Car enthusiast tours the old West

by David Harrison
Contributing Writer

I took my grandson Sean Castleberry and family friend Chris Triola on a 4WD and hiking trip to Utah in mid May. We got off the beaten track and saw a lot of great backcountry.

I showed the boys some of the best of the West discovered in my thirty years of exploring.

We drove in from Denver on a spectacular route across the Continental Divide and through Glenwood Canyon where the road runs in the red rock canyon of the infant Colorado. After a night in Moab, we drove part of the White Rim Trail, a wonderfully scenic 100-mile trail which circles Island-in-the-Sky, a huge mesa overlooking the confluence of the Green and Colorado rivers. We drove the Horse Thief trail to the Green, witnessing an old west cattle drive complete with cowboys and a boss cowgirl.  

We started at river level before ramping up to the high mesa.  After exploring an Indian watchtower overlooking a strategic river bend, we reached a wonderful campsite at Candlestick Tower with an incredible view of the Maze.  Two days later we reached the heart of the Maze via a serious 4WD road, which called for road building, as well as careful driving.  After our Maze adventure, we drove to the San Rafael Swell and day-hiked in Little Wild Horse slot canyon.  We topped this with an evening hike to Delicate Arch in Arches, before returning to Moab and enjoying the music of “Last Buffalo” in the Slickrock Café.

I enjoy coming across the old cars sitting out in the desert, they don’t rust away, though many are getting shot away.  I guess the cowboys must get bored of shooting at empty cans of beans. Most of the cars are utilitarian as you would expect - plenty of pickups, Fords and Chevys. There was one old Cadillac at an abandoned mine, maybe the boss left it there. Unwisely, he left it in a dry wash and it got filled wth rocks during a flash flood. I was surprised to come across a rare Goliath station wagon in a remote gas station forecourt. The car was in reasonably good shape and had a strange water cooled flat four under the hood. I had never seen or heard of a Goliath and researched it later; it was made in East Germany in the fifties. How it got into the desert is anyone’s guess.  Another rare find was a ‘50s Vauxhall Victor station wagon surrounded by Detroit iron near Hanksville.

The West is gradually getting paved over and gentrified, but you need to get off the highways onto the back roads and the dirt roads. The canyonlands area around Moab, the White Rim 4WD trail, the Maze and the San Rafael Swell are still authentic and incredibly scenic. If you are lucky, as we were, you can still see a genuine cattle drive; country which is still remote and unspoiled and the cars of the old west.

David Harrison is a longtime Chester resident and was recently featured in the Village News for hosting fellow MG enthusiast during their tour around America.  


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