Last Chance – Mussentuchit Loop

Relatively late in the day on Friday, I decided to get a quick camping and sightseeing trip in. This would be the same loop I rode on an ATV in late 2010, but in the opposite direction and with some new sights to see. After work I hurriedly threw some gear into the Jeep and headed south on Highway 10, crossing under I-70 and landing at the Willow Springs Overlook just before sunset. I waited with my camera ready, hoping for a colorful sunset like we’d had the previous few evenings, but sunset was a dud. I drank three potent beers and read a book while darkness fell, then went to bed early.

Swell Jeep parked at the Willow Springs Overlook
Swell Jeep parked at the Willow Springs Overlook

Twisted juniper with a view of the Henry Mountains
Twisted juniper with a view of the Henry Mountains

Coal/Limestone Cliffs
Coal/Limestone Cliffs

Henry Mountains
Henry Mountains

I didn’t sleep very well and got out of bed a little after 6AM. Sunrise proved to be quite nice, and while sipping coffee I took a few snapshots of the fiery sky. When I hit the road it was cloudy and still quite dark. I drove down Willow Springs Wash and found some crude pictographs that I’d missed on previous trips. I investigated a faint spur road off the main road where, in the satellite imagery, it looked like a trail approached the cliffs to the north. I found the trail and followed it, hoping to find some rock art or perhaps a stock trail, but what I found was perplexing. In several places along the cliff somebody had drilled hundreds of holes along the cliff face, obviously while suspended from a rope. I’d seen something similar near the Moore Cutoff Road, but then as now I don’t know what their purpose was.

Juniper sunrise
Juniper sunrise

Sunrise closeup
Sunrise closeup

Sunrise, Cedar Mountain, and the Henrys
Sunrise, Cedar Mountain, and the Henrys

Old building in Willow Springs Wash
Old building in Willow Springs Wash

Crude pictographs in Willow Springs Wash
Crude pictographs in Willow Springs Wash

Drill holes in a cliff
Drill holes in a cliff

Drill holes in a cliff
Drill holes in a cliff

A little farther down the road I visited the site of the Willow Springs Civilian Conservation Corps camp. Still left are some rock walls, concrete foundations, a dugout building, and various other structures whose purpose I can’t fathom.

Sign at the Emery-Sevier county line
Sign at the Emery-Sevier county line

You know you’re in Emery County when…
You know you're in Emery County when...

Low rock wall
Low rock wall

Rocks and gravel that form a grid in and around the camp. Perhaps sidewalks?
Rocks and gravel that form a grid in and around the camp. Perhaps sidewalks?

Stone and concrete foundation
Stone and concrete foundation

Broken clay pipe and porcelain
Broken clay pipe and porcelain

Dugout structure
Dugout structure

Coal pile
Coal pile

Concrete foundation
Concrete foundation

Drain hole in the concrete foundation
Drain hole in the concrete foundation

Narrow, deep hole
Narrow, deep hole

Farther south I came to the Last Chance Dugway, which was constructed by the CCC. I’d read in a book about Piano Hill, where the young men from the Willow Springs CCC camp lobbed a piano off the dugway after the camp disbanded in the early 1940s. I didn’t expect to see much there, so I was surprised when the piano was clearly visible at the bottom of a very steep hill. I had no desire to descend such a steep and loose hill, but down the road a short distance I found a way to easily hike to the piano. There was a lot of other junk that had been tossed down the hill–mostly cans and bottles. At the bottom of the dugway were some inscription, the best of which was left by Samuel Gilson. The inscription was undated, but others of his that I’ve found dated back to the 1870s.

View of the Last Chance Desert from Piano Hill
View of the Last Chance Desert from Piano Hill

Broken piano at the bottom of the hill
Broken piano at the bottom of the hill

1937 section corner
1937 section corner

Broken piano
Broken piano

Piano strings
Piano strings

Tuning pins
Tuning pins

Retaining wall along the Last Chance Dugway, buried by modern road construction
Retaining wall along the Last Chance Dugway, buried by modern road construction

Faint S.H. Gilson inscription; also barely visible: Leroy Allred, March 1st, 1900, and J.D. Amtoft, 4/26/1919.
Faint S.H. Gilson inscription; also barely visible: Leroy Allred, March 1st, 1900, and J.D. Amtoft, 4/26/1919.

I headed into the Last Chance Desert, then curved east and north toward Mussentuchit Flat. I’ve been in this area many times so I only stopped a couple of times to find some geocaches that have been there since May of last year with no finds.

View from the Last Chance Desert north toward the Limestone Cliffs
View from the Last Chance Desert north toward the Limestone Cliffs

Windy Ridge getting snowed on
Windy Ridge getting snowed on

Entrada Sandstone Spire near Last Chance Wash
Entrada Sandstone Spire near Last Chance Wash

Volcanic dike at Mussentuchit Flat
Volcanic dike at Mussentuchit Flat

Red Point in black and white
Red Point in black and white

Swell Jeep at the Mussentuchit sand dunes
Swell Jeep at the Mussentuchit sand dunes

A detour off the main loop led me to the grave of Razor the desert horse. A friend had told me where to find the grave, but I have no idea of the history behind Razor. The plaque at the grave says Razor was born around 1950 and died in 1989. Next I made a quick jaunt toward Pissant Knoll, which is a tiny hill capped by basalt. I climbed to the top and enjoyed the meager views while braving some cold wind.

Cow at Ant Spring
Cow at Ant Spring

The grave of Razor, the desert horse
The grave of Razor, the desert horse

Razor the desert horse, born about 1950, died 1989
Razor the desert horse, born about 1950, died 1989

Pissant Knoll
Pissant Knoll

View northwest from Pissant Knoll
View northwest from Pissant Knoll

East Cedar Mountain and Cedar Mountain
East Cedar Mountain and Cedar Mountain

Next I visited a spot I’d been to before where I found several arrowheads. I hiked around for half an hour and only found a few worked pieces of flint, but none worthy of photographing. Nearby I checked out the Butch Cassidy inscription (spelled “Casady”) that I’d first seen in 2010. It’s deteriorated some since I was last there. The last letter of each name has spalled off a little, and the other letters appeared to be more faded. From there I headed home, having accomplished everything on the loop that I’d planned. It had been snowing much of the day to the west over the Fish Lake Plateau, and while driving back through Willow Springs Wash the snow began to spill over into the desert lowlands. I struggled to keep the Jeep between the lines for most of the drive north on Highway 10, as the wind buffeted me from the west. I had almost let the weather forecast scare me from making this trip, but the wind and snow were only bothersome late in the day on Saturday. Overall it was quite pleasant and I enjoyed both the mild weather and some new sights.

Wash cutting through a volcanic dike
Wash cutting through a volcanic dike

Butch "Casady" inscription, taken in 2010
Butch "Casady" inscription, taken in 2010

Butch "Casady" inscription, taken in 2018
Butch "Casady" inscription, taken in 2018

Snow along upper Willow Springs Wash
Snow along upper Willow Springs Wash


Photo Gallery: Last Chance – Mussentuchit Loop

2 thoughts on “Last Chance – Mussentuchit Loop

  1. Dennis
    I’ve been following your travels for years. They are always interesting. You usually post GPS tracks–Have you any for this trip?

    1. I didn’t include a GPS track for this trip ’cause there are some places whose locations I’d rather not publish. Much of it can be found by just getting out there and exploring, though. :)

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