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Utah Day 4

Grosvenor's Arch


Big rock with a view at campsite

Kodachrome Basin State Park

Cottonwood Wash Narrows

Tuesday May 27th, 2008

After staying at Stephanie’s again we headed east to the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument (GSENM) for some back-country driving/hiking/camping. I had never heard of this place until we started planning for our trip. It was recently declared a National Monument by Bill Clinton when he was still the President. It used to be a really popular place to ride ATV’s so I think the locals weren’t to excited about it becoming protected land. GSENM covers nearly 1.9 Million Acres and was the last place in the United States to be mapped. Needless to say we were barely scratching the surface of this place.

We started at the Kodachrome Basin State Park for a couple of short walks. This park is filled with red colored sandstone chimneys, hoo doo’s and lots of interesting and scenic rock formations. It’s not a huge park (and technically not a part of GSENM) but it looked pretty cool and was on the way to where we were going so we thought it was worth stopping. The scenery here was great, lots of Lizards and interesting plants as well.

This is where the trip started getting a lot more interesting and a little out of my normal comfort zone (which was a good thing). From the entrance to Kodachrome we had to take a 40 something mile dirt road (Cottonwood Drive) that took us into the heard of GSENM to get to the places we wanted to see here. This time we did our research and found out that the road was passable, just a little bit wash boarded and rough at times. I was a little nervous about getting on this road after our last experience with an unimproved road but this was probably the most fun driving I’ve ever had. It felt like I was in some old western or desert movie looking for some treasure on an old abandoned road. I know, pretty stupid but these kind of roads are really fun in little all wheel drive German cars.

The other thing that made me nervous for just a few minutes was having to sign up for a permit at the local visitors center. This is basically the parks way of contacting our next of kin if we happened to go missing or something. I knew it wasn’t going to be a big deal since the weather was really nice and we had done a lot of research about where we were going but it was still a little unsettling for someone with no real experience exploring places like this.

We started by driving about 20 miles down the road to Grosvenor’s Arch. This is a little day use area where you can walk right up to this large yellowish double arch. I took lots of pictures and then we had some lunch. Grosvenor’s Arch had the only bathroom that we would see until we came out on the other side too. Good times!

Next we stopped at the Cottonwood Wash Narrows for a short 3.5 mile RT walk. This was my first experience going through some narrows. There wasn’t any water in the canyon but you could see how water and wind have shaped this place over the years in the sides of the canyon walls. Places like this are really dangerous in flash flood conditions but luckily there weren’t any of those going on during our visit.

One of my favorite things about this trip was observing the different patterns, textures and lines that were visible in the different canyons and rock formations we came across. Cottonwood Narrows was a great place to see this, it was very up close and personal there. The variety of plant life was fun to see too, lots of Prickly Pears and other interesting flowers blooming here.

After this we decided to head down the road a little to find somewhere to camp. The nice thing about BLM land is you can pretty much camp anywhere you want to as long as it’s already been impacted and isn’t right next to a trail head. We ended up finding a really nice spot at the base of some rock walls. There was a little path you could take up to the top of these rocks right next to our tent. We went up there and sat on the top of the round rocks, read and watched the sunset. It was the kind of place that just gave you the feeling that you were the only ones around for miles, I’ve only camped like this a couple of times but I really love it. The only bad thing about this spot was the bugs, even showering yourself with bug spray didn’t seem to matter.