Yesterday we found ourselves exploring the history of Escalante and the two sites we’d felt drawn to explore ended up giving us a pioneer perspective.
We began by checking out the small museum at the west end of town, which was incredibly interesting.
There we found a replica of one of the small covered wagons the 250 Mormon pioneers used to carry all of their supplies and families on their treacherous six month journey, along with an outdoor walk of replicated images of the journey with information and quotes from the brave souls who forged their own way.
Inside the building the older couple that are caretakers of the museum graciously showed us some of the artifacts found in the area, including a collection of hundreds of different sized and different stone arrowheads that lined the wall like a border and were behind glass cases.
We then watched a short 15 minute film on the journey the pioneers took.
Simply amazing to say the least was the six month San Juan Expedition (which they thought would be six weeks) they embarked on unknowing of the challenges that lied ahead on the 200 miles of some of the most rugged, grueling, and treacherous terrain there is, including a nearly vertical 2000 foot cliff they would descend.
“The rough and broken country is characterized by sheer walled cliffs, mesas, hills, washes, slickrock, cedar forests, and sand.”
Which today still remains greatly untouched except by natural erosion, since the area has been preserved in an effort to keep it in its natural state as much as possible. This makes the land here quite unique in energy, as it is raw wilderness, giving you a feel for how things once were. This is also why they leave trails greatly unmarked, sometimes only with a trailhead and other times, only known by their miles in distance.
But with determination and belief they forged ahead and the men went about for six weeks building a steep, rough 2000 foot/mile long road in the only somewhat passable crevice they found in the canyon wall for the 250 men, women, and children settlers, 83 wagons, and 1000 head of livestock, which became known as “Hole in the Rock”.
Here is a quote from one of the women pioneers on the descent down Hole in the Rock:
Elizabeth Morris Decker, in a letter to her parents, wrote a vivid account of the descent to the river: “If you ever come this way it will scare you to death to look down it. It is about a mile from the top down to the river and it is almost straight down, the cliffs on each side are five hundred ft. high and there is just room enough for a wagon to go down. It nearly scared me to death. The first wagon I saw go down they put the brake on and rough locked the hind wheels and had a big rope fastened to the wagon and about ten men holding back on it and then they went down like they would smash everything. I’ll never forget that day. When we was walking down Willie looked back and cried and asked me how we would get back home.”
The story speaks to that determined pioneer spirit that makes all things possible. Every time they met a challenge, they kept finding a way.
What we found extremely synchronous was that the day we were inspired to connect with the incredulous history was yesterday, April 6th, 2016.
We discovered in the short film that after passing through the Hole In The Rock, the pioneers arrived in San Juan County area and settled in Bluff on April 6th, 1880.
Coincidence of it being the exact same day, 136 years later?
We keep finding ourselves connecting deeply with ancient and past ties that integrate everything along our own and the collective journey.
After our journey through the past, we set off for the two areas we were drawn to explore: Covered Wagon Natural Bridge and Cedar Wash Arch.
I thought it quite synchronous again that after learning about and seeing the replica of the wagons they used, here we were heading out to a natural bridge that carries the name “Covered Wagon”. All chosen ahead of our historical exploration.
Both of the sites were on a different road we hadn’t taken yet – Cedar Wash Road, which starts at Center Street that takes you through the farms of the current day inhabitants of this area.
Then you’re in the backcountry on a dirt, rock, bumpy and winding road and the only way to find the trails is to keep track of mileage and pay attention for the things our information from the guide we visited a couple of weeks back had given to us on looking for things like road curves and washes, unmarked pull outs, etc.
Our whole time out here was again on our own, making it feel much more like it once would have been.
First we went to Covered Wagon Natural Bridge, following the wash upstream five minutes or so until you come to the beautiful bridge.
We took turns climbing out on it and journeying under it following the wash to another cool cave-like cut out behind the bridge that created a large half circle carved out by the water.
It was both haunting and nurturing there.
Another Earth womb feeling to experience.
After exploring we headed back on the road another mile or so to find our next discovery.
This one was more challenging in terms of tracking, as there was a quarter of mile to get to the Cedar Wash Arch without anything but directions saying to head southeasterly toward the rim of the canyon, pay attention to landmarks so you can find your way back, follow game or wash trails, and head/look east for the arch in the distance.
Luckily Dave is a good navigator. We like to say we’re a good team because of his skills coupled with me being the treasure finder and energy guide. 😉
This was definitely a hike we had to use all of our skills for, luckily not too long of one. Along the way we kept seeing deep mountain lion tracks and some deer tracks that we followed, as we kept following southeast.
Incredibly we came right out at exactly the point we needed to, which we knew we had because someone had put a small cairn on the gray stone cliff we arrived at, indicating we were on track.
A little ways up from there we found the Cedar Wash Arch in the distance, just as the directions said we would.
Being that there was no trail and we were simply making our way in the wilderness, it connected us to the feeling of pioneers, although this was nothing like the wild journey the original pioneers were on, in some small way we were tapping into our inner determination and guidance too and the directions we had were like receiving back information from the scouts that were sent ahead for the pioneers.
We followed our tracks back and arrived directly to our car, again without any veering off.
And on our way back to town on the winding, rough road Jack Rabbit ran across our path just as I was speaking about Joy and Cosmo to Dave.
We stopped the car to watch him, as he connected for a bit and then ran off out of sight with speed, agility, and a little playful frolic.
Such a wonderful ending to our day.
The whole experience made me reflect on how we all at times will feel the path is unclear and have to forge ahead with only our instincts and will guiding us on.
There is nothing like the determined spirit that doesn’t allow fear to overcome it, but instead turns that fear into a formidable force of courage and strength that turns anything into the “possible”.
You may not know what lies ahead, but there’s an inner drive within you, a yearning, a passion, freedom, excitement, knowing, that encourages and urges you on.
I saw a quote in the museum that said something like “When met with a challenge you don’t find a way out, you find a way.”
I also love this one by Jim Rohn, “If you really want to do something, you’ll find a way. If you don’t, you’ll find an excuse.”
Let your pioneering spirit and heart pave the way to your soul’s dreams.
You are incredibly more powerful, able, resourceful, resilient, and creative than you think.
You don’t need to know how.
The road doesn’t need to be clear.
You simply need to allow your heart to fuel your mind with passion that is food to the creative will.