Short Hikes Near St. George

Hurricane, UT

While we experienced some rain during our stay here at Sand Hollow State Park, the weather did clear enough for us to get out for three short but interesting hikes.

Babylon Arch – To get to this trailhead we drove north of the little town of Leeds (exit 22 north on I-15) and turned east on to 900 N Road, a maintained dirt road.  After a drive of three miles we took the left fork at a “Y” in the road, then a quick right into a dirt parking area.  The trailhead is in one corner of this parking area.

900 N Road

We followed the trail for about a quarter mile to where it joined a narrow two-track road.  After another quarter mile we came to another parking area that is designated the Sand Cove Primitive Camping Area.  The camping area is surrounded by colorful rock formations.

Pam named this Heart Arch

At the end of a wood fence is a step-over that is the beginning of the Arch Trail.

The arch trail meanders through some beautiful rock formations until you come to a bluff overlooking the Virgin River.

From the top of the bluff the trail goes steeply down through loose sand until you come to Babylon Arch.  Gravity made the hike down easy, but guess what trail we will use to get back!

Heading down (with the Virgin River in the background)

As you make your way down to the bottom of the sandy path you go around what looks like a large rock protruding from the sand.  Go around it and you discover it is the arch.

The arch looking north

The arch looking south

We continued past the arch for about a half mile to the north side of the Virgin River, where we turned around and headed back.

The Virgin River

We passed by the arch and headed back up through the deep sand.

Climbing up . . .

. . .  is very exciting!

As we hiked back through the campground area we were impressed with the view of the Pine Valley Mountains to the west.  This hike was a little over three miles.

Confluence Park Hurricane Trails – This trailhead is very easy to reach.  Just turn west on Main Street from West State Street in Hurricane and drive to the end of the road.  There you’ll find a parking area with restrooms and information signs.

After looking at a map at the trailhead we decided to combine four trails for a loop hike of just under three miles.  The first part of the hike took us west over a flat plain.

After a short distance the trail descended down a winding trail to the Virgin River.

It had rained fairly heavily the previous night, so the river was running strong and muddy.  When we hiked down to it from the Babylon Arch the previous day the water was crystal clear.  But things had changed!

Near the river there is a large fenced in area that serves as a care area for displaced Desert Tortoises.  After a stay here the tortoises are released in various sections of the Red Cliffs Desert Reserve.  We don’t know if there were any residents that day, but we didn’t see any.

See the nimble hiker with the Basalt rock towering above?

Yellow Knolls Trail – This trail is located northwest of St. George in the Red Cliffs Desert Reserve.  To get to the trailhead we drove about two miles south of exit 10 of I-15 on the E. Red Hills Parkway.  We then turned west on Cottonwood Springs Road, which turns into Old Dump Road, a smooth unpaved road.  The trailhead is in a small parking area 5.5 miles from Red Hills Parkway.

Yellow Knolls Trailhead

The hike begins with a long loop down through open prairie for about a mile.

It then follows a wash up into some beautiful rock formations that line both sides of the trail.

Lunch with a view

The trail goes on for miles into the rocks.  We went a little over two miles before turning around and hiking back to the trailhead.

All three of these trails are short, fairly easy, and filled with interesting scenery.  They are just three examples of the many trails in the St. George area.

That concludes our week stay in beautiful Sand Hollow State Park.  Our original plans were to move on to Page, AZ for a week at Wahweap RV and Campground on the shore of Lake Powell.  But a small purchase needs to be completed instead, so we are heading back to Boulder City, NV.  We’ll spend a week there to complete the closing on our new home, then head toward Bluff, UT to explore some Native American ruins.

More on that later . . .

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Yant Flat Hike to Candy Cliffs

Hurricane, UT

After doing a bit of research on hikes in the St. George area, the nimble hiker discovered a great spot in the foothills just a few miles to our west.  Yant Flat (also referred to as the Candy Cliffs) is a large expanse of reddish-orange sandstone protruding from the mountains of Red Cliffs National Conservation Area to the north of St. George.  The sandstone formations are remnants of ancient petrified dunes which over time have been pushed up and exposed. The forces of nature have slowly carved them into all sorts of fascinating shapes and patterns.

To get to Yant Flat we drove through the tiny town of Leeds (exit 22 on I-15) to the north end of Main Street.  We turned left (west) onto Silver Reef Road and followed it for 1.2 miles to where it turns into a dirt road (Oak Grove Road).  We continued up that road for another two miles to where the road forks.  We turned left toward St. George on Forest Road 31 and drove about seven miles to a small parking area on the south side of the road (across from the junction with FR 903).

Oak Grove Road

Forest Road 31

The trailhead

The trail begins with a mile long hike across Yant Flat on a sandy path through an area of low vegetation.

At the end of the mile trek the world opens up into a wide area of colorful sandstone formations known as Candy Cliffs.

Things begin to open up ahead of us

Now this is Utah!

A trail follows the rim of the sandstone with great views of the Candy Cliffs to the south.  But we couldn’t resist going down into the rocks for a better look.  It’s a bit steep but sandstone provides great traction.

Heading down

We could use a handrail!

A bit of “butt sliding” was necessary in some spots

At the base of the slickrock we were surrounded by colorful rocks crisscrossed with interesting erosion patterns.

We looked up to the top of a rock formation in front of us and spotted a lone hiker enjoying the view.  It looked like a perfect spot to enjoy lunch.

As we climbed, we stopped often to enjoy the interesting formations along the way.

Approaching our lunch perch

Made it to the top!

Time for a snack

Lunch with a view

Cool little arch

After lunch we climbed back down into the little valley while continuing to marvel at the beauty all around us.

We then began the steep climb back up to the canyon rim.

OK, it’s a bit steep

The nimble hiker climbs up . . .

. . . and up . . .

. . . to the very top. Time for a bit of reflection!

While hiking back through the flat, we noticed a couple of interesting cactus varieties we have not seen before.

Long needle prickly pear

Some sort of cholla

Heading home on FR 31

This hike has something for any level of hiker.   The dirt roads leading to the trailhead are easily driven in any vehicle.  The one mile hike over Yant Flat is sandy but not that difficult.  If you’re not into a strenuous hike, the view from the rim of Candy Cliffs is well worth the hike across the flat.  Up for a bit more challenge?  Then make your way down into the cliffs and do some further exploration.  Either way, you’ll love the experience.

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On to Utah

Hurricane, UT

We left Boulder City on Sunday morning and headed north on I-15.  The drive is pretty mundane until you hit the Arizona State Line.  At that point the highway winds its way through the narrow, scenic Virgin River Gorge.

After a 30 mile drive through the corner of Arizona, we came out of the north end of the gorge and entered Utah.  We were immediately treated to a great view of snow covered mountains.

Sixteen miles north of the state line we exited the interstate on to UT 9 and followed signs to one of our favorite parks, Sand Hollow State Park.  Dave and Sue traveled with us and are in the site right next door.

This is a very nice park with full hook-ups, plenty of space between sites, and great views all around.

Dave and Sue are next to us

The view from Pam’s chair

For our first adventure we decided to take a drive that we have taken a couple of times during previous visits to the area.  So Monday morning we headed east on UT 9 toward Zion National Park.  Just past the tiny community of Virgin we turned north on Kolob Terrace Road and headed up into the mountains.

We love the beauty of the rock formations all around us as we gain elevation.

Since our daughter, Jessica, was about to experience another snowstorm back in our former hometown of York, Pa we decided to keep going up Kolob Terrace Road until we ran into a bit of the white stuff.

We continued up until the road was covered with snow.  At that point we thought, “Ok, enough winter for one year” and headed back down.

We will be staying here for a week and the nimble hiker has been busy researching hikes, so we’ll soon be getting back on the trail.  You know what that means, more rock pictures in the next post!

More on that later . . .

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Gold Mine Tour and a Jeep Ride

Boulder City, NV

While much of our time the past two weeks has been spent dealing with our purchase of a house here in Boulder City, we have managed to get out and have some fun.  One afternoon involved a drive to the south to visit an old gold mine and explore some Jeep roads.  Our friends Steve and Joan (FOSJ) have spent the past few months volunteering at nearby Lake Mead National Recreation Area.  This is at least the fifth winter they have worked here as road monitors, which means they drive a park service vehicle over many of the remote roads around Lake Mead to check for conditions that need attention.  This gives them unique knowledge about where to find the most interesting locations.  For this adventure we were joined in our Jeep by Dave and Sue (Beluga’s Excellent Adventures) as we followed Steve and Joan in their Jeep.  The group headed south on nearby US 95 for ten miles, where we turned east on NV 165.  After 13 miles on that paved road we came to the Nelson Ghost Town, home of the Eldorado Mine Tour.

The area known as Nelson was originally called Eldorado by the Spaniards, who made the original discovery of gold in the area that is now Eldorado Canyon.  The town was the site of one of the first major gold strikes in Nevada and one of the biggest mining booms in state history.  Gold and silver were discovered here around 1859.  The rush to the canyon began in 1861 when several mining camps were established in the canyon along with a steamboat landing at the mouth of the canyon on the Colorado River called Colorado City.

In its heyday, the area established a reputation for being rough and lawless.  During the Civil War, deserters from both armies would wander there, hoping that such an isolated location would be the last place military authorities would look for them.

Among the early mines established was the Techatticup Mine in the middle of the canyon. Disagreements over ownership, management, and labor disputes resulted in wanton killings so frequent as to be routine and ordinary.  Despite the reputation of the mine, it along with others in the town produced several million dollars in gold, silver, copper and lead.  The mines in the canyon were active from about 1858 until 1945.

The current owners of the mine and the land around it are hoarders “collectors.”  The property is covered with old vehicles, while the main building is filled with a variety of “vintage” items.

One oddity near the mine entrance is the tail and wings of an old airplane.  A 2001 Kevin Costner movie,  3000 Miles to Graceland, was shot here.  In one of the scenes an airplane is blown up, but the explosion failed to totally destroy it.  They placed the remains on a pole stuck in the ground, giving the impression that the plane crashed head first right there.

After paying our admission fee, $15 a person, we joined a small tour group and headed for the mine entrance.  Our guide was a bit rough around the edges but he was knowledgeable and had a good sense of humor.

Our tour guide

John and Sue at the mine entrance

In we go!

The tunnel is nicely lit up

Catwalk over what’s called a drift cut

The main shaft has been cleaned out for tours.  At the end of that tunnel we could see ahead into an area that had not been cleaned out.  It was a bit of a mess!

After the tour we loaded up in the two Jeeps and continued east on the paved road as it descended down to the Colorado River.

Near the river we left the paved road and turned back to the west on a Jeep road that  wound its way up into the hills.

John, Pam, Joan, and Steve

The road meandered up and down a series of hills.  At times Steve and Joan were driving below us . . .

. . . while at other times they were above us.

When we reached the highest point in the drive, we looked back to the east and could see the road winding below us with the Colorado River in the distance.

As we rounded a curve, Joan’s sharp eyes spotted this group of onlookers checking us out.

The landscape changed often as we made our way through the mountains.  At one point we passed an area thick with Teddy Bear Cholla.

In a short distance the Cholla disappeared as we went through an area of rounded sandstone.

We ended a great day with a nice meal at a Mexican restaurant in Boulder City.

After finishing all the paperwork necessary to the purchase of our new home, we now head north into Utah for a week long stay in a state park outside Hurricane, just north of St. George.  We had originally planned to follow that with a trip to Page, AZ, along the shore of Lake Powell, but have changed our plans.  Next week we’ll return to Boulder City for final settlement on the house.

But before that we have some adventures scheduled during our stay here in Hurricane.  More on that later . . .

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A Small Purchase in Nevada

Boulder City, NV

We left Tucson on March 3rd and drove north heading to Boulder City, NV, located just a bit southeast of Las Vegas.  The trip is much too far for us to do in one day so we stopped for a night at North Ranch, an Escapees RV Club park just north of Wickenburg, AZ.

US 93 just north of Wickenburg, AZ

The ride from Wickenburg to Boulder City is beautiful, as you drive through a combination of flat desert and mountain.  But as you approach the bridge over the Colorado River next to the Hoover Dam things get really interesting.

The Colorado River flows through those mountains

A brief view of the river

A bridge over a dry wash just a mile before one crossing the Colorado River

Crossing the Colorado. The water is Lake Mead, with Hoover Dam just out of sight below the railing

Once over the river you go up a long hill with Lake Mead just behind you.

At the top of that hill is the small town of Boulder City.

While we have stayed in Boulder City a couple of times during our travels, this visit was for a very specific purpose.  Everyone who is a full-time RVer (living in it year round) knows that one can’t do this forever.  So as you travel around you are always looking for a place where you might want to settle in the future.  As we walked through the small downtown area of Boulder City during our last stay here in October, John remarked that he felt really comfortable here.  Pam replied that she had been thinking the same thing.  Hmm, maybe this is the spot!  The weather is great, although a bit warm in the summer (but without the humidity we grew up in).  The town is near enough to the Las Vegas area that you can easily drive there for shopping and entertainment, but 25 miles and a mountain range keep the hustle and bustle of that area away (so does a law banning gambling).  The area is filled with great hiking trails (and Jeep roads) for us to explore.  Also, we’ve been getting the urge to return to a hobby from our pre-motorhome life, motorcycle trips.  For years we owned a touring bike and spent many weekends and vacations traveling on it.  We towed the bike on a trailer for the first two years of our full-time life but sold it once we found a love for hiking.  But the urge is back, and Boulder City is ideally located for long scenic trips in all directions.

So we spent some time during that visit touring the various residential areas in town to see if anything caught our eye.  While nothing jumped out at us during that visit, we continued to think about settling there.  Once we determined that it was an ideal location for us we decided to return in March to do some serious house searching.  In the intervening months we constantly monitored various real estate web sites for potential houses.  Since we did not see a single listing that fit our criteria, we thought that we may have to purchase a piece of land and build something that fit our needs.

After arriving in Boulder City late on a Sunday afternoon we headed to a realtor office Monday morning.  At Desert Sun Realty we met an agent named Shana who understood our needs perfectly (she and her family also own a motorhome).  She said that building lots were very limited in Boulder City as were existing houses that fit our requirements. But . . . .

Over the weekend she was told of a house to be listed by Desert Sun Realty that afternoon.  She said it appeared to fit our needs and strongly suggested that we take a look, as once it hit the web sites it may not last too long.  While we knew little about it (no pictures were available), we decided to take a look.  We drove over, took one look at the front of the house, and knew this could be the one.  Quickly returning to the realtor office we told Shana that we were very interested.  Fifteen minutes later we met her at the house and took a tour.  The more we looked, the more excited we became.  The house checked every box we had in our list of wants and needs, including a large covered area for the motorhome!

Since we had already done all our homework on this move, and this house had everything we wanted, we decided to make an offer on it.  After more questions to Shana we found the house was owned by a couple about our age who lived in California and only used this house as  a second home.  Hmm, what are they going to do with all the furnishings?  Shana quickly called her boss (who is the listing agent) to see if they would be interested in a deal for the house and everything in it.  Remember, we sold everything before going full-time and have zero furnishings.  Her boss felt they may be interested in that, so we raised our offer to include the furnishings.

Shana returned to the office to draw up a draft of our offer while we paid a visit to a local financial institution to secure financing.  Boulder City is a small town where everyone knows each other and things are less complicated than in other areas, so by the end of business that day we had a loan secured and an offer on the table.  Just after noon the next day our offer was accepted!  Wow, 25 hours and we had a home!

Family room and kitchen

We were not really interested in having a pool, but there is one on the property so we will have to live with it (such stress).  There is also a small putting green that someone already has her eye on to replace with a cactus garden (we’ll see what happens).

Part of the sales agreement required the sellers to provide us with a list of items they would be removing before they left.  We received the list and were astounded to find they would only be taking a few small personal items.  We will now be able to literally walk in and live there without purchasing anything!  Of course, there are some items that do not fit our style, but we can deal with them later.  For now we can move in without a problem.

Closing will be some time during the last week of March.  But we have reservations in Utah for return visits to Bluff and Moab for the month of April so it will be the first of May before we move in.  Then it’s back on the road with the motorhome for a trip east during June, July, and August.  After that we’ll return some time in the fall for a more extended stay.  But we are far from finished traveling in the motorhome, which is why we wanted to have it parked on the property.  We’ll keep it in traveling condition and plan to still spend a good part of the year in it.

More on that later . . .

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Climbing to the “A” and Hiking the Cat Mountain/Explorer Trail

Tucson, AZ

As you drive along Interstate 10 through Tucson, if you look to the west, there is a large hill (or small mountain) with a white capital letter “A” near the top.  The hill is called Sentinel Peak and the “A” is representative of the University of Arizona, located near downtown Tucson.

Sentinel Peak looking from Interstate 10

In the very early days of Tucson, an Indian fortification was constructed at the top of a small mountain that would come to be called Sentinel Peak—also sometimes referred to as Picket Post Butte.  This Indian fortification in time became known as the sentinel station because a sentinel or guard was posted there to watch for approaching enemies, likely Apache Indians.  During the Civil War, armed military guards were posted at the sentinel station and a canvas was stretched across the stone fortification, to keep the sun from hitting directly on the men posted there.

After Arizona football’s 7–6 victory over Pomona in 1914, a civil engineering student on the team convinced one of his professors to make a class project of the survey and design for a huge block “A” on Sentinel Peak.  Students finished the project in March of 1916, when the 70 ft. wide, 160 ft.  high “A” was whitewashed. The basalt rock used in construction of the “A” was hauled from a quarry at the mountain’s base which supplied stone for many foundations and walls throughout Tucson, including the wall surrounding the University of Arizona campus.

Looking up at the “A” from the road going to the top

A paved road leads up to a parking area just below the base of Sentinel Peak.  From there it is a short hike to the top, with the “A” just below the peak.

Downtown Tucson below, with the Catalina Mountains in the distance

Looking down at John standing between the legs of the “A”

The view from between the legs of the “A” to Pam at the top

Side view

There are many strange saguaros on the peak (strange even by saguaro standards).  We spotted one crested saguaro along the road about half way to the top.

But along the east side many of the saguaros were very different than the thousands we have seen in our numerous visits to the area.

Recent rains have caused Brittle Bushes to bloom.

Late that same afternoon we were invited to Gay and Joe’s (good-times-rollin) site to enjoy a delicious dinner with them and Sue and Dave (Beluga’s Excellent Adventures).  We had such a nice time that we forgot to take any photos of the group.  But the food was delicious, the conversation stimulating, and the dog and pony show very entertaining (they have three little dogs known as the Tan Clan).

Oh boy, the treat lady is here! That’s Sally, Dover, and sweet little Jack on the right.

Our final day in Tucson was warm and sunny, so we decided to hike up part of the Explorer Trail (also called the Cat Mountain Trail on some maps) in Tucson Mountain Park.  Steve and MonaLiza (Lowe’s RV Adventures) had recently returned to our park after a trip south to Patagonia State Park so we invite them along for the hike.  MonaLiza was at an appointment but texted that she would love to go if she got back in time.  We waited a bit and had just decided to head out when she drove up and said she could be ready in just a few minutes.  Steve had to take their car in for some repairs so he wouldn’t be joining us.

MonaLiza was soon ready to go and we headed west toward the Tucson Mountains.  We took Ajo Way west for 2.4 miles from where it crosses Mission Road.  At that point there is a small turn-out on the north side of the highway with room for two cars.  The Explorer Trail passes right next to the parking area.

The trailhead

Ajo Way is just beyond the small parking area

We hiked the Explorer Trail for about a half mile to where it intersects with the Cat Mountain Trail (or continues as the Explorer Trail on Tucson Mountain Park’s map), then headed west up through a canyon thick with tall saguaros.

About a mile up the canyon we came to what we have labeled the “M.L. Crested Saguaro Arm.”  MonaLiza and Steve have hiked this trail before so she knew just where it was located.

The M.L. Crested Saguaro Arm

After two miles we came to where the Cat Mountain/Explorer Trail ends at a junction with the Starr Pass Trail.  This was our turn around point, so we hiked up on some high rocks overlooking Starr Pass and enjoyed a bite to eat before returning back down the trail.

Two frisky young hikers overlooking a flat plain north of the Starr Pass before crawling to the lunch spot!

Lunch with a view (of the Little Cat Mountain)

Now our stay in Tucson comes to a close.  It’s hard to believe a month can pass that quickly.  We will now make our way north to Boulder City, NV for a couple of weeks.

More on that later . . .

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Hiking up by the Cat Mountains – Tucson Mountain Park

Tucson, AZ

Tucson Mountain Park is a county park located just west of the city of Tucson.  Filled with a number of sharp peaks, the park has a web of hiking and biking trails.  We’ve hiked in the park many times, but recent research by the nimble hiker revealed a trail not shown on maps of the park.  It is referred to as the “Cat Mountain Loop on John Krein Trail.”   To get to the trailhead we headed west on Ajo Way but soon ran into a problem.  The annual Tucson Rodeo is held just a few miles west of our RV park and the day of our hike was the day of the annual rodeo parade.  We left soon after the parade was scheduled to end but got caught in the traffic jam created by spectators.  As we sat in traffic, a few of the parade participants cut through the street right in front of us.

Once around the traffic we continued west on Ajo Way to the intersection with South Kinney Road where we turned right (north).  Less than a mile down Kinney Road we turned right on to Sarasota Road and drove another mile to the end of the road where there is a parking area for the trail.

The arrow points to our lunch destination

The Starr Pass Trail goes right in front of the parking area.  We got on the trail and headed south.  The trail soon turns to the east and heads between two small mountains through Starr Pass.

Heading to the Starr Pass

Big Cat Mountain is on the south side of Starr Pass

Little Cat Mountain is on the north

Starr Pass

Once through the pass we turned north (our left) on to an unmarked trail and began climbing up.

Heading up

Strange growth on a Saguaro

Steep climb with the Cat Mountains behind us

Once up on the ridge we could see the Jeep far below us

The Cat Mountains (Big Cat on the left, Little Cat on the right)

At the highest point on the trail there is a spot with a 360 view of our surroundings.  At that spot there is a metal ammo box covered with rocks.  It contains a notebook for hikers to sign, as well as a number of cards recognizing a local hiker who passed away last year.

Lunch with a view

Saguaros sure can be strange!

After hiking back down to parking area we stopped to check out a Crested Saguaro we have seen during hikes in previous years.  It still appears to be very healthy.

We found this hike to be one of our favorites in Tucson Mountain Park with lots of great climbing and a total distance of 5.5 miles.  The trail is not listed on the park map but it is on Google Maps.  There is good phone service in the area so it is easy to follow the trail with a smart phone.

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