"On the Road", the name of this column, infers that I am on the go a lot. You don't know the half of it. If I am not traveling I am planning my next trip. I love January because it gives me a chance to look ahead, plot out some of the places I want to visit. Last weekend I had two great days hiking our southern national parks. I had never seen Canyonlands and Arches in the winter and wanted to get some good pictures showing the contrast with the white on the red rocks and green pinyon trees.
While I was in Moab I purchased my annual National Park pass, which gives me access to any national park or recreational area for the next year. Along with the membership came a handy book listing all the national parks. My goal is to visit 10 parks this year and five of these will be new adventures.
I also attended two planning meetings last week strategizing plans to increase tourism in the Castle Country region. Both were excellent and once again reminded me of the vast opportunities we have right here in our own backyards. One of the meetings talked about Castle Country's web presence and how we can further market our area to the entire world over the internet. Here are the current top 10 things to do in this area as listed on Utah.com, under destination Castle Country.
Nine Mile Canyon - See Utah's best display of Fremont rock art scattered over a 40-mile stretch of canyon.
San Rafael Swell - Journey through vast deserts and yawning canyons to explore rock art, sheet cliffs and breathtaking views.
Wedge Overlook and Buckhorn Draw - View pictograph panels near the Swinging Bridge and discover Utah's Little Grand Canyon."
Goblin Valley - Walk around or play hide-n-seek among the enchanting sandstone goblins. The goblins seem to come to life on a moonlit night.
Huntington/Eccles Canyon Scenic Byway - View jewellike high elevation lakes, diverse vegetation, and vertical cliffs and escarpments.
River Running on the Green - Enjoy rolling rapids friendly to kids of all ages through deep canyons carved by the Green River.
Museums of Discovery - Learn about the wonders of this area by touring CEU Prehistoric Museum, Western Mining and Railroad Museum, John Wesley Powell Museum, Museum of San Rafael, Emery Pioneer Museum, and Cleveland Lloyd dinosaur Quarry.
Skyline Drive - Explore miles of rugged alpine mountain terrain in and off road vehicle or snowmobile.
Butch Cassidy tracking - visit Castle Gate, the site of the Wild Bunch's only Utah robbery, and Robbers' Roost, a major hideout along the Outlaw Trail.
We sometimes don't realize what we have in the area until they are listed in front of us.
I started typing this column on Friday and realized that if the National Parks were beautiful in the winter so would the Scenic Byway over the top through Scofield and Huntington Canyon. Saturday I filled the jeep with gas and took the three-hour drive through some of the most beautiful country I have ever seen. I have driven the Huntington and Eccles Scenic Byways every season now, but this year, with the greater accumulations of snow, the drive changed and the entire face of the rolling hills were covered under several feet of the white stuff.
I was amazed at the number of people recreating along the byway. Literally hundreds of people were ice fishing, cross country skiing, snowmobiling, and driving the byway Saturday. Entire parking lots in many areas were completely full and the snow made the streams and hillsides come alive.
I stopped many times just to take in the massive valleys below and enjoy the overlooks. The views and vistas were dramatic. I am always amazed as I drive down Huntington Canyon into Emery County as the forested canyon turns into a desert gorge almost immediately.
Traversing the Manti-LaSal National Forest is indeed a reason to enjoy being on the road.