Part 11 - Adventuring with Don 2018

Part 11 – Destination: Kanab, Utah

Although my planned destination had been Kanab, Utah on the previous day, I was swayed to alter that plan in favor of exploring previously unknown places that led me off track. In no way have I been disappointed in allowing myself to be led away from my tentative plans. That is a part of how I go: to be open to the unexpected and follow where the adventure will lead me. 

After the one night stay in the Salt Lake City area, I was determined to stick to my plan and head to Southern Utah. This was a Sunday and the weather could not have been finer. Finally, I was seeing more blue skies and clouds instead of the blurriness that had been ever present since leaving Glacier. This buoyed my spirits to new heights as I headed to Kanab, Utah. Always open to other possibilities, I once again found interesting diversions along the way. 

One of those places was the boyhood home of Butch Cassidy south of Circleville, Utah. While not especially noteworthy, the log cabin home has been nicely restored as well as some outbuildings. It is almost hard to imagine that from such humble beginnings, this young man’s life led him to a life of crime. This was a brief stop and then I was back on Highway 89 heading south.

I had noticed that rivers and streams were running with full swift currents, an indication of recent significant rainfall. Additionally vegetation was much greener along the way. As became apparent soon thereafter, heavy rains had impacted the area well into southern Utah and into Arizona.

Entering the Bryce Canyon National Park area, I stopped at a couple of viewpoints along the way and started seeing stronger evidence of that recent very heavy rainfall. Huge swaths were carved away by massive flows of water, leaving behind rocks and boulders, tree trunks and shrubbery in its’ wake. Roadways were strewn with red dirt and rocks that had been washed down from the hills.                     


I followed a trail back into the hills, in some places clamoring over boulders and huge rocks that had washed down from above and across wide channels that were remnants of the water’s flow. The amount of water that had swept through this area was impressive in its enormity. Here in Arizona we refer to these as “washes” or “arroyos”,                                                                           essentially otherwise dry streambeds that only come to life during rainfall. 

I was glad to have missed the storm that carved its path through this area. 

Since I was passing near Bryce Canyon National Park along Hwy. 89, and having plenty of time, I branched off to re-visit there. Bryce is a favorite of mine where odd rock formations and colors are enchanting. The rock spires are called hoodoos. Having hiked through the hoodoos in the past was a great experience. This time, I simply wanted to look down at the scenery and enjoy this beautiful phenomenon of nature. The red rocks against the backdrop of blue skies and white clouds were a spectacular sight. 

Driving on to Kanab, Utah was a short, pleasant drive. The area has always captivated me and once again had drawn me back where I would admire more of the region’s natural attractions and scenic beauty. Kanab is just north of Fredonia, Arizona, both straddling the Arizona/Utah border.

Commonly referred to as Red Rock Country, it definitely lives up to its name. Historically it has been the homeland of Native Indian tribes where they have left their mark in many places. Of particular interest to me are the remote locations of native rock art that adorns several canyon and cave walls. Early Mormon settlers adopted the area here where they farmed and ranched. Hollywood has also had a presence here with movie sets for Westerns and TV shows such as Gunsmoke.  

While here and high on the agenda for this trip was to revisit Toroweep overlook on the north rim of the Grand Canyon. From this remote site one will experience heart stopping views 3000 feet directly down to the Colorado River.

This was the first off road excursion while in Kanab. 

The road to Toroweep is on a 61 mile unpaved road. Signs caution drivers with recommendations for using high clearance, 4-wheel drive vehicles. In past trips there I have managed with and without 4-wheel drive and have seen low slung vehicles like Cameros and Neons that have managed to complete the long drive to the edge of the Grand Canyon, so why not tackle this road once again in my GMC Terrain which is neither high clearance nor 4 wheel drive? 

The heavy rains had left their mark all over the area, but the road appeared to be relatively unscathed, for the most part. Some places were smooth packed and 40 mph+ was achievable. In many other places, not so easy going, but at slow speeds, not treacherous. 

The Grand Canyon with the Colorado River running through it creates a geological/physical separation from lower Arizona. The only bridges crossing the Colorado River in this region are far to the East near Lee’s Ferry and Page, AZ, which is the beginning of and the narrowest part of the Grand Canyon. This remote and sparely populated area north of the Grand Canyon is referred to as the Arizona Strip. Other than Rt. 67 that leads to the Grand Canyon Lodge North Rim, there are no paved roads down into the Arizona Strip. Some ranchers, but very few other people live out on that lonely expanse of land. Understandably then, it was a long, slow, at least 2 hour drive out into the area where I was going. 

About 55 miles in on the road is a ranger station/home. As on past drives there, I stopped to get any information or updates before continuing to the end of the trail. No one being around, I continued on for the last 5-6 miles, approaching the most challenging, treacherous and difficult part of the trek. 

Two miles from the rim of the canyon the road narrows down through close passages of huge boulders, while the roadbed becomes very uneven over slick rock and boulders. As I mentioned previously, in the past I (and others in even lower slung vehicles) had been able to maneuver the rough terrain to reach the overlook. 

This was not going to happen on this trip. 

To say I had reached the white knuckle portion of the road to Toroweep would be spot on, but even more so. Around a tight corner, I was confronted with an area that had washed out what had been a “little bit” smoother roadbed. There ahead of me was a continuous smooth rock bed that protruded up and across the road. Stopping to assess the situation and nervous about the precariousness of this narrow passage on a curve, I gave it a try. Inching forward in the lowest gear possible, I gingerly stepped on the accelerator. With only slight forward motion, wheels spinning on the slick rock, I backed off the gas allowing my Terrain to roll back slightly. Should I throw in the towel now?

But I was so close to my destination!

Had I spent the last hour and a half on that godforsaken road to be halted in my tracks?


OK one more try. Same results. Wheels spinning, the smell of burning rubber, there was no sense in ruining my vehicle or being stranded even if I were to make it over this hurdle.

Bummer! I was disappointed to have been stopped by this roadblock.

Feeling a bit trapped in this narrow, steep spot on a tight curve, I simply had to back up to get out of this predicament. It was a bit nerve wracking, but I did manage to reverse the situation to a more level place where I backed the car off the road and parked it. 

I was not about to give up. I have two perfectly capable legs that have carried me over much worse terrain, so what lie ahead was not a hindrance. Two miles, no big deal, and off I went.  On foot it was easy to walk over the blockage that halted my car. The further I walked, the more I saw other places that would have been even more challenging in my Terrain, some that surely would have ripped the undercarriage out from beneath the vehicle. Yeah, on foot was the only alternative on this final leg of the trip. 

Not another living soul was around. About 1 mile in, and from the rocks above, I approached the only camping area at Toroweep. From that vantage point it appeared unoccupied. So, I was totally alone, 61 miles from civilization, the same as a few other times when I visited Toroweep. Hiking the last mile, I arrived at the very edge of the rim and peered down 3000 feet to the Colorado River. There I spied at least 7 river rafts lazily floating along on the muddy waters.

What incredible views up and down the river and out over the landscape! Stark and lonely, the views at Toroweep never get old. 

Scrambling around on the edge of the rim, the sights remained the same as from my past trips while the thrill of adventure and danger were an adrenalin rush. 

Taking my time I captured views from some favorite spots and enjoyed the solitude and stillness.

Knowing the distance and time it would take to drive back to Kanab, I hiked back along the road noting  deep puddles of water and areas that would have been insurmountable in my car. 

IMG 5618

In past years the road has had better maintenance that allowed most vehicles to complete the entire trip to the Toroweep overlook. Seeing maintenance, especially on the roughest last 2 miles has declined, traffic is now more limiting to those who dare to venture so far out into this remoteness. Those with lower riding cars will be discouraged and most are not likely to walk the last two miles. That keeps the area remote and more inaccessible unless one is in an appropriate vehicle that will be able to handle the roughest of terrains. 

Within a quarter mile of reaching my car, I heard a vehicle approaching – from behind me. Having not seen any evidence of others being back in the area, I was startled by the sound. Slowly driving over the uneven trail, a Jeep Wrangler came into view. Stepping aside on the narrow road to allow them to pass, the young couple instead stopped and offered me a ride. I was happy to accept. They had been in the area camping in a spot that was visible to me. Though a very short ride, we chatted about Toroweep and Indian rock art. I gave them my suggestions of places to check out, including the numerous examples in Snake Gulch. They were happy to hear of my suggestions and eager to visit them while in the area. 

After dropping me off at my car, I lost no time in hitting the road and sped as conditions warranted back toward Fredonia, AZ. There, a late lunch/early dinner would suffice before going the extra 7 miles back to Kanab, UT where I spent another night.

Having talked to the couple in the Jeep about Snake Gulch and the rock art there, I re-interested myself in seeing that artwork again  deciding that would be my adventure the following day.

An unexpected setback and yet another change in plans awaited me.

u © Donald E. Kline 2012