Photographic Vignettes # 15
One of my favorite roads as a kid was the old road between Boulder and Escalante, whose narrow bridge on the top of the world is called “Hell’s Backbone.” The twisted firs here have extra spiky cones that look purple when closed. It’s perched on the edge of a plateau so high it can get bitterly cold and freeze overnight, even in summer. The snow flurries when Thrack and I drove the road in the fall made my hands numb in minutes while trying to snap a few photographs.
It amazes me that this was once the only option to travel into Boulder. It’s a beautiful but largely impassable region; one marked by notable lasts, rather than firsts. The nearby Escalante River was the last major river discovered (by white dudes, obviously) in the lower 48, and the town of Boulder was the last place to receive its mail by mule train.
Maps here are littered with evil or inhospitable names, because early explorers or settlers died. To us now the wildness is something to regard with wonder, rather than fear. I have always loved the hellishly named places.