The crew. Photo: Jared Stevens

The Sunshine Honeymoon Ride

Feb 19, 2024

I recently met up with some friends to try and escape the winter cold here in Salt Lake, and head south to do a bit of wandering and get outside a bit. At least, for Don and myself it was an escape. Jerry already has the benefit of living near Sand Hollow in southern Utah, so he had already done a decent job of getting away from the cold.

Jerry planned a route that would take us on a looping tour of northern Arizona's Sunshine and Honeymoon Trails. The trip also included a side run to visit Antelope Knoll, an ancient volcano.

Don and I left early-ish on Saturday morning, and I caught up to his Lexus by chance on I-15 somewhere near Provo. With both of us driving vehicles that would barely out-perform cinder blocks in a wind tunnel, we weren't exactly making record time down to Hurricane. Still, it wasn't a bad ride down.

After meeting up with Jerry in his XJ, we fueled up, grabbed a bite to eat, then headed for the dirt. We started the run in Sand Hollow, and after airing down, we were on our way.

Our first stop was near Fort Pearce, which is about 12 miles south of St. George. While there, we did a short hike to check out some petroglyphs in the area. Near the petroglyphs we also found a geocache, and I left our names in the logbook.

We still had a bit of ground to cover before making it to camp, so we had to get on our way. The terrain was fairly easy going for the most part, which allowed for us to make good time, but there was still enough challenge in a few spots to keep it interesting. We continued to follow the Sunshine trail, eventually finding a good spot near the base of Seegmiller Mountain.

We made camp for the night, and even though it had taken several hours to arrive there, we ended up being just 12 miles south of St. George, and could see the lights of the city in the distance. As my wife would later tell me, "you guys really need a better map."

That night, Don had dinner duty, and prepared what were easily the best birria tacos I've had in my life. (I later tried to recreate them at home, but he clearly put more love into the recipe than I did, as my attempt did not compare.) With bellies full of tacos, we simply hung out under the stars and sat enjoying the view. Eventually we called it a night, and headed off to bed.

The view from camp the next morning, St. George in the distance.

The following morning, we began to break camp, and had a quick breakfast. We tried to make some plans to adjust the route to potentially hit the Grand Canyon later in the day. Unfortunately, time and fuel would prevent that from happening. Continuing south, we continued to take in the scenery.

Beware the yucca plants. They bite.

By mid-afternoon, we arrived at Antelope Knoll. Hung out for a bit to enjoy the view, take some photos, and eat some lunch. As much as I love camp cooking, and taking time to prepare a meal, I've lately become a fan of the deli subs from my local grocery store. Sure, it's a giant sub meant for a family, but they're perfect for trips like this. Cut off a slice each day, and you've easily got a few ready-to-go lunches.

After determining that there just wasn't enough fuel to get us to the Grand Canyon, we began the trek back north. Our route took us along the Honeymoon Trail. The trail gets its name from the early days of the Mormon settlements in southern Utah and northern Arizona. After the temple in St. George was completed in 1877, couples from the Arizona settlements would make the trek along this route to have their marriages solemnized in the temple. The journey could take several weeks.

The previous day on our hike near Fort Pearce, we found several names inscribed on the rock walls. I'd later learn that many of those names were very likely a record of some of the folks that had travelled the area for their weddings.

The spring at the historic Fort Pearce site was a popular overnight camping spot for these travelers, some of whom inscribed their names and the dates of their visits on the rocky cliff faces at the spring.

Continuing north, we would eventually make camp on a bluff overlooking Hurricane, with Sand Hollow reservoir in the distance. While enjoying the sunset, we began to notice that more than a few homes in the neighborhood at the base of the bluff had helicopter pads in their yards. As we were wondering why so many folks had them, we saw an airplane approaching from the distance. As the plane got closer, we realized that this was a neighborhood with its own airstrip, and that what at first glance were large garages, were in-fact hangars. We watched as the plane landed, then promptly taxied off down a side street, and onto a driveway. Kinda wild - I've never seen that before.

Sand Hollow in the distance, a private airfield up close.

We again enjoyed a nice relaxing night, taking in the views, having good conversation, and partaking in some pretty tasty cheesesteaks, courtesy of Jerry.

Needing to get on the road, in the morning we skipped preparing breakfast, and instead headed into Hurricane to a cafe for omelettes, pancakes, and whatever else sounded good. Pretty good eating, and great way to wrap up a trip. We then headed to a car wash to rinse most of the mud off, and in my case, restore the Bronco's headlights to something a bit more functional for the trek home to Salt Lake. In the end, we covered 136 miles, and it was a great trip to start off the year.