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This year it is definitely "Destination Unknown". We simply headed south with no real plans on where we were going to end up. There only seemed to be one objective - head south and get away from the cold weather.

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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 that 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 thru 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

We again 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 high country. 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 thru.  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, Doreen was 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.  

Enough of the cold and snow.... WAGONS EAST !!!


Monday June 21 - Bridgeport to Mesquite 

Bodie, California

The Sonora pass was absolutely beautiful. After an hour of ups and downs twists and turns we were back on Hwy 395. We headed south and stayed in Bridgeport, CA, as we wanted to visit the ghost town of Bodie again but it would be closed for the day. After supper at a local restaurant/bar, we went for a short drive up to the entrance to Bodie just for the ride.

I had been starting to get really bad stomach pains and nausea before supper and by the end of return trip to Bodie on the bumpy gravel road, I was not in the best of shape. A quick stop at the nearest convenience store to pick up pepto-bismal and tums and off to bed. 

We were staying at a quaint little motel in Bridgeport and the washrooms were thankfully clean because either one end or the other was in the commode for half the night. 

The next morning, we drove up to Bodie again and into the park but I was still not feeling well so I just waited in the car. Doreen strolled around the town for about 10 minutes, took a few pictures and then 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. It sounded like a fun and hard ride.

Pretty soon we were on our way again and left on the south (non-paved) road - the one we had originally driven in on several years before which exits onto Hwy 167 by Mono Lake.

The Flowers along the road were in full bloom with everything from Indian Paint Brush to purple lilies in the wetter areas.

After leaving California on 167, which turns into Nevada Hwy 359 until Hawthorne, we turned east again along Hwy 95/6 until Warm Springs where we turned south onto Hwy 395 to Ash Springs and connected with Hwy 93 south to the shortcut on Hwy 168 to I-15.  It couldn't be avoided any longer and we were forced to drive the 30 miles or so to Mesquite on the interstate. 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 getting closer, the need to head for Bluff and Hwy 261 became increasingly more urgent. We left Mesquite about 10:30 and went north on the I-15 back thru Hurricane - again. For people that don't like I-15, we sure have been on it a lot this trip. We stopped at the IHOP for breakfast then followed Hwy 59/389 in and out of Arizona up to Kanab and onto Hwy 89 over to Page.

Along the #89, we came across a couple of interesting sites that had been used for locations for movie filming.  We were able to drive into the first one at Johnson Canyon but the second one had been destroyed by arson. About this time Doreen was beginning to feel ill and wasn't in the mood for back country roads.  At Lake Powell just outside of Page, she pulled into the gas station and handed me the keys.  Now I KNOW she is sick.  In 9 years I have only driven once before when she was overtired. 

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.

Once we saw the sign for Glen Canyon we felt like we were coming home. I 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?   She didn't answer - I think she was sleeping in the back seat.

The water level at Page was lower again 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 asked Doreen if she wanted to pay a visit to the Kayenta Native Hospital. (that's another story again).  She 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.

Desert Rose Inn and Cabins

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 for cell phones in Bluff.

Valley of the Gods, Utah

We headed out with the good intention of going directly up Hwy 261 but with Doreen at the helm once again, her car had a mind of it's own and pulled a hard right turn into the Valley of the Gods. To our surprise there was water in the Valley entrance. Had never seen water there before.  As a matter of fact, I had only seen water once in all our trips and that was the August I brought my mother for a roadtrip and it had rained the night before.  And that was in a deep wash way back in the middle of the valley floor.  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, I think I finally got the picture that really portrays the feeling of hanging on the edge. I literally stretched my arm out the window and in front of the windshield and aimed it where I 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.  8 years of going up and down this road and my stomach still flips like a pancake on a hot griddle.  And I 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 Doreen stopped, 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.  Felt funny seeing another Albertan that far from home - "what were they doing on "our" road anyway"......

Lake Powell Ferry, Halls Crossing, Utah

Hwy 261 meets Hwy 95 at a T intersection where we turned west 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 calisthetics in 104° temperature.  Doreen was spooked by an unusual traveller in a van behind us - she thought he was dressed like a poorman's Indiana Jones and said he gave her the chills. I didn't take an instant dislike to him but did find him a bit strange. I think 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. As we pulled off the ferry, we were able to get a cell tower on the Bullfrog dock so Doreen pulled over and let the van pass us and phoned 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. We followed the highway north out of Bullfrog for a few miles until we reached the turn off for the Burr Trail. There was no sign that the Trail was closed so we proceeded. Heaven forbid, the stranger in the van ahead of us was turning that way too. 

Wait, he pulled off to the side... he is rolling down his window.... his head is coming out of the window....I think he wants to ask....forget it - Doreen didn't miss a beat, she hung that corner on 2 wheels and a prayer and burned rubber down the highway - probably leaving that stunned man in a cloud of dust.  Her words "he'll never catch me now" hung in the air.   I was a bit surprised to say the least but I'll go with gut instincts ahead of blind trust anyday.

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.

An hour or so later, at the top of the winding cliff face trail, we were looking back taking pictures and enjoying the view when way off in the distance, we spotted that pesky van making the turn at the fork in the road, onto the same trail we had taken.  So ended the picture taking and off we went again.  The stops were fewer and shorter and the speed was slightly faster but we finally outran the old cout whoever he was. 

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 Doreen 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 a few cows again on this stretch and only five deer. This is a long way from the hundreds 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 neighbouring 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 a 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 that night 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 back of his pickup advised us that this wasn't a good road to take. We turned around and headed back to Hwy 24. I am pretty 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 Hwy 24 ovr to the paved plateau route down Hwy 62 to Hwy 89 to get over to Junction and connect with Hwy 153 which had been 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 were more desirable. Besides, the weather is still hovering in the 90°s and the weather says it`s pouring rain in Montana.

Frisco Ghost Town, Utah

We crossed “under” I-15 and headed west on Hwy 21 - destination Ely, Nevada. Previously, along this route we'd come across the ghost town Frisco but this year before reaching the Frisco Historic Marker, I spotted some unusual rock formations and asked Doreen to stop and back up.  It turned out to be a group of Charcoal Ovens back in off a dirt road. We drove to investigate and discovered not only were there Ovens but the remains of a ghost town. 

We inspected the "townsite" and the ovens and then turned onto what I thought to be a road paralleling the highway.  After a bit Doreen said we were on an old railway bed that had been converted to a road.  There were tire tracks on it.  We thought better of it and turned around and followed a different road onto the highway.  This one was marked with "no trespassing signs" so we wasted no time in getting off the property.

We rounded the next bend on the highway to discover the Frisco Historic Marker. The ghost town was obviously part of the original Frisco town.  The mine was where the marker was, we'd just toured the town.  And also 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.  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 in the Great Basin. Killings were common, and 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 sumit - 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 me where we had been and I briefly ran through our zigzag itinerary. He asked why we did it and I 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, through 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, U.S.A. It is along US 20 (concurrent with US 93 & US 26), between the small cities of Arco and Carey, at an average elevation of 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. I especially liked the Devil's Orchard which is literally a field of dead trees. 

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 a motorcycle show so we continued on to Butte and were hosed by the Days Inn for $170. (nearly double what we would expect to pay). They KNOW when it's late and you're tired and desparate!!  Oh well that's what internet is for - let the world know.


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.

We finally have a destination - home!!


Desert Flowers

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 greener, trees were fuller and flowers everywhere. I'd taken so many pictures, Doreen decided to make a film of all the plantlife.  Unfortunately, we don't know the names of most of them, some of which we'd only seen for the first time this trip.