Return to Vegas via Scenic Route
Tuesday, April 22
The final day was a beautiful one, weather-wise. Just the right temperature and very clear and sunny. Unfortunately, most of what we'd be doing today would be in the cars, as our primary objective was to get back to the Last Vegas area.
We weren't ready to give up on outdoors activities entirely. We plotted a route that went south along a very scenic backway known as the Cottonwood Canyon road. Over its 47-mile length, it winds through several interesting geologic areas and is quite pretty in spots. The most spectacular stretch is where the road runs along the grain of a spectacular section of steeply-tilted, very colorful strata known as The Cockscomb.
Beautiful Utah Backcountry
Driving through the Cockscomb
Pinnacles of the Cockscomb
The Cottonwood Canyon Road brought us down to the wide, nicely paved US 89, a highway that runs east-west in this area, and which would take us west back to the city of St-George (and from there, the interstate back to Las Vegas). First, however, I managed to convince the group to fit in a final little day hike, right here along highway 89, to a set of really pretty formations known as "The Toadstools".
Approaching the Toadstools
It's less than a kilometer / half-mile from the highway to the Toadstools, and the well-beaten route is easy to follow (although a bit braided in spots). Still, you pretty much end up in the same place no matter which braid you follow: a flat orange bench with white cliffs to the north. The Toadstools themselves are scattered on the bench - very thin and topped by an oversized caprock.
When I first visited the Toadstools in 2011, I was pretty impressed. Maybe it was the late-day light or the lack of people back then, but today the scene seemed less impressive. I think part of it is because several of the Toadstools have fallen since 2011, and I'm going to have to go back to my earlier pictures and check.
I recall that there were more interesting hoodoos a short way north of the main area, and I managed to convince a reluctant group to accompany me over that way. There's an alcove of very different Toadstools here - ones with a pure white base and very dark brown caprocks. Surrounded by an amphitheature of pure white cliffs, it was (and is) quite a striking spot. And there seemed to be as many hoodoos still standing here as I recalled from last time.
Our visit to the Toadstools was meant to be a short waystop on the way back to Las Vegas, and we did not stay long. Less than twenty minutes later we were back at the car and motoring westward on US89 towards St George.
Interactive trackmap with photo points - The Toadstools - click map to view
After arriving in St George, Utah (Southern Utah's largest city), we dropped into one of the Hatkos' favorite soutwestern eateries for lunch: the Cafe Rio chain, of which there is an instance in St George. I Especially like the milky/cinnamon Horchata drink.
With lunch done, we locate and spend a good hour doing a thorough cleaning off (inside and out) of our rental vehicles.
We were definitely in post-trip wind-down mode as we make the two hour trip down the interstate to Las Vegas. It's all over for us now - no more desert vistas, no more delightful canyon creeks. As mentioned earlier, Anna is staying for an extra day of touring, and we drop her off at the Excalibur - one of the Las Vegas strip's more colorful and kitschy hotels. Then a final quick snack at an eatery on the strip, and then off to the airport for our red-eye flight back east.
Dropping Anna Off
And... that's it. Many many thanks to all of you participants. Everything went pretty smoothly, even when the weather and Easter intervened to cause us to make last-minute changes. We adapted, which is the mark of a good travelling group. Our pre-trip fears about having the young folk along on backpacks was unfounded, as Katie and Evie's tolerance of long days and sometimes inclement conditions proved. I sincerely hope that this trip has sparked in them a lifelong love of the beautiful wild places of the world.
Thank you again, everyone.
The "Us" Shot
And... if you are interested in watching the video version of this report, please click below.
UtaHatkoTastica 2019 - The Movie