Skip to content

Summertime ( Part I: Utah)

As the sun sets earlier and we say goodbye to the short-lived white pump trend, I must admit to a certain amount of sadness.  Summertime means an escape from the abrasive routines of life.   Summertime means one layer of clothing instead of five.  Summertime means I’m back in the Southwest, my homeland.

Arches National Park -southwest Utah-Canyon country- Laurel Schaffer-Downright RedEscalante National Monument, Utah.  Photo: James Schaffer

The loneliness and austerity of the Utah desert is oddly comforting to me.  I soak up the insane heat like a prehistoric lizard, and dream of nothing but monumental clouds, red rocks and the bluest sky.  It feels like Ed Abbey wrote Desert Solitaire just for me, and for a time I can ramble the trails and canyons with the spirit of that marvelous, misanthropic wise man.

Yet I do crave some of the comforts of civilization, and we were lucky enough to stumble upon this jewel of an oasis in Boulder, Utah:

The Boulder Mountain Lodge- Boulder Utah- Hell's Backbone Grill-Laurel Schaffer-Downright Red

The Boulder Mountain Lodge- Boulder Utah- Hell's Backbone Grill-Laurel Schaffer-Downright RedBoulder Mountain Lodge, Boulder Utah.  Photos: Boulder Mountain Lodge

Boulder Mountain Lodge is in the middle of nowhere along scenic Highway 12 near Grand Staircase and Escalante National Monument in the canyon country of southern Utah.  It is a small and lovely compound consisting of the wonderfully comfortable eco- lodge, bird wildlife sanctuary, and the mouth wateringly delicious Hell’s Backbone Grill.

The environment is lovely and loving, the pace of life luxurious, and the community one that both welcomes you warmly and leaves you in peace.  I wanted the amazing proprietors of Hell’s Backbone Grill to adopt me, but I settled instead for taking home a little piece of their magic with their wonderful cookbook/project history, “With A Measure of Grace.”

with-a-measure-of-grace- Hell's Backbone restaurant- Laurel Schaffer- Downright RedWith a Measure of Grace, by Blake Spalding and Jennifer Castle

Hell's backbone grill- Blake Spalding - Jennifer Castle-Laurel Schaffer- Downright RedBlake Spalding and Jennifer Castle.  Photo: Salt Lake Magazine

Hell's Backbone Grill- Boulder -Utah- Boulder Mountain Lodge- canyon country- Escalante National Monument- Grand Staircase- Laurel Schaffer- Downright Red- Blake Spalding- Jennifer CastleOutdoor patio seating- complete with babbling brook and curious cats.  Photo: Thomas J. Story

Why is it so special?

“A remarkable book that celebrates a remarkable restaurant in a scenically stunning area of Utah. Few restaurants reflect a sense of place and purpose as fully as this, and even fewer can capture that spirit on the pages of a book. The women behind both, Blake Spalding and Jen Castle, have created magic, through their food, their belief in sustainable agriculture, their zest for life, their integrity, and most importantly, through their belief in community. Read their extraordinary story, come to know the farmers and friends who help them succeed, and then recreate and share their simply inspiring food at home”

– Bill Jamison, three-time James Beard award-winning cookbook author

I’m working up the nerve to make the Lemon Chiffon Cake (featured on the cover) to celebrate the end of the season.   Cakes are not meant to be trifled with, as I’ve learned the hard way in the past- but I feel like Blake and Jen will be imparting encouragement from afar.

After James and I stuffed ourselves, we spent a blissful day hiking the nearby Lower Calf Creek Falls trail.  A magnificent pool and lovely waterfall waited at the end of the moderate (but hot!) six mile hike like a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.

Calf Creek Falls Trail- Boulder- Utah-Laurel Schaffer -Downright REd


Calf Creek Falls Trail- Boulder- Utah-Laurel Schaffer -Downright REd


Calf Creek Falls Trail- Boulder- Utah-Laurel Schaffer -Downright REd

LSwimming at Calf creek


L and Theo at Calf creek


Calf Creek Falls Trail- Boulder- Utah-Laurel Schaffer -Downright REd


Sun, sand, dogs and fish.  Nothing but goodness with only more to come…









  • Karen Hopper

    As always, beautifully written! Makes even me, the non lizard in the family, want to go to Utah again…probably in the fall or spring. I loved the pictures, too, especially of all in the pool below the falls.
    Love YOU,