I awoke today to find a wet nose in my face, two brown eyes staring at me, a dusting of snow on the surrounding mountaintops, overcast skies and a prediction of light rain showers. Morgan didn’t care about the weather; she needed to pee. I threw on yesterday’s clothes and Morgan dragged me out into the cold wet morning air to do her business and sniff another dog’s previous business. It was OK; I was meeting Suzan for breakfast in an hour and a half so I needed to get moving anyway. I’ve discovered that traveling with a dog is tantamount to traveling with a toddler. Morgan needs her food container, treat bag, food and water bowls, supply of poop bags, portable crate and favorite squeaky ball. Me, I only need one carry-on size suitcase. One trip to the car and I’m loaded and ready to go. It takes four trips to get Morgan loaded up, and the bribe of a dog treat to get her into her crate. Once the car was loaded and hotel checkout complete, we drove the two blocks to the restaurant where I was meeting Suzan for breakfast.. Full bellies, a brief walk-about with Morgan afterwards and Suzan was off to see her mother and I was off for Southern Utah.
After a brief, well OK, 80-mile, stint on the interstate, I turned off on a secondary highway just south of Provo, UT, left the Great Salt Lake Basin and wound my way through a canyon towards Price, UT. The scenery changed from flatlands and urban sprawl to craggy cliffs covered with stubby pine trees. Following the railroad line and the Price River I passed a coal mine just north of the town of Helper. I don’t know that I’ve ever seen an active coal mine before and have no idea as to what coal is even used for today. I am SO isolated from the realities of life.
The canyon lead to another plateau covered with sagebrush and tumbleweeds: very reminiscent of the lunarscape I had driven through in Nevada on my way to Ogden. When traveling through areas such as this, I often try to imagine what might have been going through the minds of the pioneer settlers as they made their migration west. I sit in my climate-controlled cocoon with a selection of music playing on the surround sound stereo traveling at 80 miles per hour. I’m bored with looking at sagebrush after an hour. I can’t even imagine having to look at it for 4 to 6 months of travel. I’m guessing sagebrush induced insanity was pretty high among the settlers.
US-6 took me to US-24 and then to US-95. I had a bit of a conflict between the GPS recommended route and the Google Maps route I had printed out. A helpful fueling station attendant in Hanksville, UT got me straightened out and I was off to immerse myself in the stunning beauty of southern Utah.
Beige landscape turned to terracotta coloured soil with mesas towering high above in all directions. I half expected to see John Wayne on horseback at every hill I crested or a Native American warrior atop a wild horse perched on every mesa I passed. Perhaps I’ve seen too many spaghetti westerns. Regardless, every crest of a hill or bend in the road brought a new and magnificent view. Glen Canyon is an area that is not to be missed when visiting southern Utah: Spectacular, simply spectacular.
I was late in arriving at the Natural Bridges Monument as I had stopped too many times along the route to take pictures. With only 45 minutes until closing, I hurried along the scenic drive and overlooks and took what pictures I could. The lighting wasn’t great for a perfect photo but the sights were still amazing. From there, I headed for my evening’s destination, Mexican Hat, UT. A signpost along the way pointed me to a different road than the GPS was recommending. Much to the GPS’s dismay and constant harping of “recalculating” I pushed on. I soon discovered why the GPS had suggested a different route. My chosen route changed from a paved tarmac to a washboard, gravel road cut into the side of a mesa with a 10% down slope and switchback corners. Roads reminiscent of my treks across the Alps, only this time gravel. On coming traffic always seemed to occur at the narrowest points in the road, forcing me perilously close to the rocky mountain wall or, even worse, the shear drop off on the side of the road. Morgan didn’t seem to be worried, so I put on a brave face and made the best of it.
Mexican Hat, UT is beautifully situated along the San Juan River. Morgan desperately wanted to go for a swim in the river but I assumed that the hotel would NOT appreciated a wet and muddy dog sleeping on the room’s carpeting. I also did not want to have to smell wet dog all night. She snores in her sleep. That’s bad enough.
Tomorrow I head to Sedona, AZ with a stop at Monument Valley along the way. If it’s anything like the natural beauty I experienced today, I’m in for a good day.