The following day was not the best of the ride. Seven miles in Dave and I pulled over into a rest stop. Dave’s Achilles heel was hurting him a lot and had been getting progressively worse over the past four days. We concluded that rest was the best option so a phone call to Lauren brought the Sprinter to Dave and I continued on alone. The next 8 miles were pretty tough. There was a steady grade and my legs hadn’t quite recovered from the climb out of Cedar City. Eight miles in though I managed to generate some good foot speed, shifted up gears, and hit a groove all the way to the 7,777 foot summit. The rest of the 20 miles to our first meeting point were downhill or relatively flat and I cruised.
After a quick break, Lauren decided to join me on the second leg of the trip. It was supposed to be a 31-miler with a 1,500 gradual gain, so we felt pretty good for the first 8 miles. All of a sudden, we turned a corner and saw a winding road as steep as anything I’d climbed before. 1 mile (and a lot of time) later, we reached the top and rolled on down into Escalante.
Just to throw another loop into our plans, everything in Escalante was closed. With no place to stay I jumped back on my bike and started to pedal the 14 miles to the next nearest campground, a little station next to the Escalante River. This turned out to be one of the few bright spots in an otherwise dim day.
A small climb brought us to the an overlook of the Grand Staircase National Monument. In the 1880’s the geoligist Captain Clarence E Dutton referred to the region as “a grand staircase of sequential cliffs and terraces” and the name stuck. It is an impressive sight to behold. Mountains, valleys, canyons, cliffs, and plains all blend together making it difficult to distinguish one from the other. The colors- greens, oranges, and reds- can’t be found anywhere else in the world. After whipping my bike, probably a little too fast (sorry Mom!), around the downhill corners into the canyon I met the Sprinter at the campground.
The campground, as aforementioned, is next to the Escalante River. The river gently flows in and out of the red rock which surrounds in. Dave, Lauren, and I happily jumped in and followed the water upstream. It was a refreshing end to a long day and all our spirits were raised.