The Smoky Mountain Road on The Grand Staircase
As with any adventure that takes us east out of St. George, this Grand Staircase trek took us through Zion Canyon.
We're always glad to get back on the road or back on the water, to move, explore, share, talk, eat, sleep and drink in the proximity of each other.
They have a good little restaurant which filled up quickly. We ended up sharing our table with a father-daughter duo from the land of a thousand lakes. Some dinner disclosure later we discover a number of commonalities; he's in film production just wrapping a feature out of Moab, and his sister teaches at U of O in landscape architecture where our Katie is studying in the same discipline. Small world, though I'd hate to paint it.
If you've been following from previous adventures, you've noticed the RTT has been rotated ninety degrees to facilitate the ladder. Works much better this way.
And speaking of ladders, and ironically as well, Escalante bears the name of this territory's first white explorer, a Franciscan missionary on his way (and wisely so as opposed to stopping in the Great Salt Lake Valley, in my opinion) to Monterey, California. The irony is in his name, meaning ladder, or stairs. Did he know that some day a Democrat would come along and through executive order squirrel away and protect almost two million acres, turning Utah State land into Federal land and call it The Grand Staircase National Monument? Probably not.
But we're glad it happend. Thanks Bill.
The wedding party, as predicted, escalated in its partiness, and since we'd been up since four that morning, having driven two kids to the airport in Vegas, we decided to opt for a more quiet and private place. We broke camp in moments and drove to the Smoky Mountain Road trailhead where all was quiet and dark and had ourselves a wonderful sleep.
At daybreak we went back to the Outfitters to shower and have breakfast. We fueled up and packed as much ice as we could and hit the seventy-eight miles of dirt road.
The drive is beautiful outside of Escalante with enough riverbeds and terrain changes to keep it interesting, but not real technical.
The road got its name from what it traverses, an actual smoking mountain, a vein of coal that's been burning as long has history has been recorded. We managed to miss it, though, operating under the assumption that the road bearing its name would go by it. Not so. For that you need to take the Smoky Hollow Road.
The road we navigated took us to this great overlook of Glen Canyon where we stopped for lunch and to saturate optic nerves with this view.
Apart from kayaking Lake Powell early or off-season, this is one of the few times we've found ourselves totally isolated. Being completely self-contained, it was awesome to disconnect and take in 360 degrees of just being.
After breakfast we struck camp and packed.
Coming out of Crosby Canyon.
At Big Water the access road tees into Highway 89, across from which is a BLM visitors' center.
We're running a new set of Cooper Discoverer ATPs, oversized plus one. They're not huge, having to keep in consideration that we use this vehicle to burn up a lot of highway miles, but they're remarkable in their traction and handling on and off-road.
We air down to 20 psi on the track smoothing out washboards and increasing tire contact patch. With the Montero's limited slip differential this combination seems so far unstoppable. I'm certain we'll find its limits another time when we're better prepared for it.
That would make it a little harder to navigate. We slabbed it to Kanab where we had lunch, and then home to a cool pool and warm showers.