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Exploring Escalante, Utah and beyond…

Posted by on April 18, 2014
Today's road trip took us off the asphalt on Burr Trail. The trip took a bit longer than expected!

Today’s road trip took us off the asphalt on Burr Trail. The trip took a bit longer than expected…like 7 hours!

APRIL 17, 2014. I feel as if, finally, we’ve really begun our Adventure. We’re now in places neither of us has ever been in the past, doing things like off-road jeeping that typify kids in their 40’s. It’s kind of nuts and we love it.  The unfamiliarity is exciting! There are lots of organized commercial tours…some by tram, others by helicopter or jeep. We’re touring ourselves with our own Jeep. (Although I must admit it’s not beyond me to take our Jeep and follow a commercial Jeep tour. We did it a few times in Sedona and it was great.)

OUR FIRST DAY EXPLORING: Our first day exploring here was an eventful one to say the least! For starters, I set my Olympus E-5 camera on the front bumper of the Jeep as I was packing some other things for our day-trip. About a mile down the road,  I heard a thumping noise and noticed a small black object bouncing on the road behind us. Oh my God…I’d left about $5,000 worth of camera gear on the bumper! I don’t know whether any of our insurance will cover a loss like that…I rather doubt it. I’d almost feel guilty making a claim. Lesson to be learned…maybe you’ve grappled with this as well: When I put the camera on the bumper “for just a minute” a little voice on my shoulder told me that I shouldn’t do that. I ignored it. Look what happened! I’ve had similar occurrences with the “little voice” many times in the past, with similar consequences. I’m going to make it a point to start listening. Has this ever happened to you? I wonder if the problem is unique to me?

How could I forget my camera!

Oh, no! I left my camera on the Jeep’s bumper!

Burr Trail Rd turnoff

It’s pretty desolate out here!

THE SCENIC ROUTE WE FOLLOWED: We headed out today not to Bryce, but to the Escalante area. Highway 12, which leads to the area, has been designated a National Scenic byway and and also an All-American road by the Federal Highway Administration. These roads have one-of-a-kind features so exceptional that they qualify as “destinations unto themselves.”  Only a few National Scenic Byways achieve this status. So our drive today took us along one of the most unique roads in the entire United States. Pretty cool! The 124-mile route winds through the heart of Bryce Canyon Country. It took us through Dixie National Forest, Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, over Boulder Mountain (summit almost 10,000 feet) and ended back at Highway 24, west of Capitol Reef National Park. The sights were fantastic…one of a kind. The road was curvy and “up and down”…fun to drive. There were bumpy unpaved 4 w/d areas which were super! We were truly in some desolate areas…completely off the beaten path and all by ourselves. The only problem was that we’d seriously mis-calculated the length of time needed to complete the drive and we didn’t get back to our rig until almost 9 pm..


You didn’t know I have one of these, did you?

ABOUT OFF-ROADING: A LESSON LEARNED. I’ve now been told that at the visitor centers around these parts, in addition to providing the colorful glossy brochures describing the area, the Rangers can also provide you with more detailed maps, upon request. I’ve learned that since these scenic backways travel into such remote areas, it’s important to check on road and weather conditions before taking off for a long drive. Absolutely no services are available along many of the routes and many are impassable when wet. It would be very easy to get seriously lost!  There is no cell coverage. I’ve been meaning to make a little “survival kit” with water, energy bars and an air-horn to put in the back of the Jeep, along with the substantial first aid kit already there. “Now’s the time, Greg.” What kind of an Eagle Scout are you, for Heaven’s sake? (Troop 358, San Marino, California. San Gabriel Valley Council, Boy Scouts of America. No kidding. I’ve still got my Scout shirt, Eagle medal and sash with 21 merit badges to prove it! There’s something else you didn’t know about me, huh?)

STOPS ALONG OUR ROUTE TODAY. The Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument is managed by the BLM. The landscape is rugged, raw and untouched. Driving around here is a dramatic experience…hours passed without us seeing another car along the way.

Red Canyon, on Byway 12 near our campground.

Red Canyon, on Byway 12 near our campground.

Capitol Reef National Park...along our route today. Beauty at every turn!

Capitol Reef National Park…along our route today. Beauty at every turn!


Hell’s Backbone Bridge is only one-lane. It overlooks Death Hollow. Believe me, I didn’t linger!


Devil’s Garden: A convoluted arch of sandstone.





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