(Mid-late June, 2017) We continued our rambling route through Utah with stops in Helper, Vernal and Brigham City. By now we were exploring areas of Utah which we had not visited before.
Helper, Utah – Nine Mile Canyon and The Wedge
Our first stop was Helper, Utah, where we stayed for one week at the Blue Cut RV Park, a small, neat, privately owned park right beside the Price River. We used Helper as a base to explore scenic Nine Mile Canyon, near Wellington, Utah, and to visit other areas in the San Rafael Swell.
Nine Mile Canyon has been called “the world’s longest art gallery” and is known for its many panels of rock art – mostly of the Fremont and Ute cultures. Nine Mile Canyon is actually about 40 miles long and has many native american rock art, granaries, and shelters scattered along the canyon, as well as the Harper ghost town and the remains of other pioneer-era homesteads. One of the most famous rock art panels in the canyon is the Great Hunt panel.
Surprisingly, there are oil pumping and storage sites in Nine Mile Canyon, including a large pumping plant and major oil field up a side canyon a few miles past the Great Hunt panel. The main canyon road is paved to accommodate the heavy oil field traffic.
I had wanted to visit Nine Mile Canyon for years, but had never made it that far. On other trips we had visited nearby sites on the San Rafael Swell, but had not gone as far as Nine Mile. We were not disappointed by the sights in the canyon and the photographic opportunities. I would love to return in the future for more photography.
We also took a day-trip to the Wedge and Buckhorn Wash areas of the San Rafael Swell. We had visited these sites on another trip, but enjoyed seeing them again. We particularly enjoyed the Little Grand Canyon Overlook on the Wedge, as well as the fine rock art at the Buckhorn Wash Pictograph Panel.
Night Photography in Nine Mile Canyon – The Great Hunt and Harper Ghost Town
During our stay in Helper, I returned to Nine Mile Canyon several times at night to photograph the Great Hunt panel, as well as a few of the abandoned buildings and vehicles at the Harper ghost town site. Here are a few of the night photos:
Vernal, Utah – Dinosaur National Monument and Other Sights
From Helper, we moved on to Vernal, Utah. Our route took us through Indian Canyon, a lovely, scenic canyon marred in many places by oil and gas pump jacks, storage tanks and other petroleum infrastructure.
Arriving in Vernal, we stayed for another week at the Fossil Valley RV Park, a small, well shaded and well maintained privately owned park. We enjoyed our stay at the park and it made for a good base to explore nearby Dinosaur National Park and other sites.
Highlights of our stay in Vernal included day-trips to the McConkie Ranch rock art site, Dinosaur National Monument and Flaming Gorge. We enjoyed a dinner and micro-brews at the Vernal Brewing Company. Vernal also has many dinosaur-themed museums and exhibits, but we did not visit them – maybe on the next trip.
The McConkie Ranch rock art features some incredibly intricate Freemont-style petroglyphs, deeply etched into the cliff-side rocks. Unfortunately, the McConkie rock art is on private land, limiting after hours access without pre-arranged permission.
Dinosaur National Monument is a sprawling park straddling the Utah and Colorado border. The park features stunning vista views of sage brush covered uplands and rugged sandstone canyons along the Green and Yampa Rivers. Dinosaur National Monument is well-known for its dinosaur fossil bone quarry, an area where many dinosaur skeletons and other remains were excavated.
The monument also has extensive rock art sites, including the McGee Springs panels and other Freemont-style panels along Echo Park Road. We enjoyed visiting these rock art panels, as well as the historic Chew Ranch, Whispering Cave, and Steamboat Rock along Echo Park Road.
Night Photography in Dinosaur National Monument
During our stay at Vernal, I returned to Dinosaur National Monument on several nights to photograph the McGee Springs rock art, as well as the Chew Ranch and homesteads along Echo Park Road.
Salt Lake City, Utah – Visiting With Friends and More Truck Repairs
From Vernal, we moved on to the Salt Lake City area, staying at the Brigham City / Perry South KOA. We had intended to only stay three nights at Brigham City, just long enough to rest, visit with friends, and make a Costco shopping run.
Our plans changed due to repairs required for our Toyota Tundra pickup truck. Sometime between our visits to Moab and Vernal, we noticed an issue with the steering in the Tundra – possibly due to rough roads at Marlboro Point or along the San Rafael Swell. At slow speed sharp turns, such as in a parking lot or going down steep switchbacks, the power steering was very stiff. The closest Toyota dealership in the area was at Ogden, Utah. As soon as we made camp, I called the dealership and made a service appointment for the next day.
Taking the truck to the dealership the prognosis was a damaged U-joint on the right front steering assembly, as well as a bad bushing on the left front suspension. Repairs were scheduled for the next day, but were delayed several days due to issues obtaining a replacement part from a supplier.
We had to extend our stay by two extra nights due to the delay in truck repairs. Fortunately, we could book one extra night at the KOA, but the next night we had to move to another nearby campground, the Golden Spike RV Park.
While waiting on our truck, we ran a few errands and visited with long-time friends, Kathy & Ron S. We all enjoyed a dinner at the Rodizio (Brazilian) Grill, as well as a visit to Kathy & Ron’s home and a hike in Little Cottonwood Canyon. (Kathy & Ron – Thanks for the hospitality! We enjoyed our visit, miss you both & look forward to another visit, soon.)
We finally received word from the dealership that our truck was repaired and available for pickup. We retrieved our truck, finished breaking camp and were on our way by 11 AM that morning. Kudos to Tony Divino Toyota in Ogden – the dealership really went out of their way to help us, finally taking the required part from an on-lot parts vehicle.
That’s all for now. Safe travels and enjoy the journey!