Late June-early July 2018
We left Capitol Reef on our two year “on the road” anniversary. Driving through the amazing views seemed a fitting way to celebrate.
Our route took us down Scenic Highway 12, one of 31 “All-American Roads” according to the brochure I picked up at the visitor’s center in Torrey. The pamphlet alerted us to all the scenic pullouts along the way including mile markers so we had plenty of time to slow down. Nice to have advance warning when you’re towing 9000 pounds!
First we climbed up into the mountains with forests of pine and aspen and views down into the valley.
Then we went back down into the canyon and entered the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, crossing the narrow Hogsback, where the road drops off on both sides. You can’t really tell from the pictures but it’s really steep and a bit nerve wracking to drive. Also the rocky views extend for miles and miles. The Grand Staircase is a series of cliffs composed of different colors of rock that step down from just south of Capitol Reef to the Grand Canyon. Each layer is from a different era, spanning 200 million years.
Our destination was a BLM area just outside Escalante. It promised some great hikes along the Hole-in-the-Rock Road. What we didn’t factor in was the heat. It was unusually warm for June, with the temps hovering near 100 when we arrived. The area offered little shade and lots of dust.
After one night we moved to an RV park in town so we could run both air conditioners non-stop and ended up mostly hiding out inside.
While we didn’t venture down the dirt Hole-in-the-Rock road for the hikes, we did stop at the visitor’s center to find out the story behind the road.
Our campground showed outdoor movies, kinda like a drive-in only you couldn’t bring your car. They had a few old cars you could rent, but we just brought our chairs and enjoyed the classic cartoons as dusk fell. Then we bought popcorn from the Airstream converted into a snack bar and watched Stand By Me as the stars came out. Funny neither of us had seen it before.
Another day we drove back along Highway 12 to the Kiva Coffeehouse. Definitely recommend a stop if you’re in the area. It’s built into the side of the canyon so it’s hidden from view as you approach, but the views (and food) are awesome inside.
We moved over to nearby Escalante Petrified State Park, where I made a reservation for the busy 4th of July. I hoped we could get the kayak out, but the lake was more of a pond and not too tempting, especially since it had a funky smell from all the rotting, drying up vegetation along the shore exposed by the sinking water levels.
The short hike in the campground to view the petrified wood is worth a stop even if you aren’t staying in the campground. It was still hot, so we got an early start, which was a good thing as there was little shade on the trail. Luckily we grabbed a trail guide near the start of the trail. I always hate when there are numbered markers and I don’t have a clue what they are about. The trail is a little over a mile, but we took the ranger’s tip to add the .75 mile Sleeping Rainbows loop. We were glad we did as most of the petrified wood was on that part of the trail and there was tons of it!
For the 4th of July it was back over the Hogsback (still just as amazing and beautiful of a drive) to the tiny town of Boulder for their even tinier 4th of July parade, which included a 90-something year old couple on their ATV, a white haired gentleman on a 50s motorcycle imitating Marlon Brando and couple of little kids on their decorated mini scooter and jeep. There were maybe 10 entries total, the highlight of which was Smokey the Bear. It was small, but had quality giveaways—cupcakes from the bakery, lots of big size candy, and frisbee rings from the forest service.
Other than that we found a great laundry and some local produce at nearby Escalante Cabins RV park and there was a good little organic foods store in town. Oh, and don’t miss the pizza and salads at Escalante Outfitters. It was some of the best we’ve ever had. Yum!