Wolverine Petrified Forest

    When the Earth Moved, the Dinosaurs Died

    Larry E. HeckPhotographer, Writer

    Lone Writer stood beside a sign in Utah’s desert. According to that sign, he was in the Wolverine Petrified Forest. It didn’t look like a forest to him -- just a lot of sand and rocks.

    The sign said if he had been there 225 million years ago, he would have been in the middle of a lush forest. If you believe man came from apes, you might expect to see them racing through the forest with a dinosaur hot on their heels. At that time Utah was much closer to the equator. Geologists believe it was about the same distance from the equator as Cuba is today. During that time, Nevada and California were located at the bottom of an ocean and Utah was near the coast. The most common explanation for the changes is the movement of Earth’s tectonic plates but that stuff is way over Lone Writer’s head. He was just happy there were no dinosaurs sizing him up for lunch.

    There’s not much left of the petrified forest where Lone Writer was standing. All he found was a small petrified stump. According to the sign, there is more of the forest about a mile west in the canyon. Lone Writer’s knees no longer permit such hikes, so he was unable to get a photo of any giant fossilized conifer trees.

    Getting to the Wolverine Petrified Forest from Boulder, Utah, begins with a very scenic drive along the Burr Trail. After climbing out of Long Canyon, a sandy road branches off to the right into White Canyon. The road can be nasty when wet since it follows the floor of narrow washes. It eventually crosses Wolverine Creek and follows the creek to the Petrified Forest trailhead.

    Four-wheel drive is recommended, but a talented driver could get in using a passenger car during dry weather. Continuing down Wolverine Wash is not permitted, so the road climbs out of the wash and winds through a thick forest of pinion-juniper trees. It continues in and out of washes and is sometimes high enough to provide a panoramic view of the entire area.

    While cruising through the forest wondering what it all looked like 225 million years ago, one unsettling thought kept interfering with the tranquil environment presenting itself to Lone Writer. That thought, “If this was a swamp and gradually transformed into a desert, isn’t it logical to expect it might someday transform itself back to a swamp?” The last time that happened it wiped out the dinosaurs and probably did a lot of damage to any other creatures living at that time. If it did so again, would it wipe out all of mankind?”

    The road forms a half circle that eventually leads back to the Burr Trail. Lone Writer continued east and entered Capital Reef National Park. A short distance later, he turned into Upper Muley Twist Canyon.

    A narrow two-track road welcomes the visitor into the canyon. It immediately goes to the floor of the wash and stays there to the end of vehicle access. The first arch you see high above at the top of the canyon on Burr Trail is called Peek-a-Boo Arch. It is visible a long time before entering the canyon, while still on the Burr Trail.

    About halfway to the end of the vehicle access, the trail passes Trinity Arch. This triple arch is on the left side of the canyon and hard to miss. Look closely at the photo in this story and you will see the third arch behind the second arch. It is very small in comparison to the other two arches, but it does qualify as an arch. Those of you healthy enough to find a way to reach the top of this arch may find other arches, too, but that’s all Lone Writer has seen.

    The access road ends at a trailhead for a long hike through Capital Reef National Park. There are other arches along that hike, but they are not accessible to handicapped people. Those of you who are still able to hike in the desert might want to spend a couple days in the Upper Muley Twist. It is an isolated and quiet place to kickback and ponder the ways of the world. In the summer months, it can be very hot in that area. Plan your trip in September or October.

    After returning to the Burr Trail, Lone Writer turned east and went down the Burr Trail Switchbacks. This is just a graded road, but it is very scenic. Lone Writer found a panoramic viewpoint and stopped for lunch, surrounded by a landscape formed when the tectonic plates of the earth moved and the dinosaurs died.

    Larry E. Heck has been writing stories about fun, scenic, and historic places to go in a 4x4 since 1985. Check out the border-to-border Outlaw Trail Project 2014. It crosses the country from Canada to Mexico, primarily on backcountry roads, connecting locations used as hideouts to the sites of bank and train robberies. Create a log-in account at www.Outlaw-Trail.com and receive a gift certificate for a free eBook.

    Latitude North Longitude West Comments
    N37 55.4606 W111 13.2401 Intersection of Wolverine Canyon Road and the Burr Trail.
    N37 48.2461 W111 12.3815 The entrance to Wolverine Petrified Forest.
    N37 51.2133 W111 2.5800 Entrance to Upper Muley Twist Canyon.