Crazy or Callous?

Ah, yes!  Another day of explorations unfolds.  It’s a beautiful spring morning in southern Utah.  Our journey today (April 3rd) has us taking a scenic drive which is part of Trail of the Ancients.  Trail of the Ancients is a National Scenic Byway located in the southern portions of the states of Colorado and Utah.


Happily perched above the San Juan River at Goosenecks State Park – RV upper right

We began our day from our home at Goosenecks State Park then headed north on route 261.  It wasn’t long before the yellow signs appeared warning us of impending road conditions.  I had read about this stretch of road called the Moki Dugway from fellow bloggers and was prepared for a little white knuckle driving.Moki Dugway scenic byway scenic byway

The pavement quickly came to an end.  The 3 miles of gravel road along with its numerous switchbacks would take us 1,000 feet up to Cedar Mesa.  10% grades, no guardrails and tight switchbacks would’ve had this gal sweating bricks twenty some years ago…… regardless of the beautiful scenery.  Today?  No white knuckles, no sweating, no problem.  While asking hubby, “When do you think the really scary part of the drive will begin?” all of a sudden the road widened onto pavement and we had just completed the “Moki Dugway”  portion of Utah road 261.scenic road in Utah

scenic drives in Utah

Very well maintained road

Have I become immune to these types of roads?  Am I crazy or just callous?  The road was a piece of cake with my Tacoma and if we ‘had to’ and I mean really ‘had to’ we wouldn’t have any trouble pulling our RV up and over.  Marsha and Pam each photographed trucks pulling this pass.  Mind you, I don’t recommend it because the sign clearly states ‘not recommended’ and the road does get pretty narrow in spots. My point is, if you’ve ever spent much time driving the back country in a mountainous area this road is no big deal and the views are beautiful.  Over the past few years, I’ve driven some pretty dicey back country roads making the Moki Dugway look like a well maintained every day highway.  However, a flatlander may view it differently.

scenic byway moki dugway

lots of switchbacks

That said, I assure you twenty some years ago as we explored this part of Utah with 2 little kids and a dog in tow, I had a very different opinion.  Being a flatlander from Illinois and a city gal at that, this land made me feel very uncomfortable as well as these roads were not something I was accustomed to.Moki Dugway scenic drivephotographic scenic drives

The barren red rock, sparse vegetation, and consistent change in elevation made me feel like I was in another country, or rather on another planet.  There was plenty of discomfort and white knuckles the last time (mid 1990’s) we drove through this part of Utah.  Today?  Well, I seem to be in my element and loving it.trail of the ancients

The entire Trail of the Ancients Byway consists of approximately 480 miles (772 km). We’ve chosen a 100 mile (161 km) loop portion of the trail in Utah to explore.  Along the route are numerous opportunities to view archaeological, cultural, and historic sites highlighting Native Americans in the southwest. Trail of the Ancients

This scenic byway is considered a trail from the past to the future.  It encompasses the history of Ancestral Puebloans to nomadic Navajo, Apache, and Ute tribes to the impact of European settlers.  It’s the only scenic byway totally dedicated to archaeology and it’s necessary the traveler get out of the vehicle to truly experience everything the byway has to offer.   Knowing this, I originally had a bunch of stops planned along today’s route.  One of which was a hike to ‘House on Fire’ a unique ruin that photographed at the right time of day appears to be on fire.  Unfortunately, 30-40 mph sustained winds accompanied by 60+ gusts kept hubby and me comfortably confined to the vehicle.

ancient ruin

‘House on Fire’ ancient puebloan ruin. Photo courtesy of Linda; Bear Tracks Blog

Although we may have missed out on some amazing sites, the drive was never the less beautiful.  When we returned to Goosenecks State Park, we proceeded to share our info on Trail of the Ancients with Mike and Linda.  We  knew they were working their way north and we thought they might be interested in hiking to ‘house on fire’ and indeed they did.  Linda captured some great photos…..thanks Linda.

Next stop Moab…….





95 thoughts on “Crazy or Callous?

  1. Good morning, Ingrid! What a morning of armchair traveling I’ve had – riding along with you and Al on gravel roads and tight switchbacks (I am such a chicken, I’ll NEVER . . .), then I followed your link and visited Mike and Linda at Bear Tracks, and followed along up and down and across all those natural bridges (more white-knuckle reading).

    I just loved reading about your transformation from Flatlander to totally at-ease Mountain Girl – so good to realize there might be other possibilities for Flatlanders like me. I really don’t expect to change in this lifetime (got lots of other projects to work on right now), but if I get another life, I’d sure like to be braver about high place and edges in THAT one.

    Anyway, lovin’ your travels & photos. Write on and on!

    • Thanks so much. Twenty plus years ago, this land freaked me out. It’s so very different from northern IL or WI. The last couple of summers I’ve been on some roads that are more like ledges that are truly scary….scary beyond words. So this road appeared to be mild in comparison. I have some fun adventures in mind for this summer. Let’s hope I can make them happen 🙂

  2. I would love to take this ride and see how I feel after. In another life (pre-Terry) my BIL took us off a cliff in an open Jeep into the Colorado river at night. Since then curvy high-elevation roads have me on the edge of my seat, probably one of the scariest being a road out near Ouray, where Terry and I had to back up several times when meeting vehicles coming the other direction. It was a fabulous trip where we rented a Jeep in Ouray; threw our tent gear in the back; and headed up into the mountains. 🙂

    • Sounds like Al and I have some catching up to do. We’re hoping to take in some of those back roads around Ouray this summer, but falling off a cliff is not in the plans. You can tell me all about your experience and that will suffice LOL. Hope to capture a bunch of mountain wildflowers while I’m there 🙂

    • Ah, wasn’t anything more difficult than the main road through Rocky Mountain National Park or Highway 6 over Loveland Pass. Us Colorado gals are used to these kinds of roads especially when there’s photo ops involved 🙂

  3. We’ve never taken the Trail of the Ancients, just our kind of drive. After some of the roads we’ve been on too (CO & UT) looks like it would be a great drive.

    • Very scenic, enjoyable, and nicely paved with the exception of the 3 mile Moki Dugway. Would definitely recommend it on a less than windy day so numerous stops along the way could be enjoyed.

  4. Funny how we grow to appreciate things we feared in the past. When I started to read this I thought you were towing the fifth wheel and thought – wow, she IS crazy, glad you didn’t. Sorry you didn’t make it to the house on fire, that’s on my list as well.

    • I have a feeling we’ll be back to this area again and again or at least that’s our hope. I fell in love with Utah twenty some years ago and have always wanted to spend more time exploring this amazing state:-)

  5. Not callous, just experienced!

    We’re in Escalante for a week (starting 4/28), then off to Capitol Reef for 5 nights. Let us know if you’ll be in the area during our stay…

    Metamorphosis Lisa

    • Oh….I so look forward to following your explorations to those areas of Utah – definitely on our to see list. We’re in Grand Junction now until the beginning of June handling RV repairs, doctors, etc. So I don’t think we’ll make it back to Utah until fall. Let me know if you’re heading to CO 🙂

    • Sylvia, I’m sure you’ve been on scarier…..especially in Europe where the drivers can be a little crazy on those narrow roads 🙂

  6. It looks scary, but when you go slow and careful it should be okay. It actually looked much smoother than most the roads in Indiana…and far more scenic.

  7. This was a great share… we have a similar type road in our Cape higlands that is basically a single lane road, gravel all the way… many years ago we tackled it in our little car not recommended at all, but it was a great experience although it frightened the life out of Linda that is not partial to heights… fortunately we met no other vehicles as I’m not sure how one passes another on this pass….

  8. Okay, now you’ve inspired me and made me feel more comfortable about the Moki Dugway. We hiked all over that area last fall and drove through Valley of the Gods, but didn’t drive that scary looking twisty road. But next time we will (although I still wouldn’t do it pulling our trailer). By the way, we absolutely loved the hike to House on Fire — in the photos we took, it looks just like it’s on fire!

    • Great shot Laurel especially with the two of you in front of House on Fire. I really wanted to catch that hike, but will need to wait until fall. Yep, there’s no need to take the trailer on the Moki Dugway and with a regular vehicle, it’s no biggie. I’m sure you’ve been on worse. At the top is a dirt road that will take you to Muly Point (no signs) a very scenic overlook. We had friends that went…..we didn’t because of the winds. We’ll try and catch that next time as well 🙂

  9. We go 4 wheelin’ on the back trails and… I have to say… I am absolutely fine. I can look over the edge and not feel nervous. HOWEVER, when you put snow on these trails… forget about it! Great pictures!!

    • Snow and ice? Yep, that takes it to a whole different level. I think the more time spent exploring the back country especially in these mountainous areas, the more one gets used to it. And it is fun!

  10. I remember so horrific white-knuckle spots during the Colorado >> Utah drive, en route to Vegas. My heart was in my stomach many times. Can’t even imagine it with a 5th wheel in tow…

    • Yep, when we moved from Chicago to Las Vegas in the 90’s there were lots of white knuckle moments for this flatlander. Now, not so much as I drive some of those same roads. It was probably culture shock back them.

  11. Ingrid you are both crazy and callous! No I can’t drive with the stunning scenery around me. Id rather be on the passenger side and take it in.
    Enjoyed reading, made me sit at the edge of my sit with that switchbacks, Beautiful!

    • Nope, I much prefer being the driver and Al’s a good passenger except when I whip up the camera to take shots while driving…. that’s when he puts his foot down and grabs the camera. Haha – gotta add a little spice to the marriage every now and then!

    • Yep, happens to me when driving and that’s when hubby gets nervous as I keep looking around….”might wanna keep your eyes on the road”….ya think!

  12. Maybe you are so seasoned that you are a little of both? Either way, it is such a beautiful vista! I love the tone and textures. I hope to get back to Utah one day. But I will say it would be a white knuckle drive for me and a white face too. I get so sick on those mountain roads. :-/ Great shots.

    • Thanks Angelia. I’ve now spent well over 20 years out west so I definitely have gotten used to driving mountain roads. And I no longer suffer car sickness like I did as a child. Perhaps that’s why I prefer to drive 🙂

  13. I can’t believe you! I ws prterified of Moki Dugway. Yes, you are callouse, crazy and courageous.

    My heart is all a flutter….Moab. Fabulous. Enjoy dear friend.

    • Ah, a comment from a true flatlander…..LOL. You need to come to Colorado so I can show you some roads that are literally ledges. Those are truly scary.
      Yes, Moab is fabulous and we hope to make it a regular stopping point for us.

  14. Thank you so much for such an interesting post. I am on my way down to the Grand Canyon and am planning a trip throughout this area. I was especially interested in driving the Moki Dugway with my small Casita but after hearing guys haul hay and boats through there, I’m game! Have you ever driven or seen the Burr Trail (Boulder,UT) switchbacks- AMAZING! I have a lot of BLM sites marked on this trip but am curious about where you stayed in Goosenecks State Park.

    • Goosenecks SP? It’s pretty much a free for all. You can stay in the parking lot (which no one seems to do) or find a piece of dirt you’re comfortable driving around on. We stayed along the rim (left of the parking lot….bumpy road). With a casita you could also boondock in Valley of the Gods – more easily accessed off 191. No we have not seen Burr Trail. Sounds interesting. If I can offer any more info, feel free to email me Thanks for stopping by 🙂

  15. I seem to be headed in the opposite direction. Hubby used to drive the Utah mountains in our ‘jack-ass Jeep’ that nearly had me getting out and walking. None of that really scared me and we certainly had some fantastic adventures. But these days, I seem to have a growing fear of edges that’s highly annoying. Not to mention the fear of meeting some oncoming wild, crazy driver taking his half out of the middle…… O_o

    • Yep, it’s the crazy drivers taking their half out of the middle that stresses me the most. Sounds like you and hubby had some fun adventures….perhaps even some wild ones 🙂

      • We packed an ATV in the back of the pickup when things got too rough…. yeah, it was really good times. Fun to look back on. We covered much of the 4-corners region and most of Utah. But that was after the motorcycle days in California Gold country… great memories!!!

  16. Wonderful narrative and photos Ingrid! I think we become acclimatized to the roads in our wilderness travels. Our experience is that weather condifions can definitely change the experience.

    • Thanks Sue. I’m sure you two have encountered a fair share of dicey roads/trails on your bikes during all your travels as well as plenty of weather situations. Flexibility seems to be the name of the game 🙂

  17. I think the older I get, the more chances I take. Scariest road we ever did was Denali National Park…They won’t let you drive very far, you have to take tour buses into the park…Those roads were so narrow that when another tour bus passed you, you could shake hands out the bus window with the people in the other bus…I was never so scare..It was straight down if you were on the outside of the road..However, I would highly recommend a trip to Denali for everyone..We would like to go back…Your pictures are wonderful..and a great “push” for Den and I to re-discover Utah!!

    • Yes, Alaska is on our bucket list. I’m just not sure when we’ll be able to make that happen. For now, I still don’t seem to have the time to visit and explore all the places I want to here in the west. Perhaps Utah is calling to you. Although I believe you’ll be back in Texas next winter where the roads are usually flat and there’s birds 5 feet tall 🙂

  18. I’ve been a passenger on the Moki Dugway and that’s an experience I don’t care to repeat. I’ve always heard one doesn’t “really” have a fear of heights – it’s a “fear of edges.” Unfortunately, I’m the poster child. 😦

    Great photos!

    • The edges don’t seem to concern me as much as on coming traffic. When I have the road to myself, I’m having fun and that morning we saw only one other vehicle on this gravel stretch which made for a very enjoyable ride 🙂

  19. WOW – stunning photos, as always. I’ve said this many times, but i’m glad we’ve crossed paths. I enjoy following your journeys and dream of visiting that part of the country. I think my crew might make it more of white knuckle drive with two kids in the back seat! It must have been more fun in the passenger seat with your eyes firmly glued to the road! Thank you for sharing.. look forward to more…

    • Thanks Clay and BTW 9 times out of 10 I’m the driver. I’m always wanting to stop for photo ops and we’ve found it easier (marital bliss and all) that I drive, thus I can stop where and when I want LOL. When my niece came out from Naperville to visit us in Colorado, by the end of the week she said, “No offense Aunt Ingrid, but I’m looking forward to heading home and being on some ‘normal’ roads”. I guess my driving freaked out a 19 year old a time or two with my exuberance to share this beautiful state by showing her some of our hidden gems 🙂

  20. The Moki Dugway isn’t near as scary as many have said. The only time there was any concern was on a narrow curve when a guy pulling a very long boat came flying around the corner. There wasn’t room for two, luckily, we were able to back up so he could get around. It’s probably more the crazy drivers than the road. We took it many times as we drove north from Bluff to hike the canyons.

    • Yep, it’s the other drivers that scare me. That’s why hubby doesn’t want us driving the ‘million dollar highway’ in CO again. We were driving on a ledge in the backcountry in Crested Butte and I ended up having to back up so another truck filled with sightseers for the wildflower festival could pass…..fortunately I was on the inside. Shoulda seen the freaked out faces on the tourists. Now that was a white knuckle drive 🙂

    • Ah, no problem for the dually. As a matter of fact we saw a rancher pulling his hay trailer loaded across the pass. We do enjoy having that second vehicle but there’s always pros and cons.

  21. I had previously read Bear Tracks Blog and saw Linda’s amazing photo of house of fire. I told Greg we have to get there. Now after seeing your great photos of the awesome Moki Dugway – we’ve got to get there. We have explored and hiked at Natural Bridges National Monument, but missed this great gem. Thanks for sharing! You are adding a lot to our “must see” list. Have a great week.

  22. i think i’ll do it in a car 🙂 your post reminds me of ‘fun’ family holidays towing a caravan over some very dodgy italian alps mountain passes with no barriers AND italian drivers coming in the opposite direction!! yet again you have added to my bucket list- house on fire looks amazing, ingrid.

    • I’ve been to the Austrian alps and yes those roads can get interesting. Add in European drivers and it does get the heart pumping. Utah is absolutely stunning and really not all that far from Phoenix so do explore some of these hidden gems 🙂

      • It’s in the plan for July ( I know, HOT) but we always add on a road trip detour from our regular Santa Fe opera jaunt in July. Have been to Mexican hat before and it doesn’t look far from that.

        • No not far at all. As a matter of fact I would recommend a drive through Valley of the Gods then the Moki Dugway. From Mexican Hat go north on 191 and you’ll see the sign for Valley of the Gods. Make a left. When you get to the end you’ll be at 261. Make a right and you’ll see the yellow caution signs and the gravel road will start for the Moki Dugway section. Pretty country for sure and with all the elevation changes you might find a reprieve from the July heat. BTW….love Santa Fe!

            • Trail of the Ancients is all good paved black top with the exception of the 3 mile Moki Dugway section. Valley of the Gods is well graded gravel that does get dusty or muddy.

            • Sounds perfect. Mr N and I got more than we had bargained for going to the west rim of the Grand Canyon a few years ago- the web site for the glass platform etc gave no hint of just how bad and how long the potted dirt track was. It might be better now but I’ll stick to national parks n future.

    • I think you managed to see most of the highlights in the area on your journey through, but it’s always fun to return to amazing places. I know we’ll return, as the weather didn’t allow us to explore half of what we wanted, but then you know first hand how crazy the weather can get around here 🙂

  23. Wish I could ride along, so you could talk this flatlander down and hold my hand! “Another planet” I’d say so…stunning!

    • I’ve had over twenty years to knock the flatlander out of me and don’t think twice about some of these roads. But, I sure remember those first times and yes white knuckles for sure.
      AND, just let me know….I’ll hold your hand any day as one IL gal shares with another IL gal !

  24. as long as the road is somewhat paved or at least looks maintained it is a GO! I use to say if the road had a proper road sign it was ok. But my wife will tell a few stories of roads with proper road signs that turned into “sure glad I had a very good 4 wheel drive”. However those views are well worth what ever you had to do driving to see them.

    • There’s a lot of roads I would caution folks on but this isn’t one of them. It was a fun drive and the views are definitely worth it.

  25. I love your narrative on Moki Dugway. I am obviously still a newbie because it scared the heck out of me!! I loved the views but it was definitely a white knuckle ride. Look forward to seeing you and Al soon! -Linda

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