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| Mignon Slentz | Trip Reports

Utah Backcountry

Utah Backcounry

by Mignon Slentz

Several DE members, former members and non- members met at The Big Water Visitors Center on Highway 89 and were treated to a preview of a dinosaur skull and mural display. Many of the bones were discovered within 30 miles of the Center.

After gassing up we headed up the Smokey Mountain Rd., toward Kelly’s Grade which is pretty steep with great views. The group included- Bob and Sue Jaussaud, Glenn Shaw, Mal Roode, Mike Vollmert, Ron Lipari, Ken Searer, Shane Somers, Benny Hill, Jenny Jahraus and Mignon Slentz.

At the top we stopped to look at several smoking seams in the earth that have been burning for hundreds of years from a lightning strike.

In the afternoon we parked and hiked to Top Collet Arch which is a natural arch on top of an ancient granary. We could even see fingerprints in the mud mortar. We lost Ron walking back to our cars but as Neal Johns says, “ a 10 % loss is acceptable.” We made camp nearby and enjoyed the cooler temps.


Our original plan was to descend the mountain via Left-Hand Collet Road which connects to Hole in the Rock Road Online blogs about the road’s condition were not encouraging and the Big Water Visitor’s Center said the road was impassable. With Mal in the lead we started down the impassable road to at least try to see Propeller Arch. There were recent tracks- even street tire ones. It was an amazing canyon and we made it, ending up near Hole in the Rock Rd. where we spent some time looking for and finding dinosaur tracks. Lunch was at Devil’s Garden with some spectacular arches for company.

On to Boat Cave where two brothers carved three rooms out of the rock in the 1950s. They lived in one and used the other rooms for workshops, even trying to build a boat in one. The boat mold is still there along with bed frames. Shane and Benny left us at this point to head back to Paria. Benny was dropped off at Willis Creek to hike the Paria River all the way to Lee’s Ferry. What a character! He had earlier stashed additional supplies in a bucket and hung it from a tree along the river.

After visiting Dance Hall Rock we made camp at 50 Miles Spring amid the abundant shade from the cliffs.

The next morning, most of the group drove the remaining 5 miles or so to the end of the road to see where earlier Mormons had enlarged a hole in the rocks so the wagon train could get to the Colorado River. Quite an undertaking.

After leaving the Escalente area, Jenny led us to a petroglyph site near Calf Creek. There were hundreds of handprints high up on a wall but the most discouraging site was a group of sheep that had been sectioned off with a saw in preparation for removal. Thankfully they were still attached to the rock wall.

That night we camped at Bown Reservoir on a large grassy area next to the water and a bunch of geese.

The next morning the sky had turned dark and cloudy as we drove north to Loa to access the Aquarius Plateau also known as Boulder Mt. Our first stop was the Aquarius Ranger Station which has no Ranger but instead has a cabin that sleeps 4 with additional room outside for camping. Limit of 20 people but only 4 vehicles allowed for $30. It was occupied so we drove to Millers Lake. The best part was the 10 mile drive up a steep winding road, canopied with outstanding colors of yellow, orange and red Aspen. By the time we reached the lake at 10,000+ feet, it was cold, windy and snow was falling so we headed to lower elevations. We passed many more lakes although several were dry or not full. The views from up on the plateau were stunning. We decided to take Hell’s Backbone on the way down as several had not seen the historic bridge before. We continued south in the rain and ended up in Cannonville where Mike and Ron left us. We found a nice camp spot in the trees with a view off Skutampah Rd. The trip broke up in the morning with groups leaving different directions.   

~ Mignon

Photos by Mignon Slentz & Mal Roode