Hiking the Mansard Trail Near Kanab

Mansard Trail
Saturday, April 20
There was no big rush to get to Kanab. The only thing to figure out was where between Valley of Fire and Kanab we wanted to stop for a night. 170 miles is not all that much, but we decided to stop about halfway at Cedar Pockets BLM campground in the Virgin River Gorge Recreation Area. Only problem was that it was closed. Fortunately the dispersed camping  just on the other side of the Highway was open and had plenty of room for us – and it was free. No highway noise and just a little way off the road. Just a few pick-ups and ATV’s drove by all the time we were there. Later a couple of other overnighters stopped and found space.

In the morning we crossed into Utah and stopped briefly in Saint George to resupply. We haven’t been to Kanab for quite a few years and Mary didn’t remember there being much in the way of supplies. We needn’t had. Things have changed – Kanab is far more developed and actually had 3 grocery stores to choose from. Lots of new accommodations, gas stations and restaurants. The old phony cop car with a dummy in it parked on the side of one of the roads into town was gone. But the RV Park we stayed in last time was still there and had a space reserved for us. 

It’s a cramped little park – but all of them in town are. We wanted to stay in town for a night to empty tanks and post our blogs using the park’s Wifi , but once again upon checking in we were told their Wifi was not working too well.It is also getting close to the Easter weekend, so our plan was to get out of town and find a dispersed camping spot to hunker down in till it blows over. Friday morning we were out looking and not finding available places. Every ATVer had the same idea. Some spots were too sandy for the LD, others too crowded. We eventually found a pretty sweet spot at Twin Hollows Canyon Dispersed BLM. Good road (but busy with ATVs) and a nice spot next to the Virgin River a bit off the road so dust from the ATV’s shouldn’t be a problem as long as the wind blows in the right direction..Saturday morning we were more than ready for walking, and our chosen hike was the 4.5 mile, 900’ elevation gain, Mansard Trail. It leads up a sandstone ridge, passes a couple of buttes and arrives at a cave/alcove where rare floor carved petroglyphs can be found. Usually they are seen carved into high ledges or boulders, so it will be interesting to check these out.The trail starts off level but slowly begins to rise through the wonderful red, red sandstone. All the rains Utah has experienced this winter have resulted in a huge variety of flowers blooming right now. Not vast fields, but seeing these little splashes of color along the trail kept me interested as the switchbacks began. This packrat nest even had apartments below. Nice location.The trail continued to switchback up the ridge. Each time fuller views of the surrounding countryside developed. Once on top, the trail follows the spine of the ridge and views on either side could be seen. We will be walking past that far white sandstone formation in the distance. We stopped under this massive wall for a snack break. That first little bench on the rock is about 6’ high. On the left side of this formation a steady cold wind blew. On the right, where the trail continues, it was calm and warm. Once past this part, the scene opens even more with wide views all around. We followed along the top of the ridge trail which took us right past this white cap rock formation. All along this portion, the wildly crosshatched sandstone was dazzling in shape and color. So much fun to create compositions. The trail turns very sandy and a little steep after this point and it is a slog for the last 1/8 mile. But still, there were the views. Surprisingly, this sandy part is actually  an ATV road the trail dumps out to meet.It was just a short walk along an incredible cliff of white sandstone banded with yellow – all stained with streaks of red. We spent a good long stretch working with it. Eventually we walked up into the alcove where the petroglyphs were located. They are chipped into a sandstone floor that rises toward the back of the alcove. The angle made it difficult to make any images of the further back petroglyphs. Signs near the entrance warn not tp step on the pictured area, so staying on the sandy edge of the panel was the only choice. Much of what is there is still covered in sand and the signs also warn not to dig further to reveal more. The celing of the alcove was pretty great too. We had lunch sitting here looking out over the wide landscape.While we were there only one other group came by and they only stayed a few minutes. After lunch we made our way back out along the sandstone cliff. We kind of rushed past much of it to get to the alcove before too many other people arrived, but now we had more time. Some of the red sandstone stains reminded me of trees and limbs. We finished up along the wall and started back down the trail. It was a pretty quick desent on the way back. The afternoon winds had picked up blowing dust about, but it was still a pleasant walk back. We are going to stay another night so we can drive into the eastern part of Zion National Park. We’d learned by accident as we were planning to drive through Zion – west to east to Kanab – that the tunnel we’d have to pass throng was closed due to a cave-in. Luckily we were able to change plans to avoid that problem, and are now camped just a couple of miles from the east entrance. The next post will cover that day.

Zion National Park – The East Side
Sunday, April 21This Easter Sunday started with a fine breakfast and a call home, so we got a late start for our trip into the east side of Zion National Park. The tunnel between east and west was closed, so going further can’t happen this trip. I was a little leery about doing anything today, thinking the crowds would make driving the road uncomfortably tedious. Surprise of surprises – traffic was very light. Even the fact that it was a free National Park weekend didn’t seem to matter. The driving and stopping was easy.Checkerboard Mesa was the first of many stops. With few clouds to speak of yet, the light was harsh and it was a struggle to get pleasing images. Even the roads in Zion are red. The huge expanses of varied colored sandstone mountains are so hard to capture. I try to see the patterns in the many layers of color that make up this rock. Using them to control the composition. It being around mid-day, the shadows were pretty minimal, except for the now increasing clouds. So while it was still very contrasty, I could even out the image without it getting too saturated. I made some nice abstracts and a bunch of pretty cliché pictures, but it was just plain fun being in this landscape watching the light change. We eventually reached the tunnel and had to turn around. We found out where everyone had gone. There were maybe 50 cars parked all along the roadside, and dozens of people wandering around – including a full wedding party. Actually there is a short walk to an viewpoint that we decided not to do. We turned around and headed back.We’d gone a couple of miles back, when I noticed a car parked on the side of the road with a couple standing outside. I wanted to see what they were looking at. Looking over the embankment, I saw a large flock of bighorn mountain sheep, but the large male was nowhere to be seen. This group was young males, females and their lambs. They were feeding as a group down in the gully and, while they were always aware of us, were not bothered in the least with us.There was one point though, where I noticed several seemed to be looking right up at me. I realized where I was standing was at the top of an unlikely path they wanted to take. I backed off quickly and soon they all came up and across the road to graze alongside it. They walked along the road a short way before nonchalantly clamoring up the steep stone walls. One by one they jumped up and continued along well above us. Even the littlest of them cold trot across this slippery stuff at will. As this group crossed over above us, another group, who had split off down in the gully, had come up to the road and onto the cliff above a different way, and was walking toward the first group. Apparently two of the lambs got separated from mom and when they saw the mothers, went galloping to them. Turns out, they were hungry – or perhaps this was a kind of comfort behavior after being separated. We stayed and watched their interactions for a good thirty minutes, until they ambled away. It’s rare to really get to watch these animals for so long. We are leaving the area tomorrow, headed for Bryce Canyon National Park. We haven’t been there – beyond just driving through on our way home – for seven years, so seeing how it’s changed will be interesting. Temperatures are ranging from highs in the 70’s to lows in the 30’s. Just the way we like it.

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