Laura and Lee and Walt and Barb's
Red Rock Reconnaissance

April 26-May 5, 2003

Part 3

Wednesday, April 30 - Capitol Reef

Teasdale -> Capitol Reef -> Torrey ->Capitol Reef -> Teasdale, 82 miles

Our innkeepers Penny and Eric served us a good breakfast - there were fresh-baked muffins, fruit, and pancakes. Eric recommended a couple of hikes to us and we were on the road by 9:00. We weren't too sure about the crowds here...our car was the only one in the lot at the Chimney Rock trailhead! :-)

From the Chimney Rock trail we took the trail into Spring Canyon, which took us down into a wash with sheer canyon walls on both sides. The color on the sandstone in the morning light was very pretty. There were also a lot of wildflowers in bloom. The day had started out with blue sky and sun but it was (still) windy. Howard (the weather guy in the eastern Sierra) would call it a day of "high vorticity". :-) As we were headed back we saw a bank of black clouds coming towards us, and then Walt and I both smelled rain in the air. I had a bad feeling about this... :-) The wind had *really* picked up - we had to go over sort of a pass, and it was a LOT of work going against the wind - we figure it was gusting about 45 mph. We still had about a half mile to get back to the car when it started raining...and then it turned to hail...and then snow!!! Fortunately it wasn't very heavy, and after about 15 minutes the storm blew through and it was mostly sunny again.

We went to the Visitor Center for a while - I think it was here that we first saw the *other* silver Nissan Xterra. It looked the same as ours except that it had Colorado plates and a couple of bags up on the baggage rack. Little did we know that we'd be seeing a lot more of this vehicle! :-)

After we looked around the Visitor Center we went into Torrey to have lunch and do laundry. :-) In the afternoon we drove back into the park and took the scenic drive into Capitol Gorge.

Eric had recommended continuing down the road past the Capitol Gorge turnoff to Pleasant Creek. We found the area, but even though there was a trail marked on the map there weren't any signs - just some trails through the fields. We followed those and found the petroglyphs that Eric had told us about, and then continued down the creek for a little while. It was a very "pleasant" walk. :-)

On the way back we went into the Grand Wash (which was full of warnings about NOT going there in stormy weather) to try to find me an "Arch of the Day". Walt finally spotted Cassidy Arch (yes, it's named after Butch Cassidy, who supposedly had a hideout near there) waaaay up on the canyon wall. There's a better view if you hike up to it, but we didn't have time. (There was a slight disagreement over today's "Arch of the Day" - earlier in the day we had seen this rock formation in Spring Canyon, which Walt was lobbying for as "Arch of the Day", but I wasn't convinced it met all of the "arch" criteria, and since it's my "Arch of the Day", *I* get to pick! :-) )

Our drive had lots of "STOP!" moments to accomodate the photographers, but fortunately there was almost no one else on the road, and Lee indulged us. :-)

One very unique feature of Capitol Reef is the orchards - Mormon settlers planted cherries, apples, peaches, plums etc. in the area (which they called Fruita) and the park service has continued to tend the orchards. When the fruit is in season the orchards are open to the public and there's no charge to pick it. My most vivid memory of Capitol Reef from that trip when I was 8 is picking cherries in the orchard. Unfortunately it was way too early for there to be any fruit, but some of the trees were blooming, and the lilacs, too!

On the way back through Torrey we had dinner at the Capitol Reef Cafe, which was the other place that our innkeepers (and the Lonely Planet guide) had recommended. Though it didn't have quite the style that Cafe Diablo had, it didn't have the price, either, and it was still very good. They had a nice selection of pies for dessert - sweetened with honey rather than sugar. For a change we actually managed to have dinner before 8:00!!!

Thursday, May 1 - Grand Staircase/Escalante

Teasdale -> Boulder -> Burr Trail -> Escalante, 100 miles

When we woke up, there was a dusting of snow on the ground!!! It looked very pretty, but melted as soon as the sun hit it. After another nice breakfast - more fresh muffins, fruit, and "egg quesadillas" we packed up and were on the road by 9:30. But first we had to say goodbye to Pedro the llama.

Near Muley Twist there was a corral with a flock of sheep in it - and one llama. We figured he must be their guard - llamas make very good guards, since they aren't afraid of coyotes or dogs. We don't actually *know* that his name was Pedro...but that's what we called him. :-) We pulled up by the fence and he got up and came right over to check us out, posed for a couple of pictures, decided we weren't a threat and turned around and left. Pedro has attitude. :-) And he's awfully cute, too!

From Torrey we took SR 12 - a road that's a designated Scenic Byway. It went up into the mountains - the terrain and vegetation reminded us of the drive to Rock Creek in the eastern Sierra...and then we saw a sign for Rock Creek!

We stopped in Boulder at Anasazi Indian Village State Park - a museum and site of an archeological dig of an Indian settlement. It was a little disappointing since there wasn't that much to see...we didn't stay for very long. Though they have a replica of one of the adobe pueblos that you can go into (those people were short!), and both Barb and Walt managed to knock their heads on the doorframe on the way out. We don't think there was any permanent damage... :-)

On Eric's recommendation, we turned off the road in Boulder and went and drove part of the Burr Trail - it's a paved road that starts in Grand Staircase/Escalante National Monument but heads back towards Capitol Reef through a canyon. It was a pretty drive. (By the way, we were very impressed by all of Eric's suggestions - and we definitely got to see some things we wouldn't have known about otherwise!)

Eric's final suggestion was to hike to Upper Calf Creek Fall in the monument. We knew about the lower fall, but he said that was a 3 mile (one way) slog through loose sand, while the upper fall was only about a mile, though it was a little steep. Eric and the lady at the Anasazi Visitor Center both gave us good directions and we found the trailhead with no problem. The trail itself was mostly over rock so it was marked by ducks...we only lost it a couple of times. :-) The fall itself was nice, though of course nothing like what we're used to seeing in Yosemite. There was a nice pool below it and some pools above too. It was just a little chilly for swimming, though. :-) There was also poison ivy growing there, and both Barb and Lee got into that a little bit. :-( It was uphill almost all the way back, but it was still a very enjoyable hike. (And that evening at our B&B we talked to someone who'd done the 3 mile sand slog to the lower fall...we definitely had a much better experience! Thanks, Eric!)

SR12 goes across and down a narrow ridge called the Hogsback - it was quite scenic, but we told Lee he wasn't allowed to sightsee while driving! :-) We stopped at several viewpoints, though. We also stopped at an overlook called "Phipps Death Hollow"...According to local legend, two ranchers - John Boynton and Washington Phipps - had an argument over (what else?) a woman and Boynton shot and killed Phipps. Boynton turned himself in to the Escalante sheriff who gave him $10.00 and told him to go to the county sheriff in Parowan, but Boynton disappeared and was never seen again. Good story, huh?

We arrived in Escalante at 4:15 and actually had time to go to the Visitor Center BEFORE it closed! Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument is fairly new - it was established in 1996. It's the first National Monument that's administered by the Bureau of Land Management rather than the National Park Service. Before we started planning this trip I had no idea that it even existed, though. So what *is* it, anyways??? From the visitor info newspaper:

"The Staircase is a large-scale erosional feature caused by the uplift of the Colorado Plateau. ... Ten million years ago, the local tectonics changed and the Colorado Plateau began a slow uplift. As the region rose, gravity and physical weathering eroded the sediments, forming great cliffs, canyons, terraces, and mesas. The Staircase formed due to differing erosion rates between hard and soft layers. Hard layers formed resistant cliffs (risers), while soft layers formed terraces (steps)."

So that explains it all, right? :-) There are canyons and rivers to explore, waterfalls, arches, and, of course, colorful rock formations. It's a big park - almost 1.9 million acres.

We talked to the lady at the information desk (hmmm...does the BLM have rangers?) and got maps and hiking suggestions for the next day. Oh, and you remember that other silver Xterra? They were at the Visitor Center, too!!!

Back in town we checked into Escalante's Grand Staircase Bed and Breakfast Inn, where we had the "Cadet" and "Antique" rooms. This was much more like a motel than anything else, but the rooms were large and clean and comfortable. Though one problem that we had at all the B&Bs (except the last one) is that they did not have a table in the rooms, which made writing postcards or using the computer a little bit of a challenge.

But this B&B had one thing that none of the others did...CATS!!! There were 7 very friendly cats wandering around - this is Abby, a beautiful blue lynx point Siamese. It was nice to see kitties again!

Escalante was a very small town with very limited dining options...we just walked next door to the pizza place and ordered a couple of pizzas. Our timing was good, and we just beat the rush...which included those other silver Xterra people! The pizzas were pretty good and for some reason they really hit the spot - there were no leftovers. :-)

After dinner we walked through town - there was a place at the other end of town that sold soft serve ice cream...we were amazed at the size of the cones we got for the price!!! I had a small and Lee had a regular - mine was $0.65 and his was $0.93! They were HUGE!!! I think we were all back in our rooms by about 7:00 that night - our earliest day so far, but we were getting a little tired, so it was nice to have some extra downtime. And you have to admit that we'd done a lot in 6 days!

Can you believe it? We saw *no* arches today! :-(

Part 4
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Text and photographs copyright © 2003 by Laura Gilbreath. All rights reserved.

Laura Gilbreath
Last updated 5/15/03