Delaying Winter-A November Desert Trip.


Sep 22, 2016
October camping trips to the desert have been a yearly thing with us for almost 20 years now- a return to summer temperatures for a few weeks as cooler late fall weather descends on our home in Alberta. Covid quashed those plans in 2020, but we held out hope that land travel across the border would be a go for spring 2021. Well- spring and summer came and went with no relaxation of the restrictions, and as fall rolled around here yet again, the on-going closure had us pretty depressed about facing another winter without our desert fix. Finally, a re-opening was announced, but- it was for November 8, a full 5 weeks later than we usually depart. Damn! Looking at weather averages though and finding that mid-November desert temperatures were typically very tolerable, plus there being about 50 minutes more daylight than in Alberta- our hopes were revived and we kept the camper on the truck rather than removing it for the winter. As the date approached we started tracking longer term forecasts and finally, on the morning of November 7 with very favourable weather outlooks for southern Utah- we put things into high gear and were underway south along with a horde of Canadian snowbirds on the morning of the 8th. Hooray!
After 18 hours of driving spread over 2 days, we woke up to warm sun, not far outside of Capitol Reef.
Hiking here wasn't on our loose agenda, but the morning was so nice that...why not?
Shorts and tank top in November- must be a Canadian.
Picnic time!
Moving on, we set up our home for 3 nights in one of the "best campsites ever", with full-on sun from morning to night.
Nearby- a vast basin featuring a wide variety of features was explored. Thanks @Titans!
Home in time for happy hour in the late day sun.
Another day, another free-form wander in an area that had been on the to-do list, after catching our eye on previous trips.
Following a slick rock sidewalk to a great viewpoint.
One final breakfast in the sun here, before moving on. We'll be back!
We had done the Fairyland loop hike a couple of times in the past, but as it was not far off our route plan, a revisit...
After a windy night at a spot with no morning sun, we checked out a zone that was new to us. The walk in and out was easy but mundane- but once there...
In Kanab for fresh food and showers, we also grabbed a permit for Coyote Buttes South, and spotted condors above us on a short afternoon walk above town. Coincidentally, on our way out to the Sand Hills later on that day- we stopped at the viewing site where recently introduced juveniles were being monitored, and got to observe their roost.

We had been to Coyote Buttes South and White Pockets twice previously, the last time in rainy weather, so they were worth returning to for further exploration and another favourite camping spot.
Clearing sky in the afternoon made for some great lighting.
A breezy morning at White Pocket:
We dawdled around camp on our third morning in the Sand Hills, as it was so nice out.
After packing up, and checking forecasts in Kanab, we headed west to the St. George area. Why there? Well, a prior commitment meant that we had to be back in Calgary in 5 days at the latest, and with not wanting to drive home through forecast midweek snow in Montana , our time was just about up. As covid tests were required within 72 hours of returning to Canada, and Utah was offering free drive through PCR testing for travellers in St. George and SLC- we had a rest and travel day, the highlight of which was the best sunset of the trip at a camp spot north of the city.
Driving by Snow Canyon on our way into St. George to be tested the next morning, we found a vacancy at the campground. We snagged it, as good dispersed camping on BLM land seems to be hard to find in the immediate area, we needed showers anyway, and we could then hike right from camp.
With tests done efficiently as we had pre-registered online in advance, we hiked a very nice little loop in the afternoon, enjoying the last bit of summer-like weather for a long while.
We watched this great moonrise while barbecuing dinner..
Before hitting the interstate for the long haul back north, we made time for one final short walk to say goodbye to the desert, until next year.
The drive home went smoothly, with a comfortable sleep on a cold stopover night at a great BLM campsite south of Pocatello that we discovered on his trip, and a minor bit of snow over Monida and Elk Park passes. That is- until we grazed a deer just north of the Canadian border. I had spotted them crossing a ways off in the dark, braked and was going pretty slow when one of the herd decided to reverse directions across in front of us. Coming to a stop- we jumped out to check on things but it had ran off. Fortunately the damage was relatively minor and we were able to continue home. All in all it was a fantastic (too) short trip, with perfect weather crowds anywhere. So glad that we grabbed the opportunity!
And now you are ready for a winter of skiing :)

thanks for the photos and report
Congratulations on a wonderful adventure! I did a double-take when I saw the pictures that you took on the slickrock near UT-12. I'm pretty sure that I visited that same nameless slickrock hill last summer! Such a wonderful spot.
Very cool, thanks for sharing! Glad you made it down to the desert in 2021, the effect of La Niña was obvious this year. You guys always find some super nice campsites and the sun in the morning is so important in late fall. Good the truck damage was minor, whew! (Towards the end of the trip we got a leak in one tire due to a nail. Luckily we had an oil change pre-scheduled for the next day and they could fix the tire, all good now.)
Straight up wonderful stuff @SteveR. The pictures are great and you went to some excellent places.
Very glad you were able to get into the desert to enjoy the sand and sun.
I am looking forward for all the ski tour pics and sweet north.
Great trip report. Looks like you have a four wheel camper (Eagle). We have a four wheel camper (also Eagle) on a first gen Toyota. We take it places campers dare to go.
14th year with our FWD Camper Eagle, that we average about 45-50 nights a year in. They are a bit quirky, but it suits our needs perfectly- one of which is to not be limited in where we can get to with home on our back. Having said that- we did get ourselves into a situation in bottomless sand on this years desert trip where I wondered if we might get to have our 15 minutes of fame on Matt's Offroad Recovery- "So we got a call"...
Fortunately the Tacoma got us extricated.