Hello from the aptly-named little town of Escalante on scenic byway 12 where we arrived yesterday afternoon after climbing a series of stairs up 7600 feet in total. These stairs are steep hills interjected periodically by stretches of flat ground. Climbing in this fashion makes us feel like bugs; rather than placing our feet on the top of the step we must also scale the side. It is magnificent to feel so dwarfed by the landscape, it is like returning to an as yet unexplored or measured world whose vastness we can hardly contemplate. Sure, we could fly to the other side of the world in mere hours but by traveling in this way we are reminded of how huge the world actually is and how much of it is left to be seen. For instance, there was not even a road to the summit we climbed yesterday until 1985. Explorer John Wesley Powell, who led expeditions to map the region in the late 1800s, which was considered one of the last blank spots in the continental US.
We picnicked at that summit, meditating silently about the ride and the place where we sat where millennia ago dinosaurs once prowled. Before the dinosaurs, the Blues Overlook where we sat was submerged beneath an inland ocean.
Despite our original plan to set off tomorrow toward Boulder and beyond, we were convinced by the Route 12 Scenic Byway Guide to take pause to appreciate everything the area has to offer before moving on. We are resting today and while we usually designate our break days as hiking or otherwise adventuring days but today we decided to, well, rest.
The 124 miles of Route 12 travels through two counties, two national parks, three state parks, a national recreation area, a national monument and a national forest. The rugged terrain is some of the most beautiful we’ve seen, with alpine meadows flanked by towering rock walls painted by rich mineral deposits or jagged sandstone spires shaped by time and wind. We were able to enjoy the scenery to an even greater extent through Red Canyon where a ten mile bike path separated us from the RVs and trucks speeding by.
Tomorrow we will make our way to the Petrified Forest which boasts one of Utah’s best displays of these millions of years old fossilized trees. Our upcoming route includes a three mile stretch of narrow highway called the Hogback with drop-offs on both sides that should be especially spine tingling.
So far in our journey we have cycled roughly 850 miles over a variety of terrains, all this carrying about 50 pounds of gear apiece. What is this we’re carrying? Rocks? Well, maybe a few. This is after sending home two boxes of stuff deemed too heavy or unnecessary. We have finally narrowed down our gear to the bare essentials, each item meticulously chosen, like our top of the line Ortlieb panniers (waterproof, made in Germany, and strong enough to withstand multiple trips around barbed wired fences). For anyone interested in a similar undertaking or just curious about the other gear we’re carrying, check out our new Touring Tips tab.
Our rest day will culminate in a short trip down the road to the general store, reading aloud to one another, watching the sunset, then taking in the night sky.
Thank you Aunt Amy and Nanny Mary-Lou for your generous donations to Action Against Hunger. Your contributions to a better world warm our hearts and fill empty bellies.
Over and out.