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Destination Unknown - 2010

"Thelma & Louise" At Their Best


To Page 1 - Calgary to Death Valley

Sunday June 20 - Bishop to Bridgeport

Yosemite National Park, California

The temperature was quite cool in comparison to the last 3 days. It was 67°. We headed north of Hwy 395 to Hwy 120 and into Yosemite National Park. It wasn't long before we realized we were disappointed. The scenery is spectacular but nothing more than we have at Banff for seven months a year. The temperature had dropped to 51°. We stopped about half way to look at the maps and decided to continue to the west side then north to the Sonora pass to take us back to desert weather. We were more impressed with the scenery leading to the gates and after the Park than we were with the Park itself.

Jacksonville, California - Don Pedro Reservoir

On the west side of Yosemite off Hwy 120 we connected to a short stretch of Hwy 49 before reaching Hwy 108 to come back over the Sonora Pass.  There was a beautiful road through the mountains that passed over a man-made reservoir where we stopped for a break to read the marker and snap a few photos.

Don Pedro Reservoir’s water lapped over the Gold Rush-era town of Jacksonville in June of 1970. Most of what was left of the Gold Rush-era town now rests more than 100 feet underwater.

A few relics, however, have become visible on the reservoir’s muddy shoreline as the water has retreated from the drought — including a rusted winch and concrete pillars from a mining operation below the Jacksonville Road bridge.

Underwater has been the fate of many Gold Rush-era towns that were situated next to rivers. In total, about 30 towns across the State have been inundated to make way for reservoirs.

Sonora Pass, California

After the Park we headed north on Hwy 108 to Sonora then east over the pass. We kept seeing signs along the way "pass open" "chains required" and "snow tires required" so we knew we were heading into something unique. One sign was a good play on words - Mud Sweat and Gears!!

The pass connects the communities of Sonora to the west and Bridgeport to the east. Like most high Sierra Nevada passes, the highway is closed in winter, generally between November and May, due to snow accumulation. The highway over the pass is extremely steep (up to 26% in some locations), narrow and winding between Kennedy Meadows on the west side and Leavitt Meadows on the east. The route is not recommended for vehicles or vehicle combinations that are unusually wide, heavy or long.

The first documented immigrant traverse of Sonora Pass appears to have been in the late summer of 1852 by a wagon train known as the Clark-Skidmore Company. Subsequently, merchant interests in the communities of Sonora and Columbia promoted the route to California-bound immigrants, not always with happy results when immigrants discovered how difficult it was.

With the discovery of deposits and development of silver and gold mining east of the Sierra Nevada in the beginning of the 1860s, merchant interests in the counties on both sides of the pass pushed for development of a road that would enable them to improve transportation and trade. Surveying for a road through Sonora Pass began in 1863 and the road was in use by 1865.

Hwy 108 was much more to our liking and it didn't cost us a park fee to go through. The roads were less travelled but the scenery was more spectacular because we could actually see it. It wasn't buried behind the line of trees and campgrounds like Yosemite.  Because traffic was minimal, we were able to pull off occasionally to take in the view and enjoy the trip.  We watched a few families out playing in the novelty of snow and laughingly wished we lived in an area where snow didn't exist either. In Calgary, it has been known to snow in every month of the year.

OK. Enough of cold weather and snow. WAGONS EAST!

The Sonora pass was absolutely beautiful. After an hour of ups and downs twists and turns we were back on Hwy 395.


Monday June 21 - Bridgeport to Mesquite

Bodie, California

We headed south and stayed in Bridgeport as we wanted to visit Bodie again and it would be closed for the day. After supper we drove up to Bodie just for the ride.

We drove up to Bodie and into the park but Karen wasn't feeling well so we didn't do the walking tour. I chatted with a couple of cowboys that were organizing a horseback ride from Hawthorne to Bodie. They take the mountain trails camping along the way and will end up riding through Bodie. I sure sounded like fun - and hard.

I strolled around the town for about 10 minutes then we headed down the secondary road to come out at Hwy 167. The flowers along the road were in full bloom with everything from Indian Paint Brush to purple lilies in the moist areas.
The rest of the day we drove over the desert roads heading east and south. Eventually we reached I-15 and had no choice but to drive the 30 miles up to Mesquite. We stayed at the Virgin River Hotel - $29.95 a night. Great room. We had a buffet dinner then headed to bed. I'm not sure if our days are getting shorter or our nights are getting longer, but it's only 9:00 pm and we are preparing for bed!!

Tuesday June 22 - Mesquite to Bluff
With the time to start heading home coming, it was time to head for Bluff and of course Hwy 261. We left Mesquite about 10:30 and headed north on the I-15 to Hurricane. For people that don't like I-15, we sure have been on it a lot this trip. We stopped at IHop for breakfast then drove Hwy89 through Page and connected with Hwy 98 to Hwy 160 to Kayenta then Hwy 163 through Monument Valley to Bluff.

Johnson Canyon, Utah

Along Hwy 89 we saw a sign at Johnson Canyon about a Ghost Town and Movie set. We travelled the 5 miles in to check it out.

The movie site was built for the movie Westward the Women. The set was also used in Pony Express and Gunsmoke.

Gunsmoke ran from 1955 to 1975. There were 635 episodes and many of the scenes were shot in Johnson Canyon. Johnson Canyon movie set can be viewed from the road but is not accessible due to its state of general disrepair.

Pahreah, Utah

Further up there was another movie set at Pahreah. Movies filmed at this site were The Outlaw Josey Wales, Sergeants 3, and Buffalo Bill. The last movie filmed here was Clint Eastwood's The Outlaw Josey Wales in 1976.

The old film set in the canyon was damaged in a flash flood in 1998. The buildings were dismantled and rebuilt in a nearby location by volunteers. In 2006 these new buildings were destroyed in a suspicious fire.

Glen Canyon

Once we saw the sign for Glen Canyon we felt like we were coming home. Karen commented that this area is always our favourite place. No matter how far away we go, we always end up here. Why don't we just come here and park for two weeks?

The water level at Page was very low in comparison to other years we had travelled through this area. Just outside of Page we turned off onto Hwy 98 down past Shonto, (that's another story), picked up Hwy 160 into Kayenta where I Karen asked if I wanted to pay a visit to the Kayenta Native Hospital. (That's another story again). I declined and we turned northeast onto Hwy 163 into Bluff, UT. I think we passed in and out of Arizona and Utah 7 times that day alone.

Bluff, Utah

Bluff is located in the scenic and very sparsely-populated southeastern Utah canyonlands. Under the direction of John Taylor, Silas S. Smith led about 230 Mormons on expedition to start a farming community in southeastern Utah. After forging about 200 miles of their own trail over difficult terrain, the settlers arrived on the site of Bluff in April 1880.

The town survived despite hostilities from Navajos, Utes, belligerent cattlemen, outlaws, and nature. The town’s population had declined to seventy by 1930 but rebounded during a uranium prospecting boom in the 1950s. With the uranium decline in the 1970s Bluff again declined and now remains a small town with about 300 residents.

Luckily we had called ahead and booked a room at our favourite motel in Bluff - Desert Rose Inn and Cabins. No cabins available this time but we were able to get main floor room. Gawd their beds are comfy. They have a mattress pad on every bed that feels like you're sleeping on a cloud. Have to remember Perfect Fit Industries for when we get home - gotta get me one of those.

Wednesday June 23 - Bluff to Torrey
Before leaving Bluff we paid a visit to the Twin Rocks Cafe and shopped for some souvenirs. We tried to make a reservation at Torrey for the night but there was no tower service in Bluff.

Valley of the Gods, Utah

We headed out with the intention to going directly up Hwy 261 but my car once again went out of control and turned into Valley of the Gods. To our surprise there was water in the Valley - at the entrance. We never have we seen water there before. There hadn't been any rain here in over a week.  Whatever storm had come thru before we arrived must have been a whopper.

Highway 261, Utah

We didn't spend too much time dawdling in the Valley and hit Hwy 261 around noon - plenty of time to catch the Halls Crossing Ferry across Lake Powell. We stopped several times to take pictures and this time we were careful to make sure Willie was not going to fall over the cliff.

After all these years, we think we finally got the picture that really portrays the feeling of hanging on the edge. Karen literally stretched her arm out the window and in front of the windshield and aimed it where she was looking.  Yes folks, that is a straight 1000 foot drop over the side of that gravel edge.  No guardrails, no trees, no fencing, not even a convenient boulder placed to discourage gawkers.  Eight years of going up and down this road and our stomachs still flip like a pancake on a hot griddle.  And we love every minute of it!!!
At the top of Hwy 261 we passed a car from Alberta and couple of miles down the road curiosity got the better of us and we stopped and flagged them down to find out where in Alberta they were from. Edmonton. We didn't chat with them long as traffic was coming up behind us on the highway. It felt funny seeing another Albertan that far from home. What were they doing on "our" road anyway?

Lake Powell Ferry, Halls Crossing, Utah

We headed west on Hwy 95 and then south on Hwy 276 to Halls Crossing arriving at the dock with about 45 minutes to spare. This was great as we were first in line and were able to play in the water for a while. While we were waiting for boarding we were entertained by the antics of a deck hand doing pushups, chins ups and various other calisthenics in 104° temperatures. We were also entertained by a very unusual traveller behind us that looked like he was decked out for an Indiana Jones adventure. I took an instant dislike to him. Karen thought he was giving himself a sponge bath while waiting for the ferry to arrive. 

However, in spite of being spooked, we spent a lovely half hour crossing the lake, relaxing and getting some sun. We were able to get a tower at the Bullfrog dock and managed to make a reservation for a cabin at the Chuckwagon Motel in Torrey.

Burr Trail, Utah

With lodging in order, next on our agenda was the Burr Trail. On docking we followed the highway for a few miles until we reached the turn off. There was no sign that the Trail was closed so we proceeded. One major thing we noticed along the Trail (almost everywhere else too) was that there were more flowers and everything was greener than any other year. We assume this is a result of a wetter spring or perhaps more snow in the winter.

The Burr Trail is a backcountry route extending from the mountain town of Boulder down through Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument into Capital Reef National Park and then to Bullfrog in Glen Canyon National Recreation Area. The route covers about 68 miles.

The route is named after John Atlantic Burr, who was born in 1846 aboard the SS Brooklyn somewhere in the Atlantic Ocean. He and his family lived in Salt Lake City, then later moved south and established the town of Burrville, Utah, in 1876. John Burr soon developed a trail to move cattle back and forth between winter and summer ranges and to market. This cattle trail through the rough, nearly impassable country around the Waterpocket Fold, Burr Canyon, and Muley Twist Canyon came to be known as the Burr Trail.

The entire route is scenic. It takes traveler into some of Utah's most beautiful and extraordinary country. It affords extraordinary views of the Henry Mountains and lower Capital Reef country. It provides access to incredible hikes in contorted landscape like The Gulch, The Circle Cliffs and the Waterpocket Fold.

The road is graded dirt on the lower end. The condition of the dirt section may change from day to day. You can count on encountering washboardy and washed out spots. Passenger cars can usually drive this section without any problem. However, during wet weather it may be impassable unless you have a high clearance vehicle.

Jumpy's Sandbox

There was so much drifted sand that I kept saying "I want to play in the sand". So we stopped and that's exactly what I did. The sand was incredibly soft and silky to touch.

The Burr Trail becomes a secondary road 1668 and is at a very high elevation so it was quite surprising to find large banks of sand which I just had to go and play in.  The temperature had dropped to a mere 75 degrees but was still quite comfortable. 

We exited the Burr Trail on the east side of Boulder and connected with Hwy 12 north to Torrey. We passed several cows again on this stretch an only five deer. This is a long way from the hundreds of cows and deer we saw two years ago.

Torrey, Utah

We arrived in Torrey shortly after seven just in time to be invited for dinner from our two neighboring cabin occupants who advised us that we either had to join them or get annoyed by their antics as we were stuck between them. They were having family reunion with families visiting from as far away as Finland and Sweden. They were great group and fed us well!!

After dinner we did some laundry and watched Mamma Mia. We tried to stay an extra day in Torrey but the hotel was booked solid. We had only lucked out getting the cabin tonight by a cancellation.


Thursday June 24 - Torrey to Ely

After gassing up we decided it was time to wash to car. The bugs were thick and the dust was thicker. We tried to take another backroad from Torrey to Antimony but about 15 miles down the gravel road a State of Utah wildlife officer with horse in tow advised us that this wasn't a good road to take. We turned around and headed back to Hwy 24. Karen is absolutely sure he must have mistaken us for old ladies with no backbones. However, we heeded his advice.

By the time we reached the paved road again the car was dustier than before we washed it - and now on the inside too!!

Hwy 153, Utah

We took the paved plateau route down Hwy 62 to Hwy 89 to get over to Junction and connect with Hwy 153 that was closed when we tried to cross two weeks ago. We stopped at the gas station at Junction and they advised that it was open and clear. There wasn't`t a cloud in the sky - for that matter - we haven`t seen a cloud since we left Beaver on the way to Vegas.

Again we only saw only a handful of cows and deer through the whole pass. We noticed too on this pass that everything was greener but a real decline of animals considering it is exactly the same time of year. We can't figure out why. Also we noticed more snow than the previous trip .After a short deliberation at Beaver to discuss the merits of traveling straight home on I-15 we determined another route into Nevada 150 miles out of our way was more desirable. Besides, the weather is still hovering in the 90°s and the weatherman says it`s pouring rain in Montana.
Frisco Ghost Town Slideshow

Frisco Ghost Town, Utah

We crossed “under” I-15 and headed west on Hwy 21 - destination Ely, Nevada. Previously, along this route we found the ghost town Frisco but this year before reaching the Frisco Historic Marker, Karen noticed a group of Charcoal Ovens just off the road. We drove to investigate and discovered not only were there Ovens but the remains of a ghost town.

After following a dirt road for a while, which I'm sure was an old rail bed, we found a road out to the highway (where we noticed a “no trespassing“ sign) Oops!! We rounded the next bend to discover the Frisco Historic Marker. The ghost town was obviously part of the original Frisco town.

Further down the road, we could see the "railbed road" and there was a big gap in it where the bridge used to be.  Glad we hadn't tried to see where it would lead to. It might have been a tad awkward turning around in mid-air.

Frisco developed as the post office and commercial center for the San Francisco Mining District, and was the terminus of the Utah Southern Railroad extension from Milford. The Horn Silver mine was discovered in 1875, and had produced $20,267,078.00 worth of ore by 1910. By 1885 over $60,000,000.00 worth of zinc, copper, lead, silver, and gold had been transported from Frisco from the many mines in the area.

With 23 saloons, Frisco was known as the wildest town (of course - they all are) in the Great Basin. Killings were common. Drinking water had to be freighted in. Frisco's fortunes changed suddenly on February 13, 1885, when the Horn Silver Mine caved in completely. It was an unconventional mine, an open pit 900 feet deep braced with timbers, and could have collapsed at any time. In 1905 a Latter Day Saint ward was organized, but in 1911 with the closing of many of the mines, so many church members had left that the ward was discontinued.

There is also another ghost town a few miles up the road called "New House" but we were unable to get to it.

Ely, Nevada

We connected with Hwy 50 west and into Ely. We originally thought we might make it to Jackpot tonight but we spent too much time stopping for pictures and touring the ghost town. We stayed in Ely and went to the Nevada Hotel for supper. After supper we toured around the town and gassed up the car.


Friday June 25 - Ely to Butte

Pony Express, Schellbourne, Nevada

We left Ely around 11:00 am and continued north on Hwy 93. At Schellbourne we noticed a Pony Express turnout and pulled off to read the information. There was a Pony Express Trail leading east so we drove up it but turned around at the summit - about 5 miles in. The flowers along the road were like planted rock gardens.

Fort Schellbourne is located south of the Cherry Creek road at the junction of US 93 and C.R. 2, then 3 miles east. Named for Major A. J. Schell, a commander of the troops guarding the mail line, it has a long history of indian fighting. It first served as George Chorpenning's Jackass Mail and later as the Schell Creek Pony Express and overland Stage Stations. Then, it served as a mining camp during the 1870's. The Schell Creek Station was built by the Pony Express in the Spring of 1860. The Overland Stage Line also used the Schell Creek station for stock exchange and an Inn for travelers until 1869.

Stage Stop, Nevada

A little further north, we pulled into a little road stop called at Stage Stop. It was like walking back into the 1950s. The store was a pool hall, liquor outlet, grocery and diner all wrapped up in the gas station. There were four local men bellied up to the bar having a beer and waiting for the sole employee to cook their lunch.

One guy asked Karen where we had been and she briefly ran through our zigzag itinerary. He asked her why we did it and she replied "because we can". We picked that line up from George in Cool Springs and figured it was as good an answer as anything else we could think of. After all, with no destination it's hard to explain the why, when and where of our last two weeks.

We stayed on Hwy 93 into Idaho, trough Twin Falls, and north to connect with Hwy 20/26 east.

Craters of the Moon, Idaho

We stopped at Craters of the Moon National Monument for about an hour. We had the Park Pass this year, so we took in the total tour.

Craters of the Moon National Monument and Preserve is a national monument and national preserve located in the Snake River Plain in central Idaho. It is along Hwy 20 (concurrent with Hwy 93 & Hwy 26), between the small cities of Arco and Carey. Average elevation is 5,900 feet above sea level. The protected area's features are volcanic and represent one of the best preserved flood basalt areas in the continental United States.

The Monument was established on May 2, 1924. In November 2000, a presidential proclamation by President Clinton greatly expanded the Monument area. The National Park Service portions of the expanded Monument were designated as Craters of the Moon National Preserve in August 2002.

Craters of the Moon lies in parts of Blaine, Butte, Lincoln, Minidoka, and Power counties. The area is managed cooperatively by the National Park Service and the Bureau of Land Management.

The Monument and Preserve encompass three major lava fields and about 400 square miles of sagebrush steppe grasslands to cover a total area of 1,117 square miles. All three lava fields lie along the Great Rift of Idaho, with some of the best examples of open rift cracks in the world, including the deepest known on Earth at 800 feet. There are excellent examples of almost every variety of basaltic lava as well as tree molds (cavities left by lava-incinerated trees), lava tubes (a type of cave), and many other volcanic features.

Under the Dome

Just after we left the Craters, we observed dark clouds moving in from the southwest. The further east we went the more ominous they got. Everywhere around us were storm clouds but we appeared to be under the dome. The sun was shining on us.

At Arco the roads all divide and we followed Hwy 20 up to Hwy 33 and crow hopped north again to Hwy 22 over to I-15 at Dubois.
We seemed to stay slightly ahead of the rain but it finally caught us on the interstate when we stopped to gas up. Lightning was flashing everywhere and gave us quite a show. The rain was short-lived, we outran it and were once again "under the dome" of clear sky.
We tried to get a room at Dillon, Montana but the town was booked solid for the motorcycle show so we continued on to Butte and were hosed by the Days Inn for $170.00 (nearly double what we have been paying for hotels). They KNOW when you're desperate!!

Saturday June 26 - Butte to Calgary
We got a late start. Despite the cost, the Day's beds were comfy and we had a hard time getting up. We left at 11:00 am. The storm was past and we had a beautiful drive for the rest of the journey home. Even the customs agent was friendly and we were not detained on the return trip either.

Desert Flowers
Blooming Desert Slideshow

This year we were surprisingly aware that the desert flowers had blossomed and seemed triple what we have found in other years. Perhaps because of their late spring warm up and lots of rain in May & June. Even the grasses were taller and the trees were fuller. Flowers were everywhere. Unfortunately, we don't know the names of most of them, some of which we'd only seen for the first time this trip.

We finally have a destination - home!!



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