Yet Another Pleasant Surprise
I really hadn’t heard all that much about Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument in southern Utah, but since I was fairly close by, I wasn’t about to pass up the chance to explore new territory. So once again I was out the door before 7AM to head the 60 miles to the Monument from my campsite at Lees Ferry.
As always, click on any image for a larger, sharper version.
Heading north on Route 89, I passed over the Arizona/Utah state border and took a right turn on Cottonwood Canyon Road, a dirt road that runs many miles north through the Monument. The first 8 miles or so of this road run through grazing land, mostly gentle rolling rangeland, with a colorful backdrop of pastel hills.
This road actually handles a lot of traffic, especially on weekends, and can be done in almost any vehicle. My only difficulty with my no clearance Prius, was being able to properly ride the high parts of the many ruts in the clay based roadway. There is a warning sign that states that this road can be impassable after rains, and from the depth of some of the ruts in the road, I would have to imagine that that may well be the case.
After passing through the open range, the road turns north and parallels the Paria River, with wonderful rock formations rising from the riverbed on both sides of the road. I was looking for spots that I might be able to boondock along this road sometime in the future, and I did find a couple places along the first 13 miles of the road that I could probably get into. But the trip in would be jarring and very rough on the motorhome, and on this trip in there were two spots where large rocks had fallen down into the roadway and I could just barely fit the Prius around them, never would have been able to make it around them with the much wider motorhome.
There are many very strange formations along the west side of this road, wonderfully crazy patterns of color and textures in the rock.
I would love to have a geologist explain to me how all these patterns were etched in the face of this slope.
The road gets very dusty in places and with a fair number of people traveling it on a gorgeous Sunday morning, I found myself having to wait several minutes for the dust to clear before I could take a picture every time someone rolled by. The entire car, both inside and out, as well as all my camera gear were completely covered with dust by the end of the day.
If you look at the bottom this image, you will see some of the electric transmission lines that run along the road, not just one, but two sets of transmission lines mess up better than 50% of the wonderful images that could be taken along this road. And with the sharp drop-offs down to the riverbed and assorted cliffs and rock formations along the road, it is mostly impossible to hike to a place where you can see around, over, or under these lines. I can’t tell you how many great shots weren’t taken today because of these electric lines.
Today I ventured in about 26 miles on Cottonwood Canyon Road before turning around. Looking at the road on Google Earth, it appears that it would be possible to follow this road north to Bryce, something I just might attempt on my next trip through this area.
Even at the 26 mile mark it is starting to assume some of the colors of Bryce.
At the top of this hill is where I finally turned around to head home,
and this is view looking back south after turning around. I really regretted having to stop, but I was running a little low on gas and did want to get back home to watch the final round of the Masters. The terrain to the north looked very interesting, but I guess it will still be there when I return.
Another great day on this great adventure !
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