

Hikers on an upper switchback.

Navajo Loop Trail Bryce Canyon National Park with snow in winter-min

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Snowy trails Bryce Canyon National Park-min

The turrets rose around us as we descended.

Bryce Canyon National Park snow on Navajo Loop Trail-min

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Hiking Navajo Loop Trail Bryce Canyon National Park with snow in winter-min

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The soft white snow, red rocks and blue sky were a perfect complement to each other in every view.

Hiking at Bryce Canyon National Park with snow in winter-min

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As we ventured out on the rim and wandered down the trails we were so glad we had made the long drive from Phoenix via the Grand Canyon to see Bryce Canyon dressed in the white lace of winter.

Fresh snow Bryce Canyon National Park with snow in winter-min

A blanket of fresh snow…

Tree at snowy overlook Bryce Canyon National Park Utah-min

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View into Bryce Canyon National Park with snow in winter-min

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Bryce Canyon National Park with snow-min

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Bryce Canyon National Park is a knockout at any time of year — definitely one of the most spectacular places in North America — but how special it was to see it blanketed with snow on these bright and sunny January days!

Bryce Canyon National Park with snow in winter at overlook-min

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During our stay, the moon rose bright and full over the canyon. I made a point to be at the Canyon rim for moonrise late one afternoon. I had visions in my head of photographing a huge round moon rising up from behind the distant mountains and glowing across the canyon.

I got to Sunrise Point fifteen minutes before moonrise and stood there full of hope for the next hour. But the moon didn’t make it to her appointment!

I finally left, totally discouraged and frozen to the bone. Dejected, I took Buddy for a walk in the woods behind Rubys Inn just after sunset. As we rounded a corner I suddenly saw the moon’s bright white face between the trees.

What the heck?! When did it rise? How did I miss it?

Peaks of snow Bryce Canyon National Park with snow in winter at overlook-min

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I kicked myself all that night and into the next morning, thinking that I had missed the most beautiful imagineable moonrise over Bryce Canyon because I had given up too easily and left too soon.

The next morning Mark and I were both up at oh-dark-thirty to catch the sunrise over Bryce Canyon. It was a mere 12 degrees Fahrenheit as we hiked out to find our own spots at Sunset Point. As I got set up, I chatted with another photographer who was walking by me about how sad I was to have missed the moonrise the night before.

“Oh! You didn’t miss anything. The moon was covered by clouds at the horizon when it was rising!” he told me. He’d been out on Queen’s Garden Trail and hadn’t seen it between the spires until an hour after it’s rising time either.

Phew!! That made sense! What a relief that I hadn’t blown a once in a lifetime opportunity after all. The moon had simply decided not to show up at the appointed time and instead hid behind a bank of hazy blueish-grayish clouds for an hour!

Mark and I headed to two different spots along Sunset Point for the sunrise. As the moment got closer, more and more cars showed up in the parking lot. I looked out along the rim and noticed several other eager photographers standing faithfully behind their tripods waiting for Nature to unleash her wonders.

Morning light Bryce Canyon National Park with snow in winter-min

The snow glowed pink and orange at dawn.

We all wanted that magical moment of a sunny starburst spreading rays of sunshine across the Canyon. And we all worried it was going to be a dud as the horizon got brighter and brighter yet nothing happened. After missing out on the moon, I began to prepare myself to be heartbroken for missing out on the sunrise starburst too.

But suddenly as I stared at the image on the back of my camera I saw the faint rays of a starburst beginning. I clicked the shutter repeatedly, and with immense satisfaction I watched the starburst grow and grow.

Sunrise at Bryce Canyon National Park with snow in winter-min

Sunrise!

A few hundred yards away Mark was having the same experience. After it seemed like nothing would happen, the sun suddenly reached across the canyon while the calls of ravens in the distance welcomed a new day. How beautiful.

Sunrise at Bryce Canyon National Park in Utah winter visit with snow-min

Good morning!!

What a blessing to be alive and to be out here at this moment!

As we hiked back to the truck, we compared notes with other photographers who were walking back too. One fellow told us he’d been hiking with a guy the day before who had been coming to Bryce Canyon National Park every winter for the last 40 years, and he’d said he had never seen the snow as deep and thick as it was this year.

Blessing upon blessing!

We had rushed out of the Sonoran Desert on a wing and a prayer because we’d seen three days of snow predicted for Canyon Country. Little did we know that we would be hitting Bryce Canyon when it had more snow than it had seen in many years!

If you have a chance to get to Bryce Canyon during or after a snowstorm, jump on the opportunity. Even if the moon or sun plays games with you, you won’t be disappointed!!

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Bear Lake, Utah – A Turquoise Paradise in Snowy Mountains

April 2018 – Bear Lake is a stunning lake in northern Utah that shimmers in gorgeous shades of turquoise, and the drive to get there via Logan Pass is truly dramatic.

Scenic drive towards Logan Utah RV trip-min

Heading north towards Logan Pass and Bear Lake we drove into this view – Wow!

In late April the mountains behind the pretty farmlands were still covered with snow.

Logan Utah scenery on RV trip to Bear Lake-min

Beautiful scenery on the way to Bear Lake.

Farmhouses and snowcapped mountains RV trip Logan Utah-min

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As we crested the summit of Logan Pass, it started to get foggy, and the snow crept close to the road. Soon we were driving between snow drifts.

Logan Pass Utah with snow on RV trip-min

Approaching the summit of Logan Pass fog rolled in and we saw more and more snow.

Snow on RV trip over Logan Pass Utah_-min

Snow drifts and fog at the top of Logan Pass!

So, when we descended the far side of the pass and the fog began to lift and the snow vanished, it was a fabulous shock when Bear Lake suddenly burst into view. Wow!!

Bear Lake Utah first view on RV trip over Logan Pass-min

After all that snowy scenery, the bright blue of Bear Lake was a wonderful suprise.

As the sun and clouds played hide and seek, the lake changed shades of aquamarine and a rich blue.

Turquoise water Bear Lake Utah RV camping trip-min

Caribbean turquoise in the Rockies!

Bear Lake Utah RV Trip-min

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Bear Lake is immensely popular in the summertime, and the communities along the shore are filled with ice cream shops and burger joints. But when we were there it felt like we had the lake to ourselves. The village of Laketown at the south end of the lake was really quiet and none of the summertime shops were open.

Bear Lake Utah RV camping trip reflections-min

The reflections of snowy mountains shimmer on the surface of Bear Lake.

Ripples on water Bear Lake Utah-min

Long after a solitary boat passes, waves ripple in towards shore.

There were a few fishing boats out on the water, and a kayak paddled by a family of ducks.

Kayaking with ducks at Bear Lake Utah-min

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The ducks were unusual looking.

Duck swimming in Bear Lake Utah-min

Now THAT’s a hairdo!!

We heard the haunting cry of loons and then spotted them floating around on the lake.

Loon Swimming in Bear Lake Utah-min

We heard the loons first and then saw them drift past.

Loon shakes feathers out Bear Lake Utah-min

A loon shakes the water out of his feathers.

One day we drove around the lake and marveled at the beauty. Farms and occasional homes grace the shore.

RV trip to Bear Lake Utah-min

The drive around Bear Lake was beautiful

Waterfront farm living Bear Lake Utah

Waterfront living with the cows grazing out back… Wow!

Lakeside living Bear Lake Utah-min

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One house really caught our eye. It was the home from the nursery rhyme about the old woman who lived in a shoe! We stopped and took a long look and noticed that the walls were painted with murals of nursery rhymes. Jack’s Beanstalk ran right up the back of the shoe!

Shoe fairy tale house Bear Lake Utah-min

“There was an old woman who lived in a shoe…” Who knew she lived on Bear Lake in Utah?!

Farm and ranch land runs right down to the shore of Bear Lake, and as we drove with the windows down Buddy hung out the window to get a good look at the cows we passed.

Puppy in truck checks out cow at Bear Lake Utah-min

Buddy checks out a cow…

Puppy looks at cow at Bear Lake Utah on RV trip-min

…and leans over for a better look!

Early spring can bring some crazy weather, and the lake was quite rough at times. We loved the jade green hues in the curl of the waves.

Rough waves Bear Lake Utah RV camping trip-min

The color in each wave just before it broke was delicious.

As the sun set, the sky lit up over the mountains.

Sunset on RV camping trip to Bear Lake Utah-min

The sky was on fire at sunset.

Mark put his camera down on the ground to capture a dramatic image of waves breaking on the shore with the sun setting behind the mountains. When we looked at it later we both said, “No need to go Iceland for a shot like this… We’ve got it all right here in Utah!”

Sunset with waves at Bear Lake Utah-min

Wow!

Where we had fire in the sky with a bright orange sunset one night, on another afternoon the day slipped away into pastel shades of pink, peach and lavender that reflected in the undulating water.

Sunset Bear Lake Utah-min

Shades of pink, peach and lavender in the sky and on the water.

Sunset on RV trip to Bear Lake Utah-min

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On a few occasions the water was perfectly calm, and Buddy just loved wading out in it.

Puppy in still water Bear Lake Utah-min

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Bear Lake is incredibly photogenic, and we had a lot of fun just watching the lake transform before our eyes as we snapped pics here and there.

Photography at Bear Lake Utah-min

Mark is in his element taking photos from the shore.

In early Spring the weather varied from ideal sunny days to blustery cold days to freezing rainy days. For photography they were all sublime!

Wild skies Bear Lake Utah-min

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During the day we captured some wonderful images of seagulls landing in the water and taking off again. As night fell the birds all flew off to roost. A lone duck made his way across the water in the last light of sunset.

Duck swims at Sunset on RV trip to Bear Lake Utah-min

Good night, Bear Lake.

At night the sky was brilliantly clear. Before the moon rose, the stars were especially bright, and we loved seeing the stars of Orion before the constellation slipped over the far horizon.

Orion Constellation on RV trip to Bear Lake Utah-min

The stars of Orion (four outer ones and three in his belt across his waist) watch over the lake.

If you are traveling through northern Utah, Bear Lake is well worth visiting. The few campers we saw pre-season told stories of how lively and fun it is for families come mid-summer, but even if you get there a few months before or after the warm weather months, it is a great RV destination.

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Utah Back Roads – Lakeside RVing Near Salt Lake City

April 2018 – We have been enjoying an RV travel theme of rivers and lakes since we first camped on the beach at Sand Hollow State Park in Utah six months ago. Over the winter we explored Arizona’s Salt River, Lake Pleasant, Canyon Lake, Lake Havasu, the shores of the Colorado River. In early Spring, as we traveled north, we stopped by Lake Mead and Gunlock State Park and then frozen Strawberry Reservoir in Utah.

Now, as we neared northern Utah, we were looking for a route around Salt Lake City that would avoid the traffic and high speeds of I-15. When we veered off to the east by Park City we got a fabulous view of Jordanelle Reservoir over our shoulders.

Jordanelle State Park Utah-min

Our first lake sighting on this leg of our journey: Jordanelle Reservoir, home of Jordanelle State Park.

There is a state park campground there that we camped at years ago, but on this trip we slipped by and relished the view from a distance.

The 80 mile north-south stretch of greater Salt Lake City from Provo in the south through the heart of Salt Lake City and on to Ogden in the north is bounded on the east side by towering mountains and on the west by the Great Salt Lake.

This makes for a tight funnel of congestion, so we were delighted to find a back road route with almost no traffic to take us along the eastern side of these same mountains and skirt greater Salt Lake City all together. Life was so tranquil on this side of the mountains we’d never guess a huge metropolis lay on the other side of the snowy peaks!

Farm and ranch land in northern Utah-min

In this peaceful farmland it’s hard to believe we’re just outside Salt Lake City.

Our first stop at the shore of a lake was at Rockport Reservoir, home of Rockport State Park. We romped around at a few overlooks and beaches on the western shore and waved to the state park on the far side.

Rockport Reservoir Utah back roads RV trip-min

Rockport Reservoir, home of Rockport State Park.

A little further north we found the town of Coalville which has a fantastic Union Pacific Rails to Trails path that runs alongside the Echo Reservoir.

Union Pacific Rail Trail back roads Utah RV trip-min

The Union Pacific Rail Trail runs from Park City past Coalville to the Echo Reservoir.

The weather began to deteriorate as we continued north, making for some wonderful drama in the skies above the farmland.

Storm clouds over farm Utah back roads RV trip-min

Brewing storm clouds.

We arrived at Pineview Reservoir to find the sun playing with its shadows across the the mountains and the farm houses on the far shore.

Pineview Reservoir Huntsville Utah back road RV trip-min

Pineview Reservoir after a dusting of snow in the mountains.

Pineview Reservoir with snowcapped mountains Huntsville Utah back roads RV trip-min

Pineview Reservoir.

A few miles north of Pineview Reservoir is the town of Eden, aptly named for its truly picturesque spot in a valley between three tall mountains that are now home to ski resorts. This has brought a trendiness and cuteness to the village that wa evident on every corner.

Yoga Tea and Espresso shop in Eden Utah on backroad RV trip-min

Yoga – Spa – Tea – Espresso – Gifts, all in a beautiful Victorian house.
Nearby ski resorts give the pastoral area around Eden a trendy vibe.

Cute log cabin shops in Eden Utah on a back roads RV trip-min

A circle of log cabins joined by a boardwalk has a cute boutique store in each one.

Behind the combination General Store and Mexican Cantina a fence around the outdoor eating area was made of snow skis, lest anyone forget that this area is a winter skiing paradise when they’re hanging out over beers in the summer sun.

Ski fence in Eden Utah on backroad RV trip-min

Ski country.

Despite the chill in the air, Spring was doing its best to get underway. In one garden beautiful hyacinths were beginning to blossom, and a robin was making the rounds looking for worms.

Hyacinth blooming in Eden Utah on back road RV trip-min

Spring is coming!

Spring robin Mantua Utah backroad RV trip-min

A robin reminds us that any snowfall we get should be pretty much the last of the season!

But Spring was playing hide-and-seek with Winter, and one morning we woke up to snow. It melted quickly on the ground but hung out long enough on our RV stairs for Buddy to make some paw prints and get a taste of snow.

Puppy sniffs snow on RV steps-min

Snow on our trailer’s steps capture some paw prints from our furry friend.

Then the skies cleared, and the dusting of snow on the mountains flanking Pineview Reservoir began to light up.

Snowy mountains Pineview Reservoir Huntsville Utah back roads RV trip-min

Pineview Reservoir reflects the mountains after the snowstorm.

Snowy mountains Pineview Reservoir Huntsville Utah back roads RV trip-min

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As we continued north, following a meandering path, on two occasions our back roads RV trip took us over the mountains separating the Salt Lake and Ogden area from this bucolic wonderland. Fog and brightly lit low clouds hung in the valleys between the mountains as we crossed over in the morning.

Fog and snow on mountains near Ogden Utah on back roads RV trip-min

Clouds and fog light up in the morning sun.

We had gotten a very early start, and when we arrived in the village of Mantua it was a winter wonderland worthy of a Christmas card.

Mantua Utah backroad RV trip-min

The village of Mantua was enchanting.

The town sits on the western shore of the small Mantua Reservoir, and we were delighted to find that there is a wide path that goes along its edge.

Mantua Reservoir in Utah with snow on mountains RV trip-min

An inviting path led us partway around the lake.

As we walked along the path the views ahead of us were just spectacular.

Snowcapped mountains Mantua Reservoir RV trip in Utah-min

How glorious to arrive on the morning after a Spring snowfall.

Thistle and Snowcapped mountains Mantua Reservoir RV trip in Utah-min

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Horses ambled across a frosted pasture. What a pretty scene!

Farm by Mantua Reservoir on Utah RV trip-min

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Fresh snow Mantua Reservoir RV trip in Utah-min

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We had never heard of any of the towns or lakes on this back country route, but this particular morning in Mantua, strolling leisurely along the banks of the Mantua Reservoir, we felt like we were strolling through the pages of a picture book.

Mountain trail Mantua Reservoir Utah-min

A trail wanders up between the mountains.

We made our way back to the village and were mesmerized by the quaint views going in that direction too.

Sun and snow Mantua Reservoir RV trip in Utah-min

Mantua, Utah.

Fall color and snow Mantua Reservoir RV trip in Utah-min

Reminders of last Fall’s golden colors complemented the white snow and blue water.

As we’ve often said, getting off the Interstate and staying off it is our favorite way to travel with our RV. Some of these roads looked really small on the map, but once we were on them, the driving was easy and the scenery was eye-popping.

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More info about the things along this route:

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Wonderful places to visit in Northern Utah

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Escapod Teardrop Trailers – Rugged Campers for Off-Road Adventure!

April 2018 – In our RV travels we love taking small roads from one destination to another because there’s more to see and you never know what you’ll bump into.

As we were towing our trailer in Utah from Strawberry Reservoir to Huntsville, we found ourselves driving through the village of Wanship. As we turned a corner, we noticed several cute tear drop trailers parked by the sidewalk.

Escapod teardrop trailer rugged RV for backcountry off-road travel-min

What a cool looking teardrop trailer!

Our heads whipped around to get another look as we drove by, and we noticed two big red garage bay doors were open and a teardrop trailer was peeking out of one of them.

Escapod Trailers manufacturing facility Wanship Utah-min

There was a teardrop trailer in one of the garage bays.

Did they build teardrop trailers here? We quickly found a place to pull over and walked back to see what this was all about. We noticed a petite trailer frame glinting in the sun and the company name “Escapod” on the building.

Escapod Teardrop trailer manufacturing Wanship Utah-min

Out front there was a trailer frame waiting for a teardrop body.

Manufacturing Escapod teardrop trailer rugged backcountry off-road RV-min

Escapod trailers are ruggedly built with strong frames made from 2×2 inch steel tubing.

We’d never heard of Escapod trailers before, but we LOVE teardrop trailers. So, we went over to one of the models to have a closer look.

Escapod Teardrop trailer rugged backcountry off-road RV-min

Sturdy, tough and ready for back country camping.

Then we heard a voice behind us and a tall, lanky fellow came over and introduced himself. He was Chris Eckel, and he had recently moved to Utah from New York to become a partner in Escapod Trailers alongside the founder Chris Hudak.

“Would you like me to open it up for you?” He asked.

Yes indeedy!!!

Escapod trailer rugged backcountry off-road teardrop trailer RV

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Escapod teardrop trailer rugged backcountry off-road RV-min

The back end lifts up to reveal a galley with drawers, shelves, a high end cooler and a cooktop.

We were very impressed with the quality of the woodworking and the craftsmanship of the trailer all around.

Galley kitchen Escapod teardrop trailer rugged backcountry off-road RV-min

The woodwork is top notch.

Like most teardrop trailers, the galley is in the back. There is a stove set into a stainless steel countertop, and sliding doors in the back open up to shelving. Three finely crafted drawers are set next to a high end cooler.

Stove in Escapod teardrop trailer rugged backcountry off-road RV-min

The stove is recessed into the countertop.

Chris explained that the origin of Escapod was the desire for a well built and rugged trailer that could handle anything the backcountry might throw at it but could be purchased at a reasonable price.

Too often teardrop trailers are either relatively plush and unsuited to off-road travel or they are sufficiently sturdy yet astronomically priced.

Escapod is filling the void of top quality off-road durability for those who are budget conscious.

Front exterior Escapod teardrop trailer rugged backcountry off-road RV-min

The front of the Escapod is aluminum, ready for tough back country travel.

Hitch and battery Escapod teardrop trailer rugged backcountry off-road RV-min

A Group 27 12 volt battery powers the rig.

There are lots of options that can be added to an Escapod trailer. The unit we were looking at has an awning, but you can even add a rooftop tent to make the trailer a double-decker and have more sleeping options than the residential sized queen bed inside.

Tour Escapod teardrop trailer rugged backcountry off-road RV-min

An awning provides shade and the propane tank is easily accessed.

There is a door on either side of the trailer, and we poked our heads in to see more beautifully finished cabinetry inside. There is storage space at the head and foot of the bed, an opening hatch vent with a fan, opening windows in each door and a fixed window at the head of the bed.

Besides having wonderful air flow through the trailer for hot summer days, Escapod trailers are very well insulated for winter travel as well.

Interior Escapod teardrop trailer rugged backcountry off-road RV-min

Inside: a residential queen bed, storage space with push button latches and a hatch vent with a fan.

Inside Escapod teardrop trailer rugged backcountry off-road RV-min

The doors on either side both have opening windows and the front cap has a fixed window.

What a neat little package!

The foundation of any trailer is the frame, and with large fifth wheel trailers almost all the frames are made by Lippert Components. However, with small trailers like the Escapod and other independently manufactured teardrop trailers, the frames are often made by the trailer builder.

The Escapod frames are purpose-built for off-road travel in the outback.

Escapod Trailer frame-min

The frame is built right here at the Escapod manufacturing facility.

Sideview trailer frame Escapod teardrop trailer rugged backcountry off-road RV-min

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The Escapod foundation includes high end gear like torsion axles, heavy duty Firestone Transforce AT tires and Mickey Thompson wheels.

Escapod Teardrop Trailers off-road rugged frame-min

Torsion axles ready for the Firestone Tranforce AT tires mounted on Mickey Thompson wheels.

While Chris Eckel told us all about the Escapod teardrops, we saw Escapod’s founder, Chris Hudak, hard at work welding a new frame.

Welding trailer frame Escapod teardrop trailer rugged backcountry off-road RV-min

Escapod founder, Chris Hudak, welds a frame.

A nearly finished Escapod teardrop was in the next bay. Escapod builds two trailers a month, and each one is built to order for a particular customer. When we visited in April they had trailers on order through July, so the wait for a new trailer was about 3 months.

Although all Escapod trailers have the essential basics in common, Chris works with each buyer to understand exactly how they intend to travel with their trailer, and they discuss which options will make the most sense for their particular needs.

Escapod teardrop trailer rugged backcountry off-road RV-min

Somewhere out there an excited buyer is eagerly waiting for this Escapod to be finished!

The GVWR for an Escapod trailer is 3,500 lbs, and the basic model with a few options and a full 20 gallon water tank is just 1,500 lbs. So you have a whopping 2,000 lbs of Cargo Carrying Capacity to work with, making it easy to carry a kayak or bicycles or a rooftop tent system on top or load up the cupboards and cooler with anything that might be needed on a camping trip.

Escapod teardrop trailer rugged backcountry off-road RV-min

These tough little teardrop trailers can take you anywhere you want to go.

Folks who live in relatively gargantuan fifth wheel trailers like our 36 footer may raise an eyebrow at the idea of doing any kind of long term travel in a teardrop trailer. However, it’s feasible. Last year at Sturgis Bike Week we met a man who designed his own teardrop trailer that he could tow with his motorcycle. It had a twin bed inside. He had lived in it for nine years and was truly loving life!

Homemade motorcycle teardrop trailer-min

Home for nine years to a very happy motorcycle camper!

The Escapod motto, “Born in Utah. Bred for Adventure. Tow and Behold” invites customers to go boondocking with their trailers out on America’s public land down remote and precarious dirt roads that those of us with big fifth wheels would never dare try.

And you can go for weeks at a time. Chris told us he took his girlfriend on a six week trip all around the back roads of the west in an Escapod last year and they had a blast.

A hot water heater and shower nozzle hookup are possible, but a solar shower bag is also a great way to go. We used one on our sailboat all through our Mexico cruise on days we’d been at anchor so long that our engine heated hot water was no longer hot.

Slogans Escapod teardrop trailer rugged backcountry off-road RV-min

Born in Utah. Bred for Adventure. Tow and Behold!

The Escapod we looked at came in at just under $14,000, a remarkable deal for a quality trailer. For those who are worried about such a big purchase, Escapod has several teardrops available for rent so folks can try before they buy. Even better, they have plans down the road to build rental fleets and partner with outdoor outfitters in America’s most beautiful locations.

We are so tickled we bumped into Escapod as we rounded the bend in Wanship, Utah. What a neat discovery!

Escapod owners Chris and Chris and dog Milo-min

Chris Hudak (left, he’s the founder) and Chris Eckel (right) and canine camping companion Milo

It turns out that Trailer Life recently did a fabulous article surveying the many teardrops that are being built today. The article is here: Tiny Trailers: New Era Teardrops. Escapod is the third teardrop in the list under a fabulous photo of an Escapod in Utah’s red rock country.

Unlike the market for larger travel trailers and fifth wheels that has less than a handful of independent builders and is dominated by a few conglomerates, teardrop trailers are the wild west of trailer building. Independent builders are staking claim to portions of this unusual market and building trailers to suit their special niche. How fun!

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Strawberry Reservoir, Utah – Springtime Beauty with Ice & Snow!

April 2018 – We left Goblin Valley State Park with big smiles on our faces, but a layer of sand covered everything in the RV! It was time to get away from the dusty desert.

Starvation Reservoir Utah Indian Bay campground RV trip-min

Starvation Reservoir, Utah. Windy, but not dusty!

The fun thing about getting away from the red rock hot spots that are so popular in Spring and going into the greener, more mountainous areas that are filled with RVers come summer, is that we can get ahead of the crowds.

As we headed towards northern Utah, we found ourselves so far ahead of the season that at the interestingly named Starvation Reservoir one campsite’s picnic table was awash in waves!

Picnic Table in water Starvation Reservoir Utah RV trip-min

Pre-season camping sometimes involves unusual situations like waves breaking over the picnic table!

But it was at Strawberry Reservoir where we found true beauty and solitude. This fabulous and enormous lake is surrounded by campgrounds that are filled with weekenders and vacationers in the summer, but when we arrived in April all we found was closed campgrounds and a vast sheet of snow covered ice!

Strawberry Reservoir Utah frozen lake RV trip-min

Strawberry Reservoir was completely iced over with snow on top!

Strawberry Reservoir Utah snow on frozen lake-min

Strawberry Reservoir, Utah – The whole lake was iced over.

Ice and snow Stawberry Reservoir Utah in early Spring-min

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Strawberry Reservoir Utah in snow and black and white-min

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It was absolutely beautiful, and we did a slow drive all through the park. The roads weren’t all open, so we had to turn around before seeing everything, but how cool it was to be the only souls there.

Snowy landscape frozen Stawberry Reservoir Utah in early Spring-min

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Snow and Melting ice Strawberry Reservoir in Utah-min

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The ice was melting along the shoreline, creating beautiful patterns of white and blue.

Strawberry Reservoir melting ice on lake Utah RV trip-min

There was a thin strip of by the shore.

Strawberry Reservoir Utah frozen in early spring-min

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Strawberry Reservoir in Utah Early spring RV trip-min

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Despite the melting ice by the shoreline, there was snow on the mountains and a wonderfully brisk chill in the sun-filled air.

Early spring Strawberry Reservoir in Utah RV trip-min

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Melting ice Strawberry Reservoir in Utah RV trip-min

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Melting ice Stawberry Reservoir Utah in early Spring-min

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Some herons and other water birds were fishing at the shore.

Herons fishing at Strawberry Reservoir Utah in snow and black and white-min

Birds fish by the shore.

And a brave ice fisherman was set up at a fishing hole carved through the ice in one of the coves!

Ice fishing Strawberry Reservoir Utah in Spring-min

An ice fisherman waits patiently by a hole in the ice.

There are boating and camping facilities along the shores of Strawberry Lake, and we drove down to Strawberry Bay Marina. There wasn’t anyone around, although the buildings looked like they must be full of life and activity in the summertime.

The floating docks had been pulled up into the parking lot for the winter. and Buddy hopped up on them and had a look around.

Puppy explores the docks at Strawberry Reservoir Utah-min

These docks will be floating in the lake soon.

At the Strawberry Reservoir Visitor’s Center there’s a nice little nature trail on a boardwalk that runs alongside the Strawberry River and crosses it a few times on the way to a fish hatchery. The Visitor’s Center wasn’t open, and when we first took a look in the morning, the boardwalk was covered frost.

Frost on fish hatchery boardwalk trail Strawberry Reservoir Utah RV trip-min

The boardwalk on the nature trail was frosted over when we first stopped by.

When we returned a little later, the frost had melted and we took a walk through some very pretty scenery.

Walking the boardwalk to the fish hatchery Strawberry Reservoir Utah-min

Frost-free by afternoon, we enjoyed this brief elevated nature walk.

Boardwalk to fish hatchery Strawberry Reservoir Utah snowcapped mountains-min

Several bridges crossed the Strawberry River.

There wasn’t a soul around, and the fish holding pens at the fish hatchery had been drained for winter. But then we noticed a car parked in a dirt lot and saw a fellow emerge from a doorway. It turned out he was a Fisheries Biologist who works at the reservoir year round studying the fish and managing the stock.

We had a fascinating conversation about fish and fish management, and he described the long term study he had been working on.

Boardwalk to fish hatchery Strawberry Reservoir Utah-min

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It struck me that this isn’t a bad place to work collecting fish lifestyle data and helping the fish thrive, even if it is a little remote and very cold in mid-winter!

There are three primary fish species in Strawberry Reservoir that live at different depths: Cutthroat and Rainbow Trout and Kokanee Salmon.

I was surprised to learn that, when they are ready, the fish migrate out of the reservoir and up the Strawberry River towards the hatchery at night rather than during the day. When they sense the electric field of an electric fence they make the turn that takes them into the hatchery!

Golden willows Strawberry Reservoir Utah with snowcapped mountains-min

Spawning fish swim up the Strawberry River overnight and are then guided to the fish hatchery.

Bushes in the landscape all around the Strawberry River and Reservoir were a beautiful golden hue, and the Fisheries Biologist explained that these were willows that had been planted in huge numbers all around the area to help with erosion.

Colorful willows Strawberry Reservoir Utah early Spring RV trip-min

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Golden willows and fenceposts Strawberry Reservoir Utah-min

Willows planted to stave off erosion erupt in golden tones in the afternoon.

What we loved was the way these willows lit up our photos. What gorgeous colors!

Willows and snowcapped mountains Strawberry Reservoir Utah-min

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Strawberry Reservoir is undoubtedly a fantastic Utah destination to visit for boating and fishing during the warmer months of summer. And even though it’s 7,200′ elevation makes it slow to warm up in the Spring, it is still well worth a stop to see the beauty of the lake when it is iced over and the surrounding mountains are covered in snow!

Golden willows Strawberry Reservoir snowcapped mountains in Utah-min

It wasn’t camping season yet, but our stop at Utah’s Strawberry Reservoir was very rewarding!

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More info about Strawberry Reservoir:

Another fun fish encounter we bumped into:

The Salmon Festival in Stanley, Idaho – A neat celebration of all things salmon, about halfway down the post.

Other blog posts from northern Utah:

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