On the Road

Thursdays with Bearly

When Mother Earth crumbled like a pie crust it left behind one of the most bewildering landscapes in the West. The heart of this vibrant break in the surface of earth is  now protected as part of Capitol Reef National Park. Amazing clusters of red sandstone formations can be seen from the pavement, or are hidden in the back country. The temple of the Moon and the temple of the Sun are two of those rock formation that either require fording the Fremont river, or passing sandy patches along the Caineville wash, or a long, rocky mountain road.

Temple of the Sun and temple of the moon, Capitol Reef, UT

Temple of the Sun and temple of the moon, Capitol Reef, UT

Either way, you are rewarded with a spectacular display of erosion and resilience. Both temples stand erect by themselves in a valley of many cathedrals in the making. Most of them will end up as muddy hills being washed away by rainstorms and winds.

For now, the temples are still standing, seeing the sun and moon come and go. Time your visit right to see these rock formation in the best light. I am sure storm clouds would add a great back ground to the eerie landscape. Then again, you may be stuck in a while in the mud and run off water…

Temple of the moon

Temple of the moon

Early Weed Bench, Grand Staircase - Escalante National Monument, UT
Inside Out

A letter to Everett Ruess

Dear Everett,

we have never met, but I have read a lot about you.

I have spent the last few days in the Escalante area, a place that you have like so much. Now I can understand why. Most of the area is now protected as part of a national park, the Grand Staircase – Escalante National Monument, can you imagine?

There are some things that have changed since you traveled this amazing landscape 80 years with your mules. For one, they built a large dam near Page and flooded Glen Canyon and a lot of the tributary canyons to create the second largest man-made lake on earth. Some of your camp sites are under water, as many other historic and natural sites. Besides generating energy and distributing the water they also let visitors race power boats and jet skis on the lake and call it a Recreational area. It is a weird sight to see that much water in the middle of the desert.

Kanab, Escalante, and Boulder are now little towns catering to tourism. I assume most visitors are happy to explore the desert from the safety of their cars, although a few desert rats seem to venture into the canyons, carving a few days out of an otherwise busy schedule. Nobody travels the desert like you did, for months on end, just with two mules and limited resources. I have seen some packers using horses going into Silver Falls. The horses are hauled into the desert on big enclosed trailers, pulled by a strong 4-wheel drive. After the trip of a few days, usually a weekend, they go back on greener pastures. For hikers on foot, we have now detailed maps, trip reports, weather forecasts, GPS devices, satellite phones and emergency beacons to make traveling predictable and safe. It is a different world.

Some people writing about you have said that we in reality do not understand your exuberance and enthusiasm for traveling alone in the desert. I think we would need to travel on your terms to have a similar experience as you had, to become a part of this ruggedly beautiful landscape. You went on an open-ended journey not knowing what tomorrow and the day after will bring.

I am sure it was extremely unusual in your days to travel alone the way you did, although you were not the only one. Traveling alone is not new to me. Spending a few nights out in the canyons and hills near the Escalante river made me feel small and vulnerable at first. I also thought this is the perfect place to get lost. Then, after a few days I discovered it is also a great place to find yourself.

Sincerely yours.


Escalante, UT

“As to when I shall visit civilization, it will not be soon, I think.

I have not tired of the wilderness; rather I enjoy its beauty and the vagrant life I lead, more keenly all the time. I prefer the saddle to the streetcar and star-sprinkled sky to a roof, the obscure and difficult trail, leading into the unknown, to any paved highway, and the deep peace of the wild to the discontent bred by cities.

Do you blame me then for staying here, where I feel that I belong and am one with the world around me? It is true that I miss intelligent companionship, but there are so few with whom I can share the things that mean so much to me that I have learned to contain myself.

It is enough that I am surrounded with beauty….”

Everett Ruess

Those are the words of a young man not dreaming but living his life.

Just passed through Escalante, gateway to the Grand Staircase – Escalante  National Monument. Why would a 20-year old fall in love with this rugged landscape? Maybe it was the solitude, the simplicity, and unforgiving hardship that made this young man feeling alive.

70 years after his disappearance the community of Escalante and friends of Everett commemorate the adventurous traveler every year in fall with an art festival.

It is tempting to take one of the dirt roads off scenic highway 12 to get lost in the wonder world of this amazing gem.



Thoughts of a young traveler

“Three or four years ago I came to the conclusion that for me, at least, the lone trail was the best, and the years that have followed strengthened my belief.

It is not that I am unable to enjoy companionship or unable to adapt myself to other people. But I dislike to bring into play the aggressiveness of spirit which is necessary with an assertive companion, and I have found it easier and more adventurous to face situations alone. There is a splendid freedom in solitude, and after all, it is for solitude that I go to the mountains and deserts, not for companionship. In solitude I can bare my soul to the mountains unabashed. I can work or think, act or recline at my whim, and nothing stands between me and the Wild.”

Everett Ruess

slot canyonThose are the words of a twenty year young traveler and artist. Those are not just words. Everett Ruess lived his words exploring the most remote parts of the Southwest in the 30s, when the country was in a Depression. Nothing stopped the young adventurer from writing poetry and painting water colors while exploring and experiencing the vast and desolate landscape. Not limited financial resources, not the lack of supporting companions, nor the hardship that came with the rugged terrain and the extreme desert climate prevented him from spending months at a time as a teenager away from his family.
Some historians claim that he was one of the youngest traveler, writer, and painter of all times. He left us with a rich portrait of a lone traveler in the wild, wild West. Everett cites the beauty of the wilderness as the reward for all the suffering and sacrifices he lived through during his journeys. A  beauty he could not really share with any one. A beauty he was willing to die for.