The Great Western Expedition of 2011, pt4...We Go Navajo

Ranger Joe

Feed the Rangers, not the wildlife!
Jan 27, 2012
In today's adventure, we dodge the weather and eventually find ourselves in the Navajo Nation.

We spent the night in Torrey, Utah, just outside of Capitol Reef National Park. The following morning, we headed south on scenic Utah Rt. 12 towards Boulder and Escalante.

Our first obstacle of the day was one that we simply could not drive over.

We soon tired of following a rented RV at 30mph, so when we reached Boulder, we took off on the former route to the town of Escalante. It had also started to rain, but the graded dirt road posed no problems. The bridge was built by the CCC back in the '30s.

Overlooking Box-Death Canyon from Hell's Backbone.

Utah 12 winds through the sandstone slickrock near Escalante. We had planned to head down to Page, Arizona, by way of the Smoky Mountain Road through Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, but the BLM rangers at the visitor center in Escalante said that the unpaved roads through the monument would be very slick and maybe impassible. Also, our plan was to visit Antelope Canyon, a slot canyon on Navajo land near Page, but slot canyons are no place to be if there's rain forecast. We plotted a course east, aiming for either Bluff or Blanding for the night.

We headed back towards Boulder, then went east on the Burr Trail towards Capitol Reef National Park.

The Burr Trail has some nice switchbacks once you enter the national park. Wide and graded and dirt. The county had wanted to pave this some years back, but the NPS said no, and stopped the paving crew at the park boundary.

The road south towards Halls Crossing on Lake Powell, running parallel to the Waterpocket Fold. We had hoped to catch the last ferry of the day across the reservoir, but there was no way we were gonna make it. Given the option of driving down to the crossing, then back north on a paved road, we opted for a dirt connecting road that headed due east. Hey, it showed up on the GPS, so that makes it cool, right?

It was a great road, mostly graded dirt with a couple of minor stream crossings like this one. Somewhere behind us was the former settlement of Eggnog Springs...we saw no evidence of it.

Of course, the road eventually turned into a double-track path. We pushed on.

Eventually, the road got wider and joined up with a paved road. Darn.

We eventually found ourselves back on SR 95, headed back towards Hite Marina.

The nice thing was that we had the road to ourselves. We felt we made a good decision to avoid the potentially impassible roads of the national monument and head east.

We spent the night in Bluff, then headed south into Arizona and the Navajo Nation. Our target was the Hubbell Trading Post, south of Chinle. My wife is a spinner/weaver, and Hubbell is a great place to see Navajo rugs.

Of course, authentic Navajo rugs arent cheap...a small 11x14 placemat sized piece runs about $300...a full blown rug was over $4000...and this place literally had PILES of them. Linda was in heaven. She bought herself a Navajo spindle and was almost chastised by the clerk who thought she was just buying it as a souvenir. "This spindle has song. Very few of these leave the Four Corners," she said. Linda assured her that the spindle was in good hands.

More piles of rugs. They had a loom for sale but I had to convince Linda that it would have to go on the roof rack all the way back to Ohio.

At least she got a chance to play with a real Navajo loom. Somehow, I think I have a woodworking project ahead of me.

We made a brief stop at Canyon de Chelly National Monument. The large rock formation is Spider Rock, home of the Spider Woman, who taught the Navajo how to weave. That's their story, and they're sticking to it.

We had planned to camp at Monument Valley, but again, the weather changed our plans.

There would be a full moon rising and we had hoped to get photos of it with the rock formations of the valley, but if the moon is obscured by clouds and its raining, well, wheres the fun in that?

At least we saw a little rainbow action.

Again, in accordance with the "Post your Jeep Pictures Here" title of this subforum, its a token photo of our Liberty at Gouldings Lodge.

Gouldings Lodge is a great place to stay...all the rooms face the rock formations, and it's well worth the time to get up before sunrise and watch the sun come up over the formations of Monument Valley.

We headed for Cortez, Colorado, outrunning the storms we found near Monument Valley. The lightning was spectacular...we pulled off along the road, set up the tripod and started shooting.

Next up, we head towards the San Juan Mountains of southwest Colorado...on to Ouray.

View Part 5, Hooray for Ouray
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