Thursday, November 3, 2016

Escalante Loop Trip - Hole in the Rock Road

We pointed our noses in the direction of the Town of Escalante. Since we lost a few beers and some tomatoes we decided to stop in at a grocery, then check in at the ranger station to get the low down on the road conditions on Hole in the Rock Road. Looks like a little cold front was going to blow in, but no moisture. Stocked up and filled up we began down the fifty mile road. The story of Hole in the Rock Road starts and ends like most stories in Utah, with early Mormon settlers. They were looking for a short cut to the river (now Lake Powell) and blasted a channel in the rock to descend the steep cliffs with their wagons. They did it, but the road never really became a popular route. It pretty amounts to a dead end road today. There were tons of hiking trails, and canyons to visit. We had a little trouble deciding what to do first. Dinosaur tracks, slot canyons, Dance Hall Rock, Sooner rocks all on tap.
We brought some hiking books of the area and shuffled through them to see what to do first. There was Spooky and Peed-a-boo slot canyons directly adjacent to each other. This sounded good, we could kill two birds with one stone. We left the dogs in the car for this hike, since the descent into the canyon was to be really steep on slick rock. At the bottom of the canyon we hiked in a wash and spent time investigating a few of the side canyons. It was a bit confusing as to which slot was which. And once you were in there it was difficult to turn around. If other people arrived you practically hat to crawl over each other or back up to a spot wide enough to squeeze by each other. At one point I had to set my day pack and camera down because it was too narrow to continue with them. Eventually claustrophobia takes over and you have to retreat. Kristi could proceed a bit farther, but I would be wedged in there due to my wide rib cage.
Peek-a-boo Canyon

 I'm not sure canyoneering is my forte. It was fun though. Once we returned to the van we found a dirt road off the main parking area and followed it to see where it might lead...perhaps a camp spot over that hill. And behold a small slick rock out cropping revealed a fire ring. You would think that a remote desert road might be replete with camping spots, but there were quite a few no camping signs at the trail heads and parking areas. Not that I would prefer to camp in those areas... Late afternoon was upon us and some high clouds started to move in. We set up camp, and started a fire with wood we had brought from home. It was rather barren terrain, and gathering wood only left us with a small pile of sticks. Fortunately this area was free range, and there were plenty of cow patties. Believe it or not dried cow patties burn pretty well, and act as a filler for the fire. Definitely the dried ones. You can try it at home. Sitting in camp usually entailed activities such as campfires, watching the dogs roam around smelling the scents, calling for them when they wander too far off, and yelling at them for eating something disgusting. They all love disgusting. I also enjoy listening to music. The barn doors have a speaker in each of them, and with them both open I can have full stereo sound. Some adult beverages and cooking dinner usually end the evening. Then off to la la land. Unless we have somewhere to go, we just laze around in the mornings. Brewing coffee is the first order of business, then business is the second order of business, of course. Breakfast slowly follows and a discussion of the upcoming events for the day after that. By about 9 we are prepared to seek out new adventures. Dance Hall rock was on the schedule. Dance Hall Rock is an interesting formation that makes a natural amphitheater.  The rock got its name from the 19th century Mormon Settlers that used it to hold square dances.  You can sit there and just imagine the sound of fiddles, guitars and banjos echoing throughout the canyon.  Petticoats spinning, and girls giggling at young men courting their hearts out. 

It always amazes me that even against insurmountable odds life finds a way to live. Located atop of Dance Hall Rock the area supports about a half dozen trees like this. The great photographer Guy Tal made this locale famous in his book Intimate Portraits of the Colorado Plateau. Just as the Mormon settlers did, this tree ekes out a living in this high desert environment, persistent against the odds. This area is a great place to explore, much like Mars would be, had there been trees. I took my GPS and wandered all over these rocks, and made a loop back to the van, by creating a waypoint and following the arrows. There were a few sketchy places, and as you can see if you were to fall into one of these holes it would be very difficult to get out, if not impossible had you been alone. We definitely kept the dogs on leash. Our next stop would be to find a camping spot, and according to the guide books, it would be Sooner Rocks, one of the few permissible locations. The clouds were building and blue sky was becoming scarce. The wind was biting, and not much fun. The bottom of Sooner Rocks seemed the best place to camp, but alas the few available camping spots were already taken.
We chose a cool spot with a great view of a large monolith, but with the wind blasting us it wasn't the best conditions to hang out in. We hiked around a bit in the valley to escape the breeze and possibly look for another spot. Eventually we threw in the towel and just retreated to the van for shelter. We settled into our routine, save the campfire. After dinner we decided to watch a movie on the iPad, and before we got even half way through we were both asleep. A Tempurpedic mattress must have been at fault for that. After completing our morning routine we decided we'd check out the dinosaur tracks. The storm front had moved out and the sun was shinning brightly. We followed the directions in the guide book, which led us to a sign with some hand written coordinates. I punched them into my GPS and we made our way up to a rock shelf. Having arrived at our location we looked around, and around. No tracks that we could see. We hiked and hiked, and returned to the coordinates again. Hmm. Looking down we saw some white spots, which could have been anything. I suppose the position of each of the spots might resemble a walking pattern. Indeed. We were expecting some semblance of a foot or toes, but were slightly disappointing to find a series of spots. Not like any dinosaur prints I've seen before. I guess they were baby dinosaur prints. Having spent the whole morning looking at rocks, it was time to skeedadle to our next destination.

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