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by alavigne.net staff correspondant - April, 2009

Escalante, Utah - Andrew Lavigne's semi-regular troupe of characters once again descended on the high desert of Southern Utah's Colorado Plateau, managing a densely-packed seven days of wilderness discovery. This year's trip was especially varied, with nearly equal measures of cross-country backpacking, narrow slot-canyoneering, arch-watching, and archeological ruin- visiting. The member roster for this trip consisted of old (in the figurative sense of the word) faces: Andrew, Jennifer, Pu, Caroline, Bob, and, lastly (but as it turns out not least), Brian.

As regular readers to the alavigne.net website surely know by now, visits by Andrew and friends to the color country of southern Utah has become somewhat of a regular affair. The last ten years have seen no fewer than eight visits involving Southern Utah. To call it an annual event would not be far off.

The lead-up to 2009's visit was focused on gaining detailed input from this year's participants. At a highly intensive feedback session held at a local Ottawa dining establishment, the group hammered out it's objectives: backpacking, arches, stunning canyon scenery, petrified wood, technical slot canyoneering, Native American archeological sites, logistical compatibility, and 'newness' ('newness' refers to the objective of not repeating any outing that anyone in the group had previously completed).

These objectives were a challenge to meet. Fortunately, the breadth and depth of the wilderness opportunities in Southern Utah are such that the group was able to come up with an achievable itinerary that met these goals. Desert Southwest 2009 was a go!

Let's join Andrew as he recounts the adventures, first-hand:
Starting Off
Saturday, April 4
courtesy PChen
courtesy PChen
courtesy BConnell
Glowing Blades
Mischevious Bob
Stopover of Choice
We arrived in Las Vegas late on April 3rd. The next day, April 4th, we departed early, eschewing the normal tradition of a traditional Las Vegas strip buffet. Time was of the essence with our dense itinerary, and we wanted to get logistics out of the way and be positioned for the first outing -- a 2-day backpack in the Escalante region -- by the end of the day.

After a quick breakfast at the simple but effective Coco's restaurant right next to the Motel 6, we headed off under clear sunny skies. Unfortunately, though, smooth sailing was not destined to be ours today -- One of our rental vehicles suffered a transmission breakdown in the small town of Mesquite, Nevada. Despite Brian's frantic mid-intersection attempts at manipulating various transmission controls of the late-model Toyota 4-runner, it soon became obvious that this was no problem that was going away with the flick of a switch.
Mesquite conversation
Our Backup has arrived
Back to the shop...
We expertly managed this unexpected roadblock, though, interacting with the rental agency to procure a replacement vehicle. Three hours (and several cervezas at a local mexican restaurant) after the failure, a flatbed truck delivered a shiny new Toyota 4-runner.

The next logistical hurdle came as we discovered that our traditional camp supply stock-up location, the "Outdoor Outlet" in St George, Utah, had gone out of business. Stove fuel is an absolute necessity for the type of backpacking we do, so alternatives were investigated. Fortunately, one of the local Escalante outfitter shops carried the type of fuel canisters required, and were open late enough to accommodate our now-later arrival time.

Now underway again, our two-vehicle, six-person team motored north to Cedar City, then cut east across high, snowy terrain near Brian Head. An unsettled pattern of cold and snowy weather was just leaving the area, and we fervently hoped that the snow line was well above the elevation of our first day's planned outing. The snowy dusting and late-day clearing skies contributed to a couple of gorgeous scenes, including an especially nice moment at Red Canyon.
courtesy CDoucet
courtesy CDoucet
Entering Utah
Snowy High Country
Canyon along UT-14
courtesy PChen
Snowy High Country
Beautiful Late-day light at Red Canyon
Twilight at the Prospector
Arriving in Escalante comfortably ahead of the Outfitter's closing time, we successfully acquired the necessary stove fuel and other last-minute items, before retiring for the evening at the tried-and-true Prospector Inn (An original plan for getting started on the backpack before the end of this first day had been scuttled by the unexpected rental car transmission issues).
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[ Utah 2009 home page | Main Narrative | Supplemental Images | Brian's Panoramas | GPS Data ]

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