Walter and Sara On the road to who knows where
We broke camp on Monday April 11th at Bryce Canyon and headed east on Hwy 12 to the town of Escalante in the heart of the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument.

On the way we passed these cool fin-like formations along Hwy 12.

Hwy 12 Utah rock formation

We stayed at the Shooting Star Resort and RV Park where they have a wonderful collection of old Airstreams that they offer as hotel rooms for the night. Genevieve was right at home surrounded by her older, bigger aunts and uncles—34 foot Airstream Excellas.

Airstream Excellas Shooting Star Resort

We parked backwards to the way the site was designed so that we could have this view out our back windows.

Shooting Star campsite view

And this was the view off to the north. The green is an irrigated hay field.

Shooting Star campsite view

This is a fun place to stay. Along with the Airstreams (decorated in camp 50’s styles inside) they have their own drive-in movie screen and will rent you a 60’s convertible (for $20 a night) to sit in to watch the movie. In the summer they show a movie (and sell candy and popcorn out of another old Airstream) every night.

Shooting Star Resort

But of course it was early in the season yet so there was no movie which was fine with us. The cost for a full hookup site was $39.16 a night (tax included) and we considered it a good price for a place that was just plain fun. We had no hot spot signal there and our Verizon phone was on roaming but it’s always good to have a few days now and then without the internet.

It was early when we arrived so once we were set up and had made a picnic lunch, we set out for a drive. Hwy 12 is considered a Scenic Hwy and heading east from Escalante it did not disappoint.

I saw these sweet little flowers in bloom along the side of the road at a pull out. I think that they are Tawny Catseye (Crytanthan fulvocanescens).   

Tawny Catseye (Crytanthan fulvocanescens)

Head of the Rocks is an overlook you cannot miss. It’s huge and the pullout has lots of parking too. From here you can see all the way from the Aquarius Plateau to the north, (left) across the entire Escalante River Basin. In the background you can see the Henry Mountains, the Little Rocky Mountains (straight head), the La Salle Mountains (right of center) and the Circle Cliffs (off on the right). Navajo Mountain all the way at the Utah-Arizona Border was visible but it didn’t show up in the photo.

Hwy 12 Head of the Rocks viewpoint

I walked a little ways to the left and shot this photo of the road as it winds down the hillside. This road wasn’t finished until 1940. Until then, the town of Boulder still got its mail by mule train in the winter months because the Hells Backbone Road that connected Escalante and Boulder wasn’t passible in the winter. It took 5 years and lots of dynamite to build the road across this rough country.

Head of the Rocks and Hwy 12

I took this close up shot of an arch in the making. The red sandstone is clearly much softer than the white layers.

Head of the Rocks alcove

We wound our way down the road and came to Boynton Overlook not far from where the road crossed the Escalante River.   

Boynton Overlook

There were Wooly Locoweed (Astragalus mollissimus) in bloom across the road.

Wooly Locoweed (Astragalus mollissimus)

And here and there I saw some Storksbill (Erodium cicutarium).

Storksbill (Erodium cicutarium)

We went on past the Escalante River Trailhead and stopped at the Calf Creek Recreation Area for lunch. It’s a lovely area with great views to the north.

Calf Creek Recreation Area Hwy 12 UT

And to the south.
 Calf Creek Recreation Area Hwy 12 UT
There is a 6-mile round trip trail to Lower Calf Creek Falls that starts here. It’s listed as moderately strenuous and that and the length of the hike, ruled it out for us.

After lunch (where it was warm in the sun but a little cool in the shade) we continued on to the town of Boulder where we turned southeast on the Burr Trail, a road that is paved for about 30 miles until it reaches the southern back country of Capitol Reef National Park where it turns to gravel and takes you all the Bullfrog at Lake Powell.

Early on we passed a large grey formation with strange checked rock. I stopped and took a photo of it.

Burr Trail grey formations

And then we came around the curve and saw that there was an entire long formation of the stuff.

Burr Trail grey formations

In fact we ended up driving through a big section with the same strange stuff on both sides of the road.

Burr Trail

Just as I was beginning to wonder whether the entire drive would be through this strange stuff we began to descend a little and to see red rock.

Burr Trail

We pulled over so I could shoot some photos and noticed that down in the canyon below, there was an entire wall of Swiss Cheese.

Burr Trail Long Canyon formations

As we came down the road towards the canyon we got a view of the tops of the hills on the south end of the canyon.

Burr Trail Long Canyon

And then we drove past the Swiss Cheese wall itself.

Burr Trail Long Canyon

This marks the beginning of Long Canyon a wonderful 7-mile drive through all sorts of fantastic rocks. And yes, the speed limit is 20 MPH except where it’s 15 when things get more winding.

Burr Trail Long Canyon

After we’d driven a ways down canyon we spied a balancing rock up on the top of the ridge. Clearly this isn’t earthquake country or it wouldn’t still be up there.

Balancing rock Burr Trail Long Canyon

We drove on with the canyon walls rising around us.

Burr Trail Long Canyon

As we got to the end of the canyon the red rock began to disappear and white rock began to appear.

Burr Trail Long Canyon

I found these flat fins fascinating.

Burr Trail Long Canyon

Just before the end of the canyon we came to these very deep red hoodoos. They each had a little cap of white rock to preserve them.

Burr Trail Long Canyon hoodoos

The road comes out of the canyon and a view across more of the Escalante unfolds before you with rocks that reminded me of the painted desert right below.

Burr Trail panorama

Off in the distance you could see the snow covered Henry Mountains and maybe Navaho Mountain over there on the right.

Burr Trail viewpoint

And back behind us you could see these lovely castle-like formations.

Burr Trail

Off to the west there were more red cliffs.

Burr Trail overlook

We turned back here even though there was more pavement we could have driven. On the way back I stopped to take a photo of one of the hoodoos with it’s caprock in place—just like a little hat that might get blown off in the next big wind.

Hoodoo with caprock

Here you can see the transition from red to yellow rock in the canyon wall.

Burr Trail Long Canyon

There’s a turn out for a small slot canyon on the way back out and we stopped and I took the little hike to see what I could see. It’s not very deep but it does have pretty high walls.    

Burr Trail slot canyon

I kept going until I reached the very end of the slot.
Burr Trail Long Canyon Slot Canyon

On the way back out I took a photo out the mouth of the canyon.

Burr Trail Long Canyon slot canyon

As I walked back out I noticed that there were Swiss Cheese holes in the canyon walls and thought that they looked really cool. I love the way the connect up deep inside the rock.

Holes in rock Burr Trail Long Canyon

On our drive back I noticed some interesting red flowers in bloom along the side of the road and we stopped so I could get a picture. I’m pretty sure that it’s Scarlet Gilia (Ipomopsis aggregata).   

Scarlet Gilia (Ipomopsis aggregata)

The next morning it was sunny again and we set out to visit the Visitors Center in Escalante so we could get information on a hike for the day. The only hike that seemed to meet our requirements was a wander through the Devil’s Garden south of Escalante. This required that we drive for 13 miles on the Hole-in-the-Rock Scenic Backway, a gravel/washboard road that you can take 57 miles all the way to Colorado River. It was a bumpy ride but the 13 miles we drove was worth it.

The first thing you see when you arrive at the trailhead is this fabulous formation. Actually this was taken from the far side of the formation so I could have the sun at my back but you get the drift—it’s a way cool place.

Devil's Garden Escalante

If you look across the wash from the Devil’s Garden you can see the Straight Cliffs, a formation that runs through a great deal of this part of the Escalante.

Straight Cliffs Escalante

We followed one of the trails that wanders among the formations and came to this pair of really huge hoodoos. Walter walked as far up the rock as he felt comfortable.

Devil's Garden Walter Cooke

And then I got brave and scrambled up to the top. Getting back down again wasn’t easy and I almost ended up on my bum but I made it back down again okay.

Devil's Garden Sara Schurr

The hoodoos here are pretty widely spaced but they come in all sorts of shapes.

Devil's Garden Escalante

Further along there were a number of them clustered together.

Devil's Garden Escalante

And the one just to the right of where Walter was standing had a window in it.

 Walter Cooke Devil's Garden

There are two Natural Arches in the garden and we kept hiking until we found them both.

This one is pretty delicate looking.   

Natural Bridge Devi'ls Garden

There was a Desert Holly (Mahonia fremontii) in bloom in among the rocks.
Desert Holly (Mahonia fremontii)

The second arch is much more substantial looking.

Natural Bridge Devi'ls Garden

And I had fun taking photos of it from a number of angles.

Natural Bridge Devi'ls Garden

We carried on following trails through the formations and past this big rock that sure looks like a profile of a person to me. If someone has gone through a named all the formations we didn’t find a listing anywhere (thank goodness). I much prefer to find the surprises myself rather than try to figure out why someone else named something the way they did.

Giant head Devil's Garden

They make a big deal at the Visitors Center about the desert soil crust saying “Don’t Crush the Crust.” It’s a living complex of soil and cyanobacteria at this stage—which takes 1 to 3 years to form (and one crushing step to destroy).

Soil crust Devil's Garden

It can take up to 50 years for mature crust to form the complex of cyanobacteria, lichens, mosses, and fungi that add to the erosion-busting, water-absorbing, nutrient-building qualities of the crust. At that point is has a much darker and mottled look to it. I was pretty pleased to find this patch of mature crust along the wash later in our hike.

Mature soil crust Devil's Garden

The formations kept coming so we kept hiking.

Devil's Garden and Straight Cliffs

Near the end of the garden we came to this gem—a hoodoo with an apparent attitude.

Devil's Garden hoodoo

We walked on past and I took a photo from the other side.

Devil's Garden hoodoos

Looking back north from here we saw a grouping of 4 big boulders that once again looked like heads to us.

Boulder heads Devil's Garden

We hiked down to the wash and followed it back towards the trailhead. Along the way we saw a few more tall skinny hoodoos.

Devil's Garden

These guys look like statues on what remains of an old temple.

Devil's Garden

We made our way out of the wash and back up the hill past one more set of hoodoos.

Devil's Garden

And to put a finishing touch on the visit I took one more shot of that first magnificent formation.

Devil's Garden

Exploring the whole Devil’s Garden only took us about 45 minutes and we enjoyed every minute of it.

For lunch we took our picnic up to one of the picnic tables on the other side of this formation. Here was our view for lunch. As you can see, that formation is RIGHT next to the parking lot.            

Devil's Garden from picnic area

There was some Wooly Locoweed (Astragalus mollissimus) in bloom right next to our table too.

Wooly Locoweed (Astragalus mollissimus)

After lunch, we bumped our way back up the 13 miles of gravel road. And then took the rest of the afternoon off.

That night at sunset, a rainbow appeared on the horizon. I went out to try to photograph it and this is what I got.

Rainbow at sunset Escalante