Adventures in Escalante, PART I
The anticipation for this trip could be cut with a knife. The planning conversations were abundant ranging from “How are we going to fit everything in one vehicle?” to “Are the roads going to be accessible?” to “How cold and wet is it really going to be?” These discussions were consuming and weighed heavy. As David was checking weather websites with an unhealthy ferocity, Eric was retrofitting his roof rack and trunk. We needed to not only fit all of our gear, clothes and a stereo boom box, but also transport enough wood, water, food and beer for the 4 of us on a 4-night/ 4-day canyoneering adventure along the remote Hole-in-the-Rock Road in the Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument. Finally the day was here.
We arrived at Eric’s house in North Phoenix early in the morning. After over an hour of puzzling together all of our gear into the vehicle and cinching down bundles of wood and bags of clothes on the roof we were headed north in great spirits. Somewhere along Highway 89 between Flagstaff and Page we looked out the window in horror as the wood began flying off the roof rack at over 70 mph. Thankfully the wood all harmlessly landed on the shoulder and we were able to quickly recover everything as cars and trucks whizzed by.
After a quick stop at a BLM field office just across the Utah border to get some current road conditions, we decided against tempting fate on the shortcut on Cottonwood Canyon Road, a dirt road that cuts through the heart of the Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument. Volunteers at the field office told us we would most certainly get stuck in thick clay-like mud. It is frustrating when the road distance from Page to our camping destination along Hole-in-the-Rock Road is 230 miles, but as the crow flies it is no more than 70 miles. The trek requires literally traveling 270 degrees of a circle.
As we got closer to the town of Escalante and marveled at how much snow there was, the road became an obstacle course of wild animals. Eric and David watched as the pick up driving in front of us plowed over a couple of wild turkeys. Just minutes later we had our own close call with a herd of deer testing the effectiveness of our vehicles brakes with our overloaded cargo.
Finally making it to Hole-in-the-Rock Road as darkness slowly set in, we negotiated the muddy spots and camped near Dance Hall Rock, a large mound of Navajo sandstone that the Mormon pioneers who built the road in the late 19th century used as a campsite, natural musical amphitheater and dance hall. We made our first of many campfires on this moonless night. The brilliance of the twinkling stars was matched by the sparkle of the frost that began coating everything. It was really good to finally be here.
-Laura & David