A Cattle Drive and A Kodak Moment

Hi everyone,

Thanks for checking in with Traveling with Tom. I appreciate your loyalty and comments. If you have the time, check last weeks post on Capitol Reef National Park. It’s another “must see at least once” park here in the U. S. Click here to read that post.

It was a cool, overcast morning when we left Torrey, Utah to make our way towards Bryce Canyon National Park. Our routes was on Scenic Byway 12 through the sliprock benches and canyons. When I planned our route, there were a number of destinations where there wasn’t much in between except a road. Maybe a few small hamlets but not much else. I made sure the Red Rover had a full tank of gas and my Traveling Partner and I plenty of water. Besides a Utah state road map, I used Photographing the Southwest as my guide for places to see and photograph.

Scenic Byway 12 took us through the Dixie National Forest and Boulder Mountain Range. At one point we were above the 9000 foot in elevation looking down into the valley below.

Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument

About 35 miles south of Torrey, we turned off Scenic Byway 12 onto the Burr Trail Road. This would take us into a northeast section of Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument (GSENM). Administered by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), GSENM was created in 1996 by President Clinton. It protects more than 1.8 million acres of the Grand Staircase, the Canyons of the Escalante, and the Kaiparowits Plateau. In 2017, the land in GSENM was reduced in half by presidential executive order and then restored in 2021.

The Grand Staircase formation begins in the west near Bryce Canyon National Park and gradually slopes to the Kaiparowits Plateau, the central portion of the monument. The Canyons of Escalante constitutes the east section and is bounded on it’s east and south sides by the Glen Canyon National Recreation Area. GSENM is known for the diversity of activities such hunting, fishing, hiking, camping, rock climbing, rafting, landscape photography, and other outdoor endeavors.

The Burr Trail Road is paved from Boulder to the edge of the southern portion of Capitol Reef National Park, a distance of about 60 miles. We would drive about half way, turning around at Wolverine Loop Road. 

We were visually dazed by the scenery. The clay buttes, the red canyons, the dry stream beds, and the hard rock spires greeted us in every turn of the road. There were very few cars the day of our visit so we were free to stop on the side of the road whenever we wanted to gawk and take photos. 

Part way into our side trip down Burr Trail Road, we came upon this scene. It was three cowboys, one cowgirl, and a border collie driving about 35 head of cows to a destination a few miles up the road. BLM leases grazing rights to ranchers, I suspect this was the late fall roundup before winter weather sets in. We followed behind for about fifteen minutes until there was a safe spot for the wranglers to wave us through.

Up the road, we saw a set of portable cattle panels and pickups with stock trailers attached. After turning around, we met the cattle drive again, this time I pulled to the side of the road and let the cows pass. They paid no attention to us. This scene reminded me of when I was a kid helping my Grandpa drive his cattle ten miles to their summer pasture.

There is so much to GSENM and we saw just a fraction. We are hoping for another visit in the future to see more of the unique landscape. For more information, click here for a link to the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument page on the BLM website.


Back on Scenic Byway 12, we drove along Calf Creek and crossed over the Escalante River. By this time, it was early afternoon and the clouds had dissipated with the sun providing much needed warmth. Soon we came upon the town of Escalante, the largest for 70 miles in either direction with about 800 residents. We followed Main Street through town to the Escalante Interagency Visitor Center. There we had a nice visit with one of the staff about all that the area has to offer. She told us about the nearby scenic Escalante River and the Petrified Forest State Park. She asked where we were headed, I said: “Bryce Canyon National Park.” She gave us a brochure about Kodachrome Basin State Park, recommending a stop.

While passing through Escalante, we saw an interesting cafe with outside seating. We’d eaten our lunch but a cool drink and a dessert would hit the spot. Escalante Outfitters is an outdoor merchandise store, lodge, campground, and a causal restaurant. After masking up, we ordered drinks and a beautiful piece of carrot cake to share. Seated outside, we enjoyed the fresh air and warm sun as we devoured the cake. Before getting back on the road, we chatted with the folks at the other table. A nice respite in a nice town. Maybe a place to headquarter in a return visit.

Kodachrome Basin State Park

It was late afternoon when we turned off Scenic Byway 12 onto Cottonwood Canyon Road that would take us to Kodachrome Basin State Park. I learned of this park in the Photographing the Southwest book preparing for this trip. The stop at the Escalante Visitor Center reinforced my desire take a look.

The unusual name comes from the National Geographic Society. They explored and photographed this area in 1948 and published an article in the September 1949 issue of National Geographic. They called this area Kodachrome Flats after the famous Kodak film known for it’s vibrant colors. This state park was created in 1962 and gained the permission of the Kodak Company to use their product’s name. 

The 2240 acre park is known for it’s sandstone spires and columns also known as sand pipes. These are the only known such formations in the world, some standing as tall as 170 feet.

After stopping at the entrance station to pay the $20.00 park fee, our first stop in the park was at Chimney Rock, the tallest sand pipe in the park.

When I turned around after gazing at Chimney Rock, this is what I saw. The formations and the colorful sandstone stood out in the late afternoon light.

We drove further into the park, stopping at the half mile nature trail for a walk and some photos of the sand pipes.

Along the nature walk, I was struck by this quote. My sentiments exactly on a day filled with natural beauty.

To learn more about Kodachrome Basin, click here.

Back on Scenic Byway 12, we drove the last twenty miles to Bryce Canyon National Park where we would spend the next couple of days. Join me next week for a look at more unusual rock formations.

Until then, happy travels!