Road Trip to Utah - part 4

The Colorado River along Scenic Hwy 128
The sun was shining bright and we were happy to put behind us the yellow school bus and its content of hollering teenagers. From the trail's parking lot, we turned right heading northeast on Scenic Hwy 128 to mile marker 14. We were enjoying the scenery so much we almost missed our turn to the Moab Film and Western Heritage Museum on the Red Cliffs Ranch.

The museum houses memorabilia from all the films that have been made on the ranch over the years. Mostly it's been westerns like Wagon Master, Rio Grande, Son of Cochise, The Commancheros, Cheyenne Autumn, and Geronimo, but other famous movies such as City Slickers and Thelma and Louise have been filmed there as well. There have also been over 100 commercials shot there.

I'm sure it is very interesting, but we didn't get to see it because as we tried to pull in, we were stopped near the entrance to the property as a movie was actually being shot at that time and there were large trucks and equipment blocking the road. We sat there on the road with a few other cars for almost an hour watching cameras being wheeled around on tracks and watching people climb around rocks fiddling with huge lights. We never saw anyone we recognized and the guys who stopped us wouldn't say what movie they were shooting. At the 1 hour waiting mark, we were still not allowed to proceed and we were really bored watching them doing nothing so we followed the lead of several others - pull a u-turn and get back out.

Rest area on Hwy 313 on the way to
Dead Horse Park
We had planned to spend probably several hours there, but decided to head back to Moab for some lunch and then over to a Utah state park with an intriguing name - Dead Horse Point. After a good Santa Fe burger (love green chili's on a burger!) with so-so fries at Milt's Stop & Eat, an old-fashioned burger joint that's been around for over 60 years, we got on Hwy 191 (Main Street in town) and drove north for about 11 miles along the southwest border of Arches National Park until we came to Hwy 313. We turned left and drove 18 miles to the park. This was a really nice drive with lots of cool scenery along the way.

The Colorado River over eons has carved a channel over 2,000 feet below the surrounding landscape. Standing at the top looking down, you will see the different colors of the geologic layers and by looking to the horizon, you will see nearly 5,000 square miles of rugged canyon country with sculpted pinnacles and buttes. The 5,250 acre park holds awe inspiring scenery most everywhere you look, contains one of the most photographed scenic vista's in the world, and is well worth a side trip if you are in Utah mainly to visit the various national parks. But Dead Horse Point? How did it get it's name?

A narrow neck of land only 30 yards wide connects the the point with the rest of the plateau. In the late 1800's, the point was used as a corral for wild mustangs roaming the mesa top.  Cowboys would herd them across the narrow neck of land and onto the point and the neck was then fenced off with branches and brush to make a 40-acre corral. They would choose and cut out the best horses and then remove the brush gate to let the rest go free. One time though, for some unknown reason, the brush gate was not removed and the horses not chosen were left corralled on the water-less point. The whole herd died of thirst within view of the life-sustaining Colorado River 2,000 feet below.

A little bit of trivia here - If you've seen the famous movie, Thelma and Louise, then you no doubt recall the climatic final scene where they drive off into the Grand Canyon. It wasn't the Grand Canyon where they drove over the edge, it was Dead Horse Point State Park. Why? Because the director, Ridley Scott judged the scenery to be more spectacular than the actual Grand Canyon.

A pile of evidence below the entrance sign
proves there are still horses very alive here!
Like the Moab Film and Western Heritage Museum, we had thought this would be a nice little side trip, a day of taking it rather easy and getting back to the motel early to rest up before spending a day visiting Arches National Park and hiking several more trails. Once again though, Mancation Rules #2 and #3 proved wise - "There will be no hard and fast time schedule" and "Take advantage of any unexpected interesting opportunity." 

We thoroughly enjoyed the park and wished we had skipped our aborted trip to the museum so we would have had more time. As it was, we didn't leave until the sun died and we drove back to the Bowen Motel in the dark. In our camera's, we both use high capacity digital cards (plus a backup) but they were so full of memories from the day that we both took the time to download the pictures to our laptops to make sure we had plenty of room for the next day. 

We ordered a large Supreme from Pizza Hut (one of the few places we found in Moab that delivers), took showers, set up our electronic things to charge overnight, called the wives and kids, and turned the TV to a movie. I can't tell you what movie it was as I must have fallen asleep about 10 seconds into it. The world could have come to a fiery, explosive end that night and I seriously doubt I would have known it until the next morning. When you get to a certain age, you know you've had a good night when you sleep all the way through, wake up alive with daylight coming in around the curtain edges and find your pillow wet with drool. Mark it on the calendar!

            (go to part 1)