Return to Utah - Loop # 2
September 13 – 21, 2008
By: Dan W. Messersmith
We had such a great time in Utah in May that we went back. This loop was longer and go farther north, all
on the east side of I-15. As an exploratory trip, we diverted our path along the way to see what was there. Allin-
all, we covered approximately 1,200 miles of Utah trails and roads.
Our group was small on this trip, just Dick Taylor, Bob Younger and me (with Buddy). It was probably a
good thing as we were able to cover a large area and scout out some great territory to take people back to
Dick and I left Kingman on Friday the 12th and went up to Overton to look at a possible future site for us to
visit in November during our excursion then. We found the site “Double Negative” after some noodling in the
desert. This “artwork” was along a cliff and small side canyon overlooking the Virgin River and Virgin River
Valley. That overlook was its only saving grace and justification for the expenditure of gas to get there. The
man-made bulldozer cut in the earth left much to be desired as artwork. It dates from the late 1960’s or early
1970’s and that alone should explain a lot about the artist and his “artwork.” Dick may have a different view as
to its value as art, so you need to request his opinion to have a fully rounded evaluation.
We noodled our way back to Overton and had a great dinner at Sugar’s Café. (I will sometimes refer to this
place as “Angel’s.” I don’t know why as there is no place called Angel’s in Overton, so just bear with me when
I do and remember it is really Sugar’s.) After dinner, we proceeded toward Mesquite and camped on the mesa
that is located a mile or so off of I-15 and prior to dropping down into the Virgin River Valley. The views were
great, the stars were bright in the jet-black sky and we enjoyed our short stay there.
Saturday, September 13:
Buddy and I got up early and took a walk in hopes that Buddy could find a rabbit to chase. No rabbits but
there was enough smells in the desert to catch Buddy’s attention and we had a great walk. Returning to camp,
Dick was up and we had coffee and proceeded into Mesquite for gas and breakfast.
After breakfast we decided to use the beautiful day to work our way to St. George via Lime Kiln Canyon
through the Arizona Strip. We took our time and enjoyed the views along the way. Stopped at several places
that Dick had not yet seen and before working our way over to Main Street we stopped at our basecamp site on
the west side of the Strip. This was the last MOE campsite where Bill Ott had been with us. In his honor, we
have a small mound of rocks marking his tent site. Dick and I made sure the marker was maintained and then
headed down the road to Quail Hill and down into St. George. There we had lunch and picked up supplies for
the BBQ that evening at the Hamblin home in Kanab. We got to Robin and Carolyn Hamblin’s home in Kanab at
about 4pm and got set up to take advantage of their hospitality to camp on their property that evening. We
had a grand tour of the large garden with its abundant pumpkin patch and over-flowing tomato crop. I don’t
think there is anything much better then sweet, fresh, right off the vine, cherry tomatoes. Joining us for dinner
were LeGrand and Susan Hammon from Colorado City and the Hamblin’s neighbors, Eldon and Carol Lee. [Ed.
Note: The Hamblin’s and Hammon’s are good friends of mine and Carolyn and Susan were colleagues of mine
at Mohave Community College.]
LeGrand was our cook for the evening and he expertly prepared our grilled to order steaks, salmon and
chicken. Fresh corn on the cob from the Hamblin garden and side dishes provided by all capped of a grand
meal. We had just sat down to dinner when I spotted Bob Younger’s arrival. He had already eaten dinner as he
was not sure if he would get there in time for the BBQ, but quickly joined us at the table and took part in the
robust conversation and story-telling that ensued both during and after dinner. Buddy enjoyed three ribeye
steak bones that were tossed his way and we all enjoyed the great Bull round-up story provided by LeGrand. I
wish I could convey it to you, but it would not be the same as told by LeGrand. Dinner over, we said our
farewells to all and retired to the sleeping quarters of our campsite.
Sunday, September 14:
We were up early and made coffee to get us going. We were able to wave and say hello to Carolyn as she
headed off to church. We were on the road by about 7:30am after toping off our gas tanks. We headed east out
of Kanab on US 89 to Johnson Canyon where we turned north. Eventually leaving the pavement we made our
way up along the east side of Bryce Canyon National Park toward Escalante. We had noticed the smoke of a
forest fire the night before in this vicinity and had been told there had been quite a thunderstorm with lots of
lightning. The smoke from the fire was still with us this morning and there was quite a bit of haze in the air for
quite some distance north. Along the way we stopped at a dramatic slot canyon we had seen during the May
trip. Continuing on, we went up UT12 through Cannonville to Tropic and had lunch. Back on UT12, we went
back through Cannonville, Henrieville and on to Escalante. There we stopped at the US Forest Service Visitors
Center. One of the ladies on duty talked to us a bit and hearing our intended direction, suggested we take a
scenic road up and across the Hell’s Backbone somewhere just north of Box-Death Hollow. We followed her
suggestion and after a long run through lots of tall pines. We had grown tired of the trees and no scenery and
had just about given up on ever seeing anything but trees when we finally came out to a dramatic and
spectacular view and a narrow bridge that crossed Hell’s Backbone. We stopped and admired the bridge and
the sites and noted that this current bridge appeared to be built on top of an older wooden bridge. That older
bridge would have taken some nerve to cross.
Continuing on, we went to Boulder and took in the great views from the narrow road that was built by the
CCC in the 1930’s along UT12. We continued northward to several other viewpoints as we made our way over
the Boulder Mountains toward Grover and our next campsite.
We were returning to a wonderful little campsite just south of Grover that we had found during last May’s
trip. The entrance to it is marked by a large white rock formation that is quite distinctive along the road. The
campsite is tucked in the forest with a wonderful little stream that flows by and provides a soothing quality to
a long day on the trail. We were looking forward to a cocktail hour and dinner in a wonderful, relaxing
environment. That was until I got a 3 inch side wall cut in my front right tire coming into the campsite. That
put a damper on the evening, as we fought to get the tire changed using poor stock equipment provided with
the vehicle. Finally completed, I ventured back to see where I got the cut and found that a washed out culvert
I had to negotiate on the way in had some angle iron sticking up on it. Based on my tracks, I narrowly missed
hitting the angle iron with my rear tire also. That over with, we still enjoyed a small campfire and a Dick
cooked us up a great dish he called “fortified beef stew” which we used to chase down a couple of cocktails.
Monday, September 15:
We were up early, had coffee, packed up and were on our way by 7:30am. We stopped at the tire cutting
culvert on the way out and buried it with rocks and then were on our way to have breakfast and look for a new
tire for my truck.
We got gas and then had a great breakfast at the Sunridge Inn & Restaurant in Torry. We asked about tire
shops and were told that there was a good shop in Bicknell just a few miles up the road. We drove to Bicknell
and found the combination auto parts and Goodyear tire shop. They did not have the size I needed and phoned
up to another shop in the next town of Loa. That shop did not have the correct size either. They did say there
was a NAPA store in Loa that handled tires but they did not have their phone number. We thanked them for
their efforts and headed for the NAPA in Loa.
We found the little NAPA store and the fellow searched his inventory but did not have the correct size for
my truck. He said we would need to go to Richfield. He gave us directions on the best way to get into Richfield
without going all the way to US89 and sent us on our way.
In Richfield we located a large Big O store and they had the appropriate BF Goodrich replacement for my
truck. Dick used the time to track down a Radio Shack to get a phone charger as the one he brought with him
had quit working. Bob made a quick run to a grocery store to get a few supplies. About 30 minutes later, I was
ready to roll and Dick and Bob had gotten what they needed.
Continuing our journey, we drove up through Venice, Sigurd, Vermillion, Aurora, Salina and Redmond to
search for the ghost town site of Clarion. We found the small site and looked around at what ruins were left.
Then made our way over to Centerfield where we took a lunch break in the shade of nice Ramada in the park
next to the local LDS church. Just as we were packing up the local Cub Scout troop was making its appearance
to have a Dutch oven cookout and part of their pack meeting.
The next town we visited was Mayfield where we got a long distant view of a mountain peak called “Mary’s
Nipple” for obvious reasons. Mayfield was interesting in that it had several prior names that intrigued us
enough to want to visit the town. At various times it had been called: Arrapene (for a local Indian chief), New
London because a local fellow had married a girl from London, England and Order, when the Mormon United
Order was practiced. Cobblehaven, Skinny, Skunk and Frog Hollow followed but explanations were not
provided in the history of the town. The current name was said to have come from the beautiful flowers that
appear along the hillsides in the early spring each year.
From Mayfield we continued our journey north through Sterling and on to Manti. Manti is an LDS Temple
site and the magnificent Temple sits atop a hill that makes it visible from any place in town and from a good
distance from most points leading up to the town. We stopped and enjoyed the views there and then headed
up the road to Ephraim (home of Snow College) and on to Mt. Pleasant. At Mt. Pleasant we went in search of a
campsite and found none. We decided that as it was getting late we would just motel it for the night. There
turned out to be only one motel in Mt. Pleasant and although they were almost empty, they wanted $80 for a
single and $105 from me to allow Buddy in the room. We headed back toward Ephraim and found the Iron Horse
Motel that was much more customer friendly and stayed the night. Bob decided to have supper in his camper
and Dick and I went to the City Café down the street. After dinner, we got together for a drink in my room
before heading for bed.
Tuesday, September 16:
I got up early and took Buddy for a walk before the others were up and moving around. I got back and we
got geared up for the adventures for the day. We all went to breakfast at the City Café and then were on our
way to take UT 29 over the Wasatch Plateau. We had difficulty finding the route out of town, but with the help
of a local, got going in short order.
The road up the plateau was a nicely graded gravel road and the views were spectacular with lots of color
forming in the trees at every twist and turn. Our ascent took us up to over 9,000 feet literally to the top of the
Wasatch Plateau. On top, trails twisted off of the main road in all directions. As our goal today was to get to
the east side of the plateau, we could only imagine where those trails led. We did encounter a side trail along
the way that we could not pass by. Its sign said, “Ephraim Tunnel .5 miles.” We were on top of the world, so
what the heck was the Ephraim Tunnel? A short half-mile down the trail we found out. It was part of a water
works project that used a tunnel through a portion of the plateau to get water from the plateau down to
We continued our journey eastward winding through the ever-changing views. At one narrow portion of the
trail we encountered a small waterfall and took time to look it over and take some pictures. Continuing on we
began our descent off of the plateau into a mountain valley that contained a reservoir. The feature was named
Joe’s Valley Reservoir. We checked out the National Forest campground on the west side of the reservoir and
let Buddy take a dip while we looked it over. It had far too many “No” signs for our taste. We moved on and
found a nice shady spot along the reservoir on the east side to have lunch.
Moving off of the plateau we first came to the little community of Orangeville with its sister city Castle
Dale. Castle Dale had a large coal fired power plant and we tried to get a close up look at it, but could not get
to it. Returning to Castle Dale proper, we located the pioneer museum in the second story of City Hall. We
took a leisurely tour and found lots of information about coalmining in the area. We also found pictures of
actor John Wayne who was an investor in several of the mining properties.
We continued up UT10 to Huntington and stopped for gas and supplies. I was in search of some fried
chicken for dinner and was told the local market had a deli and had fried chicken. My search was in vain as
they only did legs and thighs on this day and they already looked a couple of days old. Dick did find that they
had soft serve ice cream and got a cone to go.
As it was getting to be close to time to find a campsite we headed back into the plateau and up a canyon
that followed Huntington Creek. We passed another large coal fired power plant and worked our up the road.
Along the way we sighted a sign to a coal mine and Dick requested we swing in to take a look. When we got to
the site, we saw lots of surface metal structures but no obvious mine. It was most likely a shaft entrance mine
that was not obvious to us. Going back in search of a campsite, we spotted Bear Creek Campground, which was
a county operated facility at a point where Bear Creek entered Huntington Creek. We found spots for each of
us and went to check in. What we found was that the camp host was not there but there were more “NO” signs
than had existed at the National Forest camp ground. We decided to look elsewhere.
Continuing up the canyon we soon came to a small camping area off the road and along Huntington Creek.
It was wonderful. We pulled in, set up our vehicles for sleeping and set about making a campfire, having a
cocktail hour and having dinner. I made up a bean dip with added onions, green chiles and salsa. Along with the
dipping chips Dick and I made a meal of it and supper was done. Bob had fended for himself and had a proper
supper, although I can’t attest it was better than our simple fare.
Wednesday, September 17:
The next morning I was up early and Buddy and I did our normal early morning walk. When we returned, we
got coffee going and the camp slowly came to life. After coffee and packing, we were on the road again (UT31)
by 7:30am. We worked our way up to the top of the plateau again viewing a number of small lakes, lots of
color in the trees and three deer. Just on the other side of the plateau was the small community of Fairview
and we made for it to have breakfast. Coming into town I saw a sign for free puppies and tried to talk Dick into
picking one up. He had made the trip without his beloved Sassy and was in bad need of a four-legged
companion. He was strong and we drove past some solid black and very cute, mix-breed puppies.
We found a small place called the Home Plate Café. The food was good, but the service was the worst we
experienced on the whole trip.
On the way back up the plateau, I again reminded Dick we would pass those free puppies. He was strong
again and Buddy remained our only puppy on the trip.
Up on top of the plateau, we took UT264 toward Scofield. We wound our way down the plateau through
ever-beautiful scenery and eventually got to Scofield where we stopped to view a significant historical marker
that mostly talked about the mine explosion at a location called Winter Quarters. More than 200 miners were
killed, 109 women were made widows and well over 250 children were orphaned in the tragedy.
My notes indicate that we had lunch at Scofield or Scofield Reservoir just down the road, but I don’t recall
a lunch stop. We continued our journey along UT96 to Colton and US6. From there we turned southerly to
Helper. At Helper we discovered and visited the grand four story Mining and Railroad Museum. This converted
hotel was one of the best museums I have encountered. It contains so much that it would take several days to
take it all in properly. We did our best and continued on to Price for gas, supplies and to find a campsite for
Our search took us to Wellington looking for the correct route south and to what we hoped would be a good
desert campground for the evening. After some sketchy instructions from a local we were able to find our way
out and toward our goal. It was a vastly open desert area with little that looked like it would be suitable for a
campsite. We kept moving southward and in the distance could see some elevation changes with what looked
to be cedar trees. Those small hills did prove to be what we needed and after a bit of searching, we found a
suitable and nice campsite for the night.
We had a nice little fire and cocktails to help clear the dust out of our throats. Buddy curled up on his
blanket nearby and Dick, Bob and I chatted well into dark. Somewhere along the evening we ate dinner, but I
don’t remember it much either. A great day of travel, but little in the way of memorable food.
Thursday, September 18:
Buddy got me up at our regular early time and we went for our early morning walk. Returning to camp, I
got the coffee cooked and made up some hash browned potatoes with diced ham for breakfast for Dick and I.
We broke camp and headed down the trail to find some remnants of the old Spanish Trail as we worked our
way toward Castle Dale and on to Price. We did not find the trail, but did find a BLM marker that told us we
were in the vicinity of the old trail. Working our way westward we stopped at an overlook that allowed us to
look back toward the area we had just traveled. It was an interesting terrain and we wish it could have been
properly captured by pictures, but like so many areas we visit, the camera cannot capture the essence of what
On to Castle Dale and on to UT 10 to Price where we got gas and supplies and a replacement part for Dick’s
flip top camper.
Our main goal today was to go to the northern most point of the Wasatch Plateau and run its complete
length of 90 miles from north to south along what the map called Skyline Drive Scenic Backway. We needed to
find a little town called Tucker along US6.
Our first attempt failed as we drove until we were sure we had missed it. No sign nor town marker of any
sort was seen. We retraced our route and based on the map and odometer we came to a rest stop that was in
the location of the town. Again there was no indication that the rest stop was Tucker. A little nosing around
indicated that when you drove through the rest stop, there was an unmarked road leading out of it to the
south. We took the road and soon found it to be the route we wanted. It wound its way up the seemingly
unending plateau grade through thick forest. Near the top we encountered a large Aspen forest and large
numbers of domestic sheep.
The Skyline Drive as a incredible here as it had been in the early parts where we had crossed the plateau.
We took our time and enjoyed the scenery and spectacular views.
When all was said and done for the day, we had traveled less that half of the distance and found ourselves
only as far south as Ephraim Canyon. Being familiar terrain, we decided it would be too cold to stay up on top
of the plateau and headed to Ephraim and the Iron Horse Motel once again.
After a short cocktail hour at the motel, we decided to have dinner at the “Malt Shop” just down the
street. This appeared to be a popular spot for the kids at Snow College and the food was very good for burgers
and fries fare.
Returning to the motel we retired to our rooms and had a good nights rest.
Friday, September 19:
Buddy again dragged me out for a walk in a very cold early morning. Buddy really enjoyed it and I could not
wait to get back for a hot shower.
We got our gear packed and headed for the City Café for breakfast. We had not noticed the sign on the
front of the café during our early visits. But there it was in all its glory. “The Satisfied Ewe” appears to be the
original name of the café and the faded painted sign still hangs there for all to see.
After breakfast, we made our way back up through Ephraim Canyon to the top of the plateau to continue
our journey to the south.
The road seems to go on forever. Along the way we were treated to mountain lakes, views in all directions,
traffic from logging trucks who take the right-of-way whether they have it or not and challenges in following
the trail as the Forrest Service was very spotty in using the appropriate signage at intersections to help us out.
We soon found that a better marked ATV trail followed our path and we were able to use those signs along the
way to figure out our way.
We also encountered the highest point on the trail, which was marked as 10,897 feet. We estimated the
plateau averaged an elevation of better than 9,000 feet along its top for most of its 90-mile length. We also
encountered along the way several areas where snow is permanently located in shady areas of the plateau and
we had to traverse a shaded area of the trail that was wet and muddy for several miles.
Eventually we came to the final descent and left the plateau winding our way down through more sheep
country and into a lower area that would take us over to I-70. Rain was threatening our journey and it seemed
to be growing darker in the direction of our travel. For all its bluster, we did not encounter much rain until
later on and then it was never a sever storm.
At I-70 we headed east to Fremont Junction that looks like a town on the map but is only a junction of I-70
and UT72. We headed south along UT72 through vast grass lands and rolling hills toward Fremont. On through
Fremont and on to Loa where we stopped for lunch at the Country Café.
The Country Café was one of those spots that you might not try from the external look of it, but the inside
was clean and well decorated and full of both locals and travelers. The waitress was a bit grumpy and snippy at
first but would warm up as the meal progressed. What was a delight was the food. This was first class, large
portion, country cooking at its best. Bob had the double bacon Cheeseburger with fries. The burger was
double, the cheese was double and the bacon was double. This thing was 5 inches high on his plate. Dick had
the Club Sandwich with fries. This was like no other restaurant Club you will find in any of the local eateries
where you live. It was large and the turkey was real hand sliced turkey breast. The ham was baked ham hand
carved off of the bone and bacon and fixings were only the best. The turkey and ham slices were at least a
quarter inch thick or more. I choose the chiliburger with fries and while it was good it was average for a
chiliburger. The fries more than made up for the chiliburger. The fries were hand cut fresh potatoes some as
long as 5 or 6 inches. They were cooked perfectly and were the best French fries I have EVER had in my 60
years of life. The three of us left absolutely no scraps. I don’t believe that any ticket was more than $7 plus tax
Tearing ourselves away from the café, we headed up UT24 to UT62 and south into Burrville, Koosharem,
Greenwich. It was through this area we encountered some rain. But as it was all paved roads, there was no
concern over rain. At the junction of UT62 and UT22 we turned onto UT22 to go over to Antimony. We stopped
at the Antimony Café and General Store and took a short break. Dick and I had some home made apple pie to
round out the afternoon.
We then began our search for a campsite for the night. As we did not know what to expect up the road, we
retraced our steps back up UT22 to Otter Creek State Park and its very nice campground on the shores of Otter
Creek Reservoir. It was a wonderful campground and Dick’s flip up camper attracted the attention of several
other campers. We also met a young man who was the manager of the Rockin’ R Guest Ranch back in
Antimony. He invited us to check it out and take part in a breakfast buffet they featured. We agreed that we
would. We had some cocktails, discussion and snacks and called it a day.
Saturday, September 20:
As day broke, we were up and getting ready for departure and breakfast at the Rockin’ R. Bob came over
and said he had decided to head direct for home today rather than take the route we planned. We expected to
get to I-15 before noon today and head for home also, but Bob felt he needed to take a more direct and
quicker route as he had a long drive ahead of him.
We said our farewells and got Bob on his way and then Dick and I got on our way over to the ranch for
breakfast. We got there about 7am and found our way in to the breakfast area. We found the manager, JR
Anderson, and he got us set up for breakfast.
The fare was good and the company was a mixture of guests, mostly foreign, and staff. We had the
pleasure of sharing a table with on of the working cowboys on the ranch and we learned a lot about the facility
and its operation.
After breakfast we looked the large guest lodge over and were amazed at the variety of things that were
available to the guests. We inquired with JR about the rates and found them to be very reasonable in the late
fall months. It could make and interesting stopping point for a return trip.
Our route today would take us south out of Antimony down UT22 through sites the map referred to as Osiris
and Widtsoe. Just south of Antimony we passed through a small canyon that paralleled the East Fork of the
Sevier River. The small canyon was called Black Canyon on the map. Toward the far end of the canyon we
encountered an old mill site and a couple of buildings. We believe this was the remnants of Osiris. Exiting the
canyon, the terrain opened up along the road as we moved through John’s Valley. At the point we should have
encountered Widtsoe, nothing was seen. A few miles more and we were overlooking the junction of UT22 and
UT12 at Ruby’s Inn which is at the gateway to Bryce Canyon National Park.
We turned west on UT12 and enjoyed the sites, especially Red Canyon. We got to the junction of UT12 and
US89 and took a turn to the north to visit Panguitch. Our purpose of the visit was simply to see it as we had
missed the town in May and could have missed it this time also.
From Panguitch, we took UT143 which wound its way along and past Panguitch Lake. We were sharing the
road with bicycle racers for most of the time we were on UT143. At the junction with UT148 we turned south
along Cedar Breaks National Monument. At the junction with UT14 we turned west and followed it into Cedar
We made good progress down I-15 to St. George and got our last gas for the trip home. We again took the
Overton, NV route and stopped at Sugar’s in Overton for lunch. After lunch we made one more stop for Buddy
to get in some fish chasing time at Roger’s Spring and then got on our way to Hoover Dam and Kingman.
This had been a fantastic journey through country that needs to be traveled again. We may replace the
next years Colorado trip with another run through this fascinating Utah country. Stay tuned for more details
down the road.