How do you think the total detox to the players‘ metropolis Las Vegas looks like? Maybe like an overnight stay at the Boulder Mountain Guest Ranch near Escalante. The journey alone promises deceleration as it leads you through the loneliness of the Nevada desert, through the passionately beautiful Zion National Park, touches the Bryce Canyon and peels its way through the Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument.
This is a pure landscape experience and you want to take advantage of almost every park bay to shoot a few moments for eternity.
I’m in this area for the tenth time now, but I already miss it because Utah is so great with all its canyons, rock formations and western towns. The winter slowly becomes my favourite season, as the days are mostly clear, the sky is always steel blue and the red canyon walls shine even more intensely than in summer.
Only the infrastructure in the tourist centres is often limited, so that I am even more happy about the invitation of the Boulder Mountain Guest Ranch, which is located far away from civilization about 20 miles east of Escalante. The clock hand is clearly beyond the 6 pm mark and the night has meanwhile gained the dominance over the day, so that I almost miss the turnoff from Highway 12, if there wasn’t a careless deer on the road that gets caught in my cone of light. It scurries to the side and I drive the last 5 miles in complete solitude until I suddenly stand in front of the dimly lit Main Lodge, where an envelope with a map and key for Cabin 1 is waiting for me.
In the off-season the reception and the restaurant are closed, which is a shame of course, but on the other hand it’s also great, as I got everything for an Italian gala dinner in a supermarket. The cabin itself is simply irresistible and consists of two bedrooms, a rustic living and cooking area as well as an extensive veranda that offers a view to the surrounding canyon landscape.
The Main Lodge is also open in winter and the only place with Wifi, because in the cabins „Detox“ is still the order of the day, which is really good after the CES in Vegas.
I sleep like a stone and get the necessary energy for a day that you can safely chisel into the history books, as it chases the myth Hole-in-the-Rock-Road. But before I go on the 30 miles long gravel road, I refuel again and put 2 Bud Light on the counter. Thereupon the gas station saleswoman laughs mercilessly at me and says that she can’t sell me just 2 beers, because in the US the unit starts at a „Six-Pack“. Well, you should take enough liquid with you on this trip. The Hole-in-the-Rock shows its good side today and you make very good progress with about 40 mph on the sandy ground.
After about 15 miles you reach the first turnoff to Devils Garden, where a 1-mile long loop leads past daring rock bridges, monoliths, hoodoos and arches. The morning sun mercilessly bangs on the rocks and leaves a ghostly shadow play in the snow.
What a great start, which one should make absolutely at the beginning of the day, because the large energy reserves are needed 27 miles later, where the abandoned parking lot to the Dry Fork lies in the middle of nowhere. If you have a four-wheel drive vehicle with a high wheelbase, you can even drive a little further to the start of the trail. After the black ice disaster of Aspen, however, the track was too hot for me, so that I prefer to walk the extra mile before I get lost in the terrain.
There is simply no real trail and one always follows old footprints that quickly lose themselves in the new snowfields, so that I first land in a slot canyon of the Dry Fork, before 30 minutes later I find the actual entrance to the Peek-a-Boo, which is about 7 meters above the ground and seems invincible.
The blogger community recommends a rope and an athletic freeclimber that always leads the way. I don’t have one, nor am I fit enough for the other, so I rely on the help of the only two other hikers to help me climb this hurdle before I disappear into a mercilessly narrow rock maze. Once you have been in the famous Antelope Canyon of Page, you will laugh yourself to death about this trip for seniors, as here you are completely alone and wind through 30 centimeters wide crevasses.
If I hadn’t read all the net stories, I wouldn’t have walked 10 meters, but somehow you squeeze your way through even the smallest turns and are glad that there is no oncoming traffic. If you are looking for a spectacular adventure, this is the place for you, because after you have somehow mastered the Peek-a-Boo, you continue with the Spooky Slot Canyon, which lives up to its name.
If you believe the Gossip on the internet, some silicone dreams on the narrow rock walls are already shattered and you get the claustrophobic feeling that the canyon crevices are moving towards each other. It is simply great, spectacular and definitely an experience for eternity. For the whole trail I recommend the All Trails App, whose GPS also works offline, so that you can always see if you are still on the right track.
After a good 4 hours I’m back in the vehicle and drive back to Escalante with my cheerful head full of the Fata Morgana of Scrambeld Eggs and sausages sizzling happily in the pan of the Boulder Mountain Guest Ranch. But that doesn’t happen at first, because when leaving the gravel road the warning lamp with the tire pressure symbol lights up dark red.
With a queasy feeling I drive another 10 kilometres to my beloved Griffin Grocery Store, where after a detailed inspection I have to spot a completely flat tyre. A „flat“ on Saturday, congratulations, I think, but I underestimate the helpfulness of Escalante’s A-Team. The chain starts with store owner Jack, who asks „random customer“ Jake what to do now, whereupon Jake calls his friend Tom for help. He doesn’t get along with the equipment in the Nissan, but knows garage owner Ryan, who has his cousin and nephew Rob and Jack visiting.
Three of them jack up the crate, unscrew the disaster from a tire, mend it as best they can, and then put on the spare wheel. Ryan, you are a god, Escalante you belong on the Bucket List of the Lonely Planet and Boulder Mountain Guest Ranch, you sit right on the TripAdvisor throne of the best and most comfortable accommodations in all of Utah, because of course the evening ended with scrambled eggs and sausages in the legendary Cabin Number 1.
This article was written at the invitation of the Boulder Mountain Guest Ranch and the organization of the wonderful Brandie, who wanted to guide me through the whole ranch. A flat tire came in between this time. But we’ll catch up, I promise! Because Utah will see me again and again. You land of thousand adventures.