I’ve lamented the development of Moab (as have many of the locals) and I wasn’t sure if I could find anything that struck that chord inside of me like that land of stacked and arched rocks did when I was in my early twenties. Then we traveled through south central Utah and saw the small towns dotting the map. And, let me tell you, this is where you need to come if you want authentic southwest flavor.
First we stopped in Torrey at Etta Place Cider—named for the woman who rode with Butch Cassidy and Sundance. Unlike her male counterparts, Etta got out of the game and became lost to history—meaning she gave the Pinkertons the slip and likely lived out a life worth living. Ann, the woman who runs Etta Place, speculates that this woman outlaw might have made some alcohol in her day. I’d like to think so too.
The ciders at Etta Place were quite simply phenomenal. Ann and her husband are particular in their apple selection and use cider apples (rather than a mash of mid grade like many large cider companies do). As always, the better ingredients yield a better product. The ciders here have no sugar added and they are dry and crisp and perfectly suited to their desert home. The rose is made from red-fleshed apples that would be too tart to eat raw, but make a one-of-a-kind cider that defies simple description. (There’s a limit on the number of bottles you can buy of this one, so hurry up and get there.) The dry is as advertised, which we love. And then my personal favorite, the ginger is obviously made with real ginger and has the perfect amount of spice and carbonation. As we sat behind the Zion Wall* sampling the beverages, Ann described the pairings. When she said the ginger would pair well with sushi, my mouth began to water. Yes, yes it would.
We shoved on the next morning toward the town of Escalante. Miracle was recovering just fine, but I was worried about her head still. I wanted us to be within cell range (which in many of these western towns, means being within town). I turned to VanAlert and messaged a local in Escalante, Ian.
Miracle is more practiced at the VanAlert introduction call than I am. She knows how to say hello in such a way that people don’t hang up. She knows how to suss out whether we will be sleeping in a driveway or a backyard without being presumptuous, how to ask for a shower without being pushy. But, with her head injury and some word confusion, I made the call. Ian later said he almost hung up because he thought I was a telemarketer. “You have radio voice,” he said—which is the nicest reason for someone to hang up on you.
I explained our situation and Ian was, like so many of the people we’ve encountered, was more than accommodating. As it turns out, he had suffered a concussion from a similar incident a while back. We joined him and his partner, Kaitlin for a lovely home-cooked curry. Then the next morning we hit some of the trails he recommended.
And, folks, the trails out here are magnificent. Stunning, really. Escalante is what I remembered of Utah, though I had never been here before—rugged and wild and otherworldly beautiful. This was our last stop in Utah before heading into Arizona and it was the perfect note to end our time there.
And, yeah, we also hit Bryce Canyon National Park and it was pretty. But also crowded. Very crowded. The views were spectacular, but, like most parks, no dogs, so we only had a minute to look. We prefer to remember Escalante.
*The Zion Wall: In Utah, it is against the law to open an alcoholic beverage in front of a child. Yes, you can plaster your car with Fuck Biden decals. Yes, you can carry an instrument specifically designed to kill another human (which, I am checking my files—yep, violates one of the Ten Commandments), but opening a bottle of Jesus Juice in front of a child can land you in legal trouble. So, to keep the minors innocent, establishments that make alcohol must serve the product that they make behind a wall. You know—in case a child happens to find themselves unwittingly in a brewery. And what do they call this prophylactic for the eyes? I am not making this up. It is called the Zion Wall.