Boulder Mail Trail, Jan 2014


Jan 20, 2012
February 6, 2014
original trip report can be found at:

Winter in the desert is different​


Places we know (above) take on a new character. They're quieter. More ephemeral. Intimate. We began our walk outside Boulder (Utah). A sloppy river of mud gives way to an avenue of stone.



Lucky to be asked to tag along, I share this work with three friends and three dogs

Because we can, we stop early the first day and stretch out to bask in fleeting winter light.


Its cold at night. More so for some (me). I awake early to greet the sun and take in the large sandstone bowl that cradles us.



With morning activity, dog and human quickly reconnect​


Not in a hurry we enjoy the morning. After the sun has sufficiently warmed us, camp is packed and we move on.


We crunch along. Up and through snow-drifts clinging to sandstone.



A place of known beauty becomes transformed with the addition of snow. Landscapes with a well known aesthetic, icons with titles that include "Death Hollow" become.......different.



It's important to stop on smell the roses on these occasions.


The canyon calls to us and we make our descent.​




I can't help to take in the contrast in size between the red blip that is Cody and Death Hollow


I look on from an incredible vantage point to see a canyon folding in on itself.​


Rarely do I encounter places I feel need to be presented in both black and white and color to capture them. The overlook into Death Hollow is one such place.


Kudos to Nick for picking the perfect route for a winter time stroll. The warm open rim walking we had become accustomed to is contrasted heavily once we touch down on canyon bottom.


Despite the cool temperature and frozen mounds of snow. Death Hollow is mind blowing. So still and quiet, winter adds an extra touch here of something special. Something different.


In defiance of the cold temperature water still flows.​




Senses become heightened in such a quiet space. I wonder how different this canyon will sound come Spring run-off.



Even the nature of light is different this time of year. More subdued, it yields a restrained aesthetic in all that it touches, including the massive Ponderosa Pine yawning up towards its filtered light.





As hard as it was to not drift off, to maintain a rational route finding sensibility, we eventually find a bend in the canyon and a large cairn indicating our exit. Up we go, chasing sunlight.


Short of breath trying to keep up with Chad on the ascent I pause and take a second to look behind me. I see this, and it is hard to continue moving.


We decide to layout on another long carpet of stone. Home for the night as the light races past us. We are slow to set-up, on deck for evening entertainment: illuminated stone. We all become observers and chatter stops. Magic happens.



Another cold night (thanks for letting me join you in your tent Chad) is met with another glorious morning as the sun greets us from our frigid slumber. We are all a little morose setting off, following what remains of the telephone line on the old Boulder Mail Trail


More slickrock ramblin'​


I am originally from the Northwest. The land of green trees and endless rain. I have been living in the desert southwest now for four and a half years. With the exception of family and friends I feel little pull to return to the place I spent my childhood. Whenever I return home to visit and am confronted by the myriad of variations on the theme of "when are you moving back?" and "what do you like about being down there?," what forms is a wordless thought, a mental construct of place. As I move through this landscape, seeing these places, I find a lively internal dialogue unfolding, in which I say, "This is why I stay rooted in a harsh land of stone, mud, and wind. For places like this, places which puts ones existence into a neat category." Pulling off my sunglasses to gaze I wonder, "what kind of place is this?" Well, this is just the kind of place where at the end of the day, even in winter, you have fried your retinas out because you constantly worry that your sunglasses obscure your view, impede your ability to take it all in. That is what this kind of place is. Sun burnt, wind chapped, sweaty, tired, and with blurred vision - you still can not get enough, and you awake each day more excited than the last.


Small details emerge when balanced against a background of stone.​


Taking a second to stop, we are all become inspired in different ways.​



But we must make progress. Down we go.​


We take one last look.​


Crossing down into the drainage our path is momentarily obscured by the pillows of snow covering any semblance of a trail. We split up only to come back together.


We are by no means rushed in passage and as mellow as this trip is, as enjoyable as my companions are to be around, there is a part of me that wishes I had more time to stop, take off my pack, and let eye and camera comb this landscape. Profound details come to light that are just so unique to being here, at this time of year. Its just so......different.





However, we dont have time to linger. Responsibility, though highly overrated in our society, beckons. Maybe this reality makes our time here all the sweeter. Cowboy decides to take the lead.



Soon, Nick and Sage join us and we take a second the scout our vantage. In the near distance the Henry's loom large while a hazy Sleeping Ute slumbers.


Up and over one more saddle and the landscape drops off. Below, the town of Escalante enters and we know we are nearing the end of our journey.



Paraphrasing an astute observer, our time in the desert is often measured by the sun. Mainly (and for most of the year) attempting to escape its harsh oppressive glare. It is the metronome of a desolate, solitary visage, keeping score, omnipresent, ticking incessantly with the coming and going of the seasons. For the majority of the year; weather by boat, bike, or foot, we look for routes with ample room to tuck into a shaded nook, immersing ourselves in cool inky shadows. But in the throws of winter, ones relationship with the sun is changed, different. It no longer becomes something to seek shelter from, rather, a necessity that is embraced with open arms. One of these two realities is not better than the other, but the former gives meaning to the latter.


Our fearless leader, soaking it all in before returning to his truck. Thanks Nick, Cody, Chad, Sage, Cowboy, and Gus for a great trip.


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Very well done, Matt. Great photos, and a fantastic writeup. This was truly a unique and wonderful experience. So what are your thoughts on this latest camera try out? It was the OM-D E-M5, right?
One photo to add to your trip report before the coming snow buries it. I ended up with a nice little Escalante souvenir from that mudfest we went through on each end. Crazy how the rest of the hike was so nice yet it was bookended by slop.

This is what my driveway looks like at the moment. It all stuck pretty good until it snowed, then plop. Too bad the hose is put away for the winter!

That's what my driveway looks like year-round. I might clean it once a year--about the same frequency at which I wash my Jeep. :roflmao:
Thanks for the kind comments everyone. Nick - driveway looks nice. Emphasizes how well thought out this route was for this time of year. I'm thinking in my head that this could be a great annual preamble to the coming season. Re: the camera, I like it better than what I am currently using (nothing, haha) but keep coming back to what you said about how it isn't that much smaller than a full frame, especially with the zoom I had attached to it. Still have much thinking to do. Keeping my fingers crossed that the Dirty Devil runs here in a little over a month, might try out the new Sony a7 or a7r.
Wonderful Matt! Your pictures were great. The video was greater. :) That settles it. I am re-walking the BMT this year. Well I means my family - my wife and my two doggies. What a great dog trek and what great wilderness!

What song credit? I will have to get Shazam out.
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Thanks guys! @Nick I was so stoked when I saw that video of Sage jumping across. Glad I was there at the right time with camera ready. @langutah glad I could help in the inspiration department : ) SLC_dan called it - its called Ends of the Earth by Lord Huron.
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