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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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…….