Location: Glen Canyon National Recreation Area / Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, UT
Maps: Trails Illustrated 1:70,500 Canyons of the Escalante; USGS 1:24,000 Quads: Kings Mesa, Stevens Canyon South
Access: From the town of Escalante UT, drive 3-4 miles east on Hwy 12 and turn right on Hole in the Rock Rd. Drive to Big Hollow Wash, Red Well TH, or Hurricane Wash TH. Hole in the Rock Rd is suited to lower-clearance 2WD cars at least as far as Big Hollow Wash, and seasonally should be suitable for much further. Other trailheads exist for entry mid-way down the Gulch, but these routes are not discussed here, although I’ve read they require high-clearance vehicles to access. 
Fees: None. A free permit is required for backcountry stay, available at visitor centers or official trailheads.
Trail: The trail is well-trod, and thus easy to follow. Getting lost is impossible since escaping from the inner canyon would require climbing gear. Total length from the junction of Big Hollow Wash and Hole in the Rock Rd to the Escalante is 16 miles, one way. Generally the trail is flat and sandy, crossing the creek hundreds of times, and leading down the middle of the watercourse near the river. Camping is dispersed. Elevation gain is 800 ft from the road to the Escalante River.
Dog Regulations: 6’ Handheld leash

Saturday April 9 2005

On the road. 8AM. Dogs left starting forlornly out the front window of the Myrna and Jeff’s east-Denver suburbia house towards the last spot they saw the bumper of our green ’99 Saturn cruising up the street. No dogs on this trip. Barely 5 miles away, we stop for a breakfast burrito of eggs, potato and green chilis (too few green chilis) at a roadside cart beyond the incorporation of civic taxes. Capitalism blooming on the side of the newly-widened county road. In 2 years, this will all be housing.
The weather is generally good; clear skies, a few puffy white clouds, 65F and calm. For the first 3 hour of driving west on I-70 it remains so, albeit cooler. Our first pit stop is in Eagle, at a small information bureau outpost on the banks of the Colorado, its current already swollen with the muddy froth of the spring melt. Driving on, Andra and I discuss  politics – a safe subject since we rarely disagree. Very little chance of offending. The skies darken near Dotsero, and the music begins. Andra naps. A stiff south wind kicks up just before we pull off in the Grand Junction for Petrol. Gasoline. $2.21/gallon now and climbing. Back on the road we pass Fruita, Colorado National Monument, Rabbit Valley, the Utah border, and several "Ranch Exits" before rolling into Green River. We determine that the Tamarisk Inn looks decent enough, despite the odd pinkish sign out front, and settle in for lunch in a corner booth by a picture window with a grand view of the wide Green River, lumbering along with barely a riffle around exposed mudflats and dormant willows. On the bank below, the few specimen trees that are this restaurant’s namesake have been hacked down to stumps, the dead branches piled in disorderly bunches. Spring cleaning in Green River. I order clam chowder, Andra opts for the surprisingly large Eagle canyon chicken sandwich. We are in good spirits, and laugh at everything. The full euphoria of the road trip is upon us, despite the clouds. The food arrives, and is surprisingly good. One doesn’t wisely hold out hope for delicious food in a town with only 4 restaurants. The key to never being disappointed is never having high expectations, a wise man once said. The bread was especially satisfying. 

Back outside, in the wind, I pilot our car 300 ft to the John Wesley Powell Memorial Museum and Information Center where we score a free Utah road map. Andra drives. Back on I-70, the post-lunch lethargy grips us, and despite the music, eyelids droop. Rain comes and goes in tidy, 4-minute showers, only once actually wetting the back window. Colossal gusts of winds threaten to bump us right off the highway. The rain showers become snow showers as we top out at higher elevations near Salt Wash, and visibility drops. We opt to pull out at a scenic overlook and nap. Thirty minutes later, the sun peeks out enough to wake me up, and I trade places the groggy Andra and drive on. 

Very shortly, Hwy 27 looms ahead, we exit and head south in a light, steady snow. Acres of aspen line the road, with small spruce challengers mixed in every once in awhile. The blacktop is wet, but white on hilltops where the snow hasn’t melted. We pass a deer herd so large it takes 20 seconds to pass at 50 mph. The road enters and leaves Fremont, Loma, Bicknell: all untidy and run-down farming/ranching towns, largely composed of muddy feed-lots, feed stores and collapsing ranch houses with an obligatory tractor out front. Torrey, at the crossroads of Hwy 24 and 12, is quaint, and we stop for a snack and gasoline at the Shell station. Andra pilots us on over Boulder Mt, where all is blanketed in a glimmering shell of snow, 4-5’ deep on the high passes and ridges. Only once does the car slip, luckily. This drive is beautiful, although far from spring-like. We descend into the small town of Boulder and pass through in minutes. Five minutes out of town, we turn west on a dirt road that advertises the glamorous attraction of Hell’s Backbone. In a light snow, we cruise down the shiny graded road to a pullout and quickly conoiter a campsite 100’ north of the road, just out of site beyond thick juniper and pinyon. Taking only the essentials, we hastily pitch the tent and climb inside while the snow, tiny hard flakes, drop from above. It is cold, but the sleeping bag is warm. After reading for only a few moments, I shut off my tiny flashlight. Andra reads on in the dark long past my falling off to sleep.