Gateway to Zion National Park, this town hosts one of the most scenic baseball fields in the country (see photo), and a unique perspective of private property protection.
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.
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.
“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”.
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.
Armed with advice from some friends and a copy of “Hiking the Southwest’s Canyon Country” by Sandra Hinchman, we set off on a tour of canyons in southern Utah.
From Salt Lake City, we headed south to the Wedge Overlook, which overlooks the Little Grand Canyon and San Rafael River. This area is in the northern section of the San Rafael Swell, a stunning anticline and home to many fantastic outdoor adventures. Next, we drove south through and spent the night in Buckhorn Draw, a worthwhile destination on its own.
The next day, we headed towards Goblin Valley State Park and hiked Crack Canyon, which was pleasingly shaded. There were a few spots that required boulder-hopping. We camped on one of the many dirt roads along the northern side of the San Rafael Reef, which is so named because of appearance and not because it was an ocean reef. We moved to within the Goblin Valley State Park boundaries. The Goblin Valley is bizarre, fantastic, almost alien terrain. After a day here, we hiked the Little Wild Horse and Bell Canyon loop. These canyons were pretty, dry, and mostly shaded. The roughly two mile hike connecting the canyons was an unshaded slog through sand.
Finally, we headed south through Hanksville towards Capitol Reef National Park. Regrettably, time only permitted a brief hike from the visitor center up Sulfur Creek. We hiked in the river, which had about 10 inches of water at the deepest. We climbed the first water fall but turned back due to threat of storm. To finish off the day, we drove the marked scenic drive, which was nothing short of incredible. We finished the tour with convenient camping on BLM land just west of the park.
I regret not having enough time to explore more and look forward to returning, preferably with ropes and kayaks.
Passed through here en route to Salt Lake City. The town was bustling with an Easter jeep safari. We got into town late and were grateful to find a place to rest. Good boondocking at Papa Joe’s gas station in Crescent Junction, at the intersection of the 191 and the 50. Park in the dirt lot on the east side of the gas station.
In the morning, we discovered where Scooby Doo has been.
Found a lovely campsite off Mirrror Lake Highway in the Wasatch Mountains. The site had a trickle of water flowing down the road. No big deal for the 4WD, right? Utah mud is powerful, it turns out. All 4 tires spun or held still in several spots, and the ruts got deeper. The air lockers and the locking hubs got a workout. Peter finally maneuvered us out of the mud and pulled forward into the site. And then a tree branch dug under the front of the roof rack. Normally, we’d back out gently and release the branch. But 1 foot back would put us back in the mud field. So, Peter climbed up with the pruning saw and we took apart the tree branches. In the end, Peter freed the Yeti and the tree survived. Yeti 1, Mud 1. Live to travel another day.
We’re thinking about our rescue equipment kit. What are the best pieces of equipment to have for mud rescue? Comments and advice welcome.
Best run of the day was Ballroom, a blue-black run that skirts the flanks of Mt Baldy. We toasted the end of the season over cheese and crackers in the parking lot.
Is it November yet?
Catching some Spring skiing in Park City. There are 3 ski resorts in town — Deer Valley, Park City, and the Canyons.
For lodging, Jordanelle State Park is within 15 minutes drive. The hot showers and laundry are nice perks after a sweaty day on the slopes. For Deer Valley, the Jordanelle Express gondola is a 5 minute drive away. This gondola area has abundant free parking. Furthermore, the solicitous staff will give you a ride to your car, lift your skis onto the gondola, and offer free overnight ski storage. Katherine skied her first double blue run here — Orion.
Park CIty ski resort is right in town. They cater to families with a variety of terrain parks and lots of “adventure zones” for glade skiing. The adventure zones are marked with cute snow monster sculptures like these. History buffs will also enjoy the old mining buildings.
Photos from Park City ski resort:
The Canyons is the largest of the three area ski resorts. It feels the most like an alpine resort. While Deer Valley and Park City have high desert plants, the Canyons is filled with spruce trees. If you like intermediate cruiser runs, the whole mountain is open to you. The grading system here felt one notch easier than Telluride.
Shopping: The Market at Park City is conveniently next door to the State liquor store. This liquor store has a a good selection of local microbrews.
Laundry: Ying’s laundry in Park City, or the laundromat at Jordanelle.
Parking : All the ski resorts offer free parking for daytime through early evening. The large lots have plenty of room for RVs. Park City also has several city lots that offer 4 hours of free parking.
Our New Year’s resolution is to play more. Here are some places and experiences that we’re eyeing for the new year.
- Extreme tree climbing in Oregon
- Rolling waterslide – orbing
- Utah Olympic Park — luge course and zip lines
- Trapeze school. There’s one of these close by, so we may write about this in the next few weeks.
- Visit a NOVA science cafe
- Do an urban scavenger hunt. We’ll probably try this out in the next few weeks.
- Sonic arboretum. This exhibit is in New York right now but will likely travel over the next year.