I originally posted this trip report on ExpeditionUtah in June of 2014. I’ve received so much feedback on this trip report, I decided to re-post it here on my personal blog.
The seed for this trip was planted in my mind last August. When I read that a legal settlement had resulted in the re-opening of several historic routes in the Deep Creek mountains.
A snippet of the press release: “Under the settlement announced Monday by officials for Utah and Juab County and a number of environmental groups, the federal government agreed to reopen Granite Canyon, Toms Creek and Trout Creek roads in the Deep Creek Mountains.”
Good enough for me! Subsequent research and phone calls to the BLM and Juab county revealed that the new routes wouldn’t be opened until June 1, 2014. So, I put it on my calendar and bided my time.
Last Thursday, after confirming with the BLM that the gates were in fact now open, it was finally time to go! So after work I pointed the Jeep’s hood west and let the old pig roar on I-80 for Wendover. From there I headed south towards the turn off for Ibapah and Gold Hill.
First stop was to check out the old Indian caves right off the main road there. I know of half a dozen other similar caves in the vicinity that also show signs of ancient occupation. Strange to think about it – but this area was more densely populated ten thousand years ago than it is today.
Two caves right here, with the larger one showing little sign of occupation. But it’s aspect makes it drafty, it’s not hard to see why the Old Ones preferred the smaller cave to live in.
It’s been a good ten years since I last looked in this cave. It had pot hunter digging then. This time, the old pot holes were loosely filled, but there were a few new ones to take their place. Pot hunting seems quite popular in this little cave…
From there I passed through Gold Hill, heading south towards Overland Canyon. I took a short side trip to snap a couple pictures of Clifton along the way.
Next stop, the Canyon Station ruins at the mouth of Overland Canyon.
Then it was south past Callao and west again along Tom’s creek up Tom’s canyon.
Callao is in the distance below in this pic.
Tom’s canyon is an absolute gem! The road has just enough steepness and obstacles to make a short wheelbase and low range welcome and to make you pay attention to your line in spots. It was a fun drive. As with every other canyon I’d visit on this trip, the creek was running full and filling the entire canyon with it’s roar. The scenery fantastic. I saw nobody my whole time spent in Tom’s canyon.
I stopped to camp for the night just short of the gate that had just been opened, near the creek and an old cabin. A thoroughly delightful camp spot!
I made a small fire and roasted brats over it for dinner before sipping a bit of the Irish and enjoying a cigar before bed.
I didn’t use a tent on this trip, sleeping on my cot under the stars all three nights. Next morning I headed further up canyon, past the previously closed gate, to see what I could see.
You can only go about another 1.5 miles after the old gate, but it sure is a pretty 1.5 miles! The whole canyon is just fantastic. Tom’s was one of the highpoints of the whole trip and the canyon I’d pick to camp in again if I had to choose from all I visited on this trip.
From the top of Tom’s canyon I backtracked to the foothills and took a turn up a rough Jeep trail that goes up the next canyon to the north – Middle canyon. The trail was tight and rough, obviously rarely travelled by anything larger than a SxS.
It eventually ends in a saddle overlooking Scott’s Basin. That’s where I wanted to take a hike this morning to see what I could see. Some pics from down in Scott’s Basin.
I knew there was supposed to be petroglyphs somewhere in the basin and I wanted to find it, so once I got to the area with the most likely looking boulders, I started searching the rocks for art. I found a couple small petroglyphs, but then after about an hour of searching I came on a fantastic pictograph panel. I’d heard nothing about pictographs here and certainly nothing about a nice big panel. Totally unexpected!
While I was checking out the rock art, I became aware of a loud humming, or buzzing sound in the background. Having heard similar sounds a few times before, I figured there must be either a very active beehive nearby, or… Yup, something dead.
A VERY fresh lion kill. Couldn’t have been any older than the night before. It hadn’t started to smell bad yet, was still moist and juicy and the eyes still had a fair amount of clarity in them. Probably from that same morning, only a few hours old. Shame I hadn’t arrived in time to see old long tail filling his face with deer!
From there, it was a long steep hike back to the Jeep. Then a rough drive back down to the main road, where I stopped in some shade at the Callao CCC campground for lunch.
After lunch I headed up Indian Farm Creek canyon just for grins. It’s stupendously rough and beautiful, with plenty of places to flex out a Jeep if you are so inclined. Some good camp spots near the mouth of the canyon too.
An old building of unknown to me purpose near the mouth of Indian Farm.
A rock shelter, with more pictographs inside.
Next up was Granite Creek.
Ever think you’d see this? Done by the BLM no less?!
It’s the old WSA boundary/barricade. Previously cemented in, looked like forever, but it’s down now!
Still about another mile and a half short of Camp Ethel. You can see the downed timber behind the barricade. I walked up it about half a mile, it’s in bad shape aside from all the downed timber. Will take some resources and some work to make it passable again. I’m purely guessing that based on what I read about the legal settlement, this part is on Juab county. Hopefully they are able to get ‘er done so people can drive the rest of the way up.
Anyway… The road veers right at this barricade, crosses the creek and dead ends in a nice little meadow. I decided to camp there for the night. Some pics of camp and some of the views from there.
The next morning I headed back down and then over and up again to check out Trout Creek canyon. Tons of cool stuff around there. Too much to list of show pictures of it all. But here’s some of it.
Then it was time to head back down towards the town of Trout Creek for lunch. For lunch, I stopped in at Barbara Mumm’s bed and breakfast, where she made me an enormous cheeseburger on the grill and fed me all the farm fresh deviled eggs, potato salad and fixings I could stuff down my gullet.
Good stuff! Then I took advantage of the very reasonably priced gasoline to give myself a comfortable fuel cushion and continued on my way.
Heading up Pleasant Valley draw.
Pleasant Valley was pleasant enough, but kind of tame, so when an obscure two track heading up a side canyon beckoned, I took it. Turned out to be a good call – the side canyon was incredibly beautiful. Huge, fantastically shaped boulders, greenery and wildflowers of every description in absolute profusion.
Plus this little gem of an unexpected find.
One of the more unusual caves I’ve come across. It’s kind of like just a big hollowed out granite boulder. The fire black on the roof speaks of countless fires. The Old Ones lived here for sure and the old timers of more recent times put it to good use as well. There’s a little natural vent hole above the modern fire ring.
I tried heading cross country from there on faint two track but ran into posted private ground and had to turn back to the main road in Pleasant Valley, which I continued on up to my destination for this last night of the trip – Blue Mass.
Been to Blue Mass quite a few times before, just a very pretty area to hang out for an evening. Bunch of pics from the area and camp on this the last night of the trip.
Sunday morning I was up and the Jeep was rolling towards home by 6:30am. I headed out via Tippett and Ibapah, taking the road through the Goshute res just because I was feeling so good.
Totally uneventful trip home, nothing more to report.