I love Escalante. It’s a tiny place on a road on which is almost nothing else. But what a road! Route 12 in Utah was built at the end of the 1940s as the only road to cross a complete wilderness. The terrain was so bad that the milk sent by carriages from the farms took forever to reach Bryce and it fermented on the way. A road was partially built eventually at the end of 1940 and latter got extended and paved in the 80s but the place remained still a wilderness; the towns are small and far between, mere villages with several houses, out of which Escalante with its two streets looks really like a town. But the charm of this small place consist in its serene atmosphere and the pristine beauty of the sunny and chilly mornings. You can spend days in a row here and you cannot end the places where you can hike around it. It’s the place from where you can dive into the magical world of the formations that pepper Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument.
In Escalante you are far from the hotels/motels where tourists abound: no Asian kids running loudly, no Indian families screaming in the morning to each other while packing the vans, no French groups admiring in awe the surrounding landscape but still flabbergasted by the fact that the “empty” America can offer, unfairly, so much beauty, no Germans and Swedes who love anything labeled as “nature” while eating their meager breakfast of the motel, waiting longingly for the Indian manager of the motel, hoping that miraculously he will be able to bring some salmon, brie or prosciutto from behind the counter instead of the stale bread. In Escalante there are none of these people and all you can see are climbers ready for another day of exploration through the slot canyons of the teeth-rattling “Hole-n the Rock” road, the first route taken by the colonists trying to reach the Four Corner area. You can see these climbers in the chilly morning waking up at the “Outfitter” campground, preparing their morning tea or coming out of the two motels walking slowly on the empty road to the one of the few breakfast places in town. Around 8:30 AM they pack their gear in huge trucks made to navigate the tilted and rutted dirt roads of the wilderness, and they start moving towards the slots where they will climb all day. When they talk in the evenings about “an easy and pleasant hike” it is about a 4-5 hour hike to a local waterfall that represents, for many of them, just a day of rest. But all talk happens to one eye to the sky and another to the weather forecast trying to spot the slimmest trace of rain that would flood the canyons and endanger their life.
I did not have specific plans this time in Escalante. I just wanted to come again and and enjoy this heartfull place. I was planning for a hike into Zebra and the Tunnel, two slots easily accessible by my regular sedan but I was told by the rangers that the water in Zebra was reaching the chest level right from the start. So we changed planed and settled for the classical day hike in Pekaboo and Spooky. Pekaboo was also full with pools of water and we had to hike it barefoot, making it way harder to navigate while climbing its wet walls.