Grand Staircase – Escalante NM, Utah – Devils Garden, Dance House Rock and Hole in the Rock

Devils Garden is an accumulation of unusual rock formations like pillars, pinnacles, arches, and the goblins called hoodoos that look like dwarfs with hoods (no entrance fee!). Three different rock layers erode in different ways and increase the little-man-effect: head, body, and feet. The lower layer is light, nearly white, the middle one red, and the upper one yellow. After strolling around yesterday evening we have to come back this morning with the camera. Behind the Devils Garden pick-nick area the freshly graded gravel road ends. The unusual fall thunderstorms left their marks here as well. The road is for many more miles suitable for passenger cars, but the longer we drive on the 60 miles long road the more necessary a 4WD car becomes.

We take a short stop along the way at Dance Hall Rock. The huge rock is hemisphere-like washed out, has an impressive acoustic, and a partially quite flat stone floor. The Mormon’s trail of 1880 whom we already met once at San Juan Hill had started in Escalante and continued on the Hole-in-the-Rock Road that of course didn’t exist yet at that time. The believers moved through an African-appearing savannah landscape with red sand and harsh brush. The cliffs of the Fifty-Miles Mountains tower in the west, the Waterpocket Fold is visible in the east. They rested, played music, and danced at Dance Hall Rock. In contrast with many religious contemporaries Mormons thought of music and dance not as a devilish thing but, on the contrary, as an expression of their belief, and worship and praise of God. Few kilometres further we change seamless from Grand Staircase – Escalante National Monument into Glen Canyon National Recreational Area. The remaining 12 miles of the off-road trail are rough; the last six miles even have an increased difficulty level with a few higher ledges.

The Hole in the Rock is another evidence of the Mormons’ willpower and tenacity. They blasted a passage into the rock face to the several hundreds of metres deeper lying Colorado River and lowered their 26 covered wagons one after the other secured with ropes and ten men each down the cleft. Arrived on the bottom they ferried across the river and continued their journey. Today, Lake Powell is banked there and the water level much higher. The spot is appropriately enough still called Hole in the Rock. I have the magnificent idea to climb down to Lake Powell. What the Mormons managed with all their belongings shouldn’t be a problem for us, should it? It was none of my best ideas. Experience shows that it is with vehicles of all kinds often easier to go uphill than downhill; on foot it is mostly the opposite. Down is somehow possible. But how to climb up again? Suddenly the steps are huge and the shoes too hefty to find support. Later we learn that the slope was much better prepared and replenished then than it is the case today. But what’s the rule? Never jump or climb down somewhere you are not sure to be able to climb back again.

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