Our last sunrise at White Pocket fizzled out—promising clouds, but the sun wasn’t interested. I folded the tent haphazardly and stuffed everything carefully back into the Toyota, and we bounced through deep sand back to the unpaved punishment that is House Rock Valley Road. Highway 89 seemed like smooth glass when we reached it, late in the afternoon. Another night at Paria Outfitters (thanks to Steve and Susan), four walls instead of nylon (and indoor plumbing). But, no coyote lullabies at 3 a.m.
The next morning we turned north off 89 onto Cottonwood Canyon Road. Our timing was perfect—a month before, after a round of intense rainstorms, the official road report had declared it “a muddy mess” and impassable. Landslides had wiped out entire chunks of the route. But Kane County’s road crews were up to the challenges, and on this day Cottonwood Canyon’s 40 dirt-and-gravel miles were as near to perfection as they’ll ever be. Barely any washboard and no bone-rattling ruts. No wind, either, and certainly no hurry. We could make Boulder if we hustled, but there were photo opportunities (along the Cockscomb, and at Grosvenor Arch) and the sun retreated for us in Escalante. Tomorrow we’d get up to Boulder and visit Long Canyon on the Burr Trail.