We wanted to visit Randlett, Utah, a post office near the Ute First Americans tribal headquarters in Fort Duchesne. Randlett was named for a very distant relative who was an Indian Agent in the 1800s and probably sold whiskey to the locals.
But using Interstates and U.S. highways was 185 miles one direction and 202 miles the other. We noticed a dirt road on our Triple A map that seemed to be less than 100 miles long. I remind you that wide use of GPS was still ten years in the future.
And we were in an adventurous mood. We left the Interstate and started across the desert.
We came upon some men repairing the road. The area is so remote, the county sent them out with an RV trailer for a week at a time. Their map only went as far as the county line, but it seemed we were heading in the correct direction.
Passing a cowboy and girl herding cattle at the base of Hill Canyon, we started our climb to the Tavaputz Plateau. We would not see another individual for at least the next fifty miles.
We had a picnic on top just with cattle for company. At the time, I thought, if we can’t find our way, I can light a fire beacon in the middle of the road. Alie later told me she was reviewing how much food we had in the car.
We followed a faded wood sign toward Spring Cove Canyon but instead wound about 3 miles down the roughest road yet. It had about six inches to the canyon wall on one side and a steep drop-off on the other. We found we were actually in V Canyon only to discover it is a box canyon with no outlet – we had to go back up that nasty road.
At an intersection back on top, we decided on Bull Canyon which started out good but soon became a narrow gravel stream bed with high canyon walls on each side. Looking up at the dark clouds overhead and thinking of flash floods, Alie said to turn around. But the streambed was too narrow to turn in, and I didn’t think I could back the entire way. Soon there was a wall straight ahead of us, but figuring the water had to go out, I kept on going. The stream bed made a left-hand turn through water carved walls just wide enough for the vehicle.
Click on photos to enlarge and view descriptions.
At the bottom, we came out into a valley with a sign post aimed up the hill. I said, someone has to be coming this way to see that sign. It assured us there was a way out.
Following Willow Creek a mile, I noticed we were going upstream again. So, we turned around and found the correct way through a meadow next to an abandoned ranch to a road on the other side that follows Willow Creek downstream for another 30 miles to Ouray, Utah. In all, it was about 110 miles of gravel or dirt or worse road.
There was a closed Indian school in Randlett, a general store/post office also closed for the day and nothing much else. We were invited to the annual Ute Bear Dance held that night in a nearby field, but we were too tired and drove on to Vernal where we found a motel. I regret missing that dance, but I think I might have gone to sleep and fallen down in the middle of it.
Date of our visit, first two weeks of May, 1997
Later we found BLM [Bureau of Land Management] maps that showed us where we had been. It was too bad we did not find those maps before crossing the plateau. With them and GPS, I might try it again.