The trip to Escalante can seem boring to some, but there are some amazing things to see along the way, if you take the right route. Our route took us from Orem to my friend's family mountain near Bicknell, then down to Escalante National Monument (our ultimate destination), and back.
A favorite part of our journey was stopping to spend the night at the ranch (Navajo Trails) near Bicknell. It was run by the Sampson family for 50 years, running families on high adventure trips, and now is a much smaller venture, doing a few weekend trips in the summer. Its a definite must do if you can get a chance. It also boasts amazing star-gazing, as there are very few human habitations within 100 miles, and those that are have very few people around. Thus, no light pollution, and more stars than many other locations in the world.
Driving from the ranch to Escalante had some incredible vistas, and roaads that were cleverly engineered, but made for danger if one wasn't paying attention (there were some steep ledges on both sides) at some points. We enjoyed one of only a few radio stations on the drive, and marveled at the views.
The Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument is a really great place to visit. It allows for some great hikes, and good weather during the summer. Unfortunately, we visited in November, so the park was technically closed, and it was a bit cold. We still decided to take a trip into the place, and found some fun trails to hike. If it weren't raining, it would have been a much more enjoyable experience. With the rain, the clay turned "slick as snot" as my buddy so eloquently put it. It was tough and dirty, but still quite fun.
On the way back, we decided to take a different route, and made a stop in Panguitch for dinner. As per usual, I found a great little hole-in-the-wall joint (probably the only one open in town for the winter), called "Flying M", for dinner. I got the Liver and Onions, which was quite tasty and tender. They did a great job, the lone waitress/cook/cashier was kind, caring, and a little nosy (she heard us talking about a band, and immediately interposed, saying that she had seen them in concert in the past-it was unexpected, but then, it was a small town, so it wasn't unwelcome). We enjoyed the atmosphere, the food, and the fact that we found someplace that was open!
The ride back was uneventful, and quick (as speed limits are 80 MPH on I-15), at least util we reached Nephi. That's when we encountered the first big winter storm in Utah for the season. Traffic moved extremely sowly from that point on, and roads were slick. After sliding around for about 2 hours--when it should have only taken 30 to 45 minutes, we finally made it home. My advice for travelers in the winter is to find someplace warm to stay until the snowplows do their work!