Saturday, April 21, 2012

Westward Ho!

Heading west from Page there are basically two choices – through Utah and Kanab, or south past Lees Ferry and Jacob lake via Arizona.  Since our main destination included Zion NP, and coming in from the east is not a good choice pulling a trailer because on top of the $25 park entry fee, there is a $15 additional surcharge for oversize vehicles going through the tunnel, we opted for the more southerly route.
From Lees Ferry, it is about an almost 5000’ vertical climb up to Jacob Lake, at the junction of the (still closed) road to the north rim of the Grand Canyon.  The big Duramax/Allison team did it in fine style without even breaking a sweat, and without even wrecking the fuel consumption rate.  What a change, though, as there were numerous patches of snow at that almost 8000’ elevation, and trees!  Lots of trees.  Tall trees.  More trees than I have seen in several months!
There were some tempting, but cool looking camp spots up there and some still-closed forestry campgrounds, but we coasted on down till we were once again on the treeless plain.
Pulling off on Winter road, a non-descript spot by a cattle-guard was a good spot to spend the night. It was windy that evening, but calm by morning and we considered spending another night to unwind from the stress of all the relaxation around Page, but it was not a cat-friendly spot with lots of nasty little burrs.
In the morning as packing progressed, I left a bottle of water on the floor by the door that I had meant to have in the truck.  As soon as I got thirsty, I remembered it, but did not go back to recover it.  After the long grade down into Hurricane and a stop sign at the bottom, I pulled into a parking lot to consult the map, and checked on the water.  Much to my surprise, it was still standing where I had left it!
I guess my driving strategy of no fast starts, stops or violent manoeuvres of any kind to conserve fuel and brakes is working well.  I had word that my previous BLM camp spot, Mosquito Cove, on the doorstep of Zion had been damaged by floods in 2010 and not re-openend, so we cruised sadly by without stopping.  I dropped the rig roadside in Springdale, and made a late afternoon foray into Zion park to get a map of hiking trails, etc.  I managed to find a nice quiet, secluded spot to park in Virgin, and had planned to spend a couple days knocking off some more hikes in Zion – maybe even a repeat of Angels landing, but it was not to be.  The weather turned to wind and rain, and despite a couple of days there, it had not improved much.
Reluctantly, we pulled up stakes and headed into Nevada (! Not Utah, thanks to Al of the Bayfield Bunch)and Valley of Fire State Park.  (I'm sure it used to be in Utah - maybe they've moved it - tectonic plates and all!)
 CIMG7744 I knew that some friends from home were there, and managed to get a campsite directly across from them.  But one night in a paying campground was enough for me, so the next day, I led them out to one of my favourite boondocking spots nearby at Stewart’s Point on Lake Mead.  This is off the North Shore Road leading up from Henderson and Las Vegas.  There is an entry gate on the south end, but last time I was here, not on the north end.  I see now that a fancy new entry facility has been built on the north end, but it is not yet in operation.
From the campsite on Lake Mead, a number of trips back into Valley of Fire were undertaken to do some hikes and to enjoy the unique red-rock scenery.
After a day trip one day, I was returning to camp at Stewart’s Point and saw a large four engine plane doing circuits over the lake.  As I got closer, I could see several individuals parachuting from the plane into the water, followed by other packages also dropped from above.  I assume it was a military para-troop exercise from nearby Nellis AFB.
In the photo below,you can see that the plane just dropped something by parachute, visible to the right.  Two boats were standing by at the drop zone, but my impression of the exercise was that the paratroopers landed in the water, inflated a boat, then motored off in it.  I think the other boats were just there as for safety and as observers.  It was about a mile away, so hard to see the details.image
Much to my surprise, the same thing was performed well after dark the next night!


  1. Oh Oh, I'm a bit confused here. Last time we were at Valley Of Fire it was still in Nevada. I recognized those those old movie set ruins you have pictures of. That's a nice loop trail. Great place:))

  2. Stewart Point was one of our favourite spots. We usually stayed there 2 weeks every year. There were still lots of little houses when we came the first time and the lake was much higher. Later on the houses were torn down little by little. We have not been there since 2004 so I would imagine that not much is left now.

  3. Spent some very windy days at Valley of Fire two years ago. My tent almost blew away with me in it, then I remembered to stake it, something I haven't had to do for a long time. And yup, it was in Nevada when I was there. And you're right about the tectonic plates, that's what's pulling Nevada further from Utah and creating the basin and range country there.