We took a quick trip to Grand Staircase Escalante over Memorial Day this year, with Kathleen's brother and sister and their families. Every time I come here I wonder why we don't do it all the time. When we were away from Utah, we lived in some pretty spectacular places, but southern Utah is just so unique. You can't find anything like it anywhere else -- a wonderland of beauty and fun that surprises you all the time. The picture above, for example, holds a lot more than meets the eye (more on that later). We missed it more than maybe anything but family while we were away.
One of the amazing things about the place is its' diversity. We camped on the Aquarius Plateau, at a little place called Posey Lake that lies at almost 9000 feet elevation. Here is what it looked like:
My little bud Keegs got up early with me to hike the one and half miles up to this overlook above the camp.
The area is forested, filled with deer and elk, lakes and ducks, and we were actually cold enough at night to have campfires and wear jackets.
And yet, within less than an hour on mostly dirt roads, you could be in the middle of the opening picture to this post, at 80 degrees in shorts and hiking the most spectacular desert on the planet. It is such a special place.
Case in point: on the same day Keegan and I did this hike, we also headed into Escalante and down Hole-in-the-Rock road to hike into Peekaboo and Spooky slot canyons, in the heart of the desert. Here we are eating lunch in the parking lot, and heading down and off into the sand and stone.
First up was Peekaboo Slot. Keegan scrambled right up and into it, without hesitation or help.
The crew soon followed, with Kevin and Connor helping those of us (ahem) who were a little less agile along the route.
The slot canyon is aptly named, as you can see in this picture of our fearless leader. Kidding aside, Kevin is just wonderful. Always so positive and encouraging, just a joy to be around. We love him and his family. We are lucky to be close to them.
Love the heart-shape frame for my peeps in this picture.
We finally caught up with Alden, who despite suffering a serious cold, always found himself at the head of the pack, busting through the Canyon with purpose.
And here is Kevin with Kari, Kathleen's sister, who is also a joy to be around and the glue of this great family I married into.
We found pride rock. Not quite Mufasa up there, though.
We exited the upper end of Peekaboo, only to see the broad wash that would feed it in a rainstorm. Makes you a little nervous just looking at it. We paused to take pictures of the crew anyway.
A couple of Browns
and the Moons, with their recent addition of Conner Dean, who gamely sacrificed his favorite shorts while helping us through the canyon. He is a great guy, and we think Abbey made a pretty darn good choice.
The cactus were in bloom along the wash, and I will never cease to be amazed that there are flowers even in the desert. Perhaps a life lesson there, no?
From there, we headed down into Spooky canyon, also very aptly named, as it gets so tight there are places where you literally have to keep your head side-ways in order to move through. How the rest of me made it shall remain a mystery, as will the location of the scabs that formed after squeezing past sand-paper walls like some contorted amoeba. Graceful had nothing to do with it, let's just leave it at that.
It may be spooky, but it is also beautiful. These places still scare me -- you are one thundercloud away from a horrible death -- but they are stunning, hidden jewels of adventure in the vast sandstone playground that covers the southern half of my great state. I may have to try a few more before my bones are too old, like the dinosaur remains that also dot these places. (And yes, there are some who think I am already a dinosaur . . . ).
Once we exited and made the climb back up to the parking lot, we headed to passable pizza at Escalante Outfitters, then up into the cool hills of the Aquarius Plateau for a campfire filled with good company and many, many S'mores. If there is a better way to spend a weekend, I am all ears.