As we bumped our way down the wash boards on Hole in the Rock Road, we knew we were in for another night of sweltering heat (are you tired of reading about us complain about the heat yet!?). We had moved from Page, Arizona north to Escalante, Utah with hopes of finding cooler temperatures and unique slot canyons. The cooler temperatures were no where to be seen but we were on the road that hosted many slot canyon hikes. As we jiggled and jerked our way along, we looked for a good spot to boondock. We had a spot picked out on the map that was supposed to be near a creek, unfortunately after 15 miles of bumpy road we arrived at a dried up creek bed. We should have known, but the hope of finding water never fades. It was late in the evening and too late to turn around for another option so we decided to set up camp and look for something better in the morning.
It was another restless night as the temperature didn’t cool until the early hours of the morning and even then the sun is back up by 6:00 AM warming the air. We packed our lunch and over a gallon of water and set out by mid morning for our hike to the Zebra Tunnel Slots. The temperature was once again suppose to reach the high 90’s. Most people were coming back from their hike as were heading in and we should have taken that as a sign. We didn’t, and decided to hike on optimistically. As we marched on the sun got higher in the sky and the temperature rose. It beat down on us baking us like ants under a magnifying glass. Tara and I could handle it but the sand was getting too hot for Olive's paws and she began to panic. She raced about in a fury from shade spot to shade spot. When she couldn’t find shade she clawed at the red rock walls, looking for a way out. We hadn’t reached the slots but we had to call it quits. We rested under the shade of some scrub brush and let her drink water until her panting died down. The problem was that we had to hike two and half miles back out, mostly through open desert.
We devised a plan. One of us would wait in the shade with Olive, the other would walk to the next shade spot and call for her. When she heard her name she would take off sprinting to find the person ahead. Olive thought of it as a game and it kept her moving swiftly through the sand so her feet didn’t get too hot. By the time we reached the truck all three of us were exhausted and we felt very guilty for putting Olive through that tough of a hike in the heat. We decided it would be better for all of us to head North into the higher elevation of the Dixie National Forest.
Our spot in Dixie was one of our favorite camp spots on the trip. We found a grove of Aspen trees with meadows stretching into the horizon. Not only was it a beautiful spot, but it was near a trail head to an alpine lake and not to mention 25 degrees cooler than the valley below. We went from 104 degrees to 74 degrees in a matter of 20 miles. We slept like we hadn’t slept in weeks that night. We spent four nights up in the forest, coming down to the Burr Trail Trading Post (see Travel Recommendations page) for WI-fI and smoothies. We had a couple really cool hikes while we were there including Calf Creek Falls, which is a 6 mile round trip along a stream to a 126 foot waterfall in the desert. It's mostly shaded because of the foliage that grows along the creek and the creek is always flowing because it is spring fed. As much as we liked that hike, our favorite would have to be the Blind Lake hike. We drove 7 miles up a sketchy forest service road to reach the trail head, then hiked another mile uphill to reach the lake itself. It was an sapphire blue, ice cold gem, surrounded by Ponderosa Pines, and sunken into the red cliffs of the Utah landscape. It smelled sweet like wildflowers and pine, mostly untouched by humans. We spent the day walking around the entire lake with our jaws dropped in admiration. If we would have packed our swimming suits, we don’t think we could have resisted the urge to jump in for a swim!
We packed up the next morning and headed for Cedar City, Utah, our heads held high. We had conquered the heat and rather enjoyed ourselves in the forested mountains. This week came with some self discovery. We realized that we are forest people, not desert people, and we are alright with that. We are very much looking forward to seeing some of our best friends next week and exploring with them! We haven’t had any visitors yet on the road and it will be great to have another set of explorers join us on this adventure. “The mountains are calling, and we must go.” -John Muir