In Utah, if you follow State Highways 95, 24, and 12 from Blanding Utah to Brice Canyon you will experience one of the most beautiful and solitary routes in the United States. I started my trip early, heading north west on Highway 95. This stretch of highway received its name, “Bicentennial Scenic Byway,” as its dedication coincided with the U.S. Bicentennial in 1976. At Hanksville, Utah I turned west on Highway 24, passing over the Colorado River, and spent the night in Torrey, Utah. Up again early, I headed south on Highway 12 through the Dixie National Forest and over the Henry Mountains to Brice Canyon National Park.
When taking this route you must remember to pack food, water, and have plenty of gas, for the car, that is. This is one of the most remote areas in the lower 48 states. You are reminded of this by a sign that reads “Next Gas Station is 128 Miles.” There is no trace of mankind for as far as you can see, no towns, no houses, no cross roads. Contact with other people is rare, an occasional car may be seen and even a brief glimpse of people at the State or National parks is uncommon. Traveling in October makes these chance encounters even more unlikely. It is incredible quite here, a feeling of total isolation.
The landscape of southern to central Utah is a majestic land of jutting uplifts and striped mesas. Deep slot canyons and swirling, layered rock formations. The color array is dazzling pallette of deep reds to soft salmon pink. Rock ranges from black to shades of gray, trees from the dark green of the evergreen to colorful birch with its white bark and leaves of yellow. In October even the scrub brush takes on unbelievable colors. Thunder heads form quickly over the mountains and if you hike in the canyons you must be prepared to move to higher ground quickly.
Home of the Ute and Fremont Indians who left behind a pictorial record of their existence on the canyon walls. In Fruita, Utah the Mormans settlers left behind signs of their rugged presence. Here they planted fruit trees, apples and apricots, peaches, pears, and plums. Groves of walnut and almond trees. Although still distant, small towns appear with a little more regularity after you leave Torrey heading south on Highway 12. Irrigated fields, with bright green grass feed cattle.
I prefer traveling in this area in October. The blazing sun is masked by a sunscreen of clouds. The air is cool enough for a long sleeved shirt or a light jacket. Intrusion of tourist are absent and traffic is light. In summer the skies may be bluer, but the muted light of fall brings out the richness of the colors and soft shadows. The isolation and beauty of the Trail of the Ancients makes for a spiritual journey that rekindles the relationship between nature and man.
One of the most remote areas in the lower 48 states.
The day began early, on the road at sunrise.
Ute and Fremont indians left a pictorial record of their existence.
Bridge over the Colorado River.
Incredible quite here with a feeling of isolation.
Encounters with other humans are rare.
Venturing down into the canyons is crude and rugged.
As these people disappeared over the rim, I had a feeling of being totally alone.
Apples, pears, apricots, walnut and almond trees.
A one room school house of Fruita.
South of Torrey lush irrigated fields feed cattle.
Groves of birch trees in the Henry Mountains
Does this look like a ghostly ship to you?
Thunder heads form quickly and burst over the mountain ranges.
Flash floods are a danger, the debris scattered in its wake.
In October even the scrub brush takes on the colors of a crayon box.
The soft muted light of autumn clouds give a richness to the landscape.