Searching for cacti and for boondocks along the Notom Road

Friday, May 31

1-P1040867This is our last full day in the area of Capitol Reef National Park in central Utah.  We’ve reached the 14-day limit at Sunglow Campground.

First thing tomorrow morning I’ll break camp and the crew and I will “hit the road.”

I want to check out Notom Road before we move to another locale.

I’ve heard from different sources, including readers of this blog, that the Notom Road cuts through public land (Bureau of Land Management) and good boondocking spots are to be had.

Notom Road is on the east side of Capitol Reef. 

1-P1040868The crew and I came from that direction and are now on the far western side of Capitol Reef, beyond the town of Torrey.

Although we won’t be moving our camp to Notom Road, it could be a place for us to boondock in the future.  Besides checking for boondocks, I’ll get a last look at some of the national park.

I set up the crew’s water dish in the PTV, grab my purse and camera, lock up the BLT, and unplug the power cord from the PTV’s bumper.

Bridget, Spike and I jump into the PTV and head out of the campground.

1-P1040851We don’t get very far.  We don’t even get off the campground road and onto Highway 24.

Why?  Because RVSue lives in the moment and at this particular moment she drives around a curve in the road and sees a flash of bright red in the field of pale grey-green.


Hit the brakes!

1-P1040860I order the crew to lie down and shut up as I grab the camera to head out across the field.   (Now you know why photos of cactus blooms are scattered about this post.)  I take a photo of the blooming cactus.

I am not satisfied.  I want more.

The hunt is on! 

1-P1040869I step carefully around a mean little cactus, probably an evil cousin of the cholla, that grows all over the field, very close to the ground like a carpet from Hades.  The thorns are hair-thin and grab onto my pant legs and shoes.  But I am undaunted!

The blooming cacti are far apart from each other and hidden like botanical geocaches.

Well, I end up wandering all over the place for an hour or more.

I’m having a great ol’ time as I discover more cacti in different stages of bloom. It’s a fresh, sunny morning.  I stop myself to laugh out loud.

I am only a few miles from one of the greatest natural wonders of the world that people from all over the globe come to see at considerable expense and effort, and here I am running around a field of sage, cacti and rocks.  Me and my simple pleasures . .  .


Back at the PTV, all is quiet as Bridget and Spike are well into their morning nap.


Capitol Reef changes depending upon the time of day and the direction of travel.

I drive us through the park and turn onto Notom Road.  In a short while boondocking possibilities appear near flowing water that I assume is Pleasant Creek.  The dirt spur road from Notom Road is marked as Pleasant Creek Road so that’s a pretty safe assumption.  A few campers are parked along the creek.


 I park the PTV on Pleasant Creek Road.


Bridget and Spike wake up, yipping to get out and see where we are.

The road is covered in sand, but not deep enough to be a problem.  The crew happily trots down the lane, the sand soft under their paws. . .  My two little boondockers sure do love an adventure.


Spike sprints ahead and discovers an easy “turn-around” campsite.


We come across four or five secluded campsites with fire rings and cottonwood trees.

"Good job, Spikey!"

“Good job, Spikey!”

We take a break in the shade of another campsite.

We take a break in the shade of another campsite.

I pull out my Verizon air card from my pocket and a quick check confirms what I suspect — no signal at all.

I like these sites and would camp here if internet weren’t important.  It would be smart to arrive well-stocked with water, propane, and groceries.

Remember the white flowers at our camp in the canyon of the San Rafael Reef?  More of these white flowers grow in the Notom Road area.

Primrose?  Click to enlarge.

Primrose? Click to enlarge.

The sun is high in the sky and it’s getting too warm for more exploring on foot (or paws).



Bridget and Spike pick up their step when the PTV comes into view.

Well, look at all that Utah sunshine coming down onto my solar panel.  Boy, was that ever a good purchase.  Solar set us free.


“C’mon, guys. Time for a drink!”

Back in the PTV, we continue on Notom Road and find more boondocks.

At the point where Notom Road is no longer paved, I turn us around.  On the way back I see someone boondocked at a viewpoint or maybe just parked for lunch.


There’s a spectacular view from that campsite, although I don’t like to be that exposed to wind and highway.


The Notom Road takes us back to Highway 24, the road that goes through Capitol Reef.


I stop so the crew can have another walk. It’s my way of dealing with the last vestiges of guilt for leaving them in the PTV while I chased around looking for cacti this morning!

The Fremont River slides along solid rock the reaches heavenward.

1-P1040901Spike and Bridget always appreciate these short stops along the road.


On the way home I enjoy the scenery, but tomorrow is in the back of my mind . . . .


We have to leave in the morning.  Where will we go?  We could head in the direction of Nephi to the northwest or we could go toward Duchesne to the northeast.  Ah, Duchesne.  I liked that little town with the Duchesne River running through it.   Although a new place on a new route is always fun . . .


Well, I’ve had a great introduction to Capitol Reef.  I’ve seen enough rock.  Some place green would be nice.  Hmm . . . some place green and with water.


Later that evening, with Bridget and Spike tucked into bed for the night. . .

I look for our next camp online and in the Benchmark atlas on my lap.  For the first time in our vagabond life, it’s the night before breaking camp and I still don’t know where we are going!


Note:  We did find that green camp with water!  More about our new camp in the next post.


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60 Responses to Searching for cacti and for boondocks along the Notom Road

  1. Donna in CT says:

    I understand the serendipitous joy of finding those flowers. I felt that way many times during my two weeks camping in the outback of Australia. I heard so many people remark that the desert was so empty. I didn’t find it so at all. It was full of wonder once you understood that you needed to pay attention to the details. The little flowers, the types of clouds, the way the wind left shapes in the sand, the footprints left by various animals, and so on. Amazing things are everywhere if you are awake enough to notice. Thank you for noticing those things for us to share.

    • rvsueandcrew says:

      Well said, Donna. Some folks would go where you went and probably think — how boring! — and leave with a vague memory of having been there. You, on the other hand, possess vivid memories and a personal connection with the place. What a difference!

  2. I have been thinking I’d like to visit Capitol Reef, although without an RV I would have to set up a tent. Maybe next year. Your pictures are beautiful.

    • rvsueandcrew says:

      You wouldn’t have any problems finding great places to set up a tent. Thanks for the compliment on the pics, Martha.

  3. Geri says:

    I love the way you travel, on a whim and a prayer and faith! You always end up someplace so gorgeous that you have all of us here, on the other end of your computer, wanting to put our gypsy shoes on and explore! Right now, our front yard is full of blooming cacti and I love it. Can’t wait to see where you land with green vistas!

    • rvsueandcrew says:

      I bet your yard is pretty. It’s going to be tough giving up that yard to live full-time in your fifth wheel. But once you’re on the road, you’ll be happy campers!

      It does amaze me how we do end up in wonderful camps. I’m hoping it isn’t beginner’s luck because I won’t be a beginner for much longer.

  4. Ladybug says:

    I’m thinking it’s dune primrose (one of its names, anyway).

    Bridget looks so happy in the tree shade!

  5. Carol says:

    Hi RV Sue,

    I enjoy reading your blog and looking at your pics. I use to get a e-mail when you posted your blog and it always kinda brightened up my day to take a minute and look at your post. I no longer receive those e-mails, are they unavailable now that you have had to change from wordpress?

    Washington state does not have many BLM opportunities, but it does offer Green & Water!

    • rvsueandcrew says:

      Hi Carol,

      The email notification feature is not available for self-hosted WordPress sites. I have tried several plug-ins and have been unsuccessful in restoring that feature. I hope you will bookmark my blog or make a shortcut on your desktop, until I can figure out how to put the subscribe option back. I’m sorry for the inconvenience.

  6. BuckeyePatti says:

    Such great pictures again, thanks. Dear Bridget & Spike are probably gonna see more of this beautiful country than I ever will…lucky dogs!

  7. mockturtle says:

    Great post, Sue! Yes, simple pleasures are the best!! 🙂

  8. cinandjules (NY) says:

    Gorgeous pictures of the cacti blooms. The crew probably slept the entire time you were gone.

    Good job Spike!

    Love your free spirited ways……..we’ll get there when we get there…wherever “there” is. We don’t settle for just anything…it’s got to be perfect!

    Live that dash! Safe travels.

    • rvsueandcrew says:

      As I was roaming around that desolate field looking for the red cactus flowers, I thought, hey, this is a parable for life.

      If you find yourself in a landscape drab, dreary and covered in thorns, turn toward the sun and bloom so brightly you catch the world by surprise.

      Always nice to hear from you, cinandjules.

  9. Ed says:

    I respectfully disagree with the identity of the flower as a Dune Primrose. I believe it is a White Desert Primrose. Please open this link and then scroll down until you find a picture labeled White Desert Primrose
    I will grant you that the person posting that page may have mis-identified the flower but it does look like what Sue has found.

    • rvsueandcrew says:

      Oh my! The Primrose Wars! LOL

      Well, everyone agrees those flowers are primroses. The White Desert does look correct, Ed. Now I’ll have to go back and look at the Dune again.

      As another detail toward identification, I did not see any of these flowers turning pink (which may be due to immaturity), nor did they close up during the day. I think we’ve eliminated the Evening Primrose.

      LATER . . .

      Hoo-boy. Look what I found on DesertUSA.

      “This member of the Onagraceae (Evening Primrose) Family, has many varieties and subspecies, accounting for its numerous common names.

      Desert Primrose
      Birdcage Evening Primrose
      Devil’s Lantern
      Basket Evening Primrose

      When some of these some varieties die, the outer stems curl upward and inward, forming a cage-like shape.

      Dune Evening Primrose grow profusely in the Spring after abundant Winter rains, making the early morning desert appear as if its covered with tissue paper. This plant is pollinated by the long-tongued, White-lined Sphynx Moth (Hyles lineata).”

      — A.R. Royo

      • Ladybug says:

        Well, looks to me like you’re going to have to make camp by one of the plants until it dies and we know which way it curls, in order to make proper identification! LOL

        • rvsueandcrew says:

          Don’t give me ideas. You know how I get caught up in the little things . . . 🙂

  10. AZ Jim says:

    Movin, movin, movin, keep them doggies movin…..RAWHIDE! Always a nice little road trip with RVSue and company….

  11. Places says:

    Pale Evening Primrose has reddish stems and your picture clearly shows reddish stems. I don’t want to repeat myself since I gave you the answer when you originally posted your picture some time ago. You included many great pictures today. Thanks.

    • rvsueandcrew says:

      You’re welcome. I’m glad you like the photos. I’m happy I have such a good camera.

  12. I love the rocks but those cactus would have taken me away as well. They are magnificent!!! So glad you posted so many pictures. We loved Capital Reefs. Glad you had a good two weeks.

    • rvsueandcrew says:

      I expected to hear some complaints from readers about all the photos I’m posting in the text of each post, now that I don’t have the slideshow option. It’s great to hear you are enjoying them.

      • Ed says:

        I like it much better, but that is just me. I think I told you before that I’m not much of a slideshow fan.

        However, IF you want to add one it looks like you do so for only $28 at I know your frugal but sometimes you just have to bite the bullet and spend a couple of dollars. It happened to me recently when people convinced me to buy a camera.

        • rvsueandcrew says:

          Really? Only $28? A month or a year? I’ll look into that, Ed. Thanks!

          The folks at Hostgator did warn me of adding a lot of plug-ins saying something to the effect that they “conflict” with each other.

          I don’t know if I want to add a slideshow feature or not if I can’t simply build slideshows from my WordPress media library. My main concern was losing the slideshows of previous posts. I’ve decided to keep the old blog, although static, up and running so one has access to the slideshows, especially me, because they take me back to some wonderful times.

          The only other plug-in that some readers want (that I know of) is the email notification plug-in. Unless, of course, I can retrain them to use other methods!

          I do appreciate your helpfulness, Ed.

        • rvsueandcrew says:

          Ha! I just realized who the “people” are in your last sentence. 🙂

  13. Rita says:

    Now I definitely have to travel that road…beautiful country w/stream! No wonder Spike and Bridget can’t wait to explore…they must love it too. The flower looks like dune primrose, desert primrose and other names they go by. How hot is it now at end of May?

    • rvsueandcrew says:

      I’m content to call those flowers primroses and let it go at that.

      The temperature at Sunglow is slightly cooler than in the towns of Bicknell, Lyman, and Loa nearby because it’s a higher elevation. The nights are cool (low 40s) and the days are perfect (70s to 80s).

  14. Glenda says:

    Just checking your blog every day so I don’t miss one….no hardship! Loved the cacti flowers and all the other photos too. This Aussie know little about Utah, so have learnt a lot………….thanks Sue!

    • rvsueandcrew says:

      You’re welcome! I thought of you, Glenda, when I was putting the photos into my rough draft. Hmm . .. These photos will show Glenda in Australia what Utah is like. I think you’ll be surprised by the contrast with our new camp!

  15. Kim says:

    I find photographing wildflowers, birds, and other wildlife is addictive. Can’t stop at one plant or one waterfowl.

    • rvsueandcrew says:

      Funny you should mention waterfowl, Kim. I’ll be posting pics of waterfowl today.

  16. Pleinguy says:

    Duschesne would definitely be better than Nephi. Better still is to go up Rt 10 north to Castle Dale, then Rt 29 up into the mountains. Theres’s a campground next to Joes Valley Reservoir, but further on past (stay right on the gravel road) you will find numerous boondock spots or NFS camps with vault toilet, fire ring and water 14 day limits. Find this all along Miller Flat Rd, don’t be discouraged by the gravel road and the twist and turns. I think you can make it just fine. It will intersect with paved route 31. Turn left and there’s a spot next to Huntington Reservoir to pull off. Further on you will come to a switch back that meets Rt 264. Turn right then an immediate left onto Skyline Dr, another gravel road that travels the backbone of the mountain. A short ways in there will be a turn to the right going to Gooseberry Reservoir and a camp site. You could spend all summer up there. Rt 31 will take you down into Fairview for resupply.

    • Timber and Rusty says:

      I was up there last year and no signal for my wireless, but great camping

    • rvsueandcrew says:

      I almost went to Joe’s Valley last summer and I’ve been considering it again. You “think” I can make it just fine or you “know” I can make it just fine. The difference between those two words is very long. 🙂

      Some other words in your comment put up red flags… “Skyline”….. “switchback” …. “backbone” … um, “don’t be discouraged?” LOL

      Seriously, thank you for all that great information. The only thing that might keep me away — all kidding aside — is the lack of internet. It sounds wonderful up there.

  17. Gayle says:

    I’m still waiting to see Bridget and Spike come trotting into my email window, and I don’t see them yet. Were we supposed to come over here and re-register? Did I miss that memo? Where are youuuuuuuu?

    • rvsueandcrew says:

      Hi Gail,

      The email notification feature is not available for self-hosted WordPress sites. I have tried several plug-ins and have been unsuccessful in restoring that feature. I hope you will bookmark my blog or make a shortcut on your desktop, until I can figure out how to put the subscribe option back. If you forget that, just type in the address bar. I’m sorry for the inconvenience.

  18. Sierra Foothill Mama says:

    Email notifications seem too much like work for me since I get 50 to 70 emails every day for my job. No notification needed for me, my day is officially over when I turn off my email and relax to my travels with Sue (in my mind at least). Even when there is not a new post, there are lots of interesting comments from others who also take part in this journey.

    Dreaming of the day when I can take my pups Lucy and Pepper on the road – I may even let Bob (husband of 40 years) come along too.

    • rvsueandcrew says:

      I was the same way when I was teaching and in the dreaming and planning stage before full-timing on the road. By the time I made it home I didn’t want to see another email. I’d click on Tioga George in my favorites and I’d start to relax.

      I do appreciate people who take the time to comment here. It adds so much enjoyment and information, especially for those who are in the “dreaming and planning stage.” Even if it’s only to chime in with what others have written . . .

      Lucy and Pepper . . . Now that sounds like a vagabond crew! Oh, and Bob, too. 🙂

  19. Rattlesnake Joe says:

    It looks like you are in Binocular country. Canon makes an IS [Image Stabilized] 10 x 30 pair of binoculars that are the cats meow. This amazing technology lets you see a perfect picture by just a push of the button. Inside the binocular is a gyroscope that electronically makes the view stay still, so you can see without vibration from a moving car, breathing heavy ect.. what you see is rock steady. Usually a ten power binocular is jumping around so much you can’t hold it still, now you can and what a differance it is. Viewing is no longer a chore, but a pleasure without squinting or trying to find a fence post to hold it steady. These little babies are expensive but worth every penny. I bet you would fall in love with these and your whole way of looking at things will change. I got mine at Cabela’s down in Arizona for $400 when they first came out. They try and hide these by keeping them under the table so they can sell the more expensive but not as good binoculars. Check ’em out at Amazon or other internet places. You will thank me I guarentee it 🙂

    • rvsueandcrew says:

      Hi Joe,

      You really think cheap ol’ RVSue would spring for $400 binoculars? Where have you been, babe? $400 is rent for a year! LOL

      It’s a matter of not knowing what I’m missing. I’m happy with my little monocular that costs under $10 (if I remember that right… It’s in the Shopping Links).

      As you said, I bet I would fall in love with those super-duper binoculars, so I’ll be careful never to look through them! I’m glad you enjoy them, Joe. Thanks for sharing the info for all of us.

  20. Dave says:

    Another great post Sue. I loved it. I’ve got 56 more days on this BLM project and I’m out there. My plan is to spend up to a year exploring Nevada starting with “the loneliest road in America”. Keep them coming Sue. You’ve got me stoked!

  21. Brian says:

    You’d better watch it Sue, photography can be addicting!
    Also watch yourself when crouching down photographing cactus …

    If you get my point.

  22. Trip And Lisa says:

    It just don’t get any better than spending the evening reading your blogs Sue.Thanks so much.

    About the only thing missing is some Varsity dogs with onions on the side.
    And we can’t help but wonder if you get that craving every now and then too,lol.

    • rvsueandcrew says:

      Ha! So you’re a Varsity fan! I didn’t have a craving until you mentioned them! The greasy french fries and chili dogs . . . oh boy.

      One of the rewards of putting together this blog is reading your first paragraph. Nice of you to say so, Lisa.

  23. Elizabeth says:

    Whew…sure glad to know you found a spot to land next!! Keep reading along…just don’t remark much….those who do are a growing number tho…that is good for your blog!!

    • rvsueandcrew says:

      You’re so right, Elizabeth. This blog comes alive in the comment section. I’m so glad I didn’t lose all the comments that have been made since August 2011.

      I did lose the slideshows in the transfer to self-hosting. I’d like to keep the old blog up for people who want to go back to the beginning. And I like to go back occasionally and watch slideshows of places where the crew and I camped.

  24. Renee (from Datil) says:

    Sounds like a good thing you were wearing long pants instead of shorts! It sure is hard to keep up with you, lady. You do manage to find the most beautiful spots. I’ll be seeing my West through your eyes for a little while — been in KS & OK for two months, moving along to MO to visit family. Lots of green, & it’s lovely, but I SO miss the mountains! Stay safe!

    • rvsueandcrew says:

      Speaking of staying safe…. Good to know you are safe, Renee, after being in Kansas and Oklahoma for these past two months of tornadoes in that region. Enjoy your family… The mountains of New Mexico will wait for you!

  25. Reine in Plano says:

    Glad you turned around at the end of the pavement. We went all the way down the Notom road to Bullfrog Campground/Marina on Lake Powell on our recent Utah Ramble as a side trip with just the truck. Beyond the pavement you get into SERIOUS washboard. I thought we were gonna be rattled to pieces and since we were caravanning with a group we couldn’t really choose our speed. Faster would have been smoother. Lovely area and a different look than the rest of Capitol Reef.

    We read your blog every day but didn’t comment much while we were on the road. I don’t type as well on an iPhone as on a regular keyboard! Stay safe and sorry we missed connecting with you while we were in the area.

  26. Rosemary in PA says:

    Hi Sue,

    I did a little checking around for you (since I am still not on the road…yet) and found this article about using Feedburner to handle email subscriptions for a WordPress blog.

    It uses code that Feedburner gives you and then just a text widget on your site so it should work on your Hostgator site. Hope it helps. If not, maybe it will get you started in the right direction.

    • rvsueandcrew says:

      I almost put that on the blog last night. However, it looked like it would put one of those boxes that show a list of of the same thing, feeds or something… It’s hard to explain, but I definitely don’t want that! I’ll look at it again. Thanks, Rosemary. I appreciate the reminder. Right now I need to get busy writing the next post about our new camp!

      • Rosemary in PA says:

        When you have time, look again, there is the RSS but there is also the email subscription, I believe. I think you need to set up the RSS in Feedburner but not exhibit it on your own site. Just the email code.

        P.S. Love your blog and I am living vicariously through your travels. Hope to be on my way to a similar lifestyle some day.

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