Boulder, Utah on the Hell’s Backbone

Drive nervously along the razor’s edge of Hell’s Backbone, cool off in Upper Calf Creek Falls, and then dine on local food at Hell’s Backbone Grill in Boulder. We enjoyed this town back in June, and are catching up on our posts now.

A Spooky Game of Peekaboo in the Devil’s Garden

Canyons and hoodoos of the Escalante River drainage: narrow Spooky, arched Peekaboo, graceful Dry Fork, and the rambling Devil’s Garden.

Egypt Canyon

Downclimbing skills training at Egypt 1.5. How tight can you squeeze?

Thanks to Jim from Escalante Excursions for leading the trip and to Cristina from Steamboat Springs for sharing these photos.

 

Escalante, UT

“America’s Outback” — Escalante is dry, rugged, and filled with slot canyons. We’ve sacrificed 3 pairs of pants to the rough sandstone so far, and have had a lot of fun doing so.

Canyon pictures coming soon.

Guides Rick Green and Jim Clery of Excursions of Escalante got us in and out of the slots with skill and safety. Their technical canyoneering class teaches helpful backcountry skills for rigging, anchor building, and down climbing. After long days in the canyons, return for Amie Fortin’s warm smile and a bowl of Dulce de Leche ice cream, served on the front porch of the oldest building in town.

Escalante Outfitters makes great pizza — try the Aquarius with local smoked trout. The berry crumble and German chocolate cake are delicious and not too sweet. The Outfitters also sell an extensive collection of outdoor guide books and operate the town’s “package store”.

Smoked Trout Pizza on the Patio

The interagency visitor center offers maps, directions, and helpful advice.

When Escalante gets too warm, head north 30 minutes to the Aquarius plateau to cool off. This plateau is the top step of the “Grand Staircase” of rock that descends south and down to the Grand Canyon. At 11,000 feet, it’s the highest plateau in North America.  Rugged but passable forest service roads fan out into secluded camping spots. The forest is filled with aspen, spruce, and pine trees. Expect to see deer, bats, and no people. The edge of the plateau has panoramic views of Death Hollow canyon and Hell’s Backbone.

 

Logistics: Fill up on gas, water, and Wasatch beer at the gas station next to Excursions of Escalante. Broken Bow RV park offers the only public laundromat in town. It’s quite nice — clean, free wifi, and the magazine rack held copies of “Dwell”. Groceries: the grocery truck arrives on Tuesday morning (produce and nonperishables) and Friday morning (produce only). Afternoons on those days yield the freshest food. The rest of the week, the produce selection is pretty slim. Pleasant surprises at the grocery store were grass-fed beef from Kanab Meat and wild Pacific smoked salmon. There’s lots of dry camping spots off Hole in the Rock Road or on Stewart’s Mesa. Cell reception seems to oscillate between 2 towers — one gives good voice but poor data, and the other gives good data but poor voice. If you need stronger voice signal, turn off the cellular data on the phone to force a tower switch. In town, most businesses offer free wifi to their customers.