New Explorations in Familiar Places

Unless we’re in a place we haven’t been before or we’re in an ecologically sensitive area, we spend the majority of our time hiking off-trail in national forests and on BLM land. This is particularly true in southwest Utah where there is plenty of public land and our experience hiking here has given us a good sense of the topography and landmarks. I hadn’t considered it before writing this post but during our couple weeks staying with Terry we didn’t hike an established trail once in fact with the exception of using a trail for a half mile in order to gain entry into the canyons of the Red Cliffs.

Though we often start off on dirt forest roads or in open areas with good sightlines to a recognizable formation we frequently take off cross country following canyons or ridges, or just head towards what we think we’d like to see. This style of hiking has brought us to hidden meadows, secret gorges, forgotten ruins, amazing side canyons, and some of the most striking vistas. To be fair it’s also led to us sliding down rocky slopes, getting ripped up by cactus, some notable tumbles, and being lost a little longer than we were comfortable with, but overall we very much enjoy our style of outdoor walking. I think I overuse the word “exploring” a lot in describing my outdoor walks when I blog but our hikes are very often literally that – just walking to see what’s there.

At some point before I knew them Tom and Terry discovered a neat little gorge just off the road. Why they never bothered to tell me about it before this past spring remains the question in my mind but I’m pretty happy they finally got around to it. The canyon is only a half mile long so this could hardly be called a hike, but with the ability to cross over to the other side and see the tumbling water from both rims made it a very worthwhile excursion.

Following this jaunt I suggested we head over to an area on the dry side of the mountains where the mid-elevation ponderosa forest would likely be without snow. We began walking up a road we’d made the mistake of attempting to drive a few years before; the track narrows to the width of an OHV trail before you even go a mile, and the reassuring smooth packed dirt surface near the turnoff (seen in the photos below) devolves into a mess of ruts and boulders. There’s also no place to turn around. Just getting out of there last time with the truck intact proved to be all anyone was willing to do so we had yet to explore there until now. Anyway, we were back to try again – on foot – since according to the map we could reach some knolls overlooking a canyon by starting on this road-that-is-actually-an-OHV-trail but unfortunately we didn’t get far enough that day to find out if I was right. Luckily the sky brightened noticeably making for some very pretty skies and we had some great views between the stretches of walking under tree cover.