A Woman and Her Dogs at the End of the World 2

Camping and hiking plans in California thwarted by wildfires, Sally and I desperately looked farther afield for options. I noted a small island of smoke-free air over a portion of Southwestern Utah and a new itinerary was born. It was agreed that I would leave on Tuesday, camping at Valley of Fire, which is more or less halfway, and Sally and her daughter Jordy would follow Thursday to meet me at a working cattle ranch just west of Zion National Park.

I’d found the Zion Wright Family Ranch online at HipCamp.com and it sounded perfect. The ranch offered dispersed camping, portable toilets, starlit skies and nothing else. Most importantly, dogs were welcome. https://www.hipcamp.com/utah/zion-wright-ranch-eco-camp/zion-wright-family-ranch-ecocamping

Planning, provisioning, and packing are always a good portion of the fun of camping and since this was to be the longest and farthest from home I’d ever done, it was especially important to be prepared. This was my second solo trip but still, I felt a little trepidation about the responsibility of all the details. By Monday night, everything except the refrigerated food was loaded. I was so excited I could barely sleep and when I awoke at 4:30, I despaired of going back to sleep and got up.

The drive from home to Las Vegas is always tedious but towing a trailer, it’s LONG and tedious. By the time I got to the turnoff for Valley of Fire, I was way beyond ready to call it a day.

One of many pit stops along Interstate Hwy 15

I was gratified to find that my favorite campsite was empty and I quite proficiently backed the Wanderlust into the little box canyon. When we camped here last spring, the protective canyon walls shielded us from the chill wind; but now, at the end of summer, the sun-baked sandstone felt more like a pizza oven.

We all needed some exercise after a day in the car, so before we lost our daylight, we went out to do some rock scrambling. Molly, remembering the skill she had developed last year, led the way with evident enthusiasm. Sadie, has aged in the last year and found that leaping up ledges that were effortless before, now took some planning. I too noticed that I’d lost some agility. We circled around to the back side of our campsite and clambered down the wall to our warm nest.

Dinner consisted of the sliced apples and yogurt that I’d packed for lunch as it was too warm to consider cooking inside the trailer. We sat outside, the dogs ears cocking at every nocturnal rustling, while I jotted the day’s events in my journal. Traveling alone allows ample time for reflection and journaling, a rare pleasure. When my head began nodding over my notebook, I moistened my shorty pajamas and settled into my little bed at the front of the camper. I set up the big bed at the back for the dogs, but this night they chose to sleep outside in the cool sand.

Morning proved to be not a whole lot cooler so we ate a quick cold breakfast and packed up, hoping to do a short hike before the sun got so high that there would be no shade. The trailhead to Natural Arches proved elusive so we plodded up a sandy wash in the general vicinity of the alleged trail.

The trail eventually slotted up into an interesting canyon but shade was intermittent and the dogs soon became overheated; so we turned back after only a mile or so.

A provocative orifice in the canyon wall

Back on the road, the girls napped while I listened to Wallace Stegner’s Crossing to Safety and the miles passed pleasantly.

The Virgin River Gorge is always exciting both in the astounding scenery and in the white-knuckled competition for road space in the narrow canyon. Two lanes in each direction wind through the gorge carved over eons by the Virgin River. From the depth of the canyon, one might envision a raging torrent of a river violently scraping away layers of sedimentary rock. But when one catches a glimpse of the artist at work far below, it is a placid creek, meandering its serpentine path to join the mighty Colorado River at Lake Meade. Not that a driver has many opportunities to ogle the mind-blowing spectacle because big rigs on a mission swarm around my little rig which is trying desperately to adhere to the posted speed limit of 55 mph (autos towing trailers). Even in the most constricted curves, where the posted speed limit is 55 for all vehicles, the average speed is closer to 70.

We found the turn at Virgin that took us up Kolob Terrace Road to the Smith Mesa junction without difficulty. I love Google Maps! Kolob Terrace Road is just another astounding example of man’s road building ingenuity. Rising steeply from the valley floor, it straddles a ridge where in some places the road occupies the entire width of the ridge. Profligately green pastures and expansive ranch houses (actually B&Bs) could be seen in the canyon below if one had the nerve to look. About seven miles up, we found the graded but not paved road veering off to Smith Mesa.

A whole ‘nother adventure presented itself. But this post has grown too long so there will need to be a sequel. Stay tuned.

8 thoughts on “A Woman and Her Dogs at the End of the World 2

  1. I love your cute little camper, and all the beautiful scenery. Backing up a trailer into a box canyon? You’ve got SKILLS, girl! I like the idea of going it alone, eating yogurt for dinner because it’s too hot to cook, having time to meander and journal. Traveling with pets is a challenge, especially as they age, but they are great company. RVing no doubt solves a lot of social distancing problems. 🙂

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    1. I have to confess, I never felt lonely. While I looked forward to my friends joining me, I relished the time by myself too. No doubt the dogs contributed to my sense of well-being.
      The only time I interacted with other people, we were outside, at least ten feet apart and masked. I’m not nearly as brave about taking that kind of risk as our president is.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I wouldn’t feel lonely, traveling by myself, but I’d miss having a backing-up spotter, someone to share the leveling, plugging and unplugging, filling and dumping, and other pleasures/responsibilities of RV living.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. What a pleasure to read your adventure in the mountain in a canyon, Judy ! . This should make people dream . You are a true reporter journalist describing marvellously the landscapes . I have been amazed by the old red sandstone
    I noticed the brave dogs always are with you /. What a faithfulness ! They are intelligent and choose the shadow of the trees to get some cooler air.
    What amazes me too, is to read there is a river at the bottom of this dry canyon . Would be it prudent to dip the feet in that river ?
    Thank your for this beautiful report and we wait for the following !
    Love ❤
    Michel

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    1. Yes, traveling alone has its benefits and its own different stress. While there’s no need to consider the needs or preferences of a traveling companion, there is the niggling thought that as a woman alone, there are risks. If I could just teach my dogs to change a tire…

      Liked by 1 person

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