GET OUT: On and Off Road in Utah

By on April 19, 2016

Getting out and getting in an ‘adventuremobile’ to Jackson’s cheap spring getaway down south.

TOP: Kelly Halpin manages to find the energy to jump after a strenuous scenic hike. LEFT: Kelly Halpin, Savannah Cummins, and Scrappy take a break after climbing. RIGHT: Queen of the Hill or queen of the Jeep. (Photo: Kelly Halpin)

TOP: Kelly Halpin manages to find the energy to jump after a strenuous scenic hike. LEFT: Kelly Halpin, Savannah Cummins, and Scrappy take a break after climbing. RIGHT: Queen of the Hill or queen of the Jeep. (Photo: Kelly Halpin)

JACKSON HOLE, WY – I wouldn’t call myself a 4×4 enthusiast. I grew up with four-wheelers, but my fear kicked in at age 10 when my dad and I rolled the thing over. I also have dabbled in snowmobiling, but that fear sprang up when a date went wrong and we tomahawked down the slope, bodies first, sled tumbling after us. But the luxury of living out of a 4×4 “adventuremobile” for a week reinforced my enthusiasm for living on the road and off-roading.

So, as we all know, we are entering mud season in Jackson Hole. In lieu of the season change, I conveniently rearrange my work schedule to jet off to the Utah desert as often as possible. And when I say jet, no flying is involved. I generally jump in my 2007 Subaru and putz through the open West, adding miles onto my aching 178k odometer, and dreaming of one day driving a reliable, spanking new car. When I learned about the opportunity to trade my stressed out engine for Jeep’s adventuremobile, I immediately abandoned my Subaru in Salt Lake City and fled to the desert in 4×4 style.

We were two climber girls and one Husky Terrier (yes, that is, in fact, a type of dog) on a quest to find the sandstone huecos, burly cracks, and velcro limestone walls that every climber dreams of after a snowy winter of powder slashing and mogul maneuvering. And while camping often gives you the illusion that you are a minimalist, we girls do not travel light. Alas, we always find a way to arrange our excess of climbing gear, outfit options, camping kitchen, chairs, coolers, dogs, and computers (sadly, pit stops for Internet are key when you climb and work at the same time) into the back of a car. Lucky for us, this time we didn’t have to pack sleeping quarters. They were already conveniently attached to the roof of our car.

Our first destination was St. George, a southern Utah city that is geared more towards the retired, fast food-loving hotel dwellers than rambunctious, free-willed youngsters like ourselves. St. George is also a short distance from Zion’s big walls and the beautiful Las Vegas-area Red Rocks Canyon, making it a must-stop on any climbing road trip. The city hosts two camping options: Snow Canyon and Moe’s Canyon.

While Snow Canyon hosts a breathtaking camping venue, equipped with bathrooms, picnic tables, and fees, we decided to put our Jeep to the test and camp in Moe’s Canyon—a desolate, undeveloped field that is best described as a not-so-scenic site for high school parties and shattered glass bottles. Moe’s boasts no campsites and no facilities, but our Jeep lived up to our expectations. Unlike the sleepless night endured by the Princess and the Pea, I slept like a Queen on a rooftop mattress.

For the next two days we pummeled down 4×4 dirt roads to access transcendental canyons of high-quality limestone, leaving us in euphoric states of giggling at the end of each climbing day. And while I felt like we’d be the only party at the crag after driving 45-minutes out of town down a hellaciously uneven rocky road, who did we run into but another group from Jackson. Birds of a feather, I’ll tell you!

Next on our list was Zion National Park, a quick one-hour drive from St. George.  Living in a national park town myself, I refuse to pay the escalated price of lodging in a tourist trap town. But to our content, we found free BLM camping in an area west of the Springdale entrance of Zion National Park. Once again, we ate a hearty meal, set up camp with ease, and slept like princesses in the comfort of our rooftop throne. At sunrise, we drove into Zion, hiked a strenuous half-mile to a scenic overlook, and bopped around like tourists.

We later took our Jeep to a river outside of Zion, scrambled down a 4th-class canyon wall, and found an undercover beach. We relaxed in the sun before heading back to Salt Lake City to pick up my grumbling Subaru.

While our trips the to the desert are short and have my odometer spinning skyward like the national debt, they’re always worthwhile. A long weekend in the desert sun allows me to return to my mountain mecca of a hometown with sand-covered ankles, sun-kissed skin, and a new energy for the changing seasons. PJH

About Bree Buckley

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