Escalante Petrified Forest, SP

Thank goodness for shade shelters

Hey guess what y’all. You know how it’s summer? And you know how we’re in the desert? You’ll never believe this, but it gets really hot here. I know. Shocker right? So we have no hookups for three nights in Escalante Petrified Forest State Park. Which means no AC. But hey, we have so many fans, it’s not even funny. So I’m sure we’ll be fine.

Let’s start back to leaving Fruita, which we were both sad to do. Our route on this day would take us on Highway 12 for the most exciting stretch of it. I’ve known about this thing called “The Hogsback” for a really long time. I knew it was a stretch of the road with steep drop-offs on both sides with no guard rails and it caused me to chicken out on taking this road several years back. This time, I felt ready to tackle it, but not without some trepidation.

Follow the pilot car, my ass.

We began with the ultimate anti-climax of hitting road construction that stopped us dead for probably thirty minutes while we waited for a pilot car. There was a long line of cars that got stuck and people were getting out of their cars, or off their motorcycles, seeking shade under the bushes while we waited. It was annoying, and why they were working on a Sunday was a point of discussion among the sadly stuck. Finally, the pilot car driver returned and we got ready to follow. We were the first in line and the driver tore off at speeds higher than the posted speed limit. This was a particularly steep and windy section of the road so she was way far ahead and out of sight pretty quickly. The construction seemed to go on forever and it was unclear whether we’d passed the end of it or not, with no pilot car to be seen. That is a pilot car fail if you ask me. Like, she had one job. So we pulled off at a visitor information center where Richard got info. Everyone there seemed equally annoyed with how the construction project was being handled, so at least we felt validated. They gave us reassurance about the Hogsback and sent us on our way.

Grand view of the Grand Staircase

Really it was a shame the construction put such a damper on the journey because this is one of the most spectacular roads I have ever been on. We did get to appreciate it for the rest of the way at least and future travelers will enjoy a nice new road surface. The summit takes you up to 9600’ with a jaw dropping view of the whole “Grand Staircase” region. From that vantage point, you can see a huge crescent that looks like the world just ends and disappears over a precipice. Above that, you can make out the multicolored layers of rock, marking different territories by their varying levels of erosion. This “staircase” is what defines the entire Colorado Plateau, stretching from Bryce in the north, to the Grand Canyon in the south. This is the theme of our summer and the most impressive pieces lie along Highway 12.

The Hogsback

We descended all the way down into the town of Boulder, which I thought would be a lot bigger. Climbing out of that, you pass through a Disneyland version of the natural world, where it just doesn’t seem possible to have that much striking scenery in one place. Then finally we came to the Hogsback. No panic attacks, not clutching at the steering wheel, no biggie. It was about a mile of being on the ridge, but the road was plenty wide enough and I never felt I might careen over the side. At the end of the day, it was less daunting than a lot of places on Highway 1, or even the ridgy part of the road to Fremont Peak State Park. No problem. Once upon a time, Richard was going to ride this, and we both decided it would be not that fun. It is a nonstop assault of steep climbing and descending, hitting 14% at times. There is very little shoulder and enough car traffic that it would be stressful, in equal parts mentally and physically. So he was glad to drive that particular section.

What an incredible part of the country

We passed through the town of Escalante (which we have been pronouncing with a latin “ay” at the end and have been told the locals do not pronounce it). The state park is really nice. It sits next to the Wide Hollow Reservoir and many of the sites have some good tree shade. Ours for the first night, however, did not. This was also the first place we’d been to for a while where there was LTE from the campground. That was great from the checking in with the world perspective, but not so great from the checking in with work for Richard perspective. It was a hard shift coming off Capitol Reef for him.

Petrified wood

We switched sites the next day, due to not being able to reserve one for three nights in a row, and that was an improvement. Site 6 had trees for afternoon shade and that really helped. Don’t get me wrong, it was still plenty hot and we learned that pouring water on your head while fully clothed is wonderful. Inside the trailer was way too hot midday, so we chilled in our Nemo chairs and enjoyed the breeze, alternately spraying ourselves with the Aquabot, or going full douse. After dinner, we braved the trail up to see the petrified wood, and that is totally worth it. Petrified wood is cool and there is a lot of it in this part, hence the name I guess. It is far more colorful than I imagined and the light at the end of the day really makes it sparkle.

Section riding Highway 12

Richard got in a ride along 12 from the campground to a lookout point, and I got in some boating on the reservoir. Besides that, there are only a few stores in town, but I killed as much time as I could in those during the hot parts of the day because they are air conditioned. It’s a little awkward when you’re the only one in a very small grocery store and you have to pretend to read labels on the five boxes of cereal they have. I made sure to buy something. I will give a shout out to the Escalante Mercantile store because they have a very hip selection of high end and specialty food items. They also have fresh sandwiches, salads and baked goods, which made an excellent dinner our last night there.

Out comes the Aluminet

I would recommend this park and for sure get up to see the petrified wood. We noticed some of the sites had hookups, but most did not. Some have shade and some do not. Sorry I didn’t note the good and shady ones, but 7 is one of them. All of the ones closest to the water had good shade.

We’re in an “extreme heat” situation in the southwest that is going to get more intense over the next couple of days. Luckily, we will have hookups for a while now. 

Total miles: 77.4, 15.6 mpg. Site 7 (no shade cover or tree shade), then site 6 (shade cover and tree shade in the afternoon). Some sites by the water have hookups. Pretty good LTE for both. Good dump, potable water. Trash dumpster by kiosk. Boat launch. Town of Escalante has some grocery stores, but limited in scope. Try Escalante Mercantile for organic, gluten free, and specialty produce.

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