Sunday, November 14, 2010

Hole In The Rock

I had work off on Friday so we decided to take an overnight trip down to Escalante to have a little fun in the canyon country.  We were planning on seeing Devils Garden, doing two slot canyons, Peek-a-boo and Spooky, and seeing Hole in the Rock.  Unfortunately I completely underestimated the amount of time we would need to travel on the Hole in the Rock road, so the slot canyons are going to have to wait for another trip.
It was fun to see the red rock country with a touch of snow for the color contrast.  This photo is taken as you approach Bryce Canyon area outside of Panguitch.

We got to Escalante about 3:30 in the afternoon, so we went to Devils Garden first.  The kids had a blast running around and exploring the hoo doos after being in the car for about five and a half hours.  They loved climbing up them as well.  The sunlight was perfect for taking some great photos.

 A cool little arch in the Garden.

There was nothing too tall or difficult for the kids to try and climb on.

Even Blake was enjoying the outing.

The sun sets a little after 5:00 now, so we had to head back to the town of Escalante for the night.  The next morning we woke up and headed out on the Hole in the Rock road.  The first 20 miles are great.  You can average about 60 mph on the dirt road and I thought we were going to get there in about an hour.  Then the quality of the road deteriorated dramatically over the next 20 miles where you have to drop down to about 30 mph because it gets much worse.  The last 20 miles are taken at about 5-10 mph as you crawl over the slick rock and bounce all over the place.  So in all, it ended up taking us almost 3 hours to drive the road. 
On the way out we stopped at Dance Hall Rock, a famous location on the pioneer trek across the Colorado Plateau on their way to settle Bluff, Utah.  They would hold dances and concerts in this natural amphitheater at nights to liven their spirits.  It was easy to see why they chose this location as the acoustics were great.  One could stand on one side and sing and hear it completely clearly on the other side.  This photo didn't capture the amphitheater aspect of it unfortunately.

After Dance Hall Rock the scenery really opens up to display a vast network of canyons that feed into the Escalante River and on into Lake Powell.  One begins to understand why the pioneers followed the Straight Cliffs all the way to Hole in the Rock, as most other routes were impassable.

We caught site of this arch on the way in to Hole in the Rock.

Here is our Pathfinder in action.  The last 10-15 miles require a vehicle with much more clearance than all you mini-van lovers have at your disposal.  In fact, there is one hairy point that gave us a good laugh.  Two older couples were in their Mercury Mountaineer (like a Ford Explorer).  When we approached the hairy spot, they had pulled off to the side and were debating what to do because they were afraid to go any further.  We chatted with them for a bit, then I decided to press on and we went over the obstacles like it was nothing.  They ended up hiking the rest of the way in (several miles) rather than attempt it.  I totally think they had enough clearance too, but whatever.  They seemed to enjoy the exercise.  I for one would rather not hike that far with our posse of kids.

Here is a view from the top of the notch the pioneers descended down.

The first 20 feet in were insanely steep and treacherous.  We initially thought we would take the kids down with us, but decided later that I would go down with Tucker while Lisa watched the other kids up top.  Then when Tucker and I returned we would let Lisa climb down while I watched the kids.  Sure this would be a piece of cake by yourself or with some climbing gear, but to take little children and infants down that would be so difficult.  And to imagine that the pioneers not only took their children down that, but also had to lead livestock down that chasm and their wagons really puts into perspective.  It is humbling to see the courage and faith that would have been necessary to tackle such a feat.  You can see some remnants of steps in the sand stone that they carved out so long ago for their trek downward.  Most of the steps have since been covered by massive boulders that have fallen down in the canyon.  The boulders make for some interesting climbing as you descend the slot.

Here is a view upward about a third of the way down.

Tucker was so funny when we had to climb under this huge boulder.  It formed a tunnel we had to crawl through, and he told me that he would go first to make sure it was safe for me.  He did such a great job climbing down and up and kept telling me how tough he was.  It was funny to see him so proud of his accomplishment.

I love this view of Lake Powell.  Only in the winter months can you see the main channel this smooth at mid day!

Here is another set of steps that remains.  Very cool looking.

Tucker and I made it down to the bottom third where the trail opens up to the easier part.  We enjoyed the view, then headed back to allow Lisa a chance to come down.

When I got back up top Lisa took her turn to go down.  As I was watching the kids and listening to the BYU football game (go Cougars!) on the radio, I noticed that they found these sticks and began marching around smacking everything in site.  They were a funny site.  They kind of reminded me of the story of the youth that Joseph Smith assigned in Nauvoo to help keep the peace by intimidating trouble makers.  The youth would follow the trouble makers around with their "rascal beaters" in hand.  Ah, my little band of peace makers!

This raven kept the kids thoroughly entertained for a long time.  He kept landing around us and they would try to catch him.

As I mentioned before, we completely ran out of time to try and see the slot canyons.  We would have gotten home around 11 or 12 o'clock at night if we tried to hike one or both of them, so we decided to just head on home and make it by 9 o'clock.
We took the road through Panguitch and on into Escalante on the way down.  So on for the way home we decided to go the other route up and over the Boulder mountains.  It is one of my absolute favorite roads to drive on for the views.  I hadn't been on the road for about 16 years, and the views didn't disappoint me this time around.  They were just as magnificent as I had remembered.  We were driving up and over the Boulders around dusk, so we got to see a ton of deer out feeding.  We even saw this nice 4 point.

Here is an awesome view out across the Waterpocket Fold towards the Henry Mountains (speaking of big bucks, those are the mountains where all the record breaking mule deer have been shot the last several years).

Tucker had fun making a snowball as we stopped for a potty break.

Another view of the Henry's in the distance and the canyon country in the foreground.
It was a fun little weekend getaway.  It reminded me of how amazing our state is, and how incredibly diverse the geography is here.  From towering peaks and alpine valleys, to the red rock desert country and everything in between, there is something for everyone in this state.  I really need to be better at getting out more consistently and enjoying what I have so readily available.


Anonymous said...

Awesome trip. The value of such a trip to your little family is unmasureable. Utah rocks!


Dan & Heather Pelfrey said...

Looks like fun! I'm glad you guys had a good time!

Laurel said...

Utah is such an amazing state!

J to the oey said...

Love the pics. I am jealous. You are right about Utah being amazing. I still remember something my oldest brother said about twenty years ago. He and his wife went on a trip around the world and after seeing the wonders of the world they finished the trip off in Southern Utah. He said the most beautiful part of their trip was the red rock vistas of good ol' Utah. Love it. You passed through Grover after coming off of Boulder Mountain. That's where I spent summers at my grandparents ranch. Sorry about the long comment.

Kevin said...

Looks like it turned out to be a sweet little trip. Sorry we couldn't make it down there with you. Thanks for the invite anyway. Good to talk to you tonight thou. Someday we'll make it there.