After spending winter traveling between Arizona and Mexico we started northward in our 28’ fifth wheel trailer, following spring weather (see trip reports in CURRENT TRAVELS 2017 & 2018). Our first stop; St George, Utah. We had business in St George. We were considering it, or Cedar City sixty miles to the north, as possible places to re-establish a home base from which to continue our travels. We wanted to buy undeveloped land and build our home base there, the way we want it.
In early April we moved into Baker Dam, a Bureau of Land Management (BLM) campground twenty miles north of St George beneath the impressive Pine Mountain Wilderness Area of the Dixie Nation Forest. The campground is small, set in a juniper forest, and on a first come, first served basis (sites can’t be reserved). It’s basic and beautiful with a small lake, no power, no water, no dump station, but with a surprisingly strong 4G Verizon cellular signal. And, the sites easily accommodated our twenty-eight foot long trailer. It cost $12/night ($6/night for us with my America the Beautiful senior pass). Best of all, we had the entire campground to ourselves except for the jack rabbits, mule deer and wild turkeys that drifted through from time to time. It was very quiet except for the weekends when it turns into party-central for the locals. The tiny town of Veyo nearby is famous for it’s homemade pies and we feasted on fresh strawberry/rhubarb pie, one of our favorites.
From Baker Dam we visited friends in Cedar City, about 60 miles north of St George. Although the town is set in a pretty valley and near Bryce Canyon National Park, we didn’t like it. Too small, too remote, too cold. We enjoyed our visit with our friends, but we struck Cedar City from our list as possible relocation areas.
We moved on to Snow Canyon State Park on the outskirts of St George where we had reservations for the next eleven nights. At $26/night we had 30A electrical service, water, flush bathrooms with showers, and a dump station. The cellular signal was very weak even when amplified with our signal booster. The park is spectacular with white and red rock canyons overlain by ancient lava flows of black basalt. A paved bike trail leads through the park and on into the surrounding communities. This was a perfect base from which to explore St George with Zion National Park just a forty-minute drive away.
NOTE: Snow Canyon campground is small and popular. Only half of the sites can accommodate big rigs. Sites 1-14 are reservable, shared, sites with water and power, but packed so tightly together that you may not be able to open your slides if you have them. Beyond that, there are only a few more spacious reservable sites with power and water that we could maneuver our 28’ fifth wheel trailer into; sites 15A, 15B and 18. Sites 19 and 21 are suitable for larger rigs, and very private, but they’re dry, without power, and only available on a first come, first served basis. Smaller rigs and tent campers can get in anywhere.
Once set up in Snow Canyon we went to work; meeting real estate agents, driving through neighborhoods, checking out the small city. St George is one of the fastest growing areas in the United States and the real estate prices here reflect that. High-end subdivisions were spreading out in every direction and ½ acre building lots hovered in the $100K and above range. We had other concerns too. It gets hot here – real hot. Finally, we aren’t religious people, but St George is a major Mormon center. Would we fit in?
We were pleasantly surprised on all counts. Yes, St George is a major Mormon center, but it has become a major retirement and adventure travel area too. There are lots of backpackers, canyoneers, skiers, and mountain bikers living here and lots of activities associated with that lifestyle from yoga centers to outdoors clubs, hundreds of miles of bicycle paths, a lively performing arts center, and Las Vegas just an hour and a half drive away. Property costs are high, but we’ve found that desirable land anywhere in the U.S. is high now too. Climate; yes, it gets stinking hot in summer, from mid-June through early September into the 100’s F. But, there are high plateaus near St George where it is much cooler.
We found property outside of St George at 1,500’ higher elevation where temperatures are ten degrees cooler. While we were there in mid-April it even snowed in the mountains around us. But even outside of town land isn’t cheap, but it would be doable. So, we put our names down on the waiting list for a 1.3 acre parcel in the high juniper and sage lands below the mountains outside of town. We have the first opportunity to buy it when it becomes available on the market. It looks like we may have found our new home.
We spent the rest of our time in St George exploring this medium sized city and found it clean and easy to get around. We hiked the trails in Snow Canyon State Park admiring the petrified sand dunes and high cliffs of red and white streaked sandstone making them look like enormous Dreamsicles.
One morning I hiked into Padre Canyon, a more remote area of the park (actually a BLM Wilderness Area bordering the park). It was spectacular with no one else around.
Then our time at Snow Canyon was up and we moved back to Baker Dam, the BLM campground we had stayed in earlier. There we met old friends Matt and Pete who drove down in their van from Salt Lake City to camp with us. From Baker Dam the four of us hiked the Red Mountain Trail near the tiny town of Veyo to a spectacular overlook of Snow Canyon. Afterwards we stopped in Veyo to buy one of their famous pies (blackberry/strawberry crumb this time) and returned to our camp for an early dinner of hamburgers and pie.
We spent the rest of our time in St George camped at Baker Dam. From there we could visit our prospective property, meet with our architect, and visit other places like Zion National Park. We spent a day in the high country in Zion taking short hikes into side canyons. This reminded us how special this place is.
We came back to Zion the next day for longer hikes in the main canyon along the Virgin River. Sonia explored side canyons along the river; the Weeping Wall and the narrows of the Virgin River Gorge.
Meanwhile, I took a strenuous, and somewhat dangerous, climb to Angels Landing; a spectacular high point overlooking the whole valley.
Our time in St George was coming to an end. We spent the next day preparing to move on; doing laundry, dumping our waste tanks (free dump & water fill at Nielson RV in St George), shopping for groceries. From here we will head into the more remote country of eastern Nevada, into the canyons and high peaks of the great basin and range country.
We had come to like St George and considered staying longer, but the road is calling us. So, stay tuned – we’ll be reporting on Nevada soon.