Our front window view...clouds a-coming!

Our front window view…clouds a-coming!

Weather makes for cool sunsets in the cottonwood trees

Weather makes for colorful sunsets out our RV window in the cottonwood trees

We’ve made it back to “civilization” and once again have an internet signal….yeah! The past few days we’ve been boondocking deep in the Utah boonies and it may well have been the most weather crazy streak we’ve done to date. Wind, sandstorm, thunder, rain, snow(!), fog AND sun all in the space of a few days?? Oh yeah, it’s just a typical Utah spring -> a fickle, fickle time that can give near-perfect temps, wipe you out with wind or strand you in surprise winter storms. We knew this coming in and were keeping tight track of the weather forecast through our phone (the awesome WeatherBug App) and the Satellite TV (you’ve gotta stay ontop of these things in the boonies), but Mother Earth Utah managed to surprise us even then.

Late Sunday, after several days of T-shirt weather at the rim we were warned of big winds and decided to leave our exposed site at Goosenecks State Park for a much more protected spot around 60 miles north. We found a new boondocking site tucked behind a massive ridge in a cottonwood tree wash . The next few days were going to give us a show and we were nestled in the perfect spot to watch it without getting too badly hit. No phone or internet here, but we were prepared for the onslaught…mentally anyway.

Warm sunset, but chilly temps!

Warm sunset, but chilly temps!

The day AFTER the snowstorm

The day AFTER the snowstorm

An afternoon clearing at our boondocking site

An afternoon clearing at our boondocking site

The winds started almost as soon as we set down our jacks in our new site, whipping up a famous Utah red dust sandstorm from our previous location. We saw the dust-clouds rise like giant billows in the south and blanket the sky with a deep red. The super-fine dust is a notorious phenomenon in the SE of Utah. When it rises it does so suddenly and completely blackens out the sky, filtering through the cracks in your rig and into your pores. It’s worst in the open plains and may only last a few hours, but it will obscure everything and get into every single open slot (I tell you, you’ll have red dust coming out your a** by the time it’s over). Our previous boondocking spot would have been wiped out, but we passed the storm in relative protection in the valley, shook out as much dust as we could when it was over and enjoyed almost a full day of T-shirt warm sun and flowing clouds before the next act.

The weather started again with drizzle in the night and a few claps of thunder, all pretty mild stuff until temps dropped and the rain transformed into snow! By the time we got up in the morning our view was covered in light, flying tufts of snowflakes blanketing the valley. WOW! Temperatures had dropped to near-freezing and the sky was grey and thick. The morning continued grey, but several hours and many cloud-bursts later it suddenly cleared up again. Sunny, cold but completely open blue sky. The dark clouds had moved north and were dumping snow on the higher roads so we decided to wait out one more day for the weather to stabilize before moving on.

Could we have seen more weather in a few days? Thank goodness for the flexibility of boondocking!

The fabulous "House On Fire"

The fabulous “House On Fire”

Despite the fickle spring craziness we managed to explore. This area of Utah, bounded by the corners of Comb Ridge, Grand Gultch, Grand Flat and Cedar Mesa is called the Trail of the Ancients and has one of the largest concentrations of ancient pueblo dwellings in the US. Some are developed and have accessible trails, but many are hidden in the canyons and only discovered by back-country exploring. Even more lie completely undiscovered, hidden gems yet to meet the human eye. These dwellings date from the very first settlers, the Basketweavers (200-700AD) who lived mostly on the mesa tops to the Anasazi or Ancestral Puebloans (1060-1270) who built elaborate structures in the mesa cliffs. There are literally hundreds of these scattering throughout the area, and what’s even better is that they’re almost all on BLM land so you can camp and bring doggie along for the trek. What a gift!

Butler Wash ruins

Butler Wash ruins

Paul poses by a ruin in Mule Canyon

Paul poses by a ruin in Mule Canyon

We started our exploring with Butler Wash Ruins, a short ½ mile marked hike from Hwy 95. The overlook is accessed via slick-rock (looks slick, but it’s got a lot of grip) and a total of ~20 cliff rooms can be viewed. Cool little visit. Our next stop was House On Fire. This fabulous ruin can be accessed via a ~1 mile hike along South Mule Canyon, just past mile-marker 102 no Hwy 95. It can take a little to find it, but once you do you’re rewarded with an up-close and personal masterpiece dramatically framed by ridged rocks in “flames”. At just the right time of day (around noontime) the light bounces off the inner canyon and lights up the dwelling. Gorgeous! There are plenty of other ruins in this canyon if you can find them too. We ended the trip, right before the next round of weather hit with a short visit to the “Mule Canyon” ruins, a developed set of ruins just north of House On Fire. Totally worth the drives!

Map of Ruins in the Trail Of the Ancients. Every dot is a spot!

We may not have seen quite as much as we’d like, thanks to the crazy UT weather, but it’s been a fine drive and will keep us coming back for more. A wild, but totally fun coupla days. We’re already settled at our new site in Moab and will be catching up on the blogs with 2 boondocking site reviews…and the long-awaited “eeeeek” story.…Oh my!

Wind whips up the clouds behind "the beast"

Wind whips up the clouds behind “the beast”

This is the fine red dust that'll even get up your backside...!

This fine red dust will go everywhere…!

Polly does a pretty pose

Polly does a pretty pose

Butler Wash details

Butler Wash details

Taggart stays warm during the snow-storm

Taggart stays warm

Snow??? Seriously?!

Snow??? Seriously?!

Utah stone sculptures

Utah stone sculptures

Cat on the move...

Cat on the move…

More Mule Canyon Ruins

More Mule Canyon Ruins

Mom, what ya doing up there?

Mom, what ya doing up there?

Hiking Mule Canyon

Hiking Mule Canyon

Biking at our boondocking site

Biking at our boondocking site

32 Responses to Crazy Utah Weather & Cliff Dwellings On The Trail Of the Ancients

  1. Bob Martel says:

    I love Utah! It’s the best state for scenery, hiking, biking, exploring, and camping; basically all the good stuff.

  2. Gunta says:

    Heading to UT in the next month or so….. but north of where you are.

    • libertatemamo says:

      Moab? That’s where we’re parking right now. Then headed to Salt Lake City. Next month should be good weather in the area!
      Nina

      • Gunta says:

        No… I plan to spend a few days in Lehi (my old stomping grounds were just to the west of there in Cedar Valley). Just haven’t figured out when I plan to head out. Possibly in a few weeks, definitely before the end of May. If you’re going to be in the SLC area, we might possibly connect?

  3. Shelly says:

    We have a saying in Utah. ” If you don’t like the weather, wait 5 minutes.”

    Also, the only place you can go snow sking in the morning, and golfing in the afternoon.

    Enjoy following you on your travels. Stay safe.
    Shelly from SLC, UT

    • libertatemamo says:

      I was amazed at how quickly the weather changed while we were there. I swear I would be out biking in pure blue skies and 10 minutes later running inside because of dark clouds and rain!!
      Nina

  4. Wow, we had our fair share of inclement weather….we were on a Tornado Watch ourselves. Except for the sandstorm (red dust !) and fluffy stop we got almost the same ingredient to hunker down here in GA.
    Glad that you were able to hide somewhere and everyone is safe.

    • libertatemamo says:

      Oh Tornado Watch…that is NO FUN!! We got a Tornado warning while travelling in the mid-west a few years back. The warning was great, but it was listed by COUNTY and we had NO idea which county we were in. Some nerve-wracking driving after that I tell you.
      Nina

  5. Sue says:

    What a life! Never a dull moment, what fun. The trail of the ancients looks fascinating, wish we were there. Another place to put on my “list”. Love to you and Paul and Polly, of course! Can’t wait to hear the “eek” story, hurry up already!

    • libertatemamo says:

      Thanks Sue…it’s sure been an adventurous coupla days. Lewis would have LOVED our boondocking spot here. Oh and Sasha would have too…she would just be covered in red dust haha.
      Nina

  6. placestheygo says:

    So very excited that you posted the map with the ruins! We are hoping to have a few days to spend in the Mexican Hat area before we head into CO near the end of May. I need to explore at least one of these canyons with ruins. We definitely need to come back for a longer stay in this area next year.

    Looking forward to seeing you tomorrow at the Watson’s!

    Welcome to Moab! You brought the sun and warmer days!

    • libertatemamo says:

      I was pretty excited to find that map. It’s the first resource I’ve seen that shows just about every ruin in the area. Can’t believe how many there are!!
      See you tomorrow!!
      Nina

  7. geogypsy2u says:

    OMG, when you said you camped in a “wash” I had visions of flood waters. Yet looks like a gorgeous place, glad you were sheltered from the storm. I am jealous of the ruins you saw as this was a planned fall vacation route a couple years ago that didn’t happen. Now I am motivated once again.

    • libertatemamo says:

      Yeah it’s not that kind of wash, thank goodness :) The ruins in this area are amazing. We really need to come back and spend more time exploring.
      Nina

  8. Donna K says:

    That house of fire is breathtaking. I can only imagine how stunning it must be in person. Can’t say I’d enjoy that bipolar weather though!

    • libertatemamo says:

      It’s absolutely stunning, especially when the canyon light reflects back and makes it glow. Quite amazing.
      Nina

  9. LuAnn says:

    It seems spring across the country is pretty fickle right now. We are having high winds and rain and the temps just dropped from 80 to the 40′s. I told Terry I may have to stop reading Utah posts or he may turn around and find I have disappeared in the night, heading west! Great post Nina and stunning photos. :)

    • libertatemamo says:

      We noticed the weather forecast out your way when we were watching the satellite channel and thought of you both! Hoping spring starts to stabilize soon for everyone. These late winter storms are nuts!
      Nina

  10. jil mohr says:

    we have had cold evenings here in Benson and high winds…slowing down today…love the photos…Utah one of my favorite states….where did you get the map of ruins….

    • libertatemamo says:

      Click on the map and it should take you to the website where I found it. Great little resource of the area!
      Nina

  11. Smitty says:

    I’ve never noticed that you and Paul even owned warm weather gear:)! And now it looks like it’s time to add dust masks to your wardrobe…

    Yep, great shots – and glad you guys moved to the sheltered spot. I also think it was great you could get out and slide in the cliff dwelling hikes between the unusual weather series…

    Have fun, stay safe,
    Smitty

  12. rvsueandcrew says:

    Your post has whet my appetite for Utah. I think you are brave to travel and camp in that area in early spring. Great job, boondockers! I’m looking forward to following in your tire tracks . . . which are probably covered in red dust by now. Cute post, especially the part where the dust comes out! Gave me a good chuckle . . . Sue

  13. William says:

    Gotta love that Mr. Heater! It sips propane like a teetotaler while producing a lot of heat. Unfortunately, we had a very bad experience with ours (it was a smaller version) and returned it.

    I’m sure you know by now to watch out for that “rolling flame” when you fire it up in the beginning. I only needed to lose the hair on the back of my hand once to figure that out!

    The ruins were fantastic! Thanks again for being the trailblazers so that we may follow behind you.

  14. [...] you area right in the midst of the Trail Of The Ancients so there is easy access to TONS of hiking and fabulous Ancestral Puebloan ruins in the surrounding [...]

  15. KEN says:

    Great arm chair travel with you in Utah. Thankyou from BC,

  16. We were there shortly after you were – in May this year. Can you please tell me where you got the map (with the dots at each archaeological site)? It says Manti La Sal National Forest on the top but we asked specifically for something like it at the Monticello NF office and they didn’t seem to have one. Did you purchase and if so, where and what was the cost? Thanks
    Even without the map, we got to see the ruins we most wanted to see: House on Fire was one.

    • libertatemamo says:

      I actually never got a printed copy of the map. Just used the link in the website and then found individual hikes through there. I’m thinking there’s got to be a good book on all the ruins somewhere, but I don’t know of any direct recommendations.
      Nina

  17. Thanks Nina. Haven’t found that link on their site after and extensive search but I’ll take another look.

  18. […] on the weather this time of year, especially while travelling north. Last year in Utah we saw the whole gamut of spring folly from heat to wind (and even snow!!), and it looks like this year in Nevada is going to be very […]

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