First Time in Grafton Ghost Town and Gooseberry Mesa

We had some time after the Kolob Canyon scenic drive and Lee wanted to go see the Grafton Ghost town and Gooseberry Mesa.  The days are long here in April and I was totally fine with seeing them as long as he was OK getting back to our camper in the dark.  He felt very comfortable with that, so off we went!  I am not a huge fan of ghost towns in general and this one was just OK in my estimation, but the graveyard was really neat, and the views were spectacular.  It’s worth going for the views alone and it is an interesting little piece of history out in the desert.

Driving into Grafton

The town is in the process of being restored. It was a small Mormon settlement started by followers of Brigham Young, which was largely destroyed out in a flood

Lots of trees and grassland along a river. They raised cotton here

The church and main house survived the flood

Inside the main house was pretty interesting. These stairs went upstairs.

The brickwork was interesting

And you could see the brick and roofing

I peeked into the root cellar

But no way I was going in there

Ghost Towns deserve a little black and white photography

This small house was across from the main one

Original fireplace

Hand cut planks for the walls

The cemetery was absolutely the best part. Very scenic

The local Paiute tribes were friendly with the settlers and many were buried in the graveyard

They fought with the Navajo and several tombstones in the graveyard stated the person was killed by Indians

 

I am assuming because they were followers of Brigham Young that the settlers may have been polygamists, but it really wasn’t clear.  There was one grave site that had a wife on either side of him, but it’s possible he remarried after the first one died.  I would have loved more information about that, because it is history, but I didn’t see any mention at all one way or the other.  Even if you don’t really care for ghost towns I can absolutely recommend the view.  And you get to see the Chair Way to Heaven on the way and who doesn’t love a good pun?

Local artist had this in his front yard. I loved it

(Here’s a quick video to give you an idea of what the road to Grafton looks like. This is pretty much what the unpaved roads that are in good shape are like. This kind of road isn’t a problem for a two wheel drive, but they are definitely bumpy and full of washboard. The Go Pro has such a wide angle that it usually smooths out shaky video, so you can see just how bumpy it is because even the Go Pro video is pretty bouncy. The extreme wide angle also makes the road look much wider than it actually is. – Lee) 

After we left Grafton we drove to Gooseberry Mesa.  There is a 5 mile drive that is supposed to be absolutely gorgeous, but you need a 4-wheel drive vehicle and high clearance, neither of which we have.  I should probably take a moment and say that at this point we both are really regretting not having bought a four wheel drive truck.  You are going to see several references over the next few posts to places we could not go and it definitely has been a bummer.  I’ll tell you about them though because hopefully you can go there, and then tell you what we did instead, like the fact we had to drive 45 minutes the long way around to get to Gooseberry Mesa instead of the quick 5 mile road from Grafton.

I wanted to see it because I had read conflicting reports on Campendium about whether a bigger RV could boondock there, and Lee just wanted to stand on the edge of a mesa.  The views were again beautiful driving there, and it was a much more lush than at lower elevations.

Drive to get there was very pretty

 

The higher we got the more grassland there was and lots of free range cows grazing

It was chillier up there so they were still shaggy

The roads got narrower and narrower and although there may have been some spots farther away from the pretty views we wouldn’t take our rig there

This was the biggest we saw but most were very tiny

Eventually we went too far for even our truck and had to back up and turn around.  (From the main dirt road there are lots of little narrower BLM roads that branch off and then even narrower roads that go to each “site”. As we progressed through, looking for the edge of the mesa, the ground got to be more dirt than gravel, and had lots of big rocks. We bottomed out on a couple of big ones going up a little rise, and that loud “thump” can be somewhat stomach turning for a worrier like me. Visions of damaging the truck an hour before sunset that far away from civilization. I kept driving long past any point where I would have been willing to pull the rig, but eventually the dirt became soft sand, the brush was scraping along the side of the truck, and turns were so tight that I was really concerned I would be going so slowly on a turn that my front wheels would just get stuck and I wouldn’t be able to get out. Here’s a short video to give you an idea of how bad the ruts can be, very problematic for a low clearance vehicle, although when there’s plenty of room on the sides and the ground is dry you can put one side in the center and the other side can ride on the shoulder, which is what I was doing. The beginning of the video shows us going into the camping area, where it’s wide open, and then towards the edge of the side of the mesa. We found some folks camped on the very edge of the side, but I was looking for something closer to the edge of the tip, where it turned out there was a LOT more vegetation.

Again, you can see how quickly the road goes from “OK” to “NOT OK”, and would be a nightmare for 2WD if it were even a little bit wet. At about the 1:00 mark you can us turning onto one of the secondary roads and how much narrower it is, and how close the vegetation is. Another problem with those is that you can drive down one and find that there’s only one site and it’s occupied. At about 1:36 you can see very well as I go up a short rise how rocky the road can be. Just after that is where we turned down a road that eventually got so bad that I did a 17 point turn to get out before we ended up living out our lives on that mesa. I was too concerned to notice that the Go Pro had filled so none of that got recorded unfortunately. Anyway, in case it isn’t obvious, the takeaway here is if you’re planning on doing this kind of boondocking, it’s a good idea to scout first without your rig, if you can, and if nothing else, get out of the vehicle and walk the road before you commit to a turn or a road. Backing a 40′ rig out of this place would have been incredibly difficult, and probably impossible once it got dark. Google Earth is also a great way to get an idea of what you’re getting into before you even get there. – Lee) 

If you had four wheel drive and lots of nerve this might be an option for you, but I would absolutely scout it out ahead of time. It was beautiful though and we envied a tiny Rpod we saw who had this view. Stunning.

 

After Gooseberry Mesa we were both tired, and since it was getting dark we headed down to Hurricane and ate at a Chinese buffet.  It was a very full day and we were both pretty tired so called it a night and went to bed early.

 


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5 thoughts on “First Time in Grafton Ghost Town and Gooseberry Mesa

  1. Another awesome location. I can see clearly you are the modern day embodiment of the pioneer spirit. I too love to get off the main roads and explore. Dirt roads and dead ends become a challenge. I don’t think there are any areas in Utah that aren’t drop dead gorgeous. I have a Go pro, I definitely need to get busy and learn all the ins and outs of it. Thankyou for the terrific pics and videos. How much longer are you going to linger there, because there is so much to see. Obviously, this will require a return visit.

    • We only stayed 5 days but that generated 7 blog posts. Although I usually like to post more in “real time” I simply can’t keep up with it same day. We just finished page and moved to monument valley but you won’t be seeing those posts for awhile

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