Escalante Adventure 2006 – Intro

Synopsis: Maps, preliminary ramblings, and travel to Utah.

Journey to Utah

On Saturday, May 27, thirteen of us descended on Boulder, Utah, in preparation for our canyon trip. Everyone except me was coming from Los Alamos, New Mexico, a 10-hour drive from Boulder and my hometown. Apparently having grown up, I now live in Minneapolis, Minnesota, where I just completed the 19th grade.


Location of the adventure!

Base map by Google.
full size (120k)

My own journey began with an airplane ride to Las Vegas. This was pretty uneventful except for the landing, which was quite rough. I was doing OK, but there were several squeaky girls in the row behind me who were quite vocal about their discomfort. I was not thrilled with the situation.

Once in Las Vegas, my next task was to locate my friend Charles’ truck. Charles had very generously loaned his truck to me for the purpose of driving 350 miles to Utah and back — he was in France — the only caveat being “the clutch is going out”. He had parked in the Economy Lot, which requires descending to Level Zero and catching a shuttle. After one wrong turn and help from a limo driver (the shuttle I was after didn’t arrive in the same place as all the other shuttles), I located the appropriate shuttle. The very friendly shuttle driver took me right to Charles’ truck. I wasn’t sure whether I should tip him, so I didn’t. I hope this doesn’t mean I’ll end up as a fungus in the next life.


The Rocky Mountains from 39,000 feet. A sight for sore eyes!

medium (95k), large (258k), full size (1081k)

Driving Charles’ truck was a big rough. It is a Ford Ranger pickup and drives quite differently than my little Toyota station wagon, especially the clutch, which has no play at all. I was a tad worried, especially when I stopped at Sunflower Market to buy food and could faintly smell burning auto parts when I got out.

However, the truck did not explode immediately when I got on the freeway out of town, so there was no choice but to proceed. I went north on I-15 towards St. George, Utah.

During the drive, the only negative encounter I had was with a large truck bearing the name Nevata Tent & Event and the URL This truck appeared on a nasty downhill when I was already going over the speed limit and boxed into the left lane by a series of semis. The driver proceeded to tailgate me like it was going out of style and flash his lights all the way down the (long) hill. Then, once I was able to get into the right lane and he passed me, he proceeded to repeatedly and very enthusiastically give me the finger. It’s been a long time since I’ve been flipped off with such vigor. And to boot, he wasn’t even going much faster than me. Ten or so miles later, when he exited at Mesquite, he had gained perhaps 15 or 20 seconds. So, I would like to take this opportunity to point out that the folks at Nevada Tent & Event are filthy, rotten scoundrels, and if you have any events that need a big tent or suchlike service, for Pete’s sake, choose someone else.

Back to our story. The drive from Las Vegas to Boulder, once you start going up the Virgin River Gorge, is very scenic. I went up and over some mountains topped with aspen groves interspersed with black lava and through various sandstone treats. I made the drive in just under seven hours, not because I was speeding, but because I didn’t stop for more than peeing and gas. While pretty, it was kind of lonely (I should have brought some books on tape) and the strange car made it stressful.

The truck did not explode. For that, I was pleased.

I found the Boulder Mountain Lodge and parked, and I was barely out of the car before my father came wandering out from somewhere, drenched and nearly naked. Turns out there was a hot tub nearby, and my dad had located it. I went in and put my feet in and chatted with him, my stepmom Melissa, my little brother Petey, and some of the other miscreants along for the trip. Not long after, we headed to the Burr Trail Grill for some supper. The weather was very windy and rather chilly.

Logistical Notes

This was one of my father’s famous llama trips. Rather than backpacking in our own gear, we contracted with a llama packer to have a team of 13 llamas do the dirty work. I actually backpacked in a goodly portion of my gear, partly because I wasn’t with-it enough to properly prepare my gear for llama packing and partly out of pride — I had a brand-new frame pack, and by golly, I was going to use it.


Map of my path on the trip. This is representative of the group’s journey, but it is unique to me.

medium (165k), large (471k), full size (1237k)

The llamas left a drop camp for us at “E-Cave”, a large alcove about a mile upstream of Boulder Creek on the Escalante River. We then spent our days exploring and our nights eating more than was prudent.

Please continue reading on Day 1.

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