No Man’s Land

We must go beyond textbooks, go out into the bypaths and untrodden depths of the wilderness and travel and explore and tell the world the glories of our journey.” – John Franklin Hope

Having only spent 1 day in Bryce NP, instead of the two I had planned, that gave me a full day to get a jump start on my remote exploration, or “Rideabout™”.  I had looked through the list of possible trails the night before and picked several that would let me make an efficient route without having to retrace my steps.  With a full tank of gas, I hit the closest trail in my off-road guide book. This trail promised an abandoned/ghost town if I turned off of it at the right spot and once again my trusty book doesn’t lie.

I first stumble upon the town’s cemetery.  I stop and investigate wondering if it’s “ok” to even go through the gate.  There’s an eerie vibe in the air as I swing the cemetery gate open and it creaks just as you’d expect.  The first thing I notice is it’s not flat.  The plots are little mounds of dirt which adds to the creepiness factor and has me thinking they weren’t buried very deep.  Many of the markers are so old that I can’t read them at all.  The ones that I can are of very young people.  Many died of diphtheria (6/7 under the age of 10)  at a very young age and some were killed by Indians.  From what I can gather, disease swept through the town pretty fast and hard and nearly wiped them all out.  Someone has been here and decorated the place with artificial flowers.  Personally I’d like to see it without them, I think it adds to the impact.

I leave without a trace and continue on down the road.  As I turn the corner I see the remains of an abandoned ranch house.  There’s a locked gate in front.  Obviously someone doesn’t want you getting too close.  In fact the entire area is behind a split rail fence and is posted.  I explore a little more thinking what it must have been like to watch everyone around you, including the children succumb to disease.

Satisfied with the success of finding my first ghost town, I’m on to the next.  I must admit that half the fun of doing this is the little scavenger hunt to find the right paths.  There are SO many dirt roads out here that I often turn down the wrong one before deciding that it’s not the road I’m looking for.

My next objective is the ghost town of Paria.  Paria was a small mining community situated on the edge of the Paria River.  The river, which is typically a stream in size, would occasionally flood and wipe out the structures in the town.  The town was rebuilt a few times, but once they realized the flooding was a recurring event, they abandoned the town.  This would prove a little more difficult to get to.  After a long trek down in to the canyon, crossing sand, and having bushes and tree branches scrape down the side of the Jeep,  I found the Paria riverbed.  It was whitewashed with salt deposits and the river itself was nothing more than a 6 inch deep stream.

Carefully watching for rattlesnakes, I stammer across the riverbed and up on to the elevated shore.  In scanning the bank for structures, I almost miss them because they are built from the same color stone as the surrounding canyon walls.  I spy the remnants of two buildings which are considerably older than the first town I was at.  Time has not treated these structures well.  I snap a few photos as I check out the layout of grounds.  Not much remains but I do find some very old hand tools.

Ghost town #2 successfully found.  Now it’s time for some scenery.  It’s time to push deeper into the middle of nowhere  and head to Alston point.  Alston Point is the overlook for Lake Powell. It’s on BLM lands so I stop in the local BLM office and talk to the Ranger about the trail.  He tells me it’s pretty rough after the first 10 miles or so and that if I wanted to continue all the way to the end, I’d have to negotiate some decent sized flat rock step ups.  Music to my ears.  Finally a challenge for the Jeep and a chance to test my new suspension system.  I make my way to the dirt road and continue on for miles.  The landscape is changing in a very weird way.  I stop my Jeep in the middle of the road and look around, awestruck.  I get out and realize that I am, in fact, on the moon.  The images below are not altered in any way.  (For that matter, I’m in the middle of nowhere, I haven’t had a chance to post-process any of the images I posted from this trip yet.  Everything is straight out of the camera/iPhone.)

I have never seen anything like it.  Completely surrounded by gray lunar dust.  I’m in the middle of nowhere, on the moon, by myself, so what would any sane person do?  No I didn’t make lunar snow angels, (but I thought about it).  I shouted a quote from Dumb and Dumber – “No, way, that’s great, WE LANDED ON THE MOON!”  No one was within miles of me so I didn’t care.

After my lunar landing party, it was time to press forward.  I took a lot of video on this drive out to Alston Point. That will have to wait until I get home.  It needs processed.  And that takes forever on this MacBook Air. I continue on and encounter those rocks the Ranger advised me about.  I pop the Jeep in 4-low and she climbs right up like a champ.  I round the crest of the hill and see what I’m after; Alston Point.  This is another sight where my words or pictures cannot do it justice.  This location is the thing you see in magazines that only those who go looking for it will ever find.  I give you Lake Powell from 1,500 feet above…

I sit, quiet and awestruck on that cliff top and ponder the events of the last week and in particular the last few days.  I realize that I pretty much zoned out until another Grand Cherokee came climbing over the hill.  An elderly couple, easily retired, seeking the same view as me.  They didn’t talk much and only snapped a few photos and left.  Maybe I scared them.  I tend to do that to people out on the trail.  I don’t know why.

With a warm feeling of contentment, I decided to head back to civilization.  It would be getting dark shortly and I was concerned about the amount of gas I had left.  Even though I always have the rooftop reserve, I like to act like it’s not there.  Knowing the roads a little better now, I pick up the pace.  My windows are down and dust is covering everything in the Jeep.  I barrel through a shallow stream spraying water all over and head back to the main road.  I was running on vapors as I rolled in to Kanab, the closest gas station.  So much so that my computer, which normally displays “miles until empty” simply changed to “get fuel now”.  I was legitimately concerned that I would run out with the gas station in sight.  Then I would be the idiot who ran out of gas carrying 8 gallons on his roof.  It doesn’t get any closer to empty than that and my $74 fill-up reinforced that.  I am happy with today’s events.  So much so that I lean over and draw a smiley face in the red dust on my dashboard with my finger.  🙂

Tomorrow, the Grand Canyon.

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