Is it just a road? More on Hell’s Backbone trail, Utah

Friday, July 11th, 2008

I stumbled on a Forum a while back called "American Road Magazine" and I started thinking, wrongly so… oh! no, what would they think of next! There are Forums for anything these days. Certain threads however caught my attention, they were talking at the time about this road taken by some adventurers from Bluff to St George. Some reading led to more reading and not long after a real curiosity started infiltrating into my senses while Spirit and I have been exploring this country. If it was not for "roads", black top or dirt or even trails, our own Journey, lets face it, would not take place as it is today. Like the ancients, we would have to rely on, well, nothing really… just go and figure out with the help of the sun and the stars which way we want to end up going.

Google HHB

HBB photo  

I think we have taken roads for granted. They are all of course designed to go from point A to point B, some out of need built with the shortest distance in mind, some have been built with the the purpose of taking us to beautiful sceneries, others however, as Hell’s Backbone trail have a real story to them as I hope, as we have, that some day you will have the chance to ride/drive it and appreciate the human efforts it has taken to link Escalante to Boulder. Being based in Escalante for now, we ride to Boulder twice a week as we… both work (right!) and we take the fairly easy 28 miles Highway #12 which is one of the most beautiful scenic route in the USA. Note that this road created in 1935 was not paved till 1971.


Escalante was settled in 1876 as the town was officially named on July 4th that year. With no American Flag available, a Navajo blanket was raised on the flagpole. The town was named after Father Silvestre Velez de Escalante, a Spanish Priest who traveled this region with Father Francisco Dominguez in the late 1700’s looking for a route from Santa Fe to California. 13 years later, Boulder Town was settled as a cattle and farming community. Think about the fact that till 1935 it had no automobile access and was the last town in the US to receive its mail via mule! In the winter time, the mail’s route was the Old Boulder road, but in the summer time more daring mail carriers took their mules on the Hell’s Backbone trail and so came about the bridge which was built out of timber in 1935. And as I was chatting with the UPS driver the other day, he drives 250 to 300 miles… per day!


The bridge itself was one of the most engineering job ever attempted. The most daredevil cat operator in the county was given a bonus to drive it first across a narrow makeshift bridge just so its construction could be started. He turned into a Legend, even though he dropped his cat down the ridge on another part of the road, but survived the fall. From timber to cement and steel, it was rebuilt in the early 60’s. In today’s fast and faster World, reading about roads and bridges history makes me appreciate the rides taken, the pavement’s surface we roll on have started taking another dimension, a dimension added to the sceneries seen on their shoulders, sceneries we would not be able to contemplate otherwise. I am glad that I stumbled on that Forum, it is not about the speed so concerning today, not about the time element or the vehicle’s horsepower, but only about the ‘essence’ of the pathways that enables us to experience this country.


We will be packing out tomorrow for a few days in the back country. I have not decided yet where we will be going as the roads taken have a lot to do with the conditions of my tires, mainly the rear one right now with not too much life left into it, needing changing in just a few hundred miles. That rear tire has been the biggest handicap needing a change seemingly much too quickly for my wallet’s taste. A friend of mine who rides the same rig is working on a VW 15" wheel that will be mounted using a car tire! Even a snow tire maybe which will have some better grip… I am starting to call it the "freedom" wheel, I can only hope he succeeds in his design and adaptation.



Yesterday was my first day working alone. There was a bit of a rush for a while around the later part of lunch time and for sure took me back to some good old times where the rush was on 24/7! I always describe a change into a new kitchen as riding a new motorcycle. I know how to ride but it takes some time to get used to the new handling and the feedback from the different riding conditions. It is the same in a kitchen. It is not the cooking… it is finding the right path to get the food out in a timely manner, what to start with, what to end up with when a few tickets with multiple orders are lined up. I never played much video games, but I compare its process to one… Having lived in Europe for almost half of my Life, less now since I am older!… only a bit over a third of it, and mostly having been a Personal Chef for many clients with more of an upscale Menu path than anywhere else, the biggest handicap I have found in a commercial kitchen has been the time element. This is comparatively speaking where in Europe a couple hour meal is a norm, same with private clients that have spend thousands of dollars on a dinner for 12… not to be inhaled as a Happy Meal prepared in 60 seconds or less.

Rd 6

I have found and still find the first expectancy being "the speed of preparation". I think that is where the concept of the video game comes in… the little guy running through the tunnels has to move fast enough as to not get shot! I understand when some are on their lunch time with a restriction off the clock. But I never understood why consumers are not more concerned with the quality than the speed. Looking into my own thoughts, I realize that even after a couple years on the road, my training of 40 years in kitchen has really never left me!

Rd 7g

Rd 9  

We are just hanging out today as they say. Some feedbacks have been coming in about our wandering travels soon. They all seem to point to Southern California where we were about 2 winters ago. There is much to see there also, much to explore and the weather is good. We never saw Slab City which is on the other side of Salton Sea I think. Anza Borrego has some nice free camping as I of course remember the sugar sand where we sank in a few times. But we never went as far as San Diego or much elsewhere for that matter. I am sure that fuel prices are at record highs in that region, but as usual we would take our time… St George is on the way, so is Valley of Fire, Mojave Desert, with a little detour Joshua Tree… I have had this fantasy for a while now to get into the urban aspect of Los Angeles and park our rig on Rodeo Dr, the other side of the spectrum totally unparalleled from our Life. I don’t know why, maybe to witness for just a bit how "that" other side of the World lives! Looking at a pair of shoes that could be our 3 months on the road budget? All previous destinations done with the old camera and almost seemingly a past Life as it seems that my vision is changing every year.

Rd 2  

Rd 1

I have thought about Baja… I have some reservations about it, maybe needing more research, maybe for the following year… Summers are so much easier as the whole northern United States is into much pleasant weather, and at the same time "traveling expenses" have become a hardship not only for us but for many others living on the road as we do. I look at it from the bright side. It gives us much more of a chance to truly learn about the area, historically and geographically, maybe even as now, out of necessity, work a couple days a week as long as we can get lost the other four or five days! More thoughts are always appreciated.

sunrise 1

"Civilization exists by Geological consent, subject to change without notice" Will Durant. The sunrise above was the start of our day… seems that the "consent" has been here today.

Till next time…

As always, you be well…

Spirit is asking if… you have you checked the T-shirts lately… T-shirtsMouse padsPhotography

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Ara Gureghian   853 Vanderbilt Beach Rd #245   Naples, Fl 34108

Ara & Spirit

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3 Responses to “Is it just a road? More on Hell’s Backbone trail, Utah”

  1. Cindy Says:

    Rodeo Drive? Eek, I don’t know about that! I’m thinking Spirit might not care for the snotty uppercrust poodle set.

  2. The Artful Adventurer Says:

    Good thing you have open air conditioning…
    that is some mighty warm country you are traveling in.
    Wishing you a shady brookside camp.
    “Artful Adventurers” Mark and Bobbie

  3. BC Says:

    A good source of general and insider information about Baja can be found on the Baja Nomads forum:

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