Having taken a wonderful luscious rest day by Lake Powell, I pressed on to ride a route suggested to me known as The Burr Trail. Turns out it’s more of a road than a trail, but it went through some insanely beautiful canyon country nonetheless! I knew I had dropped to very low elevation into Lake Powell, around 3600′ and needed to climb up over the Waterpocket Fold (more on that in a second…) at about 6000′. So today would have some hills…
Looking across at the Henry Mountains from my last stretch of highway 276 before turning onto the Burr Trail.
Immediately after turning onto the road, the rock formations changed and the colors exploded before my eyes.
Final view of the drainage into Lake Powell and the Colorado River before climbing up to Waterpocket Fold.
Nothing to see here, just some huge amazingly beautiful canyon.
As I summited the next level of mesas the rock changed from red to tan, and I knew I was on the verge of a whole other place…
Off in the distance, the rocks adopted a whole new set of colors. Every pedal stroke and every bend in the road brought new and amazing geological discoveries!
As I looked up at those amazing jagged rock structures. I wondered, “How the hell is this road going to get up and over that???”
Hats off to the road builders of the Southwest. You didn’t have it easy!!
Atop the Fold, at last! This is the magic of Capitol Reef National Park, so under appreciated in contrast with the more popular parks around the area.
As it was getting late, I took the advice of a random driver I had chatted with a while back and turned off the Burr Trail into the trailhead for Upper Muley Twist Trail. The road got narrow and the canyons got tight. I LOVED it.
Lo and behold, I found the same drying dirt flakes as I’d seen by the side of the road 2 days before. Indeed it’s not a chemical in the dirt making this happen as I was on a side trail in a national park. So again, what causes this???
All these different rock formations within a couple of miles of the Muley Twist trail. Geological fireworks before my eyes!
As the sun began to set, I found my way up to the edge of the Waterpocket Fold to see the last bits of light. Looks like a couple other people found this lookout as well…
The following morning I returned to the same spot, but this time in darkness to watch the sun rise over the canyon.
The Burr Trail carried me westward into the Grand Staircase. It took a look of map study to actually comprehend the vastness of this amazing place. A 1.9 million acre staircase that I would end up climbing over the next few days.
Using the moderately accurate mapping freeware I’d downloaded onto my GPS unit for the area, I followed a ‘shortcut’ around a canyon to save time. Not so. the road had been decommissioned by the park service years ago, and was soft loose dirt. Akin to riding in sand but with big floating baby heads all through it. Slow going, but still, beautiful.
Back on the pavement, coasting for 10 miles down Long Canyon. It’s been a while since I’ve been able to not pedal…
I pulled off of the road upon seeing a huge crack in the canyon. Turned out it was about a 1000′ deep slot canyon with walls reaching up to eternity. I pulled out my penny whistle and played a couple of tunes, enjoying the cavernous echo the canyon offered.
The Burr Trail ended at the town of Boulder, Utah intersecting with highway 12. I got a burger at the corner restaurant. It was weird there. In comparison to every small Utah town I’d come across thus far where people are dressed simply without a huge amount of attention to style, people here had a look. Everyone had lots of tattoos, died black or white hair, and had a punk-y style. I felt like a dork surrounded by the cool kids. And there was definitely a “too cool for school” energy coming from them. Rare that I feel excluded based on how I look in these small towns, but an interesting experience nonetheless.
I hopped back on the bike for my final 28 miles into the town of Escalante from Boulder. This stretch of road was rumored to be among the most beautiful anywhere. Ever. I agree.
Cottonwoods following the water drainage at the base of the canyon.
Dropping down into Escalante River
So my great grandfather’s name was Kiva. I have a strange spiritual connection with him that I cannot fully explain. I saw this sign and had to stop, not only because it was the ONLY place of business in the entire descent into and ascent out of Escalante River, but for my great granddad.
Helluva view from the cafe!
A bit further up the canyon climb, the rock changed from red to white. I read somewhere that this rock formation is actually petrified sand dunes. I saw a flat part of the rock from the side of the road, right at road level — inviting me for a ride on the rock. I could not resist. I rode around on the slick rock there for a mile or so before returning to the road. Sooooo fun to ride on slick rock.
Atop each “step” of the Grand Staircase as it flattens out, the scenery changes from extreme rock formations to open grassy plains.
Riding through Escalante, I saw a sign that Pizza, Beer and Gear. The Escalante Outfitters also offered tent camping behind their complex for $5 a night, including showers. I graciously accepted.