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2008 Trip Report - Southern Utah

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 (  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)