Highway 12 from Red Canyon to Torrey is designated a Scenic Highway. We headed to Escalante where we planned to spend one night and attend the Plein Air Art Festival. The night we arrived it was quite cold, so we wrapped up and went to The Circle D Eatery, next door to Canyons of Escalante RV Park. if you want great food at a fraction of the cost of a San Francisco restaurant, the Circle D is the place. Don’t let the name fool you. They have the best homemade Creme Brûlée I’ve ever had. Bills steak was better than “Mortons.” Vegetables were done al dente perfectly. Breakfast and lunch were equally superb. The Circle D Eatery was a real find.
The Escalante Canyons Art Festival was running two days, Friday and Saturday, but the artists had been at work creating for the week prior. Arts and Crafts, great music, local quilts, food and Plein Air art made this one of our favorite stops along Hwy. 12. We loved chatting with Matt How, who we met as we walked in. Matt was manning a booth for a friend. Matt was building a straw bale house in the Escalante area and he shared insider information about how a straw bale house is built. We enjoyed the architecture of the garage, which had already been built and Matt’s friendly, gregarious nature. Matt is a graphic designer by trade and works for the government in Portland, Oregon, designing brochures and doing the art for the National Parks and BLM. Plein Air art is painting on location or in the open air and is usually done during the course of the festival. All of the art reflected the artist’s interpretation of the scenery, canyons, mountains, and landscape.
Our next stop was the Kiva Koffeehouse on the outskirts of Escalante. Kiva Koffeehouse was created by artist, mentor, contractor, inventor and engineer, Bradshaw Bowman. It took 2 years to collect the 13 Ponderosa Pine perimeter logs from the high forests of the West. Some of these logs have nearly 300 rings, existing even before our country was born. The smaller interior logs and Vigas (rafters) are Spruce. The latillas are from smaller Lodge Pole Pine. The sandstone walls were quarried from an on-site quarry. Not only is the Kiva Coffeehouse a great architectural interest, the views are unequaled, the coffee, homemade soups and sandwiches a much-needed respite for the traveler.
Driving Hwy. 12 from Escalante to Boulder is a kaleidoscope of sights and views, canyons, slick rock, striated cream-and-red sandstone formations, plateaus, mountains, flowing water, and native vegetation. You simply cannot take it all in during one day; yet, that is what we did and I think it would be compared to trying to see the Louvre in Paris in one hour. We actually drove right through the “Hogback” which is described as “a thin, razorback ridge of slick rock, spilling steeply off on each side,” so much enjoying the vistas we didn’t even recognize the danger. Perhaps we are too accustomed to the twisting road to Sea Ranch with drop offs to the ocean that the Hogback didn’t seem so bad.
We did enjoy the Anasazi State Park Museum outside Boulder. Anasazi refers to village-dwelling farmers who existed in this region from A.D.1 to 1300 and the site has been partially excavated and reconstructed. No one knows why the village was abandoned around A.D. 1175. I am just grateful for my modern house and technology; I shudder to think of living in the pit structures and small rooms the Anasazi lived in, hunting for food, farming and gathering seeds, nuts and berries. Average life expectancy was 33-35 years we read. Tooth decay, arthritis and famine were a way of life. Almost makes me grateful for the current fight over healthcare.
Once we left Boulder, scenic Hwy. 12 starts climbing. We were sure each time we topped a hill, we were at the high point and would start the descent. But no, we kept rounding a curve to find another hill. The Chevy Silverado is a powerhouse pickup and darned if it didn’t pull our 23′ trailer up and over that mountain with not even a hiccup. The elevation at top is just over 9000 feet. The landscape here turns to most noticeable Aspen, but also pine, spruce and fir. However, it is the Aspen that we remember — more Aspen than we can ever recall seeing, in beautiful fall color of golds and yellow-green, miles and miles of quaking Aspen.
When you descend the mountain, you arrive in the pleasant town of Torrey. Our home for the night was an RV Park called Thousand Lakes on the outskirts of town. Amazing views here and all the amenities. The only grocery was a small market, Chuck Wagon Grocery, not much selection for fruits or vegetables. We found “Slackers” the next day — great burgers and Wifi. Right after we got our orders, I looked up to see a line of about 25 people. Say what? Then a lady who overheard my shocked expression, said “don’t worry; we’re not taking over your town.” Evidently a tour bus pulled in to this roadside diner and expected them to churn out enough burgers to feed the county. Well, all good business for the diner, but I’m grateful we already had our food.
Next stop: Capitol Reef National Park where we hoped to find a spot for the trailer for two nights. Little did we suspect what was coming down the pike, a dysfunctional government that would upend our vacation plans like a royal pain in the …