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Open Roads Forum  >  Truck Campers

 > Exploring the Henry Mountains - Part I

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seldomseensmith

Flagstaff, AZ

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Posted: 08/24/11 10:06pm Link  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

A while back I said I wasn't going to post any more trip reports to RV.net because I was already archiving travels on my blog - The Road Goes Ever On. But I recently took a trip that begs to be shared with y'all, so just this once....

The Henry Mountains lie in southeastern Utah, east of the Waterpocket Fold and northwest of the upper end of Lake Powell. They are geographically isolated and quite rugged, and only locals ever seem to visit their lofty slopes. The range was one of the last to be be explored in the lower 48, having finally been surveyed in 1875 by geologist Karl Grove Gilbert.

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The mountains are laccoliths, or as one author put it "frustrated volcanoes". Large intrusive bodies of magma attempted to reach the surface, only to find massive sedimentary deposits blocking the way. The fiery molten rock kept pushing however, and raised large domes above the surrounding area. Eventually the force of time and weather eroded the layered rock away, leaving the now cooled molten body exposed.

I'd visited the mountains twice previously but only really poked around the edges as far as exploring. One experience I remember quite well involved perhaps the rockiest road I'd ever been on, and I was not keen to repeat it. But I felt the time was right to find out more and the Bull Creek Pass Trail made an ideal conduit for getting a better look.

Designated as a Scenic Backway, the road does indeed offer scenery, but I suggest anyone wanting to make the trip themselves be well prepared. Although I did not experience any problems, it's easy to see how some sections of road could quite easily eat one or more tires. Help would be a long time coming - during the three days I spent cruising around I saw only 3 other people, all scouting game prior to the start of hunting season.

Incidentally, the entire range is managed by the BLM, so camping and recreation opportunities are manifold.

[image]

I started the trip on Utah 95, about 21 miles south of Hanksville. Beginning in the desert at the foot of the mountains, the first attraction is found 3 miles in - a unique geological area called Little Egypt. The formations here reminded early settlers of the Sphinx, hence the name.

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Of course this is Utah, so unique geology is hardly news, but it's still pretty cool.

I would like to take this moment to diverge ever so slightly and recommend a book I just read. If you are a trained professional in the earth sciences you've probably already encountered it, but as a geological layman I had never heard of it until recently.

The book is titled "Annals of The Former World" by John McPhee. I have to quote extensively from the jacket cover to adequately summarize the book:

Quote:

"Annals of The Former World tells a many layered tale, and the reader may choose one of many paths through it. Read sequentially, the book is an organic succession of set pieces, flashbacks, biographical sketches, and histories of the human and lithic kind. Approached systematically it can be a North American geology primer, an exploration of plate tectonics, or a study of geological time and the development of the time scale."


I have always been interested in geology, and of course my back yard presents unlimited opportunities to examine the layers of deep time exposed in rock. The book is not only eminently readable, but it helped me to better understand a very complex subject.

O.K., so off with my literary critic hat and back to my tour guide hat. Soon after Little Egypt, the road turns west. The skirts of the mountain are mantled in cliffs and badland hills, and on a hot summer day the green slopes far above beckon with the promise of cool breezes and shady groves.

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Those respites from the heat are still quite a ways off, so I have to take pleasure in the rugged scenery instead. A good cottonwood tree always help me keep my cool.

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Winding ever higher, rocky hills soon replace barren desert, although at this point not much more than scrub and sagebrush dot the landscape.

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Like most western mountains, the Henrys were no stranger to prospectors and miners. The range experienced a very brief gold mining boom in the late 1890's, and in more recent times saw some development with uranium, but for the most part all that are left are ruins, mine shafts, and tailings piles.

Would you be mine?

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This old cabin is all that remains of the once thriving gold town of Eagle City. The only thing of value left behind is the setting.

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The road continues to follow the canyon of Crescent Creek, slowly gaining elevation as it approaches Eagle Bench.

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Once on the bench, a feature of no small importance appears - the Eagle Bench Airport [emoticon]

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I'm not entirely sure why it is necessary to have a sign announcing the presence of an official FAA facility on what is essentially a large, relatively flat grassy spot, but hey - there is probably some equally obscure federal regulation requiring it. I did not however see any TSA agents waiting to examine "packages".

Leaving this teeming aviation hub behind, the mountains finally appear to be in "range" (bad pun, I'm sorry).

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Once again the road follows the line of a small creek before reaching a junction. Continuing on straight is a route that leads to Bromide Basin, and eventually re-connects with the main road further on.

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I take the high road - literally. The right hand turn onto the switchback is too tight for even my shortbed truck. I have to execute a three point backing manuever on a very narrow section of road to manage it. Longbed owners: don't try this at home!

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By now the view out to the east is amazing, indicating I've climbed quite a bit since the beginning. But we've got a ways to go yet.

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Looking down on Bull Mountain.

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The evergreens are a welcome change from the scorching desert landscape below. As much as I love canyon country, in summer this is a good place to be.

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So many choices. I'll get to some on this trip..... guess that means I'll have to come back to see the rest. (adding to my never ending list [emoticon])

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For now, we still must continue up.

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The road reaches the high point at the saddle of Bull Creek Pass. Not high by Colorado standards, but this ain't Colorado.

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It's getting late in the day, so I drop down through the pass to the west side. I'm looking for a camp spot, and find one easily on a nice flat bench at around 9500 feet.

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So far it's been a great day tooling around in the backcountry. At this point I have yet to see another soul, and I'm looking forward to continuing the exploration on the morrow. Until next time.

[image]

Exploring the Henry Mountains - Part II

Exploring the Henry Mountains - Part III

Happy Trails!

* This post was edited 09/02/11 10:19am by seldomseensmith *


The Road Goes Ever On



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spacedoutbob

SF Bay Area

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Posted: 08/24/11 10:22pm Link  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

No wonder you call yourself "SeldomSeen", You can really lose yourself out there. Thanks for posting another outstanding trip report and fantastic photos, I can't wait until you post Part 2.

Bob in Oakland, Calif.


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bka0721

Republic of Colorado

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Posted: 08/24/11 10:35pm Link  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

It is always a pleasure following along, behind you and seeing the country through the lens of your camera. I always wonder what challenges those people that built those cabins and long gone towns were faced with to live in such extreme enviroments. Thank you, SeldomSeenSmith, for this trip report.

bryan

DonCurley

La Sal, Utah

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Posted: 08/24/11 10:44pm Link  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

As always, a great write up and photos Eric.

My wife and I have made many trips over the years to and through the Henry's and they remain one of our favorite desert mountain ranges. We also climbed to the top of Mount Ellen (11,522 ft) in 1981. All of our previous trips were made in smaller 4x4 vehicles with tent camping.

And while we have been in all directions around the Henry's in our camper, we haven't actually ventured into the mountain range proper with our Dodge/Outfitter rig yet, so your trip reports will be very helpful in giving us some really great and up-to-date information about the roads & routes for an up-coming trip.

Looking forward to part 2!

Don

P.S. Here's a shot from the Henry's looking due east at the La Sal Mountains where we live on the flanks of South Mountain. It's 75 miles east as the crow flies. As the second highest mountain range in Utah, the La Sal's are also laccoliths like the Henry's (and Abajo's).

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* This post was edited 08/24/11 11:41pm by DonCurley *


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Sheriffdoug

Western Australia

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Posted: 08/24/11 10:45pm Link  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

Hi, Some of that scenery, reminds me of the www.wilpenapound.com.au not Wilpena Pound, but the scenery on the way there. Gravel tracks, Pine trees & vast open spaces.

Go to: www.wlipenapound.com.au


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B. BOOMER

lost somewhere in america

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Posted: 08/24/11 11:25pm Link  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

Holy cow - 10,500 feet!! My ears would never make it [emoticon]

Am so glad we have other intrepid travelers to ride along with instead [emoticon]

Many thanks for allowing us to be backseat trippers [emoticon]





sabconsulting

High Wycombe, UK

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Posted: 08/25/11 12:36am Link  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

Many thanks Eric for posting this. I think we all love reading your trip reports. It is especially nice to see your pictures of the wild places of Utah while (through the wonders of modern stuff) I am sat in a customer's office in a business park in Paris waiting for everyone to turn up. Two different worlds!

If your budget airlines work anything like ours in Europe that airstrip is probably marked because one of them will soon be landing there claiming it is "SLC South airport - only a short commute from the centre of the city".

Steve.


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weymard

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Posted: 08/25/11 03:57am Link  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

Beautiful landscapes ! Thanks for sharing .


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silversand

Montreal

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Posted: 08/25/11 05:08am Link  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

Seldom:

What a great way to bring in our Thursday morning! Your trip report supplanted our morning newspaper [emoticon]

Its still hard to believe that vast areas of North America (primarily in the Southwest & Alaska) are virtually devoid of humans-- in the face of such beauty.

Cheers,
Sand & Dunes


Silver
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shanty66

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Posted: 08/25/11 06:08am Link  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

Great stuff Silver! Looking forward to that trip. I just bought a 2011 Silverado 2500HD with the 6.0 Vortec, did you have any issues with yours at those altitudes?--LOUIE

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