Hatch, UT, Day Two in Cherokee Springs RV Park
Eleven months in our bus.
THURSDAY, APRIL 24. WE DRIVE TO CHEROKEE SPRINGS IN HATCH, UT.
Mid-morning, we left Sand Hollow and went east on SR-9 towards Hurricane and then turned on SR-59 and climbed south out of Hurricane along the Hurricane Cliffs. Heading south, we passed through Colorado City which provoked discussion of the arrests of the Warren clan in Texas. We crossed into Arizona and passed through Fredonia and then turned north on US-89 and crossed the state line back into UT where we stopped in Kanab for lunch. We ate at Nedra’s Too, a Mexican restaurant. It’s been around for fifty years and is famous. The walls are covered with signed photos from the stars of various western films who hung out there. Our waitress remembered the guys from ?
From Kanab we climbed to 6,100’ towards Mt. Carmel Junction where we crossed SR-9, the highway we circumvented because it goes through the Zion tunnel. Heading up hill we passed through Long Valley Junction and crossed SR-14, which goes west to Cedar City. We continued north on US-89 running parallel to the Sevier River on our east side and with the Dixie National Forest rising up on our west side. By 1:30 we reached mile marker 110 at the dirt road exit to Cherokee Springs.
Here the Asay Creek drops northeastward out of the Dixie National Forest and joins the north flowing Sevier River. We are on the east side of US-89 between two tributary creeks that flow northwestward into the Sevier. I think we are between Spring Hollow and Big Hollow. We sit on the Paunsaugunt Plateau, a great highland that runs north-south and is bordered on the west by SR-89 beside the Sevier River and on the east by the East Fork of the Sevier River, the Table Cliffs of Bryce Canyon National Park, and the Escalante Mts. To the north this plateau yields to the Sevier Plateau and another enormous highland, the Aquarius Plateau is just east of that. Above our valley to the east is Black Butte at 9,630’ el. sitting on the back of the Paunsaugunt between us and Bryce.
Two miles of dirt roads brought us to Cherokee RV park. At a turn on the dirt roads, we saw a sign for AIR and RV. What was the AIR about? Later, I learned there is an airstrip here. I knew from talking to the caretaker, a guy who styles himself “Bandido”, that there were no other RVs here so there were no profiles on the horizon to give us a clue of where the park was located. It was all open chaparral. We came to another sign and a turn and there was Bandido waiting for us in his car. He drove ahead and we followed and he stopped in a grassy lane with our choice of which site to turn into. We got out to talk to him. He said to choose anything and then he drove off! As it turned out, we chose the host site because it has a big rock circle for a fire and it has a picnic table. We are facing west towards Mammoth Ridge and the Asay Bench in the Dixie National Forest. There is nothing anywhere around us except for Bandito’s house, We are at 7,220’ elevation!
The sites are about fifty feet wide and that is very unusual. There is about thirty feet of yard that is a rough patch of grass and the bus sits on gravel. It’s totally level. The yard is about fifty feet long. Other than Bandido’s house there is nothing in sight except for a fence and RV sites laid out and divided by lines of boulders and rocks. This is really a wilderness camp. The sun was out and the temperature was 55° and there was a cold breeze.
So far as Dennis was concerned, the first order of business after setting up the bus was to clean the exterior. That dirt road threw up a fine creamy dust all over the bus and car. The bus had a thick layer of dirt all over the tires and it had gone into the back vents and covered the engine. The bus threw the dust back over the Honda and the front window was completely opaque with dust. What a mess!
Dennis took his long air hose and began to blow dust off of the bus and car. To do this he had to leave the engine key on and that makes the loud ding, ding, as a warning that the jacks are down and the bus shouldn’t be driven. It is a very loud and annoying sound so I went with the dogs into the bedroom and shut both the bathroom area sliding doors. Also the air hose was blowing the dust and I could smell it. Maybe it was blowing some of it into the bus through our air vents, I don’t know. Finally Dennis was finished. It had to be done and I admire his energy and persistence in maintaining his bus. Poor guy had it immaculate until our move.
We could see no sign of a golf course although we could see a two-story house on a hill in the distance. We decided to walk the dogs. I loaded on sweatshirts and my heavy windbreaker, as the wind was cold. We walked down a gravel road, Sage Hen Rd. that separates the two rows of RV sites. There is a barely discernable grass lane by the east fence so both rows are pull-thrus. As there is absolutely no one here and the entire area is one open level meadow or chaparral, we decided to let the dogs run free.
It is a peculiar feeling to take a walk with dogs in the middle of — nowhere: no people, no vehicles, and no structures. There was the road and soon the RV sites gave way to open land. The two houses on opposite horizons were the only structures in sight. I kept calling the dogs and monitoring them as the cleared land on either side yielded to sagebrush. I was terrified that a coyote would leap out from behind a bush and grab one of my dogs. They are used to being on 20’ leashes and I would let them go 30’ on the road before calling them back. I wouldn’t let them stray off the road either. But even with this limited freedom, they were ecstatic. Margot ran as fast and hard as she could, first down the road and then back to us. Rudi did his investigative trot, smelling everything and aware of everything. They rarely stopped to mark, I think because there is no other dog here. I guess Bandito does not have a dog.
We plan to stay here until Monday. We feel kind of foolish because the place is so remote. We discovered that we have cell phone reception but not enough for Internet. So while we are here we will be Internet deprived. It is absolutely quiet here. You can’t hear anything from the highway or from anything else except a plane flying at 30,000′ overhead.
FRIDAY, APRIL 25. SCENIC DRIVE FROM HATCH TO BRYCE.
Whew-ee! We forgot about cold temperatures in high elevation. There is no snow on the ground here but the temperature outside in the morning was 17° and it was below 40° inside the bus. We didn’t leave the heat on during the night. I made coffee and climbed back in bed to wait until the bus could warm up a little bit. Our worst mistake was that we forgot about the water. The pipe outside was frozen and we had no running water in the bus — not even from the tank reservoir in the bus. We had to wait until the sun melted the water in the pipes. The bus faces west. The sun rises behind us and moves over our roof slightly to our left which is where the connections are located. This is no Santa Fe. Before ten, we had running water again.
About nine we decided to make a bacon-and-egg breakfast. I stepped outside with the dogs and discovered that sitting in the sun was actually warmer than sitting in the bus. There was no wind. So I set the picnic table and we brought our plates of food outside. We let the dogs be free in the yard and with extra turkey-bacon reserved as treats for them they weren’t inclined to wander away from the table! This is great! Absolute privacy, wilderness scenery all around, warm sunshine, and the dogs don’t have to be tied up. After breakfast, I got out our camp chairs and we lounged in the sunshine with a second cup of coffee. The dogs showed no desire to wander out of the yard or out of sight. They were happy investigating their new territory.
About ten Bandito drove by and I waved for him to stop. We didn’t want to knock on the door of his private home and we didn’t know where and how to pay for our site. He seemed very uninterested and unconcerned about it. He said its $15 per night or $90 for the week. Wow! That’s cheap. He said the two-story house on the distant hill is the “Pro Shop” with a condo over it. He told us he’d leave a map of the area there but he wasn’t specific about whether he takes VISA or only cash and he didn’t take any money from us.
We discovered that his best friend who died in an airplane crash four years ago owned this property. Bandito has a house in nearb but he spends summers here, running the place for his friend’s widow. The property is for sale. The golf course is hidden by the hills east of us and you can see it when you drive to the Pro Shop. Cherokee Springs Golf & RV Resort is a most peculiar place. It is located in the boondocks far from any big towns. It is a dream that was never fully completed. There are hookups for 50 RVs stretching into the sagebrush and spaces are cleared for 25 sites. There is a dirt landing strip for airplanes. There is a house for a caretaker and the Pro Shop house with a condo attached. And there is the golf course. I don’t see any cabins so golfers who come here must fly in and out or come in an RV or secure the rental condo. It’s a pretty odd situation. There are no facilites like restrooms with toilets and showers.
I asked Bandito about coyotes or other varmints that might kill my dogs. He told me there are no coyotes or rattlesnakes or anything else. This place is too civilized and wild things have not been eased out of their habitat. They have plenty of wild spaces to live in this area and they don’t need or want to come into this area. Bandito said not to worry about the dogs when we take walks. What a relief! So after he left we took a forty-five minute walk in a big loop around the RV sites and the landing strip. The dogs were allowed to run off the road and into the fields. However, I was impressed with their careful behavior. They always stuck fairly close (30’) and kept an eye on us. What fun they had! They ran hither and yon and just had a wonderful time. They were all perked up and thought they were wild dogs, for sure.
They were chasing birds and I knew sooner or later they would strike a jackrabbit. Rudi missed but Margot saw one race in front of us and the chase was on. She has the same size and speed but I wasn’t betting on her. The hare knows his territory. About fifty feet away he went flying over some big rocks. Margot didn’t see them in time and went head over heels. She was after him again in a flash but he dove under a barbed wire fence and she pulled up short. I hope she and Rudi have many more chances to chase a big hare. For their size our Cotons are very fast runners and have lots of endurance. It is a perfect sport for them and they haven’t a chance in hell of actually catching and harming one of those big field rabbits. (Later I took both the dogs up to the barbed wire fence and introduced them to the barbs, so now they know to approach with caution.)
Because our private walk was so unusual and our dogs are so happy with their freedom, we decided to take advantage of the $90 special and stay a week. It will be a good way for me to get in shape as it is easy to walk quickly with the dogs when they aren’t on a leash holding you up with all their sniffings and comings and goings. The dirt roads are easy to walk on with my bum ankle and the 7,000’+ elevation is good for cardio exercise. If I get out and walk rapidly for an hour or so every day, maybe I can take a first step towards getting back in shape. I am very taken with this place and I am so happy that the dogs can be free and that they are happy. If we had the Internet it would be perfect. Bandito says that many people come for a few days and end up staying for weeks and months. He says they build bonfires and get together for potluck dinners and have a great time.
We couldn’t have mail delivered to the state park at Sand Hollow, so we need to get our mail. We asked Bandito and he said we could have it sent to General Delivery, Hatch, UT 84735. He told us to go to the post office in Hatch to make arrangements. He said that in many places they make you sign for it but that during the summer, anyone who made a run to Hatch could pick up everyone’s mail and deliver it. So we got ready to go out. But first Dennis found a hose in a nearby site and he washed the car!
We drove up to the Pro Shop to look for Bandito but he wasn’t around so we didn’t leave any money. We picked up the map and brochure of the area that he left on the counter for us. Then we drove five miles north on US-89 to Hatch. However, by then it was 12:30 and the post office was closed for lunch.
We decided to find out how far we are from the Bryce Canyon National Park entrance so we continued north on US-89 for about seven miles and turned east on SR-12. We stopped at the Red Canyon Visitor’s Center and I bought more books and maps on the area. Red Canyon reaches north into the Paunsaugunt Plateau and the Dixie National Forest.
After our stop at the Red Canyon Visitor’s Center, we continued west to the Bryce Entrance. It is 34 miles from our RV site and it will take about fifty minutes to drive. We stopped to look at Ruby’s Inn, which dominates the entrance in front of Bryce. They have a hotel with a big lobby, gift shop and restaurant. There are cabins, a diner and an RV Park and recreation like horseback rides and airplane tours. It is big and looks like a major tourist trap. Two tour buses were unloading people and there was a long line to get into the restaurant.
Inside Ruby’s Inn, I went up to a very young man sitting at a small counter in the lobby near the gift shop. He wore a cowboy hat and I think he was there to sign up people for horseback riding tours. I leaned on the counter, looked him right in the eye and in a dubious tone but with a very soft voice I said, “So how good is this restaurant anyway?”
He ducked his head and said, “Oh, it’s not too bad…”
“It’s not too good either, I bet,” I replied. “Do you know of a good one down the road going towards Hatch?”
“Well, I’d eat at ‘The Pines’ if it were me. It’s about three miles back. Big white building.”
I winked at him. “’Preciate it,” I said.
He was so darn young and honest — and terrible cute with that cowboy hat. We stopped at the Pines in Coyote Hollow and had homemade potato soup and homemade pie. Terrific. Not crowded and our young waitress was friendly and personal. The nice thing about being older is that in restaurants we are often treated like special grandparents. We plan to go back some time for dinner.
We were back at Cherokee Springs by 3:30. An hour later the wind came up but it was still nice so we took the dogs for a short walk and then sat outside in the sun while they poked around in the nearby area. It was great.
SATURDAY, APRIL 26. HIKING AROUND CHEROKEE SPRINGS.
Last night we were prepared for a cold night. Dennis disconnected the hose. He says our hose sucked water up the outside pipe and that is why it froze. Otherwise the water is below ground and it won’t freeze in the pipe. We also left the Hydrohot turned on with the gas heat set at 50° so the interior of the bus never got too cold. It felt plenty chilly this morning but I got the bus warmed up quickly when I got up to make coffee. One just has to be prepared and think ahead. When Dennis got up he reconnected the hose and we had nice long showers. We love it here and would probably settle in for a nice long stay if we had the Internet.
I can work on my website but I can’t do research or email or upload a page to my website. So not having the Internet is a nuisance but nevertheless we’ve decided to stay for the week.
We walked the dogs from here, down the 4000’ airstrip and all the way around the golf course — much farther than our 45 min. walk yesterday. We took about an hour and a half. It was sunny but there was a cold wind blowing from the northwest at about 30 to 40 mph — or more. We walked down Sage Hen Rd into the wind and then turned on Crow’s Loop east towards the hills. We walked over the hill and came out on the golf course and we walked almost to the end of that and then back across the greens to the Pro Shop and then back on Crow’s Loop along the edge of the hills. Coming south by the hill was less cold and windy. I don’t know how far we walked but my back and hips and legs are aching and I was stumbling tired towards the end. The wind and elevation get to me. However, this is a great way to get in shape because all the roads are level and I don’t tend to trip or turn my ankle as I do on hiking trails. I sure hope I can do better by the end of the week.
The dogs are having a blast. This is probably the most freedom they have ever had. They’ve never been able to run free in open country like this. They are so happy it hurts my heart. They range right and left off the road and then scamper down the road back to us. Then they take off running down the road and then bound over the sagebrush in another foray across the fields. To see Margot sail over obstacles is just a wonderful sight.
We hung out around the bus all day. We have a good routine for breakfast. Today, Dennis cooked hash browns, eggs and turkey-bacon. I did the juice, the plates & utensils, the toast and fruit. I went through two old bags of Oroweat Honey Wheat Berry bread and I was going to throw out the crusts. Then it struck me that I can crumble them and put them outside for the birds. So I scattered some on rocks within view of the windows so I can see what, if anything comes to collect them. I notice that on the lee side of the bus the wind is not too bad.
Due to wind, we ate inside the bus. Breakfast was delicious. Shortly after, we both lay down on the bed and took a long nap. It must be the altitude. We sat around for a while and then I decided to do something very odd. I decided to make a cake. I have probably not made a cake in twenty years.
I took out a box mix, Betty Crocker Butter Recipe Yellow, that’s been in the cupboard for about a month. I checked all my supplies. I have a hand mixer and it works. I have a large mixing bowl. I had the water, butter and eggs. I didn’t have 8″ or 9” rounds nor a 13×9 pan but I did have a 12×8 pan. I sat down to figure out how to bake a cake at 7,000′ altitude in a small, non-stick dark pan in a convection oven. I settled on 325° for 42 minutes.
The trouble with convection is that you preheat to the temperature and then put in your food and cook at that temperature for the minutes you choose. But once you stop (or it stops), in theory, you’re back to square one and have to preheat all over again. I don’t think that is quite true as I notice the oven remains hot for several minutes. Question: will it effect the cake if I open the door to test the cake and then add more minutes? As I had never baked in a convection oven I did not have great hopes for the cake. But, wow, it raised and came out well. I spread it with Duncan Hines Creamy Home-Style Classic Chocolate. I already know this canned stuff is terrible but I couldn’t remember what ingredients to buy for icing when I was in the store. After dinner we each had a piece and my goodness! It is moist and light and good. I am so pleased.