Utah State Highway 153: Beaver Canyon Scenic Byway in the ILX
Odometer (Legend): 531,490
Odometer (ILX): 93,204
Trip Distance: 1,061 Miles
Welcome aboard for an AZ-NV-UT-NV-AZ weekend! The route between Phoenix, Arizona and St. George, Utah is a long-time favorite of mine. An old friend of mine got hitched on Saturday evening, so I made the trek to my old stomping grounds to participate in the festivities and to reconnect with a few family members.
While waiting for a gas pump to continue filling my 13-gallon tank with 91 octane, I was rooting around in the center console for my key so I could lock the car and go inside the convenience store for a drink. A voice from behind me said, “Excuse me sir…” I was a little startled and looked up to see it was a friend from my hometown, Danny! Here I was, 200 miles from home, and he was also 200 miles from home – randomly meeting up at a Mobil gas station in small town Kingman, Arizona. It’s a really small world indeed.
Saturday evening’s wedding was held in Pine Valley Utah. I’d been there before around Christmas 2012. The drive from St. George to Pine Valley on State Route 18 took about 40 minutes. The elevation gain lends itself to a change in landscape, as the vivid red sandstone rock formations transition to pine trees and greener surroundings. Pine Valley’s afternoon weather was absolutely perfect for the wedding festivities, so it was appropriate that the ceremony was held outside on the lawn of the bright white, historic 1868 chapel of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
I paid a quick visit to my brother Payton who’s knee-deep in a car “build” that’s been underway for over a year now. He’s converting his blue Lexus IS300 to a stick shift and performing all sorts of drivetrain upgrades in the process.
On Sunday morning, I picked up a special copilot for the day’s drive, Grandma McGregor. She’d already packed us up a couple coolers full of picnic lunch supplies and food, so we threw those in the back seat and headed out northbound on Interstate 15 toward Beaver. The 100-mile drive went quickly thanks to the posted 80 mph speed limits that took effect a couple of years ago. Upon arrival in Beaver, we met up with my mom, stepdad, sister-in-law, niece, and nephew who’d arrived in a separate vehicle (mom’s 2003 Lexus GS430).
Beaver’s State Route 153 dates back to 1945. It’s 40 miles long, but the 13 easternmost miles to the city of Junction, Utah are unpaved. The 27 miles that are paved are a glorious place to take a nice-handling sports sedan like the ILX. Grandma and I started our drive from Beaver and headed for the hills.
Making our way eastbound, Highway 153 enters the Fishlake National Forest as it climbs into the Tushar Mountains. The road first winds along the Beaver River at the base of the canyon, then begins a sharp ascent to its 9,200 foot elevation at its highest point on the paved portion. The grades reach up to 9-10% and it’s very common for vehicles to overheat going uphill or to lose braking control going downhill. Extreme drop-offs have taken many victims over the years – including some accidents that we’ve witnessed firsthand.
We made it to our destination at the top of the hill, near Eagle Point ski area. My brother has a cabin under construction there that we took a look at. Afterward, we traversed a one-lane dirt road deep into the woods and paid our respects to the location where the cremated remains of some of our dear family members were buried. The ILX got a little muddy, but it was worth it.
The descent on Highway 153 went quickly. Knowing that I had a full day’s drive still ahead of me (8 more hours) in getting back to the Phoenix area, I turned over the reins to my stepdad, Todd, who drove the ILX the 100 miles from Beaver to St. George.
By 9:30 p.m. that night, I’d arrived at home in Scottsdale — tired, but feeling very fulfilled about a great weekend. This was my favorite song from the drive home. I listened 3 times in a row, at full (level 40) volume.
Thanks for coming along on the trip! Here are a few more pictures.
Entering Utah from Arizona on the outskirts of St. George
My brother’s pool. Anybody want to come take a dip?
Photo-op with the ILX on the south end of town.
This was the same place where I took my mom’s 1993 Legend L sedan back in June 1997. The surrounding landscape has changed a great deal over the last 17 years, but the rocks remain exactly the same. I found out, by the way, that the old Sherwood Green Legend is long gone. As of August 2011, it received a “junk” title in Boise, Idaho and there has been no record of it on Carfax since. RIP, Legend!
Arrival in Pine Valley, Utah
Premium parking at the wedding
Reunited with my friend Kati at the wedding
My grandma is a whiz! How many 81-year-olds do you know who text message?
Arrival in Beaver, UT with grandma and making a fuel-up at Sinclair for $3.84.
Mom captured this pic of me passing them on Hwy 153 heading up Beaver Canyon
High elevation cruising!
Brother’s cabin construction underway
Quick photo-op with one of the best road trip companions I’ve ever had!
Arriving at our picnic site
Lexus and Acura off-road vehicles
Niece Vivienne was the star of the show.
Group photo: Kali (with Vivienne), Grandma, Tia, Tyson (with Rex)
Todd at the wheel of the ILX for part of the return trip