The next time you’re traveling on I-15 through the Virgin River gorge between Mesquite and St. George, you never know who might be watching down on you from a mountaintop in the Beaver Dam Wash National Conservation Area.

Any day I see more cows than people is a great day for me. Tuesday was one of those great days.

My second philosophy engaged for the day was to follow the age-old advice that when you come to a fork in the road, take it.

A couple friends and I took out mid-morning for a joy ride in our off-highway vehicles through the mountainous area of the Beaver Dam Wash National Conservation Area. We started at the Mohave Joshua Tree conservation area turnoff on Highway 91 a few miles north of Beaver Dam, Arizona, and headed east.

I had explored some of this area before but the two couples, Rod and Marcy, Al and Joan, had not. I knew one of the trails can take you all the way to Bloomington, Utah, but hadn’t made it that far.

Shortly after we started our adventure, we stopped to watch rock climbers at the Woodbury Crags Road Climbing Site. Nope, not for me.

Our original destination was the Bloomington Cave, the fifth-longest cave in Utah. I’m not a cave person but it’s an interesting site if only to understand the geology behind the area.

The BLM website states, “Bloomington Cave is the most extensive and well-known cave in the St. George Field Office.  It is a large tectonic cave and has at least six distinct levels and a maze of passages that are generally narrow, often with steeply dipping floors.  The surveyed length of the cave is currently 1.43 miles (7,574 feet), making it the fifth longest cave in Utah.”

The website also says “Bloomington Cave requires crawling, squeezing through tight passages, climbing, and moving on slippery surfaces.” That was enough to convince me that I wasn’t interested in going underground. That and the kiosk sign that described all the creepy crawly creatures who exist in the cave. Nope, not for me.

There are two entrances, rather close together, that provide access to the cave. Both are extremely hard to find unless you’re looking for very small breaks in the rocks. There’s no grand entranceway with a sparkling visitor center out front.

Small signs stuck in the ground point the way on the trails around the entrances but nonetheless, they are difficult to spot. I finally found the south entrance in a narrow gap at the end of a steep path.

Thankfully my companions weren’t interested in exploring much more than the kiosk pictures and information. Back to the trails in our OHVs.

By the way, if you are a spelunker and want to explore the cave, you need a permit from the BLM St. George Field Office that’s available online. That’s the only way you can get through the locked gates at the entrances below ground.

The fifth-longest cave in Utah is just down the road from Mesquite at the Bloomington Cave north of Beaver Dam, AZ. Finding the entrance to the cave will be the hardest part as it’s just a small crevice in the rocks. (Hint, it’s the hole on the right side.)

We kept going east on the trails hitting a wash that had quite a bit of water from recent rains. Two men were running a grader through the rocks and dirt to smooth out the trail. Once we moved ahead of them, we had some pretty interesting driving.

We didn’t make it all the way to Bloomington. We stopped just short of that and set up our lounge chairs for an enjoyable lunch and gazing at the glorious views all around us. From the snow-capped peaks north, to the red rock bluffs east and west, to the Virgin Mountains southward, we marveled at the beauty we have outside our backdoor.

Al, like me, isn’t interested in taking the same way back if there’s another trail beckoning you to explore. So we took the fork in the road and headed out.

Going back west and up the mountains on a pretty good utility road, with the sun shining in my face and the spectacular views all around, convinced me I had been right to take the day off from the world.

In the short time I’ve had my OHV, I’ve learned that every once in a while, you need to look back and not always forward. As we climbed nearly to the top of the mountain, that’s what I did. Viewing the St. George valley from above was incredible.

But it wasn’t the best shot of the day. That was still to come.

Not quite certain where the road was taking us, Al stopped a couple other OHV riders coming towards us. They advised us to keep going on the road to a dead-end overview. It would be worth our time, they said.

About three miles up the road, we hit the trail’s end with a small turn-about. We climbed out of our vehicles and walked about 30 feet before we stopped dead in our tracks.

There before us was one of the most awesome views I’ve seen in the Mesquite area. The Virgin River Gorge lay below with its walls soaring above, glistening in the afternoon sun. Yep, this was for me.

A small slice of the interstate highway at the bottom was visible from our viewpoint at the top. I suddenly felt sorry for all the times I had traversed that span of black ribbon without knowing what I was missing. But now, instead up looking up and wondering what the mountains held, I was looking down and truly understanding all the beauty I had been missing.

While I’m no great judge of distance, I would swear we were 15,000 feet high. Maybe, 25,000 feet up if I really wanted to exaggerate. It didn’t matter. It was the awe-inspiring beauty, quiet, serene lookout that really mattered.

The cows loved it too.