Restored – Grand Staircase – Escalante and Bears Ears

My 2019 tour took me through some breathtaking scenery in central Utah. One of the highlights was a hair raising ride through Grand Staircase – Escalante National Monument. The day before I had ridden just south of Bears Ears National Monument. The pictures I took don’t begin to do this area of Utah justice, of course. It is beautiful but harsh terrain.

I took a break in Grand Staircase at a highway overlook. I was standing at a railing taking in the sights when a van pulled up behind me. A little old lady (I’d guess she was 80, at least) carefully stepped out of the van. She looked out at the landscape with an expression of awe on her face. “This is so beautiful!” she said to me.

She was wearing a MAGA cap. She had no idea her beloved president had recently downsized the two monuments to 228,000 acres from it’s previous size of 3 million acres.

National Monuments can be created by executive order. And executive orders are modified at the will of the president in power. Thus, the size of these monuments was reduced. Today, the White House announced that the two monuments would be restored to more than 3 million acres. I don’t know if the MAGA lady is still alive, but I wonder if she has the slightest idea that any of this happened.

As for me, I am thrilled. This area of the country has a surreal beauty that just blew me away. To think that it would be open to development and artifact hunters was really depressing. We owe the preservation of these lands to our descendants.

No Name Tour: Day 36 – Hogback and Headwinds

The day started late for s number of reasons. I ate at the farm to table restaurant, a place apparently meant for lingering. The food was great so it was worth it.

100 yards down the road my eyes caught sight of two loaded touring bikes at a coffee shop. They belong to east bound French sisters Sendra and Elise. They’re riding from San Francisco to New York City. They’ve been on the road just under a month and have a very positive attitude.

After I talked with them, I ran into Mark, also eastbound, but for Philadelphia. He too was in good spirits. Considering what they all just rode through. (See below.)

Leaving Boulder town is downhill into Dixie National Forest until the unexpected climb over a ridge called Devil’s Backbone. Not wanting to waste my legs so early in the day, I walked much of it.

The views were getting more spectacular by the mile. The winds, mostly in my face, were picking up.After cresting the ridge the Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument was before me in all its glory.

Wow.

Just Wow.

Then I saw the sign. 14% downhill.

Wow.

Just Wow.

Then I entered the Hogback. The road winds down along a narrow ridge with drops on either side. The Mule wanted to run.

Eek.

Wind gusts blasting. Road curving. Idiot drivers passing. Me trying to take in the view. Faster and faster despite feathering the brakes.

Just a thrilling ride on a par with my descent from Washington Pass in the North Cascades last summer.

Then back up another ridge. Such a slog. I made it to the town of Escalante where I hit the bathroom at the first store I saw. I bought a Powerade out of guilt.

In the main part of town I met Mikey and Sean, eastbounders heading to Yorktown. They advised me that the next 20+ miles were a very gradual uphill to a 7,600 foot pass with no big climbs.

I stopped for lunch at a diner (the Circle D makes a mean sammich). The staff told me the same thing about the climb.

I left Escalante at 1 and began riding into a gusty 20 mph headwind. I decided right away not to fight it. I spun away in my little chainring at 4 to 7 mph. I’ll get there when I get there even if it means breaking out my headlight.

I had bought some road food (bananas, a pear, granola bars) in Escalante. Having food gave me the option of stopping and pitching my tent if I ran out of steam.

But I didn’t. Every eight miles I stopped to eat. I ran out of water in my bottles and pulled out one of my handy dandy water bladders to reload.

After the summit the road turned down. It would have been more fun without the headwind but you ride what you got not what you want.

The initial descent was steep but it soon leveled out. Escalante town had offered a break from the National Monument and Forest. For most of the next ten miles I was back in one or the other. This part of the Monument isn’t as showy as the earlier section but it’s still pretty. (I am becoming numb to Utah’s beauty.)

The National Forest offered scores of good camping spots. I didn’t bite though. I kept cruising along until Cannonville where the road turned north. I was tempted to grab a room in Cannonville but the wind was now at my back.

The ride to Tropic wasn’t exactly fast but I didn’t much notice the passing miles.

For all the work they made me do, the headwinds were cool and kept me from burning up in the 80+ degree heat.

I grabbed a motel room and had a beer and a burger.

A tough day but a rewarding one. Check out my Instagram page for lots of pix.

I ride through Bryce Canyon tomorrow. Much cooler too.

Miles today: 66

Tour miles: 2,091

Top speed: 40.8