Dear Family, Friends, and Diary,
Tuesday, May 11, Drive Through Bryce Canyon NP
Our drive from Kanab to our hotel in Boulder, Utah was longish for us, a bit over 150 miles. I know this makes it seem like we are wimps, but we have always eschewed long days on the road. We believe we get to see more and have the opportunity to be more spontaneous. It was true this day.
The first part of the road was north on Highway 89, a major north-south connector in Utah, but still mostly two-lanes. Then it splits onto Highway 12, "one of the best drives in the world". Tunnels were carved in the hills of the Red Canyon in 1925 to open up the area for automobile travel.
As usual, the drive was filled with distractions, mostly rocks. We keep saying "no more rock pictures", but then something new shows up. Now it was the "Hoodoos" looking like artificially mounded boulders. The fact that these structures stay standing, mostly, in all sorts of wind and weather is somehow magical.
We had been debating how to visit Bryce Canyon National Park when the entrance turn off popped up and we took it. In a few minutes we were inside the park and parked at the visitor center. It was reasonably filled with folks, but nowhere near the crowding of Zion. We opted for the free park shuttle, to avoid any hassle with parking and this was an excellent decision since I think we got one of the last parking places available that day.
Our first stop was at Inspiration Point where we got our first look at "The Amphitheater", a huge valley filled with all sizes and shapes of cliffs and Hoodoos. Naturally, we took pictures, especially since the authorities must have planted the struggling pine trees on the cliff edge just for photo effect.
For our hike of the day, we headed down the 0.7 mile rim trail to Sunset Point. We made it without getting near the edge. We were also thankful we did not have to climb back up to get our bus but could jump back on right at Sunset Point. On the ride back to the car, we decided we had seen enough of Bryce. I know we missed far more than we saw, but we are getting jaded with all the fancy rock formations. (And we aren't half way through our trip!)
Back on Highway 12, we passed through a construction zone marked by Cat-in-the-Hat hats and gravel. No wonder all the cars around here turn a shade of gray.
We also saw more rocks. Despite our best intentions, we snapped more photos. Honest, the devil makes us do it.
We found the Escalante NP Visitors Center closed for the day, guarded only by a lizard. A big lizard. By now, we were starting to run late for our check-in time at the Boulder Mountain Lodge, so we swore we would not stop for more pictures.
Nope. Stopped again and even got our pictures taken - in front of rocks. Will this ever stop?
We finally stopped, checked in at the Lodge, dumped our things in the room, and headed to dinner. A Tesla "destination charger" for Carla and Hells Backbone Grill for Marianne and me. The car was happy and so were we.
Wednesday, May 12, Chillin
The plan was for a quiet day and we succeeded. In Boulder, he few local restaurants seem to take turns being open and the only Wednesday breakfast option is a place called Kiva Koffeehouse. It is about 20 minutes away, via Highway 12 and a particular secion called "The Hogsback". Reportedly, this section has the distinction of being the longest stretch of highway in America with deadly drop-offs on both sides and no guardrails. The state wanted to add them but the locals said no!
The drive was worth it, both for the spectacular roadside views and also because Kiva was unique. The place has only a three- or four-item breakfast menu, and our oatmeal and granola were excellent. The tables are all outside, surrounded by dramatic cliffs of the Escalante River Canyon. Breathtaking.
Driving back, we passed the entrance to our hotel to see what we could find in the community of Boulder itself. Not much. However, among the town's dozen or so buildings was the Anasazi State Park Museum where we learned about a short-lived settlement of Pueblo Indian ancestors, the Anasazi. The so-called Coombs Site was apparently used for about 50 years in the 12th Century. The museum has both reconstructions of rough housing from that era and archaeological excavations of the buildings themselves.
The rest of the day was spent at the Boulder Mountain Lodge, our home away from home. I chose the place becasue the website looked interesting and, most important, because it featured Tesla chargers. Since we are more close to a full charge away from any Tesla Superchargers, having these just-like-at-home devices were most comforting. The rooms are in three separate buildings with six or eight spacious room in each.
Among the hotel buildings is the Hell's Backbone Grill. We have now had two evening meals here and both were excellent. Each dish was imaginative and the ingredients all very fresh. In Covid times, only dinner is served and only take-out and outside. (Even the restaurant gift store was outside.)
Thursday, May 13, Visit the Town of Escalante
Our day plan called for a visit to the town of Escalante, an art center of sorts according to a brochure we had picked up. The drive took us back along two previously-visited milestone: The Hogsback section of Highway 12, with it's attendant danger of no guardrail protection, and Kiva Koffee, with its risk of just sitting and sipping coffee all morning.
We did leave Kiva and finished the drive to Escalante where we searched out artists listed in our brochure. Unfortunately, each one we tracked down seemed to not be open this particular morning. We had the feeling opening was optional for local artists studios. It's their right.
Instead of art, we went up to the Escalante Petrified Forest State Park just west of town. We embarked on a one-mile hike into the hills that was characterized as "moderate to strenuous". It was not scary, but it was good exercise. We saw more rocks, but these were petrified trees and volcanic boulders. The tree were part of "pygmy forests", so-named because vegetation struggles to survive and grow in the dry climate. Nice walk. Nice scenes. A little learning. What else could we wish for.
We finished our walk in late morning and hoped the artists were becoming available. Our first find was "The Desert Doctor" a self-claimed metal artist and motorcycle repair expert. And a real character. He told us the story of how he was on a bike ride from Chicago 30-some years ago and broke down in an Escalante that had only a single public phone and few friendly faces. Somehow, he converted that breakdown into a business that services riders from all over the world, particularly when their machines breakdown of need tire repair. His garages are covered with the origins of all his tire customers. Unique idea. Unique character.
With that success under our belt, we drove to artist #2: Harriet Priska at her Serenidad Gallery. The little art hut said "open" so we rang the doorbell and Mrs. Priska emerged from the house next door. She came and gave a tour of the gallery and then invited us into her home for a tour there. Everywhere there was art, art of hers, art her late husband had collected, art done by parents and grandparents. Along the way, she told us her life story, including many years in the Bay Area where her husband worked as a guard at SLAC, the Stanford Linear Accelerator. He died five years ago from radiation sickness attributed to that work. She told us this when Marianne had mentioned my working on Chernobyl. Connections.
As a final step of our house "tour", Harriet gave Marianne an introduction to a water color painting technique she had not tried before. Really, a charming lady.
Our last artist was G. K. Reiser, who said he was simply called "Reiser". His gallery-studio-workshop was in an old apple-processing plant, arranged with the care of a productive artist (paintings) and craftsman (furniture). Once we showed interest in his work, he too was friending and talkative. He explained that all his furniture wood came from "the Escalante urban forest", trees that had fallen or been cut down in town.
Reiser's best piece of advice was to go to Mi Mi's Bakery and Deli for lunch. He said she was a French-trained baker and that was good enough for us. Her cafe was on Main Street in an old adobe-brick house typical of many in Escalante. The offerings on her menu included sandwiches, quiche, salads, and assorted baked goods. We opted for salads and scones for a take-home dessert and everything was excellent. Most importantly, Mimi (Michelle) herself chatted with us, sharing her dream of moving on from life in Escalante to a next life in the south of France. We wished Michelle well and promised to visit if we all make it.
On our drive back home to the Boulder Mountain Lodge, we remarked about how a day so unplanned had turned out so well. We got in some exercise. We visited a few galleries. We ate well. And we made friends.
We finished with sunset around our backyard pond.
Friday, May 14, The Burr Trail
Carla was going to do the hiking for us today on the Burr Trail in the Grand Staircase-Escalante Monument up to the edge of the Capitol Reef National Park (CRNP). It's a paved, driving trail, just right for our electric car.
We humans started the day at Burr's Outpost, walking distance from our lodge. Their breakfast options are simple, croissant and bagel sandwiches, good coffee, and a baked sweet or two. Clientele are lodge residents, backpackers, cowboys, and four-wheelers. The Outpost has reportedly been provisioning folks on the Burr Trail for a hundred years.
Originally, the trail was developed for John Burr and other ranchers to shuttle their cattle between seasonal pastures in Boulder and Bullfrog. Now, it shuttles tourists between the CRNP and Highway 12, almost 70 miles, about half of it paved.
We had promised ourselves to not take too many more pictures of rocks. On the Burr Trail, that was impossible. The road passes through narrow red rock canyons, past miles and miles of cliffs and "hoodoos" and turns to gravel at a point with vast panoramas of the ridges and mountains. Those structures form the reef-like barrier that gave Capitol Reef part of its name.
Part way out we stopped to see a narrow "slot" canyon and found a group of musicians called "dirtwire" making a promotional video. We watched the professionals for awhile and then had to make it on our way. More rocks were calling.
More voodoos, cliffs, and rocks.
At the end of our paved road, we entered the back door to Capitol Reef National Park.
All that rock photography made us hungry so we opted for a food truck meal at Magnolia's. I had tamales and Marianne had a chicken tacos. Both were tasty and much less expensive than a dinner back at Hell's Backbone Grill, our in-lodge restaurant.
For evening recreation, we continued to try to get pictures of the birds that lived in the pond just outside our hotel room. I'm not sure any of the photos would be worthy of publication, but the process gave us the chance to enjoy the scenery.
Saturday, May 15, Leave Boulder for Greener Pastures
On Saturday morning, we made sure the Tesla was charged up while we had another Burr Outpost breakfast before we left Boulder on our way to Green River. That's the next stage in our BWRT.
We had three days on this stop and we didn't really know what all we might do. It's been remarkable.
John and Marianne