Exploring the West – Beef Basin

Written by James on November 15th, 2011

The next day (the 13th), we headed into Utah and took a back way into Moab. It finally gave us a taste of the red rocks that we had been so looking forward to. It wasn’t an off-road route, but it was very scenic. A good way to immerse yourself into this alien land.

Again, we realized we were following the Colorado River, hello old friend.

We pulled off a few times just to enjoy the weather and the serenity of the area. Only the occasional passing car broke the silence.

I saw a few trails I wanted to explore, but I wanted to make sure Megan had some time to explore Moab before we had to head off to camp.

Didn’t see many animals, a few lizards and ravens. I guess that’s par for the course.

The blue of the sky, the orange of the rocks, and the green of the plants really made for a neat color pallet.

We continued on to Moab, checked out some of the vendors, and grabbed lunch at the Moab Diner. I’m really digging anything with the green chillies in it. Solid meal there, and we got the impression that the employees really took pride in their jobs. Nice to see that, coming from Baltimore.

We had a few options at this point. We could go north to Canyonlands. I had originally reserved a campsite near the northwest side of the white rim trail. I had planned to do a simple out-and-back drive up Mineral Canyon Road, and take the less crazy switchbacks in and out (to try and keep my wife sane (remember, she hates heights)). However, that campsite had been washed away recently and the white rim trail in that area was underwater. The rangers had been kind enough to give me another campsite, but the only way in now was via the Shafer Trail switchbacks. So we had a contingency of heading out to Beef Basin area.

As we were heading south towards Monticello, we looked out towards the Abajo Mountains and saw them wrapped in rain. I had heard that the Beef Basin trail was considered impassible when wet, so I got a bit worried. We quickly stopped along the road while we still had service and I tethered to the laptop. The radar showed the large storm over the mountains, but it didn’t look like it would get as far north as Beef Basin. So we pressed on.

Newspaper rock was very neat… it was fun trying to decipher some of the images. Some of the beastly characters were especially interesting. I’m guessing they are some sort of personification of a buffalo, elk, and other animals? Interesting how some of them are drawn on all fours, and others standing.

I especially like the stick turtle.

On to the basin! The road was good, the tunes were good, and the views were stimulating. We checked out a few possible campsites, but kept going, figuring we could find something better.

Megan found the wildflowers fascinating. The splashes of yellow really lit up some areas.

The valley between the mesas was incredible. The view down the corridor was stimulating as we slowly watched the road pass. We got out numerous times to snap photos of things. Glad I brought the tripod.

We were making good time and almost passed up a small side trail. We decided to turn around and inspect it, and wow, what a view!

We decided to pitch camp here for the night, under the friendly face of the Bridger Jack Mesa.

The site was perched at the edge of a little 200 foot deep valley. The light from the setting sun on the rocks made for some nice photos.

Since we were still full from the meal at the diner, we had some simple snacks, enjoyed the views, and read a bit before dark.

Although the moon obscured the stars a bit, the light was just enough to get a nice shot of Cathedral Butte (the right one) and some stars before retiring for the night.

One surprising thing about this campsite was the stillness. Air wasn’t moving at all when we went to bed. The silence screamed in my ears… I wasn’t used to this at all. My ears strained to hear anything, and thus amplified every little rustle. It had been a year or so since I had last camped. Just to get some sleep, I had to pull out my tent fan and turn it on high. It was a bit cold that night, but we found the tent mattress to be fairly comfortable (better than some hotel beds at least), and we zipped the sleeping bags together for warmth. We fell asleep to the drone of the fan, and the gentle glow of the moon.

Here’s the video from the day:


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