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The Wolverine Loop Trail

Posted in Events on November 1, 2011 Comment (0)
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In 1882, southern Utah’s Burr Trail was called the most God-forsaken and wild-looking country ever traveled. It continued to be a rocky trail until it was improved in 1967 by uranium miners. A federal judge threw out a lawsuit in 1990 aimed at preventing the road from being improved. That same year, Lone Writer and his pals crossed the Burr Trail for the last time before it was paved.

Josephine Catherine Chatterly Wood was a midwife who worked the communities between Bluff and Monticello. She was very well known and respected for her talents in treating all kinds of injuries and in handling difficult childbirth situations. We are not sure why she was on the Burr Trail but we found a journal entry written by her with several descriptions of the wild country the trail crossed.

The Burr Trail was originally established in the 1870s by a rancher named John Burr. He needed to move his livestock between pastures and to the market. The trail spanned nearly 70 miles across a part of the country where nothing else existed. After paving was completed, the trail lost most of its wild appeal. On the other hand, using all that pavement is a matter of choice. To experience the wild country described in 1882, a detour along the Wolverine Loop is the perfect option.

Lone Writer and Happy Jack arrived in the Bullfrog area on a sunny warm day in March. They had intended to get there by way of the ferry but it was dry docked for repairs. That being the case, they decided not to pay the fee to enter the park. One gas station was open outside the park boundary near the intersection for the Burr Trail.

The white caps of the Henry Mountains provide a scenic contrast to the desert country at their feet.

The first part of the Burr Trail skirts along that which was once beach area for Lake Powell. Low water levels have changed those sandy beaches into dry sand dunes. The access roads to them were closed when we were there in March. Lone Writer and Happy Jack reminisced about a night during the 1990s when a night of winds turned their beach camp into a raging sand storm that blew some tents into the lake.

One of their favorite stories involves the people who lost their tents. They went into Bullfrog looking for a motel room. The entire group had been camping all week with no access to showers. About six of them stood at the counter waiting for the attendant to decide what to do with them when a little girl walked by with her father. She looked at the ragged group and said, “Daddy, it stinks in here.” The attendant handed a key to one member of the group and told them they would all fit in a trailer parked in the back. In other words, he wanted them out of his hotel.

The switchback road to the top of the Waterpocket Fold is a beautiful drive.

The Burr Trail crosses wide-open lands and eventually enters Capital Reef National Park. The first significant change in the roadway is when the Burr Trail turns to climb the cliffs at Waterpocket Fold. Prior to the switchbacks being widened, they were described as dangerously narrow where boulders rolled down the cliffs and threatened travelers. It is now wide enough for cars to pass and offers scenic views of the Henry Mountains.

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At the top of the switchbacks, the roadway flattens out with a side trip available into Upper Muley Twist Canyon. It is a dead-end trip but very scenic. The main attraction is a double arch beside the wash. We were told it is actually a triple arch, but all we saw were two. It is possible a third might be found by those who can climb the cliff.

Peek-a-Boo arch welcomes travelers into Upper Muley Twist Canyon.

Burr Trail continues past the side road for that canyon and exits the national park a short distance before the beginning of the Wolverine Loop. The pavement begins at the park boundary.

There are several dead-end side roads accessible off the Wolverine Loop. In the days of the pioneers, the road that used Harris Wash was a main route connecting the Burr Trail to the Hole in the Rock Road. That route was closed when the Glenn Canyon Recreation Area was formed.

The Wolverine Petrified Forest can be accessed from the loop road. It seems to have been picked pretty clean through the years. Scientists are always trying to determine what happened on Earth 250 million years ago. Some believe the planet was tilted differently and Utah was actually very near the Equator. They believe the area was hot, swampy, and humid. A lot of the fossils found within the Petrified Forest support that theory.

The Burr Trail ends at the city limits of Boulder. It continues to be an isolated community. Although it was founded in 1889, it did not have electricity until 1947. The main attraction in this town of about 200 people is the Anasazi State Park. Prehistoric tribes lived in the area around the year 1100 and built a Kayenta Anasazi village that is now within that state park.

Navigation - GPS Positions
The intersection for the Burr Trail is a short distance north of Bullfrog on State Route 276.
N37 34.5431 W110 42.7285 Turn west on Burr Trail.
N37 45.5447 W110 54.4600 Left onto dirt road.
N37 51.2786 W111 0.6901 Left fork toward Boulder.
N37 51.2083 W111 2.5806 Straight. Right goes to Upper Muley Twist.
N37 51.9338 W111 6.2434 Left onto Wolverine Loop.
N37 50.4900 W111 7.0380 Right turn. Left goes to Harris Wash.
N37 47.2283 W111 10.2914 Right Turn.
N37 48.2411 W111 12.3770 Right turn. Left is Wolverine Petrified Forest.
N37 51.0364 W111 13.4073 Right Fork.
N37 55.4564 W111 13.2383 Left on Burr Trail.
N37 54.0741 W111 25.4907 Boulder.

The Wolverine Loop Road retains the rugged look once shared by the Burr Trail.

The Xterra Pro-4X driven by Lone Writer is provided by Nissan. Tires are provided by BFGoodrich. GPS and Mapping software is provided by DeLorme. For more information, check out www.lone-writer.com.

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