Saturday, October 18, 2014

Edge of the Abyss

After spending a week in Moab, by Saturday, I had learned one important rule—get out of town on the weekends in the peak Spring and Fall tourist seasons!  The town had seemed to triple in size virtually overnight!  Rather than fight the crowds at the national parks nearby, I pulled up stakes and headed out for a 4-day road-trip to explore the areas along Hwy 191 south of Moab (down to Southeast Utah).

No plan other than that.  No campground reservations for a Saturday night, just trusting that my Allstays Camp & RV app and my Escapees Days End Directory would lead me to some great available campsites!

We meandered our way down Hwy 191 checking out a few camps along the way, but Goldilocks was not finding the “it” campsite just yet.  But as we reached Goosenecks State Park as the sun was setting, “it” had most certainly been found!

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Goosnecks sits atop a mesa overlooking an incredible section of the San Juan river that twists around at least 4 horseshoe bends (that we can see) deep inside canyons that are over 1000 feet deep.  The State Park campground is nothing more than a few picnic tables, trashcans, and fire rings that sit up on the edge of the cliff-side viewpoint.

As dusk sets in, I take a look at the gooseneck canyon immediately in front of the campsites.  What an amazing force of nature!

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By this time, all the prime cliff-edge spots are taken, so I pull into one of the sites just a few more feet away on the other side.  Millie makes herself right at home on the awning mat.  Yeah, this’ll do!

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Just to the right of my View’s side mirror, I see large buttes and rock spires in the distance…

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Monument Valley lurks just beyond the canyon another 30 miles or so down the road.  But I decide to hold off on it until Monday when weekend crowds might be fewer.

Sunday morning, Millie and I take the Tracker out for a little off-road drive through Valley of the Gods BLM land a few miles north of Goosenecks.  It’s been called “little Monument Valley” for its similar brilliant red rock spires and buttes, but I appreciate more that far fewer people visit it, and there are no expensive entrance fees or tribal rules to deal with here.

Unfortunately, I arrive a bit too late in the morning for any award-winning photography, so have to settle for “mid-day sun snapshots.” 

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It’s a fun 17-mile drive though (with some great boondocking spots for those with short rigs too!).  The unpaved road is in good enough shape that we never need to slip into 4-wheel-drive, and I even see a few tourists driving their small sedans along the road.  Millie is still not amused—every time I take the Tracker off pavement, she fears the worst is about to happen and I’ll drive us over an edge.  “Nope, not yet Millie!”

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One last panorama of Valley of the Gods, and we’re on our way to the next area attraction:

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My camping friend, Jay, tells a funny story of visiting southeast Utah one summer and wanting to head to Monument Valley from the northwest.  He finds a nice, nearly-direct, paved highway (Utah Rte 261) and delightfully drives on his way.  Just as he nearly reaches his turn-off for MV, he arrives to the edge of a giant cliff, with the only options being to drive down the cliff-hugging, zig-zaggy dirt road down to the valley, or turn around and drive a few hundred miles to avoid it.  Being the kindred-spirit he is…Jay drives his T@B over the cliff!

As I was now only a couple miles south of this infamous spot, the Moki Dugway, I had to see this piece of highway for myself (thankfully, just in the Tracker and not the motorhome!).  The signs leading up to it are quite stern--

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Up we go, ziggidy-zaggedy, 5 miles-per-hour.  But, thankfully, the road is well-graded gravel and wide enough in all but a couple spots for another vehicle to pass (in the more narrow sections, the proper protocol is for the vehicle up above to back up or find a spot to pull over to allow the ascending vehicle to pass).

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I find a nice turn-out about 3/4ths of the way up to pull over for some photos.  To my amazement, there is some guy (even more daring than my buddy Jay) pulling his Scamp 5th Wheel up the Moki…no problem!

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The views are pretty incredible.  Somewhere out there are the Valley of the Gods and our campsite at Goosenecks!

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The afternoon winds were starting to whip up towards 30 mph gusts, so we decided to make our way down the dugway and back to camp to do what any other sane RVer would do in a windstorm…move our RV over to the edge of the cliff!

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Now, c’mon!  I’m not THAT crazy!  I moved over to cliff’s edge because that site had a level spot where I could point the Winnie directly into the wind (it’s sure nice to have an aerodynamic front end!).  But, just a few feet beyond that picnic table is this incredible abyss below!

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Millie and I decide to hike further down the camp road out to the edge of the mesa on the very left of the above photo.  The view down into the canyon from there is not as interesting, but the view looking back to our campsite is sure pretty wild!  Click this photo larger—that little white spec inside the circle is our Winnie! (fyi—the mesa in the distance behind the Winnie is where the Moki Dugway is).

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Unlike previous reports I’d read about Goosenecks, camping here is now $10/night (rather than free), and now also limited to just 2 nights.  The Verizon signal is very “hit or miss”—even though it’d say I had 1 to 3 bars of 1x, if the wind was blowing (which it often was), I was unable to connect.  So, no need to stay here more than a couple nights anyway.  But, oh, the view!  Even tourists with their funny iPad cameras can’t get enough of it!

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I pulled my super-wide 14mm lens out for these last few shots—still could not quite convey the magnitude of these incredible canyons, but we all try our best with the tools we have!

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What a magnificent life this full-time RVing is starting to become!

9 comments:

  1. Wow! What a spot. I'm so envious. Thanks for sharing.

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  2. Oh, MAN!! How I wish I could have been two places at one time! Stunning photos! That Millie. She is going to get a reputation as a couch potato soon. LOL!

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  3. That gravel road reminds me of the death defying road down to batopilas in Copper Canyon. Took 6 hours to drive 50 miles. Not kidding.

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  4. Fantastic pictures! What a spot to spend time:)

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  5. Great post and fantastic pictures!

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  6. Just WOW! What a cool road off the cliff too - that is one I'd drive (but not with the trailer thanks).

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  7. The most beautiful blog post I have ever read!

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