Friday, October 3, 2014

Another trip to Utah

The colors in this part of Utah are vivid and almost shocking-- except they're not.  Not when you are here.  This is a different world from our everyday lives-- a slower, calmer, more peaceful place filled with natural beauty that doesn't stop.  By comparison, our lives at home seem pale and washed out.

My husband and I recently made a kamikaze trip to meet with the contractor on our property and talk about the pending cabin construction. Two days to drive the 700-plus miles there, meet with the contractor, winterize our 5th wheel trailer that sits on the property, check out a local antique store, get a few more photos, do a little sightseeing, drive home the end of the weekend, I was running into walls I was so tired.

But it was worth it.  Again, we were able to accomplish quite a lot. Now all we have to do is wait for the contractor to start work. Hoping to get lots of photos of work as it progresses.  Having a construction project going on almost hundreds of miles away will be interesting to say the least.

I thought I would share some of the photos of all the amazing scenery and a few of the many historical landmarks and places of interest.  

There is so much history in this area.  So much of the old west depicted in movies and novels happened in this area.  It was frustrating to only be able to stop briefly here and there to investigate during our recent trip.  Talk about touring an art gallery by motorcycle....   Once we get the cabin done, and can actually have a leisurely vacation there (that is the point of this whole project!), we will have time to explore more.

Every time we drive by this old ranch along Highway 89 I stare in fascination.  This is Butch Cassidy's boyhood home. Plainly visible from the road.

At the height of his outlaw career, Butch Cassidy and his gang, the Wild Bunch, had a hideout called 'Robbers Roost' east of the Torrey area in what what is now called Robbers Roost Canyon, a tributary to the Dirty Devil River-- now a popular destination for backpackers, horseback riders, and ATV enthusiasts.   

What I find most interesting when reading up on all this is the number of women that were involved one way or another with these guys-- in fact, several of these ladies were outlaws themselves. Sisters Ann and Josie Bassett were local ranchers and cattle rustlers who supplied Butch and his gang with horses and beef, and who also were romantically involved with various gang members over the years.  Both were allowed to visit the gang's hideout-- a privilege few enjoyed since its whereabouts was a closely guarded secret.   Ann, 'Queen Ann Bassett', was involved off and on with Butch Cassidy over an approximate seven year period.

Etta Place (the Katherine Ross character in the movie) was also allowed to visit Robbers Roost as the girlfriend of the Sundance Kid.  Laura Bullion was an outright member of the gang.

Perhaps Ann occasionally took a break from stealing cattle and running around with Butch to pick an arm-full of the brilliant yellow rabbitbrush blooms that are so prolific here, as I did when I had a few moments to spare.....

..... or not.  Historical accounts indicate that Ann and her sister Josie preferred 'cowboying' to being ladies.   Apparently both sisters spent much of their young adulthood battling with a local wealthy cattle baron, which involved stealing cattle, blocking off watering holes, and confrontations with the cattle baron's cowhands.... the Bassett's association with the Wild Bunch gang ultimately helped the family to withstand this cattle-baron bully, who used hired gunmen to put pressure on the family to sell their ranch.  

I found some old tarnished silver spoons in a nearby antique shop.   Not really sure exactly how old they are-- most likely anywhere from early to mid-1900s?  Not too old, but it's fun to think that these might have been used by the Bassett sisters or one of their colleagues during one of their more 'ladylike' moments-- possibly when entertaining an outlaw beaux? 

Or maybe once they became sedate, married women? (although by all accounts, neither lady was ever very sedate, Josie was reputed to have poisoned her fifth and last husband)  Both Ann and Josie Bassett ultimately married and spent their lives ranching until they died in the mid-1900s. Josie claims that Butch Cassidy visited her on her ranch in the 1920s, long after he and the Sundance Kid were supposed to have died battling the Bolivian cavalry after stealing the payroll of the Aramayo Franke and Cia Silver Mine in 1908.

The Old Spanish Trail is an even older piece of history.   This was a pack trail used by traders between 1829 and 1848 to transport goods between  Santa Fe, New Mexico and Los Angeles, California (Pueblo de Los Angeles back then).

Our standard travel route between the Torrey area and California includes a section of Highway 62, which is also the location of the Fish Lake Cut-off on the Old Spanish Trail.... 

........a shortcut that took travelers by nearby Fish Lake and paralleled the East Fork of the Sevier River.

I wonder what these early travelers thought of the spectacular scenery they walked and rode through?   Did they appreciate the striking contrast between the lush, green along the river valleys and the hot red and graphite-black rock, or was it just something to be endured and gotten through on their way to their ultimate destination?  I imagine it was a little of both.  

Today we whiz along the same general route between California and Utah in the Dodge, covering in about ten hours what must have taken these old traders and mountain men months and months to travel.  I can't imagine riding or walking all the way from Santa Fe to Los Angeles, or the reverse-- especially the section that stretches through the bone-dry, empty Mojave Desert to the west. How grueling that must have been! Many died along the way back then.

Most of the towns and surrounding areas in this part of Utah were settled by pioneers starting in the 1880s.  Here is the Nielsen Grist Mill, originally built by a Danish miller named Hans Peter Nielsen some time after 1883.  The structure shown below was re-built in 1890 after the original structure burned.  A post and beam structure constructed with hand-hewn timbers.....   I'd love to see the inside.

Water was diverted from the Fremont River into its turbine, which turned the grindstone, which ground grain into flour.  This is the only mill in the state to still have its original water-powered equipment.

What a lovely place to grind flour....

Down the road towards Torrey you'll find some bison-- property of the Lodge at Red River Ranch.  I've never stayed there, but from just a quick tour of the website, it looks fabulous.  A lodge-type place not unlike what you would find in a national park.

On this particular morning, the bison were considerate enough to hang out by the road so that I could get a couple close-ups.  This little guy-- so cute-- spent most of the time hiding behind his mama.  He came out of hiding briefly to get a look at me.

The town of Torrey, supposedly named after Colonel Torrey of the Rough Riders during the Spanish American War, is blessed with many mature trees (mostly cottonwoods) which shade and cool the main street and several side streets.  Highway 24 runs through it and on to Capitol Reef and the San Rafael Swell beyond. Continue on this road to its junction with Highway 96, which leads you further east and south to the San Rafael Desert, Henry Mountains, Canyonlands National Park, Lake Powell.....all fascinating places of remote wilderness and spectacular geology that we have yet to explore.

Water from the Fremont River and Sand Creek allowed early settlers to raise livestock and crops-- and basically turn this, high, flat 'bench' area into a green oasis with stands of mature cottonwoods, pastures, a canal-- the Torrey Canal.  

Today, there are several good restaurants here, a couple art galleries, a bookstore--- Robber's Roost Bookstore, home of the Entrada Institute.  The Entrada Institute hosts concerts, lectures, art festivals, among many other cultural activities.

There are many intriguing little houses here and throughout this part of Utah.  It isn't uncommon to see the deep red indigenous sandstone used as a foundation, as it is here for this little white house.

I love the different shingles and details used on the gable walls here, the peaked detailing over the first floor triple-window.

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