Kevin's Utah and Arizona trip, 2011
Monday, Grand Staircase-Escalante
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The previous evening, if you recall, included an aborted trip to see Zebra Slot Canyon in Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument. Even if I'd had the time, I wouldn't have wanted to wade through the waist-deep water. In the morning, I decided I would do it. I knew it was a relatively easy hike down there, and I'd brought along gear for wet canyons. I wore my quick drying clothing, and made sure I had my sandals and the dry bag for my camera. Piece of cake.

I skipped breakfast so I could head out of town at a reasonable time. The trailhead was only seven miles down Hole-in-the-Rock Road. An early(ish) start meant I'd be at the canyon before noon, and the light might be good. About four miles out, I heard a ding. Ding? What goes ding? My seat belt was fastened. I looked down at the dashboard. The low tire pressure light was on. I didn't feel anything out of the ordinary. As soon as I got to a reasonable spot to stop, I got out and checked the tires. Rear passenger side was about half flat. I hoped it was a slow leak, and turned around and drove back up the road a bit. I stopped again and it was flat down to the rim. Shit.

I changed the tire and drove back to town. Asked at the ranger station where the nearest service station was - right in town. After more than an hour, the guy patched the tire. Unfortunately, it was more of a tear than a puncture, and the patch was sketchy at best. I couldn't really chance going off pavement with a questionable spare. In hindsight, I wish I had gone on to Zebra Canyon after changing the tire, but I really didn't know what it would take to get the tire fixed. Anyway, I could get the tire replaced the next day, on my way out of the area.

I decided to explore a bit on paved roads. I went east and north from Escalante on Highway 12. I saw more spectacular scenery. I drove up a winding, hilly road for a while, and it comes out looking over a wide valley of red and white slickrock. The road winds out beyond, with snow-capped mountains in the distance. The road went down a long way to the Escalante River, then back up to a high ridge.

Going down to the Escalante River.

That's a lot of slickrock.

It's a long way down on either side.

Back down the hill was the Escalante River trailhead.

The trail from the parking lot went through the river. Again, I was in no mood to go wading, and I couldn't tell how deep it was anyway. I went back, crossed the bridge, and walked on the far shore until that path joined the main trail. It was a nice canyon, and it was kinda sunny.

There were some interestingly eroded large rocks, and some high canyon walls. Not high like at Zion, but high enough. I ate some food on a rock by the river. Well, let's call it a creek. I wandered a bit. I went uphill toward the canyon wall, and shot some pictures that may turn out nicely. I also found some biological soil crust. I had learned about this at the visitor's center. This is where a highly specialized community of cyanobacteria, mosses, and lichens bind the top layer of soil together. This helps lessen erosion, and helps new plants gain a better foothold. Walking on it can destroy it. Of course I didn't realize I had found it until I was in the middle of it.

Looking at the map just now, I see I was halfway to a great arch in the canyon. I was just wandering with no place in particular to go, so I could easily have made the trek.

After that little walk, I drove back to town. I was tempted to stop at a "cafe." They had a sign advertising "the best margaritas in town." They looked kinda crowded so I decided to try another place, that looked nice. It was really nice. Their specialty was smoked meats. I passed on the ribs in favor of the brisket. It was very good. The portions may have been a little small, but the price was excellent, so one really can't complain. It was a classy place.

As I was finishing, I really had a taste for a margarita, so down the road I went. It was a bar/restaurant. When I asked for a margarita, the bartender told me that Utah state law (I had been wondering) required that liquor be sold only with food. So I had to order some food. I got the $3 chips and salsa. Good chips, right out of the fryer, with some good salsa. Having just eaten, I didn't touch half of them. The drink was another story. They were out of Triple Sec, and she asked if she could substitute the blue liqueur. Sure. Not the sour flavor I was shooting for (I should have had her just leave it out). Let's just say they were the only margaritas in town. And one of the waitresses was having trouble that night. She had a few unhappy customers. Small-town entertainment, I guess.

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