After visiting Southeast Utah last spring, my friend John and I decided to take a trip to Southwest Utah. We both had previously spent quite a bit of time in Bryce and Zion National Parks so we decided forgo those parks to visit some places somewhat off the beaten path. John did the planning for this trip and although we did not get to see everything John had planned for us, it was an excellent trip.
The first day we met at the Valley of Fire State Park north of Las Vegas, Nevada. We were supposed to meet at the visitors center but it so happened that prior to our meeting time, we both happened to be in the same section of the park, shooting the Bee hive formations. When we finished shooting there, we went down to the visitor center and just sat around gabbing for awhile until it was time to head out to the Fire Wave section of the park. For some reason the Fire Wave has not been publicized much. Recently though they decided to advertise its existence and even offer a ranger-guided tour. The round-trip hike down to the wave and back is only about 1.2 miles. The only rough part of the hike is at the end when you have to climb back up the hill thru deep sand. The trail is well marked and foot traffic on the trail was very light. After leaving the Wave we drove further north to the end of the road, sat down on some rocks and took a few shots - sitting down and shooting images is our kind of photography. After chatting for awhile we left the park bound for Mesquite, Nevada where we had rooms at the Virgin River Casino.
On the drive to Mesquite we encountered some construction - a week earlier heavy rains had washed out part of I15. Previously, traffic on the interstate had been detoured thru Valley of Fire but was now open, although reduced to one lane in either direction for part of the trip to Mesquite. After arriving at the casino, we checked in and went to a nearby McDonalds for supper. I had a Big Mac meal wile John had a quarter-pounder with fries and a chocolate malt.
Rock Formation at Little Finland
In the morning we headed out for Little Finland, which is located a little southeast of Mesquite. We drove on the pavement for awhile toward Whitney Pocket and the cut-off for Little Finland. About half-way to Whitney Pocket we stopped to check out a grove of tall, thin palm trees. The place looked as if it had once been a resort of some sort. Upon reaching Whitney Pocket, we continued on south and the road turned to dirt. We traveled it for several miles, stopping to take pictures every now and then. Finally, we reached the cut-off for Little Finland. The cut-off is marked only as Mud Wash, with no indication that Mud Wash is the route to Little Finland. We drove down Mud Wash, stopping several times to shoot images. After eleven miles of driving thru the wash, we arrived at Little Finland. A high clearance vehicle is needed to make this trip down Mud Wash but 4-wheel drive is not required. Little Finland is apply named as it is marked by fin-like structures made of sandstone. It really is a fascinating place. The sandstone structures sit atop a low hill and are very fragile. John and I speculated that is why Little Finland is not well publicized by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). As we were leaving Little Finland we met a guy who was just arriving to take some photographs. The only other people we saw on this drive were a couple of old, desert rats cruising in their Bronco II. When we arrived back in Mesquite, we took it easy for awhile and then went to the casino buffet. John started off with a NY strip, some sides and a beer, while I started with a filet, a couple of sides and iced tea. We both finished the meal with fruit cobbler topped with vanilla soft-serve.
Sandstone Wall Above Entrance to Hidden Lake
The next morning we headed out for Kanab, UT, meeting at the Days Inn where we would spend the night. After coffee at a local hippie cafe, we went to the local BLM office to check on the status of the Cottonwood Canyon road to Grosvenor Arch. We had originally planned on driving up Cottonwood Canyon but unfortunately, the road was closed due to heavy rains having destroying the road. The BLM office had a picture where the road had collapsed creating a chasm about ten or fifteen deep. As an alternative we went off to explore Kanab Canyon. The lady at the BLM office told us of an underground lake in that area - the locals referred to it as Hidden Lake. The paved road into Kanab Canyon soon turned to dirt and after a couple of wrong turns, we arrived at the Hidden Lake. The opening to the lake is a cave about 10 feet tall and fifteen feet wide. The water is about twenty feet into the cave. The texture of the sandstone entrance to the cave was really cool and we took a lot of shots while we were there. Next we backtracked down the road to seek some Indian ruins that we were told about - big disappointment. Slabs of sandstone were placed vertically in the dirt under a rock overhang and there was no evidence of living or storage area. While it may have once been native ruins, it clearly had been tampered with.
Our next stop for the day was Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park north of Kanab. We arrived there in the early evening to catch the good light. The Sand Dunes are pretty cool. Unfortunately, the park is also an ATV area. There is no restriction on the use of ATVs on the sand dunes so there are ATV tracks on all the dunes. I ventured into the dunes to try to get some shots but there were tracks everywhere. Even so, it is a great place to visit. We met a woman from San Diego there who was traveling on her own who was pretty interesting.
Returning to Kanab, it was time to find somewhere to eat. We walked over to a restaurant near the Days Inn. It was full of Chinese tourists and the waitress told us we could not be accommodated. We then drove into town and ate at Houston's Trails End restaurant. We both had the chicken fried steak and two sides. The chicken fried steak was very good.