We stayed three nights in the Cannonville KOA, hoping to fully explore Bryce.
The second morning was again very cold and snowy so we decided that, as Bryce was still likely to be totally clogged up, we would explore the local National Monument of Grand Staircase, Escalante. It had such a weird name, it had to be worth investigating. There was an information centre just down the road, so we headed that way and asked for advice about where we could go and (as it is becoming more obvious that you should ask at ranger stations what to do) where it would be safe to go, what with potential snowstorms and flash floods and all. The nice lady in the centre suggested we should try the local Kodachrome state park. (Really? Kodachrome???) We thought, why not, it only costs eight dollars. Just now and then you do the right thing; the park was a true , undiscovered gem.
The scenery was wonderful;
they have a load of strange geological features that do not exist anywhere else in the world; weird pillars of rock that are formed by lower layers of slightly sludgy rocky forcing up through the higher layers to form pipes and then getting compressed at a later date to form tougher columns than the surrounding rock and after subsequent erosion you end up with
some a bit ruder-looking than others
we also hiked the mile or so to a lovely natural arch
We climbed up to enjoy the view, but the advice to stay ten feet away from the crumbling edges was a bit difficult to follow
We loved this dogs boots
the poor old boy is seventeen years old and has arthritis, but still enjoys a good walk now and then.
We drove all around the park and we also enjoyed the ranger station, where we found out that the weird name was adopted after the National Geographic magazine did a report on the place in the fifties and they were so excited about the range of colours in the rocks that they dubbed it Kodachrome, after the new wonder film that can capture colour. Not long afterwards, a rumour started circulating that Kodak were offended by the name so they changed it (wusses!). Kodak were in there like a shot saying how they loved the name (what’s not to love about free advertising). We got chatting to one of the wonderful volunteers that keep the whole park system running. He suggested that we could try driving along one of the several available cinder tracks to a slot canyon; he was sure that Camel should be able to cope admirably because it didn’t have huge potholes, even though it was pretty steep in places. After visiting the famous chimney rock, we headed out to find the canyon. The road wasn’t too bad, although you could see that the whole place would be impassible if it were to rain; the fine dust on the road would have made a slimy and slippery paste that would have made the steep inclines a joke fitting for a game show.
We finally found the parking spot for the slot canyon, all the time looking worriedly at the sky as it kept trying to snow. The place looked nothing much at first but, as we walked further along it, we realised what a special place it was. A tiny stream ran along the bottom of the canyon and so we could skip from side to side without getting wet feet. It was (here we go again) jaw-droppingly wonderful.
I am sure the Narrows in Zion are much taller and more exciting, but we were there on our own and not with hundreds of other people and we absolutely loved it. We had to tear ourselves away because the thought of getting up and down those steep inclines with snow on them was not in the least appealing. As it was, Tim used the hill descent control to get past one or two dodgy bits. You have just got to love Camel; she looks after us very well. On the way back, I made Tim reverse to get a shot of this venerable old fuel pump
We were intrigued about the name of the national monument; why Grand Staircase Escalante? It turns out that the huge area covered by the monument consists of the massive layers of sedimentary rock in successive beautiful colours and they step down from here all the way to the Grand Canyon. Escalante happened to be a famous explorer (not a Spanish Staircase, as I first thought…must work harder on my Spanish vocab).
As we cooked supper that night in the outdoor kitchen, we were doing fine until the wind started howling through so we huddled by the stove hurriedly reheating and scoffing our grub before running for the Tentipi and the tent heater.
The next morning it was very easy to pack away (as we had left a lot of stuff in the car) and we managed to get up, have porridge (essential as it is so cold), be and off before eleven. Our next stop was in an hotel, as there didn’t seem to be campsites with electricity near Capitol Reef and the weather was still looking pretty chilly.
The drive along route twelve was fabulous. We had already looked at the first part, which was ok, but not noteworthy. Once we got beyond Escalante town it just got better and better. We stopped at all the viewpoints and we just had to keep saying ‘wow!!!’
We then headed along the Hogs Back, which might have had wonderful views, but it was very hard to look as each side of the road dropped from the tarmac precipitously. Then onwards through steep inclines, sharp turns and eventually onto more sensible roads. After another really beautiful stretch with trees, deer wandering along the road
and more fabulous views we finally found the Broken Spur hotel (which looked very much like a motel) and were allowed to check in early and to chill over some beer. We liked the place so much that we booked an extra night. The hotel actually had a steak house so we wandered along in the evening to try it out. We were really impressed; it had one of the most interesting menus we had seen in all our North American travels. The steak was great but the best thing as far as I was concerned was they did extras like mushrooms cooled in sherry. It was wonderful to eat tasty and original food and to drink good wine and we didn’t have to eat burgers. They did like their westerns
although this guy looked a bit threatening
(no,I don’t mean Tim).
The next morning, after an excellent breakfast, we headed out to explore Capitol Reef. It turned out to be a very low key National Park, with no entry fee but (yet again) it was a truly impressive place. Capitol Reef is the site of a massive fold in the earth and the deep and varied layers of rock that surround it are magnificent.
As usual it was worth stopping at the various well signposted highlights. We loved the petroglyphs, ancient rock carvings that are very easy to see with figures which wouldn’t look out of place as rear window stickers that you see all over the place showing who is in the car;
dad, mum, kids and dog (or in this case a big horned sheep) While Tim was looking through the provided binoculars, a small boy started being a pest.
When Tim jokingly told him off, he started pulling faces at Tim and sticking his tongue out. His father finally dragged him away just after the brat had actually hit Tim. No apologies nor even much embarrassment. I was the only one that told the child off (sometimes it’s good to release your inner teacher…). When we bumped into the family a bit later, you could see the brat was looking at Tim very hard and wondering if he could have another go, but the parents wisely dragged him off again. He has got to be the worst behaved child we have come across in all our travels so far. We wondered if we could leave him here……
The next stop was about a three mile round hike to see a natural stone bridge, which was worth the slog up the steep cliff to get there
(note to selves; take water next time, even when it is quite cold). We bumped into this lovely couple of unreconstructed hippies a couple of times during the day.
We had a good giggle talking to them, although I am not sure we should have been teaching them British slang for getting drunk (well one of the sets of petroglyphs did look like a glass of beer and a newt)
After we had visited the main sites along the road, we decided to explore further, taking the dirt road that goes deep into the park and then loops back on the main road.
We enjoyed the hoodoos
It was spectacular and great fun, although a bit too exciting in places. To get over the massive ridge the narrow road led through a series of switchbacks, that were steep with very tight turns and a very steep drop off to the side.
I couldn’t quite close my eyes, but I didn’t want to look either, so I ended up squinting sideways, all the while holding onto the door handle as if my life depended on it. (Yep, that would keep me alive if we plunged over the side.) Tim said it was the worse road he has ever driven up and that the Troll Road in Norway was a doddle by comparison. We survived, as Camel performed beautifully and then drove back to the hotel on nice, ordinary roads. When we had discussed the route at the ranger station, the ranger said it was an excellent plan as the roads were fine. We really should look at the scale of maps more closely because we drove well over a hundred and fifty miles in the round trip. The weather had continued to be very cold at night and it was a relief to be safe in a nice warm hotel room for a couple of nights.