A holiday in Utah – Part 5

-Escalante-

South of the tiny villages of Escalante and Boulder in south western Utah lies a vast empty wilderness that is riddled with canyons. They all drain into the Escalante River; and that feeds – when it has water – into the Colorado, which is now Lake Powell. The area is immense, and the canyons make any kind of traveling a bit difficult. It is poor cattle land, only a few cowboys know their ways around here. There are only two or three long, primitive dirt roads providing access to the area, the Hole-in-the-rock Road is one of them. We drove it many times in our little Tracker and our teeth got rattled loose when we went out to explore some remote canyons there.

 * * *

 It’s mostly fairly barren slick rock everywhere, only deep in the canyons are sometimes pockets of vegetation.

 This is – barely visible – the Escalante River.

 Lots of bone rattling white-knuckle driving. Especially after all the heavy rain the roads were a mess.

  The skies were still in turmoil. We sat for hours sometimes watching the cloudscapes.

This is a 50 mile long straight mountain range that is kind of the western border to this wilderness.

  The Escalante River. After the recent flood it is more pasty chocolate than water.

 We have to wade through it many times on our expeditions.

 In the side canyons you sometimes step into hidden quicksand. It can actually be a little scary when you get trapped like this for the first time. The stuff looks exactly like the other firm, wet sand everywhere else, but when you step on it, you sink in as if it was water, and any sudden, desperate struggle to get out only gets you in even deeper. It takes very careful and patient, slow movements to gradually wiggle out of this stuff, you always need your hands for support, and, of course, in the end you look like a pig.

 Once, years ago, with a heavy pack, it took me ten minutes to free myself out of such a quicksand trap. Parvin laughed until she cried, but I secretly didn’t find it funny at all.

 Deep down in the canyons is often almost tropical vegetation.

 It is so thick that it isn’t always easy to crash through this stuff.

  After miles and miles of splashing through water and mud and thrashing through brush we find this hidden place called Neon Canyon. There are no trails! You need a very good map in this territory and know how to use it. In case you get lost, there is nobody far and near to help, and there is almost no drinkable water anywhere. We used our little GPS device as an additional back-up feature.

The towering walls provide shade and the precious silence and secretiveness that always has a mysterious and a bit hypnotic effect on us.

Cathedral Dome in Neon Canyon. A gigantic overhang where the river has cut huge holes into the ceiling.

 We are deep in awe and very quiet, when…

…we suddenly hear voices from above and then see a guy coming down rappelling from a rope. He very slowly glides down and into the cold water, disconnects from the rope and swims to the bank, where he runs into the sun to warm up. His partners soon follow; they had climbed up on a long detour just to get down this way. What an adventure!

* * *

 A few days later another canyon:

 This one with bridges and with sensuous, almost erotic forms.

 Very narrow too, but soft and of a rather gentle physique.

We love to move around there.

 It gets so narrow that you really have to squeeze through sometimes.

 

  * * *

 A next one, close by, is called Spooky Canyon.

This turns out to be by far the narrowest one we have ever seen. I barely fit through at my chest…

 … and it’s dark and deep as well!

Boy it is spooky! We need to hand-carry our packs and wiggle sideways on and on. It gets darker and darker.

At places the surface of the walls is strangely knobby, and it’s hard to shimmy along them.

 There is a very unfamiliar smell in this canyon, not organic in any way, it makes us uneasy.

There was only one little spot where we could barely sit down.

 * * *

 Still another canyon.

This one full of lush vegetation and a babbling brook running through it.

 At the end a magnificent waterfall.

 Suddenly such an abundance of fresh, clean water in the middle of brutal desert!

 Look at the hanging gardens full of white Columbine.

 

* * *

 More weird rock sculptures under threatening thunderclouds.

 

 * * *

 Eventually we head home again. We make a little detour on our Olympic Peninsula and pay our own National Park a visit.

 Coming from the desert, it is always quite fantastic to see all this greenery everywhere. We are very surprised to find out that it had not rained here at all while we were away. Funny weather!

  … almost home again.

 

* * *

 Now, this was a month in Utah. We are back home again, maybe we need a rest for a moment…

                                                                             Klaus  June 2009

This entry was posted in 2009, Other Travels, Summers, Utah 2009 and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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