Posts Tagged ‘Highway 12’


Hogsback Ridge between Escalante and Boulder on Utah's Highway 12, often called America's most scenic road. -- Photo by Pat Bean


My Favorite Places


Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument landscape -- Photo by Pat Bean

“I would hurl words into this darkness and wait for an echo, and if an echo sounded, no matter how faintly, I would send other words to tell, to march, to fight, to create a sense of hunger for life that gnaws in us all.” – Richard Wright

NaNoWriMo Update .. 8,326 words

Sitting down in front of the computer for five straight hours today wasn’t going to happen. I was stiff from two hours of physical therapy yesterday to make my old broad body unstiff, particularly my neck and shoulders.

So I did my writing in bits and spurts. I got up to 2,000 new words by 4 p.m., after starting at 6 a.m. Did I mention I was still in my pajamas?

My main character is going to have a dog, and if there’s anything I know it’s a relationship one can have with a beloved pet. So today I wrote a lot about that, along with planting a first clue for my mystery. I’ve always hated it when you read a mystery and there are either no clues – or no red herrings.

Thankfully today, I had nowhere to go and my daughter’s big house al to myself, well except for three dogs, one cat that needs insulin shots twice and day and three aquariums full of fish.

. It also showed me, however, that I tend to get more done on the days I have to do more. I’m finding this challenge very interesting.

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 “I have a theory about the human mind. A brain is a lot like a computer. It will only take so many facts, then it will go on overload and blow up.” — Erma Bombeck

Looking down from the Hogsback, the Escalante River snakes a path of greeness through the rocky landscape. -- Photo by Pat Bean

Travels With Maggie

Heading southwest out of Boulder from Highway 12’s junction with the Burr Trail, you’ll pass the entrance to Utah’s Anasazi State Park and Museum.

It’s a protective home for an Indian village occupied between approximately AD 1050 and AD 1200. It’s a fascinating place to visit for archeological and history buffs and shouldn’t be passed by. While that’s exactly what I did this day, I had spent time in the museum and in the Coombs Site Indian ruins here on previous visits to the area. Check it out at: http://tinyurl.com/3wzmn6z

Just a little ways farther down the road and I was on the section of Highway 12 known as the Hogsback, although some people refer to it as Knife’s Edge, which seems quite appropriate.

Looking back as Highway 12 leads onto the Hogsback. -- Photo by Pat Bean

This section of Highway 12, which 70 years ago opened up Boulder to the more civilized world, travels along a high narrow ridge with steep cliffs on both sides. There is not a single spot along the highway that doesn’t offer magnificent views.

But since it’s narrow enough in some places to see down both sides of its 2,000-foot high cliffs at the same time while driving, for safety’s sake I did most of my gawking at pullouts.

The first time I crossed this amazing landscape was when I was visiting Escalante in the late 1970s and a local was showing me the sights. I was quite impressed – and the amazed emotions haven’t dimmed with the years.

Since leaving Boulder, I had been traveling through the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, which is spread across nearly 2 million acres of Southern Utah.

Its creation in 1996 by Democratic President Bill Clinton, who announced the gigantic news in Arizona with the widowed wife, Norma Mattheson, of Utah’s former Democratic governor, Scott Mattheson, did not sit well with the state’s then Republican administration, nor the state’s large anti-environmentalist segment.

The controversy was a boon, however, for this  environmental reporter who was thrown into the thick of the battles.

In the end, at least in my opinion, the protection of these awesome lands has benefited the state greatly with increased tourism in an area where jobs were scarce, and with transfer/trades of lands elsewhere to the state that have been more profitable in providing income for Utah’s school system.

Calf Creek Falls, worth the 6-mile round-trip hike. -- Photo by Scott Catron

 Escalante had certainly grown since my last visit about eight years ago, I noticed as I entered this town named after a Franciscan missionary who was the first to explore the area. And why not? It’s situated in some of the best scenery and hiking trails you’ll find anywhere in North America.

One of my favorites is the six-mile round-trip hike to Calf Falls,whose trailhead I had passed before entering Escalante. It has been a long time since I had seen the falls, but I could still recall the thrill at the end of three miles, mostly on a sandy path, of coming upon the 125-foot waterfall beneath which lay an inviting pool and shade trees.

Egads! Here I’ve covered only 27 miles of driving in today’s blog, and already I’m in past-and-present landscape brain overload.

Highway 12 will do that to you. And there’s more to come – tomorrow.

*Continuing Day 11 of the journey, April 29, 2011

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 “You cannot be wimpy out there on the dream-seeking trail. Dare to break through barriers, to find your own path.” Les Brown

The Henry Mountains as seen from Highway 12's beginning in Torrey, Utah -- photo by Pat Bean

*Travels With Maggie

Utah Highway 12, a 125-mile Scenic Byway that runs from Torrey just outside of Capitol Reef to Highway 89, has been called America’s most beautiful drive.

Yippee! Driving it was my agenda for the day.

The journey for my dog, Maggie, and I began in the Dixie National Forest. The narrow road through the woodlands, with rarely another vehicle in sight, climbed steeply upwards, offering spectacular views of snowy peaks in the Henry Mountains.

The nearer landscape was a mixture of red earth and rocks heavily dotted with cedar and sagebrush that gave away to tall pines and firs and still leafless aspen at higher altitudes.

I stopped at all the overlooks to gasp in wonder. I also gasped with delight when, just as I topped a 9,600-foot summit, a soaring red-tailed hawk glided past.

I didn’t mind at all that the winding and steepness of the road often meant traveling at speeds of 25 mph or even less at times.

The Burr Trail Grill and Trading Post, the civilized beginning of the Burr Trail Scenic Backroad. -- Photo by Pat Bean

It was just after 11 a.m. when I pulled into Boulder, a tiny town of less than 200 that was just 35 miles away from Torrey.

This scenic town was once so inaccessible that it was the last place in America to still get its mail delivered by mule power. That changed after a road was finally built to it from Escalante in 1939. It was 1947, however, before Boulder got electrical power.

My timing to hit the town, which sits at an elevation of 6,700 feet in the shadow of 11,700-foot Boulder Mountain, was perfect. I could have a leisurely lunch at the Burr Trail Grill, so named because of its access to the trail that’s been a hot land issue for Utahns for many years.

Pointing the way. -- Photo by Pat Bean

As I sat there, eating a spicy, guacamole hamburger made from 100 percent organic beef raised in Boulder, and my split pea, asparagus and shallot salad, memories of my last meal here and my drive on the four-wheel drive trail flooded my little gray cells.

I had been accompanied back then by a professional photographer. We were paired up together to do illustrated newspaper stories on the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument that had been newly created by President Bill Clinton, and on the controversy surrounding the proposed paving of the Burr Trail.

The wild and scenic backroad, which is now partially paved, begins in Boulder – right next to where I was having lunch — and runs through Capitol Reef National Park’s Waterpocket Fold and then on to Bullfrog in the Glen Canyon National Recreation Area.

While the road is only about 70 miles long, it took the two of us from early morning to dusk to drive. Of course that included frequent stops and us getting lost a couple of times.

One special moment of the trip that I recalled this day was standing beside our turned-off vehicle, facing a landscape that appeared untouched by human hands, and being amazed at the quietness. It was as if all of a sudden I realized how amazing it was not to even hear the quiet hum of a refrigerator.

If ever I had a day I could repeat, this one would certainly be on the list.

But there was no time for regretting that this wasn’t that “Groundhog” day. There was still more of Highway 12 ahead. And next up was the mind-boggling Hogsback section of our drive.

I’ll tell you all about that tomorrow.

*Day 11 of the Journey, April 29, 2011

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‘Variety’s the very spice of life, that gives it all its flavor.” — William Cowper

Patriotic birds at Silver Beach RV Resort -- Photo by Pat Bean

Travels With Maggie

I spent my last two nights in Washington at two commercial RV parks that were as different as a rude log cabin and a modern new home.

The first was Silver Beach RV Resort off Highway 12 right next to Rimrock Lake, an emerald gem that I first saw on my way to Mount St. Helen’s and Mount Ranier. I decided then that I would explore it more fully when I retraced my route back to Interstate 82.

The park had a rustic ambiance about it that took away its commercialism, as did the tiny, faded American flags flying from birdhouses. It cost me $20 for the night, which upon paying I was assigned campsite 34. .

By the time I located it, since the numbering was a bit odd, I had driven in a circle three times. I found the electrical outlet attached to a tree trunk. It was only 20-amp instead of 30-amp provided at almost all RV parks. Fortunately I had an adapter that I use when I occasionally park in one of my kids or friends’ driveway.

The view of the lake and the robins and warblers singing among the trees made up for any lack in facilities, however, and a breeze blowing through my open windows from off the lake lulled me into a sound, peaceful sleep.

Rimrock Lake view from Highway 12 -- Photo by Pat Bean

The next morning, Maggie and I hiked a forest trail that began near my camp site before once again heading east on Highway 12. Several times I stopped to take pictures. Rimrock Lake ran parallel to the highway for about 10 miles, until passage through a rock tunnel across the road erased it from view.


I reached Yakima in early afternoon, where I treated myself to lunch at Red Lobster (I had been craving crab for several days) before seeking out the Travelers Inn RV Park. It was the kind of place where you camp on asphalt with a young lone tree and three feet of manicured lawn between you and other RVs – usually 40-footers. I always think of canned sardines when I’m put in this position, for which this night I paid $35.

So why did I stay here?

Two weeks of dirty clothes and the fact I was wearing my last pair of clean socks. Places like this always have clean laundry rooms. Sometimes a nature-loving-soul has to take it on the chin for the sake of cleanliness.

 I went to sleep this night with the buzz of some boring cable TV program in the background. It felt good to be back on the road early the next morning.

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“Come Fairies, take me out of this dull world, for I would ride with you upon the wind and dance upon the mountains like a flame! “ — William Butler Yeats

Mount Ranier from White Pass ... Photo by Pat Bean

Travels With Maggie

I got my first good look at Mount Ranier from Highway 12 while crossing White Pass, whose 4,500 foot summit looks out over the Cascade Range of the Rocky Mountains. The view of the 14,411-foot mountain was impressive. My look was shared with a couple of scruffy looking motorcyclists riding Harley Davidsons.

 I smiled at them and they smiled back. The magnificence of Mother Nature’s mountain gift vanished all differences between us. I’ve experienced this uniting phenomenon time and again. Besides, I had an inkling these two “Hogs” were probably doctors or lawyers in another life – since they could afford to own what looked like brand new Harleys.

Mount Ranier, which sits about 50 miles southeast of Seattle, is considered an active volcano, just like Mount St. Helen’s which erupted in 1980, killing 54 people. While Helen’s eruption had been expected, its roar was larger than expected. Ranier could one day throw a similar temper tantrum. It’s a sobering thought.

 But what amazed me this hot July day was Ranier’s shining whiteness. The mountain, which is Washington’s tallest, has

Mount Ranier ... Photo by Pat Bean

 numerous glaciers and a snowfield that never melts completely. From my current viewpoint its white cap was made even more prominent by the forest of green trees that stood between it and me.

 Finally, both myself and the two motorcyclists were able to turn away from the mountain view and get back on the road. We waved at each other before they headed east and I headed west, all three of us in search of more of Mother Nature’s wonders.

 I knew, from experience, that we wouldn’t have to travel far.

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