Simply because the rain turns to snow in the mountain passes this time of year doesn’t mean the urge to put a few miles under your feet goes away. Kelly, Phil, Kathy, and I decided to head into the western desert toward Rush Valley over the short pass into Skull Valley. Although the temperatures were in the 40s as we left the neighborhood, it was beautiful blue skies all day.
Five Mile Pass is pretty much out in the middle of nowhere, so I’m always a little surprised to see all the four-wheelers chasing around in the dust. I guess we aren’t the only ones who wanted to enjoy the sunshine.
We stopped at Penny’s in Stockton for lunch. At least I had lunch, everyone else had a late breakfast. To be honest, there isn’t much to choose from in the west desert, but Penny’s was pretty good. At least my burger was tasty and there seemed to be a handful of locals in the booths chewing the fat. I can’t speak for everyone else, but I’d stop there again.
After lunch we headed south and west for the little town of Rush Valley. It would be an exaggeration to call the hills west of Rush Valley a mountain pass, but Johnson Pass is a fun little ride this time of year. What it lacks in elevation, it makes up for in fun. The only knock I can give the ride is that it needs to be 30 or 40 miles longer. We like it as a fun late/early season ride, but we never visit any other time of the year.
There’s a lot of wide open spaces in Western Utah. It’s not too hard to imagine what this area was like when the Goshutes were alone out here, before the Mormon Pioneers settled—other than the Army Depot and a few scattered farms, I don’ t think Skull Valley has changed too much.
I had to do a little digging to figure out how Skull Valley got the name. There are two stories. Ancient buffalo skulls were found in the valley in 1853-54 and people just started calling it Skull Valley. There’s another claim that native American skulls were reportedly found at one of the springs in the area, but that sounds pretty apocryphal to me. I’m sticking with the buffalo skulls.
It would have been a lonely life in the area in those days. The road into Dugway from Johnson Pass reminds me of the old movie Vanishing Point. It’s more likely the scenes I’m thinking of would have been filmed somewhere along Highway 50 across Nevada, but this part of Utah reminds me of that ride.
Phil often rides naked (sans helmet), but I admit to being a little surprised at his new headgear. I’ve always considered myself to be the Luddite of the group—I don’t access as much technology as the others on the road—but I think I just lost to Phil’s new “helmet”. I asked if it helped keep his head warm at least, but he shrugged and said, “Nope.”