Ad
Ad
Ad
Pages: [1] 2 »   Bottom of Page
Print
Author Topic: Burr Tral in Capitol Reef  (Read 6335 times)
howard smith
Sr. Member
****
Offline Offline

Posts: 1237


« on: July 31, 2004, 03:36:25 PM »
ReplyReply

[font color=\'#000000\']Thanks for the tips.  It looks like a go.[/font]
Logged
howard smith
Sr. Member
****
Offline Offline

Posts: 1237


« Reply #1 on: August 02, 2004, 08:35:23 AM »
ReplyReply

[font color=\'#000000\']Same problem.[/font]
Logged
howard smith
Sr. Member
****
Offline Offline

Posts: 1237


« Reply #2 on: August 03, 2004, 09:14:01 AM »
ReplyReply

[font color=\'#000000\']Wow, thanks Bruce.  Now I know I'll be there and I will be adjusting my trip to add another two days.  Thanks again.  You have been a great help.

Southern and central Utah are among, if not, my favorite place in the US of A.  Only my friends in New Mexico think they have better sky.  Thanks again.[/font]
Logged
howard smith
Sr. Member
****
Offline Offline

Posts: 1237


« Reply #3 on: August 23, 2004, 05:56:06 PM »
ReplyReply

[font color=\'#000000\']I have seen that simply leaving a trail can get you away from the crowds.  A friend and I have crossed Bishop Pass a couple of times, with a lot of company.  Once over the pass, turned south cross country to  group of lakes with no names, only elevations on the topo.  You can sit there in absolute solitude and watch the traffic on the trail a few miles away.  The fishing was awesome.  I actually caught a 20" or so trout with my bare hand.  The "off season" is also great.

The same is true at Death Valley.  Leave the pavement and 95% of the people.  Leave the graded roads and 4.9% moe people.  Leave the 4x4 roads and you are all alone.

This last trip to Utah was all on the beaten path.  Saw lots of people, except for the pre-dawn walk out to Mesa Arch (see the cover of Sunset mag for 9/04) in Canyonlands.  I thought there would be plenety of folks but I was all alone.

My favorite spot in Yosemite is an easy 1/4 mile walk cross country from the Tioga Road.  No body there although you can see that others have found it.  I took my sons there last year for a picnic lunch and we had a grand time.

I guess the lesson here is to look at the topo, pick out a spot with no trail and go.  It doesn't have to be far or hard.[/font]
Logged
howard smith
Sr. Member
****
Offline Offline

Posts: 1237


« Reply #4 on: August 27, 2004, 12:37:59 PM »
ReplyReply

[font color=\'#000000\']Thanks gtal.  Another question if you don't mind.

North of Boulder and west of Escalante (via the Hell's Backbone Road), I passed through some nice stands of aspen.  About when to they turn in the fall?  That might be a good time for next year.[/font]
Logged
howard smith
Sr. Member
****
Offline Offline

Posts: 1237


« Reply #5 on: July 30, 2004, 11:24:07 AM »
ReplyReply

[font color=\'#000000\']I'm going to Utah for a couple weeks in August.  Has anyone driven the Burr Trail between Bull Frog and Boulder?  What were the switchbacks like and any good side walks to take?  Major sites and disappointments?[/font]
Logged
Jo Irps
Jr. Member
**
Offline Offline

Posts: 52


« Reply #6 on: July 30, 2004, 06:54:45 PM »
ReplyReply

[font color=\'#000000\']I drove the Burr Trail last year August, not to Bullfrog but turned North at The Post onto the Notom Road to eventually get to Torrey. I did it with a family sedan despite the thunder storms which normally come at afternoons. The big gravel road switchback going down only frightened my wife and kids.

A very interesting stretch is the long canyon, there is a nice little hike along the creek starting at the little bridge almost at the beginning of the canyon. A little further along the road on the left side is very interesting slot canyon, its more like a cave, where nativ indians sometime hold wedding ceremonies.

Enjoy your drive, there is lots to see, you will not be disappointd.

Jo[/font]
Logged
b.e.wilson
Full Member
***
Offline Offline

Posts: 104


WWW
« Reply #7 on: August 02, 2004, 01:14:53 AM »
ReplyReply

[font color=\'#000000\']Here's what I think of the Trail: http://wilson.dynu.net/burrtrail.asp[/font]
Logged

b.e.wilson
Full Member
***
Offline Offline

Posts: 104


WWW
« Reply #8 on: August 02, 2004, 08:20:01 AM »
ReplyReply

[font color=\'#000000\']Try http://science.uvsc.edu/wilson/burrtrail.asp. Same physical location, more direct route in.[/font]
Logged

b.e.wilson
Full Member
***
Offline Offline

Posts: 104


WWW
« Reply #9 on: August 02, 2004, 12:14:53 PM »
ReplyReply

[font color=\'#000000\']Strange. Maybe the uvsc.edu domain name never got to your DNS server.

http://161.28.20.240/wilson/burrtrail.asp[/font]
Logged

Tim Gray
Sr. Member
****
Offline Offline

Posts: 2002



WWW
« Reply #10 on: August 02, 2004, 04:14:37 PM »
ReplyReply

Quote
[font color=\'#000000\']Try http://science.uvsc.edu/wilson/burrtrail.asp. Same physical location, more direct route in.[/font]
[font color=\'#000000\']worked for me[/font]
Logged
b.e.wilson
Full Member
***
Offline Offline

Posts: 104


WWW
« Reply #11 on: August 02, 2004, 09:23:38 PM »
ReplyReply

[font color=\'#000000\']I'll try this. Here it is, pasted into the edit window. Hope it works. The pictures didn't copy over.

It may be possible to spend and entire season photographing on the Burr Trail and still see only a fraction of what is there to see. I've considered taking the job of campground host at the Deer Creek campground just to find out.

The Burr Trail, also known as the Boulder to Bullfrog Road, is a (mostly) paved road going from Boulder, Utah, to the middle of Capitol Reef National Park, then on south to Bullfrog marina on the shores of Lake Powell. It's about 60 miles long, and runs through some of the most desolate and beautiful land in the United States.

History of the Burr Trail

The Trail, named back in the 1880's when John Atlantic Burr used it to move cattle through the area, runs through the northernmost part of the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument. The Monument is the largest in the US, and is divided into sections. At the North is the Circle Cliffs area, where the Burr Trail is found. The southern end of the Circle Cliffs is formed by the Big Brown Bench (among other benches and mesas) that separate it from the Canyons of the Escalante area. The canyons formed by the Escalante river and its tributaries contain some of the more interesting and accessible (as well as some of the most inaccessible) narrows and slot canyons in Utah, places like the Narrows of the Dry Fork of the Coyote, Spooky, Peek-a-boo, and Zebra slots. Here also is found the Hole-in-the-Rock road paralleling the Fifty-mile Bench, as well as the spectacular (though remote) canyons of the Escalante River. Bordering the southern end of the Canyons area is the Fifty Mile Mountain (which is itself only the northeastern edge of the magnificent Kaiparowitz plateau) that separates the Canyons from the Grand Staircase region.

In this article I will concentrate on the photographic opportunities along the Burr Trail itself, with only passing reference to the more popular photographic locations of nearby Boulder Mountain, Utah highway 12, and the Hole-in-the-rock road.

Above I mentioned that the Burr Trail was paved. It wasn't always that way. In the late 70's and early 80's there was quite a raging controversy concerning who, if anybody, should pave the then dirt road. Garfield county wanted to pave the trail to increase tourism in the area, and they were joined by the national park service. They were, of course, opposed by environmental groups, hoping to keep the area as pristine (well, uncontaminated by tourists and hunters) as possible. The locals, hunters, RVers and miners wanted it paved, and for mostly one reason: the Burr Trail mud. Just out of the north end of Long Canyon there is a layer of orange clay, a layer that, when wet, becomes the stickiest and slipperiest natural substance known. I'm told by an old acquaintance who as a youth herded cattle through the area that not even shod horses could stand on the wet clay. In my youth our family drove over the Burr Trail after a storm, and the mud we picked up that day was still under the wheel wells and on the brake pedal 15 years later when we junked the car. I tell you this to reinforce the idea that besides the obvious dangers of flash floods in the canyons and washes, the unapproachable danger of driving the unpaved roads during or after a rainstorm (quicksand abounds in the wash crossings, which remain impassable until they dry), you may be forced to deal with the mud the moment you step off the pavement.

Well, the NPS switched sides in the debate when they realized that if Garfield county paved the road they would lose all right of way to the road, and after a lengthy court case, Garfield was given the right of way and they promptly paved the road in the early 90's. And it's been a godsend to those of us who desire access in inclement weather without endangering our lives. The road is paved through the Monument, but the paving ends at the border to Capitol Reef (I presume the NPS, having committed itself to opposing the paving, has never felt its way clear to paving its own roads). So even in inclement weather it is still possible to get a lot of very nice scenic views from the road itself, enough to occupy days of effort.

The Monument itself was created in 1996 by Clinton. Just a note: don't ask any locals about it if you like Clinton. Utahans generally are still pissed at him when he put 1.7 million acres of our state permanently under federal control, and didn't even bother to set foot in Utah when doing it (he made the announcement from the Grand Canyon).

Accommodations in Boulder

There are a couple motels in Boulder. Also a couple gas stations. And a couple restaurants. And a couple shops. And a couple of B*B's. Two of everything, in fact. Also in Boulder is the Anasazi State Park, with interesting information on the previous inhabitants of the area. The headquarters of the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument is in Escalante to the south, but they maintain an information desk at Anasazi State Park. Stop there and get their map and enquire about local conditions, weather, etc, before you head down the Trail.

There is one campground in all of the Monument. It is about seven miles from Boulder, located at the Calf Creek crossing. There are seven camping areas there (six during the tourist season, when one spot is occupied by the campground host), no reservations. Each campsite has a table, a fire grill, and a marker post. There is a vault toilet, but no water (other than Calf Creek itself, but that is laden with Giardia, so don't think of drinking untreated water; the creek runs year round). A word of advice on choosing campsites: if it is hot, avoid the side near the ledges. The afternoon sun turns those campsites into ovens.

See the links section below for lists of accommodations in Boulder.

The Burr Trail: Boulder to Long Canyon

So let's begin our little tour of the Burr Trail. At a 90 degree bend in SR-12 is the turnoff to the Burr Trail. At the corner you'll see two things of interest: an old and somewhat photogenic gas station, and the dumpsters. The gas station, and the old steers skull, can be photographed in an obvious manner.

The dumpsters, however, are very important. that's where all your trash should go. I love the Burr Trail, and hate to see it messed up with garbage. I make it a point to pick up all the trash I see when I'm hiking in the area, and I hope you will too. Normally I make it a point to pick up all the trash I can carry as I hike back to the car, but on the Trail I pick it up wherever I find it, even it if means carrying a couple muddy beer bottles for miles in a vest pocket.

As you start down the road you'll see a couple of fields, one green and strewn with boulders, the other a pretty little horse pasture. Both make interesting shots in the morning or evening.

Soon you'll see a small hill composed of checker boarded Navajo sandstone. Pass on by, there are much better examples coming up. As you move along the trail in a SE direction you'll pass Sugarloaf, then parallel Durffey Mesa. Both are large hills composed of that wonderful checker board white sandstone, but now you'll find details like black boulders (left over from the explosion 50 million years ago that took the top off the volcano and left us with Boulder Mountain), and trees growing out of the cracks. Early to mid morning provides good sidelight to bring out the patterns in the rock. Hike around a bit to find unique views.


About 6 miles from Boulder look for petrified sand dunes. Where the road is cut through you'll see evidence for cross layering, a sign of petrified dunes, where one layer abuts another at an angle.

About 6.5 miles down the trail you'll cross over Calf Creek, and find the Calf Creek campground. Just south of the road, along Calf Creek, there is a shallow spot in the river, excellent for letting the kids romp in the water, or for washing a couple days of Circle Cliffs dust off if you are camping. You can also find some shots of the relative oasis of green that the river sustains in this desert.

The Burr Trail: Long Canyon

Long Canyon is for me the highpoint of the Burr Trail. It starts about 10 miles out of Boulder, and is seven miles long. The canyon cuts diagonally through the Wingate formation that make up the Circle Cliffs, running in a northeast direction, which, as you will see later, is the key to photography here. just before you enter the canyon you'll pass some turnouts with perfect overlooks of the mouth of Long Canyon, and to the west, the Gulch. Rattlesnake Bench separates them.

Continue down the road toward the switchback, but look for a signed road to the west. A short trail leads to a view of an Anasazi cliff dwelling up high, that unfortunately isn't very photogenic, being high up and in the shadows most of the year.

Just past the horseshoe bend in the road you'll see the first signs of 'swiss cheese', the flood-eroded holes in the canyon walls. It is most prevalent at the mouth of the canyon, but can be seen all through the canyon, usually at the higher elevations on the walls. There are a couple spots where a quick hike will take you right up to the wall.
 

I suppose this is as good a time as any to talk about my second pet peeve of desert life: crypto biotic soils, or crypto. Soil in this part of Utah has a rather tenuous grasp on the life, mostly because of the constantly shifting nature of the loose sand. Only one thing can hold it down: crypto biotic soil. Crypto is a symbiotic colony of lichen (fungus and algae) and bacteria that manage to produce enough waste to both fertilize and cement the sand enough for grasses to start growing. It is absolutely essential to life in the desert, and is terribly fragile. One step will kill it for years. You will recognize it as bumpy, dark patches of sand. If you see any, please, please avoid stepping on it! If you do venture off the road, use established trails as much as you can, or stick to washes, hopping from rock to rock, or detouring. This landscape is worth a five minute detour to avoid walking over 10 feet of crypto.

Long Canyon is best shot from mid morning to the early afternoon. After sunrise the sun illuminates the northwest wall, which reflects its orange light onto the southeast wall. It is this colored, diffuse light that imparts to the canyon it's unique photographic possibilities. This light can impart a surreal appearance on the ordinary, and will produce some marvelously saturated images. Since the canyon walls are so high (600 feet) and close to the road, even wide-angle lenses are appropriate, with very little inclusion of the much brighter sky. If you shoot the more saturated slide films like Velvia or E100VS, overexposing an extra half stop will help desaturate some of the abundant color.


You will find literally hundreds of opportunities to use your normal and short telephoto lenses as well. I've found the best way to shoot the canyon is on foot. Typically I will shoot the predawn and sunrise out by the Circle Cliffs (see below), then after a picnic breakfast, spend the rest of the morning driving very slowly or walking down the canyon. You can take (almost) all the time you want, as the light remains pretty constant from about 8 a.m. to at least 1 p.m. If you are with someone, have the drop you off at the top of the canyon with a some extra film, and have the drive a mile down to wait. When you get to the car, get more film and walk another mile. And don't feel shy about hiking into some of the side cantons. None of them are very far in, but do have a different view of the canyon.

A few things to look for as you mosey along: water-carved rock. The canyon was carved by erosion, and the process left many uniquely carves and hollowed-out rocks. Also look for hoodoos and the occasional balanced rock toward the top of the canyon.
 

During the Fall you can find many examples of dead weeks standing next to rocks and other features. Most mornings the air in the canyon is dead calm, so deep focus (long exposure) still-life and scenic shots will work nicely.


As you move through the canyon you will see many turnouts. With one exception, they are all there because of photographers (the one exception is a location where climbers debark for the walls). It's a good policy, if you have the time, to stop at all turnouts and find the things nearby that caused others to stop. And please remember to pick up any trash you find, and watch out for the crypto higher up the slopes.

About halfway down the canyon there is a short narrows that often yield good shots from noon to mid afternoon. Look for a well-used turnout near some very big trees to the northwest. It's a normally dry narrows (flat bottom, unlike the 'V' bottom of a slot) that's only about 100 feet deep. At the far end of the narrows is a perennial pool of water.


The Burr Trail: Western Circle Cliffs

At the top of Long Canyon there is a cattle guard (the BLM, which administers the Monument, issues cattle grazing permits during the spring and summer months) and the Long Canyon overlook. paradoxically, the overlook has a nice view of the flats, but not the canyon. Here you can get top-down shots of the two prominent bands of clay that demark the west rim or the Circle Cliffs: the red clay layer above the blue Bentonite layer (just east of Capitol Reef are the Bentonite Hills, better known as The Blues, where this layer is the dominant feature of the terrain). With a polarizing filter you can bring out the colors a bit.
 

This area is also one of the best locations for pre-dawn and dawn shots. The early illumination on the Circle Cliffs here is fun to work with, and by moving around to find interesting foreground features you can compose some very classic shots with the cliffs in the background. Shots of the cliffs in the very early hours have a nice balance between the cliffs and the sky illumination, but closer to sunrise a one or two-stop soft-edge ND grad will help control the brightening sky. Shots can be had at locations next to the road all the way down the hill, so do explore.


There must be other locations similar to the end of Long Canyon for shooting the cliffs at sunrise, but none of them are nearly as easy to access. Driving the dirt roads in the area at night is discouraged unless you are very familiar with them.

The Burr Trail: The Flats

The area enclosed by the Circle Cliffs doesn't have a single name. Generally called "The Flats", it is composed of an area called The Flats to the north of the road, White Canyon Flat toward the east where the road passes through, and White Canyon in the middle. To the south is Horse Canyon, the Wolverine Petrified Wood area, and Death Hollow, all in close proximity.

The flat is a fairly photogenic Upper Sonoran environment, cut with many eroded drainages and filled with juniper and pinion pine trees (which I grew up collectively calling 'cedars'). The north, south, east, and west sections of the flats all have their own 'feel', and it's the eastern par I like to photograph best. The area has many ungraded dirt roads (put in by uranium miners a long time ago, used mostly for RV and hunting now) that provide access to the more remote parts of the flats and a few of the hilltops, but a 4WD vehicle is needed to traverse the roads.

I don't know of any really grand views of the flats as a whole, as there do not seem to be any trails that lead to the top of the Circle Cliffs. With a long lens you can get an oblique angle on the flats from the Homestead viewpoint on Boulder mountain, but you will content with haze from that distance. Instead I like to find those fun, interesting little pristine still life's that are most easily found on the less-frequented eastern side of the flats. Here is where the crypto grows in abundance, so again, be very careful of where you step.

One interesting spot I found on my last visit is the car wreck. Look for a lone burned tree. A car wrecked there in the past (sorry, I haven't discovered the details) and burned. There I found molten aluminum, fused glass, assorted bits that fall off cars when they are destroyed. Not photogenic, just interesting.

The Wolverine Canyon area, and Death Hollow

Probably the most interesting location in the flats is to the south, the Wolverine Petrified Wood area. You access it via a mostly graded dirt road. Looked for the signed turnoff to the south toward Wolverine and Horse canyon. The road is in very good shape until you reach the wash, where the quality deteriorated rapidly. It is passable by passenger car in dry conditions, but impassable by anything when wet. Near the washes are some dust bowls in the road that can unnerve all but the most steady drivers, which are not dangerous (besides coating everything with thick layers of dust).

At the southern most end of the road is a large parking area and a gate to access the petrified wood area. Bring water, as you will need to hike a bit to find the best locations.

You'll find the dark petrified wood as soon as you enter the area. The petrified wood here is unlike any of the more popular 'stands' of petrified wood, as here it is black. Sometimes gray, sometimes with white striations, but mostly dark brown or black. Due to the relative lack of beauty, this are has not been as exploited as other locations. The best 'stand' of wood is located about a mile from the trailhead. Walk along the wash until you see about 20 big logs laying on the western slope of a hill. The soil is fairly light colored (the blue Bentonite clay, as I recall), so exposure in the full sun can be a bit of a trick, so very late afternoon (when the top of the hill casts a shadow over the stand) or cloudy days might provide better light.
 

Note: if you want to see some of the brown/orange/red petrified wood, there is a nice little bit of it at the Escalante Petrified Wood State Park, just west of Escalante. You'll need to hike uphill a couple hundred feet, but there are some very nice samples laying about. The best locations are on the Sleeping Rainbow loop trail off the main loop.

There is also a location at the far south end of the same hill that has an almost moonlike appearance that might be worth an extra quarter mile hike if you like abstract shots.

Just to the east of Wolverine canyon is Death Hollow. Note that there are in the area two Death Hollows: one here and the other north of Escalante in the Box-Death Hollow Wilderness. Higher up the canyon, in the Little Death Hollow, is a photogenic narrows, but it's quite a hike in (about 7 miles), and one I've never explored.

As you continue out of the area to the east (you are on the Wolverine loop, but doing the loop isn't, of course, required; I always do the loop to see the most territory) you'll pass through the White Canyon area, with many interesting opportunities to photograph of the small but highly weathered canyons that cross the area. As you near the Burr Trail you'll encounter some signs of cattle ranching, of road construction, and RV sports.

The Burr Trail: Capitol Reef National Park

Soon you'll get to the end of the pavement. There you'll see a sign indicating you are leaving the Monument. Just to the north of that sign is a low hill that provides a rather nice vantage point of the juniper forest, the 'teeth' of the Waterpocket fold, some of the southeastern Circle Cliffs, and of the Swap mesa and Henry mountains to the east. Sunset shots are pretty good here with a medium to long lens. Continue down the road to enter Capitol Reef. I've always thought that Swap Canyon, a jagged series of buttresses just across the valley (in a ENE direction, below the Henry mountains) is the most attractive thing in the landscape. A long lens will compress the distance between the buttresses nicely.


Capitol Reef National Park is a long, narrow park, running north to south. Most visitors see only Frutia and the scenic drive, but the most interesting parts of the park are accessed via dirt roads to the north (cathedral valley and the Temples of the Sun and of the Moon) and to the south (the Waterpocket fold). The Burr Trail enters the park in the middle of the Waterpocket fold area.

The Waterpocket fold is a fold in the crust. A big fold. A section of the crust formed an enormous bulge, hundreds of miles across with 45 degree walls, then eroded. The Waterpocket Fold is what is left after the erosion, just the roots of the bulge, really. The name "Waterpocket" comes from the propensity of the sandstone in the area to form potholes, or water pockets, that collect and hold water for weeks after a storm. The Waterpocket Fold was named by John Wesley Powell during his great survey mission in the area. The most prominent feature of the fold is a layer of white Navajo sandstone, lying at an acute angle, that form a miles-long row of jagged teeth. They are best viewed from the valley, but you first view of them is from the back side.

As you continue toward the Reef, you'll find a well-used dirt road leading north. This road goes in a about a half mile to a turnaround area. Travel beyond this point is possible, but only in a high-clearance 4WD vehicle (if you can make it past the ditch just beyond the turnaround, you can make it up to the parking area 2.5 miles in). Another quarter mile on you'll find the Upper Muley Twist Canyon trailhead. In all it's a 3 mile hike up 300 feet to one of the best viewpoints in the West: the Strike Valley Overlook. It's called the Strike Valley overlook because the entire valley East of the Reef is a strike valley: it parallels the underlying rock strata. On the trail you'll see Peek-a-boo rock, and many pothole arches and one double arch high on the Muley Twist canyon walls.

At the end of the road you'll find another trailhead, this one leading to the overlook. After a short stretch over sand you'll climb onto the rock. Watch for the rock cairns that mark the trail, and continue following them right over to the southern edge. The viewpoint is located atop one Navajo sandstone 'tooth' of the fold. This overlook is best viewed in the mid to late afternoon. Sunset shots there are compromised by the long shadows cast by the Circle Cliffs and other formations to the west. There are beautiful views here of the sweeping 'S' curve of the Reef valley to the south, and of Swap Canyon to the east. If you plan of a sunset shot here, and are hiking, don't forget your flashlight and plenty of water. Make a point of examining the small reef in the center of the valley in front of you. It's the Oyster Shell Reef, and it's a very small example of the reef upon which you stand. Look closely just beyond the Oyster Shell Reef and you'll spot the north-to-south-running Notom to Bullfrog Road. The Burr Trail drops into the valley at your right, and joins that road. Take it north to US24, or south to the Bullfrog marina on the shore of Lake Powell.


As you continue down the Burr Trail you'll find a small picnic site just before the switchbacks. Here is a nice view of the upper mouth of the Lower Muley Twist canyon, one of the hiking Mecca's of this area.

The Burr Trail: The Switchbacks

To descend through the reef into the valley a small engineering feat was needed. In the Fold was a gap, where the Navajo sandstone had eroded completely. In it's earliest days this was the only path toward the west out of the reef valley, and this is where Burr Trail was first named. The road that was later built in the gap is the second-most frightening set of switchbacks in the West (the scariest set is on the Shafer trail that climbs up into Canyonlands National Park from the rim below Dead Horse Point; some say that the Hells Backbone Trail between Boulder and Escalante is scarier, but it's just a more exposed route, not steeper or trickier).

The switchbacks (there are only three) should not be attempted by cars with weak brakes or clutches, by RVs, or by anything towing a trailer. The switchbacks climb 800 vertical feet in 2700 feet of road. That's more than one vertical foot up for every four horizontal feet! The roadbed is dirt, so don't try it in a storm. The road is graded several times a year, but potholes still develop rapidly.

In the valley you'll have some great morning shots of the fold to the west, and afternoon shots of the mesas to the east. Take the Notom to Bullfrog road south and you'll find the landscape opens up pretty quickly. But to the north you'll find some of the best shots of the fold, and of the Tarantula mesa before the landscape there flattens out at the southern end of The Blues.

I'll end my description of the Burr Trail here. I guess technically it continues down to Lake Powell, but the photographic opportunities aren't very abundant there (because of all the build up around the marina).

Nearby Locations: Boulder Mountain

North on SR-12. Boulder mountain has several viewpoints on the southeastern and eastern sides. Here are magnificent, if slightly hazy, vistas of the Burr Trail and Capitol Reef. The Homestead viewpoint has maps, but I've found that bringing my own large map of the area and a compass is the only way to locate all the places we've been. Long Canyon, the trail over the flats, the northern and eastern Circle Cliffs are all visible. Also on Boulder mountain are some nice national Forest Service campgrounds (open in season) that are considerably cooler than the desert floor below.

Nearby Locations: Capitol Reef National Park

North on SR-12 to Torrey, then East on US-24 to Frutia. This brings you to the typical tourist entrance to the Capitol Reef. You don't have to pay an entrance fee until you get to the start of the scenic drive. Camping is pleasant here, and there is certainly plenty to shoot along the scenic drive (nice evening views of the well-defined sandstone cliffs), in the Grand and Capitol washes (look for more swiss cheese and flood erosion), and even outside the park along US-24. Look for the uniquely eroded domes of white Navajo sandstone that gave the park it's name. To get good photos of them inside the park you'll need to hike up to the top of the mesas, though. There are a few vantage points East of the park on US-24 where you can get good shots of the domes next to the road.


Nearby Locations: The Hells Backbone

South on SR-12. The town of Boulder remained isolated until the 1930's when the Civilian Conservation Corps built the first road into the area. It linked Boulder to Escalante, and is a hair-raising drive. The road departs west from State Route 12 about seven miles south of Boulder. A loop drive can be made by taking the Backbone to Escalante, then returning via SR-12.

Nearby Locations: The Hogsback

In the mid '60's the state got funding for a new road to boulder, to be known as Utah State Route 12. It had to cross some of the most inhospitable canyons, and in its winding it had to cross the Hogsback ridge, about 8 miles south of Boulder. It's also called the million dollar highway, because so much was spent stabilizing the roadbed along the very peak of the narrow ridge. There is no great viewpoint of the road itself, but you can find wonderful vistas nearby, due to the 600 and 400 foot exposures. This is the first of many sites along U-12, considered by many to be the most interesting and scenic road in the United States.

Nearby Locations: Lower Calf Creek Falls

Another four miles from the Hogsback Ridge is the Calf Creek campground and trailhead. Here you can hike in about four miles (lose sand much of the way) to Lower Calf Creek Falls. The falls are actually located just below the Hogsback (see photo below), but there is no access to them from above. Many who do the hike spend a little time playing in the water at the base of the falls, which can interrupt any shots you may attempt, so visiting during the off-season is best. I think the best time is late October, when the trees are turning the the tourists are all home. The falls are about 120 feet high, and there is a lovely pattern of green moss on the rock behind them. Mid afternoon seems to provide the most direct light.
 

Nearby Locations: Over-The-Rocks

About 14 miles south of Boulder, SR-12 passes over a bare formation of Navajo sandstone. It's called the Over-the-rocks area, and is particularly photogenic early or late in the day. You can also find some nice shots here of the ribbon of road laying on the rocks. Keep a look out for soft shoulders, and look for shots in the many side canyons just north of the area.

Nearby Locations: Hole-In-The-Rock Road

About 19 miles south of Boulder on U-12, just East of Escalante. The Hole-in-the-rock road is named for a famous excavation sixty miles from the turnoff. Some early settlers in the area thought they'd move down past the Escalante to try farming there. So they built a long, straight road that paralleled the straight cliffs. It took them a couple years to move 60 miles, and they ended up on the top of a cliff overlooking the Escalante. Their only choice was to cut a path down to the river. That path is the Hole in the Rock. Unfortunately, the way there is so rough that only high-clearance 4WD's can get there. Those of us in passenger cars must content ourselves to the first 40 miles of so of the road.

The road is graded, but dust holes still form there. The road heads southeast. To the southwest are the Straight Cliffs, forming the edge of the Fiftymile Bench, which is the northeastern edge of the Kaiparowits plateau. These cliffs are the gray cliffs, the fourth step in the Grand Staircase, and one of the few places where the steps face north. the first step (considered by some not to be one of the steps proper) are the brown (or chocolate) cliffs of the Grand Canyon. The vermilion cliffs along US-89 are the second step. In Zion National Park are the best examples of the white cliffs. And the top step, the pink cliffs, are best seen at Bryce Canyon National Park and at the towering Powell Point, northeast of Bryce Canyon.

As you travel down the road it looks much like the Flats, but without the juniper. In fact there are some big canyons carved by the Escalante and its many tributaries located generally to the east of the road. The most popular locations along the road is Devils garden, and the slot canyons in the Dry Fork of Coyote Gulch.

Devils Garden, located just off the road about 12 miles down the Hole-in-the-rock road, is a whimsical assortment of hoodoos. It's much like a small version of Goblin Valley, only with better-looking figures. There are also a couple small arches here. Picnic areas, and a vault toilet make this a nice mid-day stop. You'll need to spend a little time here hiking in the soft sand to find the better shots, but this really is a nice place to shoot. The best shots are had early morning and late evening.

Continue down the road another 12 or 13 miles (26.5 miles from SR-12) to the Dry Fork of Coyote Gulch. You'll need to drive in a mile (north) to the parking area over some very worn road, then hike another mile or so down into the canyon, but the effort is worth it. The dry fork has a very accessible narrows to the northwest (photo below), and three slot canyons. Some of the slots are difficult to reach (Peek-a-boo especially, you need to climb up 12 feet using shallow footholds cut into the sandstone, see photo right; Brimstone requires equipment, I'm told, to get through), but others, like Spooky, can be walked into (once you've found the entrance over a dune; I'm also told that Peek-a-boo can be entered from the top via a 15 minute walk over the dune to the left). Small-format hand-held equipment is much preferred while scrambling between narrow walls. The hike out of the canyon is rather taxing, so save most of your water for the climb and take your time. You will be walking on loose sand most of the time (on both the trail and in the canyon). I'm told there are some narrows in the main wash to the south, but I've never hiked down to find them.


Links:

An article by Schemeker on hiking in the area
A very informative Escalante-Boulder Chamber of Commerce site
Dry Fork of the Coyote information, from Utah.com
Burr Trail History, from Utah Travel Center
Anasazi State Park
Boulder Mountain Lodge, in Boulder, things to do in the area
Hells Backbone Grill, in Boulder
Bryce Canyon County (Garfield County) Tourism site, lodging, dining
A driving guide for the Burr Trail, from Bullfrog to Boulder
An article on shooting in the Canyons of the Escalante area
Grand Staircase - Escalante National Monument Home Page
American Southwest page on the Monument
CanyoneeringUSA: a great guide to the Escalante canyons

Books and maps:

National Geographic Trails Illustrated Map 710: Canyons of the Escalante
Laurent Martes: Photographing the Southwest, Vol 1, Graphie International, 2002.
Joe Benson, Scenic Driving Utah, Falcon, 1996.

*Note: You should consider this article a first draft. I have only spent about three weeks in the area, and there is much more to explore. This spring and summer (2003) I'll be spending a few more weeks there, and I'll update this article then.[/font]
Logged

didger
Sr. Member
****
Offline Offline

Posts: 2030



« Reply #12 on: August 23, 2004, 05:56:07 AM »
ReplyReply

[font color=\'#000000\']Yeah Bruce, thanks from me too.  I've spent lots and lots of time around Page, including all the slots, Paria, Coyote Buttes, and also Bryce and Zion.  However, I have yet to visit the Escalante area and it's high on my list of priorities once the weather in the Sierra Nevada makes backpacking a bit too dicey.  

I can't quite decide whether I like Utah better or the Sierra Nevada better.  I guess I like wherever I happen to be the best.[/font]
Logged
didger
Sr. Member
****
Offline Offline

Posts: 2030



« Reply #13 on: August 23, 2004, 04:36:11 PM »
ReplyReply

[font color=\'#000000\']
Quote
All in all, I find it a bit easier to find solitude in Utah. As crowed as Antelpoe gets, the Muir Trail seems like an LA freeway.
Yeah, well, when in Utah I avoid Antelope and when in the Sierra I avoid the Muir Trail as much as possible.  Sometimes you have to be on the Muir Trail for a few miles to get to where you want to go, but I prefer minimal trails or cross country hiking.  I still often have 2-3 days of not seeing another human being in some of the most spectacular places imaginable in the Sierra Nevada.  Often you don't even have to go very far from popular trails for this solitude.  Fortunately the great majority of people feel more secure and comfortable on well developed and maintained trails, so it's easy to get away from crowds even in this day and age.  I just had 3 days of solitude at a fabulous area at the base of Mt. Humphries.  There's no trail and no one bothers.  You can actually get there easily in one day, starting from San Francisco or LA after a leisurely breakfast and an easy drive and a relatively easy short hike.  The Piute Pass trail is like a freeway and you're stepping in mule poop all the way, but go a mile or two off the trail and you have the country all to yourself.[/font]
Logged
b.e.wilson
Full Member
***
Offline Offline

Posts: 104


WWW
« Reply #14 on: August 23, 2004, 06:10:57 PM »
ReplyReply

[font color=\'#000000\']Most of the San Rafael Swell is uninhabited most of the time, especially the interior. Some places, the famous ones (Buckhorn Wash, Little Wild Horse Canyon, the Wedge) get populated on weekends and holidays, but go to the more remote roads (Reds Canyon, Rattlesnake Flats, for example) and you'll have the place to yourself, with only the occasional car or ATV passing by.

Skyline Drive isn't too bad, either, before the hunts begin.[/font]
Logged

gtal
Jr. Member
**
Offline Offline

Posts: 79


WWW
« Reply #15 on: August 27, 2004, 12:24:10 PM »
ReplyReply

[font color=\'#000000\']Howard,
The Swell is an amazing place to escape to (and I often do, living within driving distance of it). Unfortunately this is both a blessing and a curse - it's great to be able to find solitude in beautiful desert scenery but at the same time, with so few people aware of its beauty, it's difficult to raise enough awareness and support to earn it protection from abuse and "development".
The Swell actually ends long before Boulder. The area along the Burr Trail is not is not part of it. The jutting formation you drove along in Capitol Reef (and crossed via the switchbacks) is the Waterpocket Fold. The narrow canyon you described outside of Boulder is Long Canyon and is part of the Grand-Staircase Escalante National Monument.

Guy[/font]
Logged

Scenic Wild Photography
http://www.scenicwild.com
gtal
Jr. Member
**
Offline Offline

Posts: 79


WWW
« Reply #16 on: August 27, 2004, 03:16:52 PM »
ReplyReply

[font color=\'#000000\']The aspen around Boulder and nearby Boulder Mountain usually peak between the last week of September and the first week of October, though the exact timing changes from year to year.

Guy[/font]
Logged

Scenic Wild Photography
http://www.scenicwild.com
gtal
Jr. Member
**
Offline Offline

Posts: 79


WWW
« Reply #17 on: August 28, 2004, 03:22:27 PM »
ReplyReply

[font color=\'#000000\']
Quote
The best Fall scenics I've seen are the cottonwood at the bottom of the canyons (especially Long Canyon on the Burr Trail) that turn late october/early November.

The area is called The Gulch and does have some spectacular cottonwoods. If you don't mind hiking a bit, the Escalante canyon has some incredible cottonwood groves as well.

Guy[/font]
Logged

Scenic Wild Photography
http://www.scenicwild.com
gtal
Jr. Member
**
Offline Offline

Posts: 79


WWW
« Reply #18 on: July 30, 2004, 03:37:44 PM »
ReplyReply

[font color=\'#000000\']Switchbacks should be a piece of cake in dry weather. Unless there's heavy thunderstorms in the forecast, I wouldn't worry about it.
Lots of great hikes along the road - Muley Twist, Strike Valley Overlook, the Wolverine area etc.

Guy[/font]
Logged

Scenic Wild Photography
http://www.scenicwild.com
howard smith
Sr. Member
****
Offline Offline

Posts: 1237


« Reply #19 on: August 02, 2004, 04:48:37 AM »
ReplyReply

[font color=\'#000000\']Sorry Bruce, the link didn't work.[/font]
Logged
Pages: [1] 2 »   Top of Page
Print
Jump to:  

Ad
Ad
Ad