Riding through this state is like spending all day going through the most amazing IMAX film of the Southwest that you can ever imagine. Awesome beauty everywhere.
Day 20: Tropic to Boulder Town
68 miles 4000 ft
We got an early start from Tropic since we knew that we had some bodacious hills to climb today. What a beautiful morning it was. You couldn’t find better cowboy country on God’s green earth. Stunning views of the Escalante, alfalfa fields in the valleys, cows and horses up to their bellies in grass, semi-dry river beds cutting through deep canyons on their way to the gulf of California. We are now in the Colorado river basin!
Another nice treat was that we are starting to hit more than one town per day. This means that we can have a decent lunch instead of choking down two or three peanut butter or salami sandwiches. Today we hit the town of Escalante around 10 AM so had a second breakfast at a pretty good café. Great chile verde.
The ride after Escalante was the most amazing of the trip so far. Once again it is all too beautiful for words. The road goes through a variety of different landscapes throughout the day, from cowboy country to pine covered mountains, down through the most fertile valleys since California then through the rugged canyonlands of Escalante before climbing again to the high country in Boulder Town. For sheer awesome beauty, the canyons in Escalante rival the cliffs in Yosemite. They are not quite as overwhelmingly large but there are many more of them. I was shocked.
The last part of the day is a gnarly climb from the Escalante river in the middle of this maze of canyons, up 2500 feet to the town of Boulder which sits right at the base Timberline. It was a killer and when we got there, my first stop was the only little market in town where I got a Popsicle for my right hand and a Sobe cranberry-grapefruit for my left hand. Yum.
There is a small Anasazi museum right in town (population 108) that I visited while Gabi napped. There are some ruins here and you can see why. The site has great views into the Escalante and a year round stream which is rare for these parts. Boulder is really isolated and claims to be the last town in the continental USA to receive regular mail delivery. Recently tourists have discovered it and there is even a swanky BoBo (Bourgeois Bohemian) hotel and restaurant. We didn’t stay there and were not feeling to swanky and didn’t feel like having Buffalo meatloaf so ate at a nice place called the Burr Trail Restaurant owned by very friendly locals. It was good.
Day 21: Boulder Town to Hanksville
84 miles, 3000 ft up, 4000 ft down
Yet another outstanding day. This state is constantly changing and in each day’s rides the landscape changes multiple times. Today, we started by climbing into the high mountains above Boulder. It was about 45 degrees when we stared. After a couple of hours we summated at a pass at 9400 ft. There are timber stands on the peak above that are the highest timber stands in the continental USA. From there it is a wild descent of around 20 miles into the red rocks of Torrey. Torrey is beautiful. Very similar to Sedona in Arizona except that Torrey has a whole lot more red rock and is the gateway to Capital Reef national park.
In Torrey, we had lunch at a Subway. Ha! We couldn’t believe it, fast food in the middle of the desert. We never eat at Subway at home but today it was the best sandwich in the world! After lunch we stepped into a coffee house and had mocha and biscotti. We are back in civilization for a couple of hours.
Continuing on, we descend through Capital Reef National Park. Capital Reef is narrow and long, about 120 by 10 miles. We cut across it following the Fremont River through immense red sandstone cliffs over a thousand feet high. After a while, the red rock gives way to whiter sandstone and eventually drops you into the driest desert we have seen since Nevada. While we are still following the River, the river itself seems to have withered. After about 25 miles of desert we arrive in Hanksville, which isn’t much more than an intersection of highways 14 and 95. A few hotels, a couple of truck stops, a couple restaurants and a store.
At dinner we met a really nice fellow named Tom from Tennessee who was touring Utah by himself by car. He came to sit at our table and we chatted for some time about the red rocks, Native Americans, Tennessee, California, Big trees and all kinds of stuff before deciding we had to get to the grocery store before it closed. You meat the nicest people traveling like this.