2008 Trip Report - Southern Utah
May 23-29, 2008
Leader: Dan Messersmith
by Karen L. Monsen
Trip participants: Bob & Mary Younger, Tim Mullins, Bob & Sue Jaussaud, John & Nancy Hoopes, Coop Cooper, Bob & Karen Monsen, Charles & Mary Hughes, Allan Wicker, and our dust-eating sweep--Dick & Connie Taylor.
Day 1: Friday morning, May 23, we met at the Virgin River Hotel Casino in Mesquite, NV for a $7 all-you-can-eat buffet breakfast before heading north on Old Hwy 91 (part of the Old Spanish Trail) to our first stop at Castle Cliff. This was a major rest stop on the road from Salt Lake City to Los Angeles until I-15 was built.
We continued north on 91, passed through Shivwits Paiute Indian Reservation, Gunlock Reservoir, and Veyo where we connected with Hwy 18 heading for Central. Gunlock was founded by Will (Gunshot) Hamblin (Jacob’s brother) and named for him because he kept guns in good condition and was an expert shot. Jacob Hamblin, a Mormon Pioneer, was an influential leader in Southern Utah.
Just north of Central, we stopped at Mountain Meadows Massacre memorial. In 1857 an Arkansas wagon train heading for California was ambushed and 100-150 men, women, and children were massacred by members of the Mormon militia who initially blamed the attack on Indians. Today, the LDS Church denies any responsibility for the assault and John D. Lee, a major in the militia, was the only individual charged and executed for his role.
Approximately 5-7 miles south of Enterprise on Hwy 18, we turned east onto 009, the Road to Pinto. We stopped in the Pinto Flat of the Dixie National Forest to explore the remains of the Page Ranch House (built by Indian missionary Daniel Richey Page in 1898). From there, we went to Old Irontown and wandered around the kilns and ruins. We checked out the town of Holt, the Holt Cemetery, and a waterfall off Bench Road between Newcastle and Enterprise. With a forecast for rain (or sleet/snow at nearly 8,000 feet), we sought rooms at the E-Z Sleep Motel, but with no cars in sight, they claimed to be “sold out.” So, we headed south through St. George and camped on BLM land in the Arizona Strip.
Day 2: Tim Mullins pulled out of the trip after spending a rainy night that got his sleeping bag and cot wet. The weather forecast included cold and showers, so Dan readjusted the itinerary to stay south. We headed for the ghost town, Grafton, 4 miles west of Zion National Park on the Virgin River. We explored a 2-story home, a small meetinghouse that served as a church in 1886, a school, and social hall. We met a woman whose great-grandfather was one of the original settlers.
We took the scenic back way road from Grafton to Big Plain Junction on Hwy 59 and headed north to Little Creek Chevron Station where we had lunch. From there we took a dirt road and began an exploratory trek around Little Creek Mountain, viewing the Hurricane Cliffs and the Vermillion Cliffs and eventually ending up on the Historic Mormon Honeymoon Trail which was used by settlers traveling to the St. George Temple to sanctify their marriage.
The Arizona Strip is not kind to travelers and Coop had a flat tire and Bob & Sue Jaussaud had a fuel leak. Leader Dan found an outstanding campsite south of Colorado City on a sand and rock outcrop. There we enjoyed a campfire and camaraderie. The next morning, however, our group got smaller as Bob and Sue decided it was too risky to continue with the fuel leak and they headed home to Needles. As we were told later, just 12 miles shy of home, their fuel pump broke; they had a fire and had to get towed. They were unharmed and will be back for other trips.
Day 3: We took Hwy 18 back to Holt to explore the Hamblin Cemetery. Then we went on to the Jefferson Hunt Monument following the 1849-1857 Salt Lake/Los Angeles wagon road and other dirt roads to Newcastle, Beryl Junction, Beryl, and Lund between the Escalante Desert and Wah Wah Mountains. We stumbled upon what we named “area 52” with acres of unmarked white buildings with metal piping and smelling like pigs that were later confirmed as Circle Four Farms and Best Biofuels production site for 7,000 gallons of pure methanol per day. (Although some of us suspect it’s just a cover for a real “area 52.”) We camped at Minersville Reservoir County Park (not ideal but we were getting cold and desperate and were out of options).
Day 4: Bob and Mary Younger, who were not prepared for cold camping, dropped out. The rest of us took another unplanned side trip and enjoyed a hot breakfast at Penny’s Diner in Milford and visited the abandoned Frisco mine. Sleet and blowing rain forced us on to Newhouse Ghost Town (the former silver and copper Cactus Mine that was abandoned in 1910). We walked around partial buildings, remains of a smelter, railway berms, and numerous foundations. We doubled back to the Frisco site to visit a cemetery where we were sadly reminded of pioneer family hardships with almost every headstone marking an infant or child. Most of us “moteled it” in Beaver when overnight temps dropped to 36o although a couple of hardy souls put up in campers for the night.
Day 5: We drove south on I-15 to SR20 and north on Hwy 89 to Circleville (Butch Cassidy’s hideout town), then to Junction to visit the Old Courthouse, built in 1903, today serving as a vacation rental (www.courthousevacations.com). Allan Wicker posed for a photo in the courtroom as Judge Allan. On Hwy 62 we passed through Kingston and Antimony (where we had a great ice cream break at the general store) and turned north to Angle, Greenwich, Koosharem and Burrville, then south on Hwy 24 to Loa to visit pioneer Mormon settlements (1897 Tithing Office), Freemont (1907 Old Rock Church and saw mill wheel from 1877), Lyman, Bicknell, and Torrey. We camped near Grover and N. Stubb Road along Fish Creek.
Day 6: We drove south on Hwy 12 along the Scenic Byway with aspen trees and spectacular views and overlooks of the Grand Staircase Escalante and Dixie National Forest. We visited the Anasazi Museum in Boulder and along the way had lattes at Kiva Koffeehouse. In Henrieville we bought snow cones and lemonade at a lemonade stand set up along the highway by three sisters. (I’m guessing ages 3 to 12.) South of Cannonville, John and Nancy Hoopes departed to take in nearby Bryce Canyon National Park and the rest of us took the Johnson Canyon Skutumpah Scenic dirt Back Road across the Skutumpah Terrace where we viewed the Vermillion Cliffs and connected with Hwy 89 at Glendale.
Our final stretch went through Orderville and Mt. Carmel Junction where we stopped for delicious homemade pie and then went south on the Ponderosa Coral Pink Sand Dunes Scenic Back Way to a campsite on BLM land. Leader, Dan departed and headed for Mesquite and home to Kingman, AZ via Cane Bed Road to AZ Hwy 389 at Colorado City and UT Hwy 59 through Hildale. The Monsens followed along on their way back through Hurricane to St. George.
Day 7: Dick took the lead for the remaining DEs and since I left the evening prior, you’ll have to contact him for details on the wrap-up of the trip. What started out as a cold and damp exploratory journey, included ghost towns, abandoned mines, historic markers, and spectacular vistas of cliffs, canyons, mesas, overlooks, and flats (some in Arizona). We thank Dan Messersmith for leading us on a trip that brought us closer to the pioneer experience of Mormon and mining settlers in the territory called Southern Utah.
(please take a look at the photos taken by Allan Wicker)