Early morning light ~ toadstools


Early morning light ~ toadstools


Toadstools. A place I hiked to in 2008 but the early morning light on this visit made it a very special place indeed. They have improved the easily accessible trailhead with a new sign and some free informative pamphlets. Well worth a stop when traveling through the area.

The trailhead for the toadstools is on Utah highway 89 1.4 miles east of the BLM Paria rangers’ station (where the Wave lotteries are held) and just 1.6 miles west of the south terminus to the fun dirt “Cottonwood Road”.

In the Grand Canyon there are at least two layers (representing millions of years) that are gone. They were eroded away before the next “new” layer was added on top. This is called an “unconformity” by geologists. I knew about the Grand Canyon unconformities but I had no idea that an unconformity played a roll in the formation of the “toadstool” area here along highway 89.

Paraphrasing the good information in the small trail pamphlet:
[The “bottom” layer of rocks at the toadstools is around 160 millions old (The Entrada Formation). The top layer is 97 million years old and called the Dakota Formation. In between once resided the Morrison Formation (the middle of the rock sandwich), but it was eroded completely away before the Dakota Formation rocks made their appearance].

The boundaries between rock layers at the toadstool are noticeably “tilted” in places and there are dramatic differences in the color and texture of different layers. So, an interesting geological history and some worthy for photo ops formations as a result. Plan to take your camera on the very short hike to this place, if you haven’t already been.


If there was one day to “live again” on this road trip then day TEN was it. It was outstanding from start to finish. The weather was A1 perfect. We had a little dirt road travel with the windows of the Jeep rolled down and a lot of good photo ops at the many different places we traveled. Oh yes, a great meal at the Escalante Outfitters to end the day properly.

We left Page, Arizona before dawn. We watched the sun come up over Navajo Mountain and Lake Powell. Then on to “The Toadstools” off highway 89 for a short hike and some great early morning light on those formations. We then backtracked 1.6 miles fto the Cottonwood road (a road I had driven recently in my pickup truck, only from north to south), and enjoyed a clear warm blue sky day drive up to Butler (Grosvenor) arch.

From Butler arch, we went on to Kodachrome Basin, where we took a short three mile loop hike. I loved the campground at Kodachrome and have promised my wife that we will camp there together and take some of the longer hikes available in that pretty little state park (Oh yes, the campground has HOT showers).

from Kodachrome Basin state park, we drove up to Bryce National Park. LOTS of snow, but beautiful on a sunny day (few other people). We ate at the Subway just outside Ruby Inn – then drove on to Rainbow Point, which at 9,100 feet, had plenty of snow (about three feet worth along the lookout path).

Then we worked our way back out Bryce, stopping to photograph at each and every lookout point that had been plowed, enjoying Bryce as the sun dropped down low and the light changed by the minute.

After Bryce we backtracked again and drove on to Escalante, Utah (one of my often visited and favorite “base camps”), where we had reserved rooms by phone at the rustic but friendly: Circle “D” motel (ask for Robert and tell him Oldmantravels with the old red Toyota pickup truck sent you).

After checking in at the Circle “D”, we headed over to the Escalante Outfitters ( hiking supply, books, free internet use, excellent food, really friendly people café) – – for a big dinner a cold beer, pizza, and a “toast” to the best road trip day we had enjoyed thus far.

We had LOTS of dirt road destinations in mind for day 11 of the road trip (the next day) BUT we were in for quite a surprise the next morning at Escalante. So like on all good road trips, you stay flexible, make the best of what comes your way, and go for it and that is exactly what we did.


At the start of year 2011, I made tentative plans to take a two week solo “road trip” through the Four Corners area (The Colorado Plateau), during the last half of March. Then, if my wife could get the time needed off from her part time job, I also planned a “road trip” vacation to the Southwest, in April with her.

When I put the plan together for the March trip, I decided to see if an old friend of mine, Ed (Flickr’s: OldWrangler), might be interested in joining me. I volunteered to take my old four wheel drive pickup truck and split the gasoline expense with him. We would each get an inexpensive motel room on the road to serve as “base camps” to hike, photograph, and explore back roads in the Four Corners area.

Not only did Ed accept but he also proposed that we take his brand new 4-door Jeep Wrangler instead of my old pickup truck. That didn’t take any thinking on my part. I LOVE Jeeps and Ed and I have always got along well (decades ago, I worked for him and we had taken a fun road trip together back in 2008, along with my friend John and my youngest son). The deal was sealed.

We left my house in Central Washington early Monday morning on the 14th of March. We returned 12 days and 3,875 miles later on Friday evening March 25th. We spent a lot of time drinking Diet Pepsi from the ice chest and keeping the hits of the 60s (and occasionally the 70s), cranked up high on the Jeep’s Sirius satellite radio sound system. Sing along music! “Road trip” tunes.

Weather often dictated changes to our proposed route and activities. We stayed flexible, and in the end we visited the large majority of places we had hoped to see, when the road trip began. We had sun and clear skies, snow, dust storms, and high winds at times. Ed’s Jeep had an outside temperature display. We drove in everything from18 degree weather to temperatures in the 70s in New Mexico.

Here in outline form are the places we saw, hiked, photographed, and visited during the 12 day road trip:

Mon 3.14.11
* Interstate travel from my house in Central Washington to Lehi, Utah

Tue 3.15.11
* Scenic back roads ( Hwys: 6, 89, & 31) from Spanish Fork to Huntington, Utah
* Dirt road travel to “The Wedge” and down Buckhorn Wash to I-70.
* Side trip to the Head of Sinbad petroglyph and then on to Moab.

Wed 3.16.11
* Island in the Sky district of Canyonlands NP (Mesa Arch & Upheaval Dome)
* The Shafer “Jeep” Trail down to the White Rim road and back to Moab.
* Hike to Delicate Arch & visit Windows section in Arches NP.

Thu 3.17.11
* Newspaper Rock in the Needles district of Canyonlands NP
* Attempt back road travel thru the Abajo Mountains to Monticello
* Edge of the Cedars museum in Blanding, Utah
* Hovenweep – Square tower group loop hike
* Shiprock and then on to Farmington, New Mexico.

Fri 3.18.11
* Bisti Badlands hike (My favorite hike on the trip)
* Chaco Canyon (Chetro Ketl and Pueblo Bonito) visit
* Scenic highway 96 and then down into Santa Fe, New Mexico.

Sat 3.19.11
* Santo Domingo Pueblo (turquoise & pueblo oven bread)
* Cerrillos and the Turquoise Trail (highway 14)
* Acoma Sky City pueblo
* El Morro national monument hike
* Zuni pueblo then on to Grants, New Mexico

Sun 3.20.11
* Scenic highway 34 through Crystal to Canyon de Chelly national monument
* Canyon del Muerto rim of Canyon de Chelly. Stay in Chinle, Arizona

Mon 3.21.11
* White house ruin overlook at Canyon de Chelly
* Drive through a major dust storm getting pelted with flying tumbleweeds
* Highway 264 across Hopi Mesas to Tuba City then to Page, Arizona

Tue 3.22.11
* Try “walk in” lottery for “The Wave” (failed…….again)
* Visit Upper antelope slot canyon
* Big Bend of Colorado River

Wed 3.23.11
* The Toadstools hike
* Cottonwood wash/Paria River dirt road to Grosvenor (Butler) arch
* Kodachrome Basin (hike “Parade” and box canyons loop)
* Bryce Canyon National Park then on to Escalante, Utah

Thu 3.24.11
* Cancelled all our dirt road travel when we woke up to snow in Escalante
* Goblin Valley State Park then on to Ogden, Utah

Fri 3.15.11
* Interstate (through some serious snow in Northern Utah) back home.

Part of the fun of any “road trip” is the many interesting and wonderful people you meet along the way. We met more than our share but a few honorable mentions:

* Fred (Sawtooth photo) joined us for a Cracker Barrel lunch in Boise
* Al Hamann (a colorful character to say the least) CEO of Sun’s Inc. Passive Solar Products at Cindi’s Café in Huntington, Utah
* 15 year old “life is good” waitress at the Moab, Utah Pizza Hut
* Ana and daughter Tina ~ Santo Domingo Pueblo (turquoise & bread)
* Patricia (owner) at the Cerrillos, New Mexico turquoise mine museum
* “Love’s his job” and knowledgeable ranger at El Morro national monument
* Acoma Indian waitress at Grants, New Mexico
* Young Zuni girl with her special puppy “Angel”

And I just as well get the big confession out of the way. I gained back 6 pounds on this 12 day trip (and it is no mystery how that happened), of the hard lost pounds I from the preceding two and half months (“New Year’s resolution”). We ate a LOT at a LOT of family cafés and had many Denny’s specials. We found a few places to eat that were just flat out fantastic:

1. Homestead Steak House in Blanding, Utah (Order the French dip sandwich, which is served on fresh doughy bread, lots of beef, onions, green pepper, and cheese). Oh my!

2. The Family Hogan in Tuba City, Arizona. They were out of the Navajo mutton stew so I had the open face hot beef sandwich and a pizza sized Navajo fry bread with butter, sugar and cinnamon on the side (a vanilla milk shake too). I enjoyed each and every bite. The food was excellent and portions – generous.

3. Escalante Outfitters café (Pesto chicken pizza). Always good food can be found here and friendly people working there.

* Skip Chu Chu’s restaurant outside the Zuni pueblo. It was worth the view and a try, but the food was just not up to “road trip” standards.

I hope you enjoy some of the selected photographs I post from this road trip.

Oldmantravels 3.27.2011