A Western RoadTrip Part 4

8 minute read

After that adventure, we were ready to have an easy drive. At this point we were sitting on Route 12, and so we headed South. Our next destination was the Burr Trail. Route 12 has some really amazing sights. Once again we had found ourselves going from red rock canyons to the gray granite mountain ranges.

There were plenty of cattle guards in the road as we passed through ranch after ranch, and once we came to a really quick stop while a herd of cattle crossed the road. Dinner anyone??? The drive would have been thoroughly enjoyable were it not for a black Chevy Suburban with distinct California plates, but more on that later.

Burr Trail starts off as a rough gravel/partially paved road turning into dirt once you hit the park boundary, and Mike had one goal in mind as we headed back into Capitol Reef, find the place that JamesDowning had taken his epic avatar pic.

Several trails branch off from Burr Trail, and we explored a few.

Unfortunately there were a few others exploring as well. The trails became a bit crowded, and finding the exact place was proving to be a challenge. We decided to press on, taking a left at the end of the Burr Trail to head up County Rd to Route 24. What we didn’t know was that County Rd inside Capitol Reef was mostly sand…….washboard sand……approximately 13 miles of it.

Remember that episode of MythBusters where they tested the theory that by driving faster over washboard-like roads you actually have a smoother ride? It’s true, if you are comfortable going 60 mph on a road you don’t know that twists and turns and has a few “humps” that potentially hid on-coming traffic. Add to that the road was really only wide enough for 1 vehicle to get by……

By the time we got out of the park and onto the paved section of County Rd, I was pretty sure my truck was going to fall apart. The front right side had developed a rather annoying squeak, so while we aired up our tires we took a look. This is when we noticed the bushing failure Mikekey had posted about a few weeks ago. We didn’t have a replacement, but Mike was pretty sure if we took it easy, we could make it home without too much trouble. The bottom bushing was still holding nicely.

To make matters worse, our air compressor had developed a funky sound as well. Combined with the events of the morning, not being able to find what we were looking for, and the last 13 miles of washboard road, I was feeling pretty high strung and tense. At this point I REALLY wanted to stay in a hotel again, but Mike was adamant that we camp that night.

He was determined to find the perfect campground.

A quick fill up and pit stop later in Torrey, we headed back down Route 12 from Route 24. I know, the irony is not lost on me; we’ve made a giant loop. In fact, about a ½ mile from where we had dumped back out onto Route 12 from the Pleasant Creek/South Draw trail, there were two BLM campsites just off the main road.

This looks familiar……

But those weren’t good enough for Mike. He wanted the perfect campsite, so we continued down Route 12 into Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument.

Remember that black Chevy Suburban I mentioned earlier? Well, we came across them again, or rather, they came across us. And they had brought a sedan with California plates along as well. It was REALLY annoying to have them behind us, trying to give our Trailblazer and enema with their Suburban. It was probably made worse by the fact that we had an older pickup in front of us, and it was easier to downshift than have to keep on the brakes every time we came into deep descents, which only had the Suburban seemingly glued to our tail.

Why don’t we just pull over you ask? We certainly would, if there was anywhere to do so safely. This section of Escalante runs along the top of the peaks, dropping down into narrow valleys. There are no shoulders. There are either drop offs (and no guardrails) or rock walls, and passing was just too dangerous with all the curves.

It was about this moment that our Trailblazer’s gear box stopped working. She was stuck in third according to the instrument panel, regardless if we shifted into second, drive or neutral. Thankfully we came to a turnoff about a mile later, finally losing the annoying Californians, who had the audacity to lay on the horns as they passed us. At this point our dislike for Californians was complete.

Since the Trailblazer wouldn’t shift into park, Mike killed the engine, put on the parking brake, and had me climb into the driver’s seat and keep on the break while he slid underneath to take a look.

I’ll admit, I consider myself a tough cookie, but I was beginning to lose it here. The day had been too long, super tough in many ways, and I was just tired. I am thankful though to have married a guy who spent enough time turning a wrench on every car he’s owned that he knew what the problem was before he even looked. The stupid GM OEM rivet on the shifting cable had snapped. Easy fix, mostly. Mike was able to get it back on and shift the vehicle back into park.

A few tears later, we started to take notice of where we were. Mike had done it, he had found the perfect campsite. I don’t remember the name of the campsite, but it may have been Hole-in-the-Rock. What I do remember as we sat in the gravel turnoff was looking down into this campsite area from 300+ feet above seeing a stream cut through densely wooded rock. It was beautiful and looked absolutely perfect.

And it was full.

So moving on……we finally got to test out the lights Mike had rigged up. I think the two front Hellla lights mounted over the bumper were the most useful for distance (especially since he had swapped out the standard bulbs with the same HIDs we were running in the projectors).

We also discovered that finding any camping around Bryce Canyon was next to impossible since the area is so heavily trafficked. There probably was some camping, but after 25 mins driving down another washboard road, the attitude was F-it! We actually did find another campsite on the other side of Bryce, but it was right on the road. So, we turned around and headed back up to the campsite on Route 12 by the South Draw trail a few hours away. About the only good thing that came out of this midnight expedition was testing the light set-up, seeing the Milky Way, and discovering what is now Mike’s favorite radio program to listen to, “Coast to Coast AM”.

Just an aside, it is really freaky to be out in the middle of nowhere without even a moon to light the way, where looking out the side window would leave one feeling like they are looking into the eye of a black hole, listening to some program talking about the Anunnaki and some lost planet and aliens returning to earth…… Okay, in hindsight, it was actually entertaining, but I claim a lack of sleep and a long day made for poor perceptions.