Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Christmas Across Southern Utah

Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah, Christmas morning.
My Christmas day started at Bryce Canyon National Park. It had been a while since I'd been back up there (over 8,000 feet in elevation) and I'd headed into a snow storm. Literally. I'd gone there when I saw a storm was coming in, and met it. It's the Mountain Man Way. 

But I had to get home that day, over 250 miles to the east. So I couldn't linger too long at Bryce, unless I wanted to stay a second night and drive back very early in the dark. I didn't.

Near Tropic, Utah. Love the cliffs and canyon country.
So it was down to Tropic (Is it really that warm? Not today). Beautiful country with the cliffs around the valley. This is the upper reach of the immense Paria River watershed, which only ends where it empties into the Colorado River at Lees Ferry, Arizona. A long, long, long way downstream.
Paria River at Tropic, Utah.
I love the small towns that dot southern Utah. And there aren't many of them. To this day it's still wild, rugged country. The locals are very friendly, which I've noticed is the norm when the people are few and they depend on each other. And outsiders, tourists, which are a big part of the economy around here these days. Spend some money enjoying our beautiful area; we love showing it off if you'll respect it, too. 

Highway 12 cuts through the cliffs.
I sure respect it. I enjoy rural highways with almost no other cars on them. It makes it so much easier to pull off on a second's notice to take yet another photo. 

Which I did a lot of on this trip. It was snowing a lot, but the road was fine, mostly. Nothing my trusty RAV4 couldn't handle without sliding. 

Approaching Henrieville, Utah.
Then on to Escalante. I like that town. Another vow to visit again, who knows what might happen? Just outside town was a very nice tribute to the Hole In The Rock pioneers of 1879-1880. Yes, in December and January, too. A feat that amazes us to this day. 

Escalante, Utah outskirts. The clouds were even opening up.
So it was on to Boulder, Utah. Boulder Town it says on the map. Maybe to distinguish it from the much more famous City of Boulder perched on the Front Range in Colorado. At any rate, this Boulder sits at the head of the Burr Trail, an incredible road that winds down through the Waterpocket Fold, which is a cool name in itself. 

Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument from Highway 12 overlook, west of Boulder, Utah.
Besides, Utah's Boulder sits near the Circle Cliffs, amazing sandstone cliffs that...well, aren't straight. They have joints in their slickrock faces that make plates in the rock that I suspect were the inspiration for The Thing's body in The Fantastic Four. Oh, go ahead and laugh. Then check out my photos. Yeah. "It's clobberin' time!".

Circle Cliffs in snow, Boulder, Utah.
Looking down the upper Burr Trail.
I really wanted to camp there at the upper end of the Burr Trail, with the Circle Cliffs. So beautiful, especially with the new coating of snow, like marshmallow creme or confectioner's sugar wiped across them. Next time, I vowed. May there always be a next time. Some of them do come true. 

Highway 12 above Boulder goes up and over a shoulder of the Aquarius Plateau, also nicknamed Boulder Mountain. Whatever. It does go high into aspen forest, with splendid views to the south of the vast lands around here. Out there. The kind of view that leaves you wanting to put everything into perspective. Wanting to visit it all. Knowing you never will explore it all, but the effort will be its own reward. 

Down off Boulder Mountain. Time to cross the upper end of Capitol Reef National Park. And by now it was late afternoon on a late December day. Meaning a short winter day, sunset coming soon. Talk about burning daylight. Got to get in all that I can in such a short time, because then it will just be a drive in the dark. 

Stay tuned.