The Utah License Plate says it all, "Life Elevated". Utah might be the most beautiful state in the union, or it might be Alaska, Maine or Washington? Who knows? But Utah, oh my, Utah! What an amazing place. We are captivated. First one scenic highway, and then another, but the most recent, Scenic Byway 12, might take first place.
This byway offers 122 miles of outrageous! Reefs, ridges, canyons, valleys and mountains -- all needing exploration and exclamation. We've been traveling this highway for a week now and aren't done yet.
It all began for us in the little town of Torrey, gateway to Scenic Byway 12.
Boulder Mountain is the first outrageous view along the way, with Aspen forests as far as the eye can see and even a little snow for the pup.
Boulder was next with outstanding eating options. Both Hell's Backbone Grill and Burr Trail Grill offer fine meals and, if you're not camping, or sick of it, there's a good-looking lodge called Boulder Mountain Lodge.
Right next to the Burr Trail Grill, is the 30-mile Burr Trail. A must drive, or bike, or walk. We did all three, as well as two nights of boondocking under this beautiful pine.
New Home Bench followed, with the highway running along a high ridge with steep dropoffs on both sides, causing gasps of delight, or was it fear? Not a time to take one's eyes off the road, but impossible not to.
Our day ends on Spencer Flat Road, where we boondock far, far away from civilization.
In the morning we retrace our steps a bit to enjoy the Kiva Koffeehouse. A must stop for great coffee and an outstanding raspberry muffin, both upstaging the spectacular view.
Just outside Escalante is Hole-in-the-Rock Road. 4-wheel drive recommended. Too rough for us to drive very far, but we did boondock on it about 10 miles out.
Returning to Escalante, we stopped at a small outdoor museum that interpets the Hole-in-the-Rock expedition. Traveling in a tiny covered wagon leaves me speechless. The Mormon pioneers were tough and committed folks.
Escalante offers many needed services, such as dumping, recharging, laundry, showers and groceries. An outfitter store served good coffee and a tasty muffin. Also, way back in the far corner of the store, behind a locked cage, is a tiny liquor store. The only wine we've found in two weeks. We purchased the one and only bottle of Merlot. This is Utah, afterall! Mostly a BYO kind of state.
We hiked in Escalante Canyon, on a solid sand trail, with switchback after switchback across the stream. Benton and I waded with delight. Ed's challenge was to keep his feet dry. After six miles of sand, we were exhausted, and spoke in wonder of Brad's longest PCT hiking day of 45 miles. Surely he didn't have sand!
Bryce Canyon -- a must see! We are camped here as I write, waiting out a storm. It rained last night, with more rain, and perhaps snow, expected throughout the weekend. There is sticky, slick mud everywhere! Hiking is almost impossible. In no time, each shoe weights 10 lbs extra with accummulated mud. If it warms up and stops raining, we'll ride a bike trail we spotted between Bryce Canyon and Red Canyon.
"It's the roughest country you or anybody else ever seen; it's nothing in the world but rocks and holes, hills and hollows."
Elizabeth M. Decker, Hole-in-the-Rock pioneer