Glinting Q. Formalize (ilanarama) wrote,
Glinting Q. Formalize

Escalante hike

Look, Ma, no hands!

So, some of you may be familiar with the Windom Deathmarch. Ahem. Britt and I have just returned from backpacking in the Escalante region of southeast Utah, in which we made this literal (sort of!) by exploring both Death Hollow and Little Death Hollow (which are two completely different areas some 30 miles distant from each other). Our victims were our friend Kevin, who lives in Annapolis, and his girlfriend Jenny.

Death Hollow is a canyon reached by a cairned route over slickrock, the Boulder Mail Trail, which was created in 1902 as a horseback route between Boulder (UT) and Escalante. This was our warm-up backpack; there had been extensive flooding on Saturday, the day we drove in, and we figured it would be best to stay away from the lower elevation canyons (which drained larger regions) for a while. As it turned out, once we got into the canyon we really couldn't do much. The river was too swollen to safely hike in it up or downstream, and the banks were choked by vegetation including the only poison ivy trees I have ever seen. We managed a few bends in each direction and then gave up.

On the way out, we spent the night in Sand Canyon, a shallower canyon that the route crossed, and explored a slickrock side canyon to that one which we called "String of Pearls Canyon" because of its many lovely pools.

Reflecting pool

After hiking out, we drove down to the Calf Creek Falls campground and snagged a spot, then did the 6.2 mile roundtrip to the 128-foot waterfall, with a few side hikes to find the petroglyphs that our guidebook (but not the trail guide brochure) described. We also saw wild turkeys and deer. Not at the same time.

Lower Calf Creek Falls

After that, Jenny decided she just wanted to do dayhikes on her own, so she agreed to do a car shuttle for the rest of us so we could hike into Little Death Hollow - a fabulous slot canyon - then continue down the Escalante to Harris Wash and hike out there, a through-hike of about 28 miles. As it turned out, they were 28 very strenuous miles!

We had difficulty getting started, as the clay wash access road was washed out in several spots and became impassable about a mile from the actual trailhead, so we started late and camped just as the canyon began to close in. This made for a relatively early start the next day, which was a good thing. The flood had left many muddy pools of water in the slot, ranging from ankle-deep to chest-deep to oh, shit, guess I'll have to swim. Chockstone and driftwood obstacles made it even more exciting! At the end of the day we were all wet and muddy and tired and happy.

Little Death Hollow: Looking downcanyon

Little Death Hollow: Stemming

Little Death Hollow: Wading

Little Death Hollow: Gotta get wetter

The next day, we had to hike down the Escalante, which had been seriously ripped up by the flash floods since everything drains into it. This involved bushwacking through downed willows and cottonwoods, squishing through mud, making our way down the steep muddy bank hand-over-hand down the willows and then wading through the thigh-deep river. Lather, rinse, repeat about fifty kajillion times, maybe eight miles. Then we entered Harris Wash and did the same thing, except that the river was a lot smaller and the downed vegetation was pointing in our faces rather than away from us (as we were going upstream rather than downstream). Still, we had the most fabulous campsite ever, a ledge under a huge cavernous overhang with dripping springs in the back.

Redrock on the Escalante

Bushwacking along the Escalante River

Harris Wash alcove camp

Our last day was utter misery for Kevin and me as we tromped dispiritedly after Britt, who was perkier than any human being has a right to be, damn it. We were achy and tired and sick of having wet feet and getting scratched up by tree branches, and totally ready to be DONE, and we couldn't find the damn exit trail, and ended up overshooting it by a quarter mile or so and then backtracking. Oog.

But all in all, it was a fabulous trip. No people on any of the trails (except for a couple near the exit trailhead of Harris Wash), not even any footprints until nearly Harris Wash. Great weather after that first deluge. An excellent test for our new Deuter backpacks (which alas, no longer look remotely new).

Little Death Hollow: Slot view

And if you haven't had enough, you can see all 37 photos on our Flickr page.
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