Reverse Circle: Scenic Byways

(Day 9: Road Trip from Moab to Bryce)

I imagine that tourist boards spend time trying to persuade their respective departments of transport to designate roads as ‘scenic byways’, because it is bound to help business. But in this case, they probably didn’t have to try too hard. In total, we spent 8 hours on the road and, by my calculations, we took one photo on average every 3 minutes 10 seconds… So, if you’re sitting comfortably, I’ll take you along for the ride!

Breakfast, packing, hugs and farewells…it was time to leave Moab and the relaxing Cali Cochitta garden behind. The luggage still fits perfectly in the car. We swung by Gearheads, the outdoor shop, ostensibly for some energy bars and snacks, but I finally made a decision (after my previous ‘research’ is its) and purchased a new backpack, you may see it in due course, look out for the purple one.

After fuelling up the car we were northbound out of Moab, heading for the Booker cliffs and I-70.

With a permitted speed limit of 80mph we were soon approaching the San Rafael Swell, which we would turn south in front of and follow it down to Hanksville. An overhead sign on the interstate amused us, with its seasonal/Halloween advice: “You’re not a pumpkin: don’t drive smashed”.

The road parallel to the swell is straight with the occasional gentle tweak of the wheel. Straight sections are easily 4miles long. I broke up the lack of action by pulling over at a viewpoint to take a photo.

Then we were crossing the Dirty Devil River (I just love the name!), turning west at Hanksville and heading for Capitol Reef National Park. 

Whilst the original plan had included the option of moderate hike, we had both decided that the legs needed a day of rest. However, as we approached the park, with the cottonwoods and the blue skies and the pretty cliffs and rocks…my mind was saying it is just too beautiful to simply drive through…let’s hike! I asked Andrew if he wanted to stop. He said I was in charge as I was driving…oh yeah…I’m in charge….let’s stop! Let’s hike!

I stopped at the lower end of Grand Wash and we had a mini-hike, just 10 minutes each way to soak up some scenery. We hadn’t applied sun lotion in the morning, and any longer could have been a bit too long, but it was great to be back. Maybe this needs to be back in next year’s plan…

We continued on our way, heading for Torres and, hopefully, lunch. Before we got very far, though, we were stuck in the middle of a cattle drive…I’m used to having to wait for cows to cross the road in Derbyshire if I time my drive to Sutton wrong, but here they were being herded along the road. It appeared from the remaining ‘evidence’ that they had been on the road for quite some miles, so I was glad we were going in the opposite direction and not having to follow behind.

The rest of the route was simple and we were soon in Torrey. Luckily the diner I had in mind was open. It hadn’t yet closed for the season and although they were closing at 3pm for Halloween, it was still only 2pm, so it was burgers and fries…sweet potato fries in my case. Two years ago I thought they did the best ones and, although it has changed hands, they were still good. We chatted briefly to the new owners and then were on our way again.

From Torrey the road goes up…a long way up, to 9,600 feet. The aspen trees were bare silver, having long since lost their shimmering leaves and the mountain was starting to look wintery. A deer was grazing at the side of the road and looked up as we passed. The road was very quiet and there was hardly any traffic. There were some great views from the top, though.

Once the road descended we started to get into the white sandstone, similar to Zion. There is one particular section of road which seems like it has been built on top on a sandstone fin, as being the simplest way to cross the land. It makes for quite a drive…

After that, we drive through the agricultural farmlands of the Escalante valley, passing through small towns until we started to see Bryce-like formations.

On arriving at Bryce I calculated that we had time to check in before sunset. It was only 5.15pm, sunset wasn’t until 6.30pm and I reckoned 6pm on the rim should be ok. We got our room key and found our lodge building. Our room faces the lake, which is pretty. We unloaded the car, then grabbed the camera and park pass and headed the three miles up the road to Sunset Point. We were just a snidge too late for the best of the sunset. My miscalculation. Still, it was beautiful. We walked along the rim a little bit taking photos and admiring the view. I could pick out a trail and now I’m hugely excited for tomorrow! 

We decided to go to dinner straight away this being 6.30pm ish) although I wasn’t sure if I was all that hungry. It turned out to be a great decision because, one, I ate all my dinner, so clearly I was hungry after all and, two, when we came out there was a long queue waiting to get in.

It’s nearly 10pm as I’m blogging and we are both still awake, possibly a first for this trip. Still, I’ll finish up and settle for sleep. Thanks for your company in this road trip – and if you ever get chance to see Utah Scenic Byways 24 and 12, you really should. They are indeed scenic.

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