Utah Mid-Tour Mini-Vacation

Text by Matt - Pictures by Jenya and Matt

Jenya, Nils, Dawn and I were on tour around North America performing a rather extravagant stage show. After a month on the road we had a few days off in Utah to decompress.

Day 1 - Sunday May 21st - Toolin' around SLC

We played a show in Salt Lake City last night and were toolin' around town all day preparing for travels down south. As afternoon waned we headed up to Antelope Island (in the middle of the Great Salt Lake) with a couple of our gracious hosts, Stephanie and Mattson.

View from the parking lot once on the island.

Another view.

Jenya walking ahead up to Buffalo Point.

Harmless snake in the grass en route.

Sun setting over the odd boulders that formed this lookout point.

Check out my rockin' calves.

Last bit of sunset.

Back in town we met up with other hosts Kyrbir and Dave who will be joining us as we venture to the beloved nether regions of this state. Mike was coming up from Long Beach to meet us, but his estimated time of arrival was still unknown.

Day 2 - Monday May 22st - Goin' Goblin

Mike arrived as we were all waking up. He basically pulled an all-nighter hauling ass from California then got lost once in town (nobody told him that 3rd Street is the same as 300 Street). Luckily the large group was slow to motivate and organize so he got an hour or two of sleep.

After brunch and a round of shopping we hit the road in our two rental jeeps. Kyrbir, Dave, Nils, and Dawn in one, followed by me, Mike, and Jenya in the other. We caravaned all afternoon to Goblin Valley. As we approached the middle of the state all cell phones ceased to function.

Ah, the highway - everywhere looks like this around these parts.

We arrived just before sun set and claimed a camp spot before taking one quick jaunt into the valley - a small area filled with human (and super-human) sized rock formations. A scene from "Galaxy Quest" was filmed here.

Last light over the valley.

I was bemoaning the fact that we failed to bring our tripod, when I stumbled upon an abandoned pocket tripod in the sand. This made some of the following darker shots possible.

Large maze of bizarre rock critters.

One goblin stands alone.

Dave, Dawn, and me climbing around.

Mike gets lost in space for a moment.

Jenya up on a pedestal.

Jenya, Dawn, Nils, and Mike march back to camp in 5/4 time.

The night ended with hot dogs (and the like) cooked and eaten and some delightful stargazing.

Day 3 - Tuesday May 23st - The Party Splinters

Our campsite in the morning.

I climbed up the walls while the others slowly appeared from their tents.

After tea/breakfast we packed up and headed back into the valley for some real exploration this time.

In a small cave off the trail a bit. From left to right: Jenya, me, Dave, Nils, Dawn, and Mike.

Kyrbir was calling to us from above this hole in the cave ceiling.

Yee-HAW! Ride 'em, cowboy!

The valley actually drops off into a wide expanse at the far end. How odd.

Nils up above the sandstone line.

I climbed even higher, and up on the rim discovered a whole other Goblin Valley.

Obligatory self-portrait looking back at the first valley.

Damn! Look at all those guys!

Sideways view of the valley's end.

Looking out into the great wide open before turning back.

Back at the jeeps the party splintered in two. Due to car rental contractual agreements and previously ordained social arrangements, Dave, Dawn, and Kyrbir went back to SLC. Jenya, Nils, Mike, and I headed in the opposite direction, as were up for another day or so of exploring.

As we aimed toward Capital Reef we stopped for gas and such. Miraculously this middle-of-nowhere station had a working pay phone. I called my parents and learned that my neice, Alice, was born yesterday. I felt kind of bad for being out of phone contact for so long and therefore missing the news about my brother's first born as it happened, but that's one of the drawbacks of spending time in these unpopulated areas, I guess. In honor of Alice, I continued deeper into Wonderland.

Observing wall art as we passed through Capital Reef.

More wall art: One-eyed space dog alien and the bunny box monster.

Ah, the view while going over Boulder Mountain. Actually, just going around Boulder Mountain, but we're still 9000 feet above sea level.

Capital Reef from above. Water Pocket Fold!

We hoped to camp in Calf Creek, but like the umpteen times we tried to do so in the past, all the campsites were full. With the last remnants of daylight left we decided to at least hike to Lower Calf Creek falls (a five-and-a-half mile round trip).

Since we were in a rush, this was the only picture taken on the trail.

Fairly spectacular waterfall (about 125 feet high) splashing into a delightfully cool pool below.

Nils, Mike, and Jenya gaze upward in awe.

The vertical shot captures the whole damn thing.

We reached the town of Escalante way past sundown so our options were limited. All legitimate campsites were full at this point. However, the woman at the RV park was gruff but ultimately nice enough to let us camp in one of the lots for the evening. We stayed up until midnight having a late dinner and reading hilarious excerpts from a particularly trashy Harlequin romance novel Jenya found in the bathroom. "She reached down and gently confirmed the extent of his arousal..."

Day 4 - Wednesday May 24th - Steven's Arch in Less Than a Day

Packing up camp the next day.

We got breakfast at the diner on the main drag. Over bacon, eggs and pancakes we officially adopted my crazy plan: Do Steven's Arch as a day hike. Jenya, Mike, and I felt this would be a great way to introduce Nils to this obscure location which we love so much. The rest of us have been there on numerous occasions before, but always slowed by heavy backpack, which is a bitch while hiking up sandy hills. The idea of a quick visit to "check in" while wearing only light day packs was quite appealing.

So we turned down Hole in the Rock - that crazy washboard dirt road which goes on for 40 miles before we turn off and drive in deep sand for a few more miles to the trailhead.

At the trailhead, packing up water and snacks. We estimated we'd only be out for about 6 hours.

Two miles of hiking over exposed sand, and then these petrified dunes.

At the rim of the canyon. Jenya always makes this pose once we reach this amazing lookout. Steven's Arch is in the distance. We'll be hiking 600 feet down the sand to the left of the bulbous mesa, landing in Coyote Gulch, sloshing our way to the confluence of the Escalante River, scrambling up about 400 feet of loose rock and sand and finally hiking along the high ledge into the Arch. No problem.

Jenya, Nils, and Mike heading down the hill.

Coyote Gulch - much cooler than the rest of the canyon which was hot and exposed.

We passed a group of children and their supervising adults as we hit the Escalante River, which was deeper than I've ever experienced. This was surprising but not that big a deal.

Looking up into the Arch from below. The unmarked "trail" to get up there is directly behind me off camera, obscured by boulders and brush. We pressed right on up.


Halfway up the scramble. Around now you get the feeling this isn't very safe.

Higher up looking back at the Coyote/Escalante confluence.

Finally on the ledge, but still a ways from the Arch itself.

Sandstone varnish.

Mike looking back, just in front of the Arch. This is the exact backward view from several pictures ago (where Jenya was giving the devil sign).

Inside the Arch! Hooray!

My only other time in the Arch (a couple years ago) it was unbearably windy. Not so this time. It was shady and pleasant. We stopped and had a formal lunch. We underestimated how long it would take to get here and how much water we'd need for the whole trip. We weren't in dire straits, but didn't really have much room to mess around on the way back. We had plenty of beverages back at the car, and the thought of that made us very happy.

Looking out the other side of the Arch. See if you can spot Nils.

Victory shot taken by Nils below the Arch on the other side.

One last shot from the Arch as we start heading back. We're gonna be climbing that sand hill in the distance in a couple hours.

We didn't rush back, but didn't dawdle, either. Though we did stop for a refreshing dip in the deep, cool waters of the Escalante before turning into Coyote Gulch and climbing the giant sand hill. It was so much easier without a full backpack on. The last couple of miles trudging up the exposed desert to the car were slow, but we encountered countless giant mutant beetle/cricket bugs flopping around, the likes of which I've never seen before or since. Damn, I wish I got a picture of one of them but I didn't.

Back at the car before sunset. Success!

I happily drank a warm can of root beer which seemed like a good idea at the time but soon I felt nauseous. On the drive back to Hole in the Rock the jeep got stuck in the sand. We had to get out and push to get moving again. By the time we reached the town everything was closed. No dinner for us. Just truck stop microwave burritos near the town of Beaver as we drove back to Salt Lake City, arriving at 2am.

The End!!

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