Doug was lucky enough to get a reservation for three nights at Escalante Petrified Forest State Park, for the days before our Bryce Canyon reservations. Escalante State Park is a small park about an hour east of Bryce and is a jumping-off point for exploring Grand Staircase – Escalante National Monument. There are only seven sites that have water and electricity hook-ups out of the 26 total sites. We believe we lucked into the best site: “Lakeview A” and you can judge for yourself by the photos below.
We wanted to do a hike that had a bit of adventure involved. We have enjoyed walking on slickrock and finding our way without a trail, so we chose to do Phipps Arch from a small, unmarked pullout off of Highway 12. If any of our readers have the “Wow guides Utah Canyon Country” guidebook, we followed their description – well, let’s say we followed our noses and used the description to try to confirm where we were. (Asking ourselves, was that the third or the fourth dry fall?)
We started down the slickrock, right from the truck, following a secondary wash, which is basically a dry river bed. Sometimes we found water in rock hollows, which were easy to walk around.
This is Doug standing on top of a dry fall or pour over. If there had been water, the waterfall would be about 150 feet (about a rope length). Here is the spot where we wondered if this was the third or the fourth dry fall. We went left up the bank until it became clear that we should have gone right, so we retraced our steps and headed up to the white rock that you can see behind Doug in the photo. There was a sandy slope farther along that allowed us access back to the wash.
Soon we were down to the Phipps Wash proper, with high red cliffs beside us, and welcomed shade. We continued along through the sand.
The route continued along the wash, through sections of vegetation: tall cottonwoods and thick tamarisk, until it reached “a substantial draw” that was the start of the cairned trail up through ledges to the arch. There was a bit of scrambling involved, with decent hand holds and good friction for the foot holds. We didn’t realize when we were rock-climbing in our 30s, that it would make it possible to scramble up canyons in our 60s! The arch is impressive, especially because you can’t see it until you are almost right under it. The feature photo (on the top of this blog post) was our first view of the arch. We climbed up, under and through the arch. The photo on the right below is looking back at the arch.
It took us about three hours to get to the arch, so after a quick lunch break, we headed down. The skies were darkening with clouds and we hoped to miss the storm. Below is a photo of Wendy on one of the ledges below the arch.
We actually did get rained on, but we were past the steepest sections and by the time we got our rain gear out, it had stopped. It was cooler on our return journey.
The weather the next day was unsettled, so we chose to drive to Boulder over the narrowest section of Highway 12, with drop-offs on both sides. The road had been recently repaved and actually widened in sections. Boulder has the Anasazi State Park, which is a museum built right beside an actual ruin, some that has been excavated and on view, and some that is still covered. Even though we had visited it twice before, we learned something new. The most important reason to go to Boulder, however, was to go to lunch at “Hell’s Backbone Grill”, a highly rated restaurant that serves only local food. The photos below show the unique décor, (notice the garlic hanging from the rafters) and the requisite photo with our meal.
On our return to Escalante, the storm clouds and lightening were in the distance. We stopped at a pullout near the narrowest part of Highway 12 to take photos.
By the time we were back at our campsite, the heavens had opened. Tali was really happy to have company through the waves of thunderstorms that continued all afternoon and throughout the night. We were happy to have our cosy trailer and were glad we weren’t in a tent like many others in the campsite. (Or hiking in a canyon!)
The next day, we headed to Bryce Canyon National Park which will be the topic of the next post.