In the early morning we pack up and watch the walls of Hall Creek Mesa emerge from the dusk and change color. Black, to gray, to, dull brown, to a faded brown red.
For much of the morning we walked the dry bed of Halls Creek. Big meanders. Often soft sand. Some cruiser gravels. The flowers are beautiful and the lizards changing/diversifying.
We’ve opted to take the Halls Creek – Baker Trail – Stevens Canyon route to the Escalante River and Coyote Gulch. It’s a popular Hayduke alternate to add in some more canyons and reduce the miles fording the Escalante River. The first 15-20 miles follow Halls Creek between its namesake mesa and the Waterpocket Fold. We anticipate this will be an incredible terrain.
But after yesterday’s splendor in Muley Twist Canyon, the wash isn’t standing out. I liken it to a kid coming off the endorphin rush of Disney World. The day after spent at the hotel swimming pool. Normally the pool would be awesome, but after Disney World… everything is relative.
For 10 miles I keep looking longer over to the Fold. Its slickrock, swirls, trees growing in ledges, places to explore. But it’s not our time to go in or over the Fold. But it’s warm and sandy on our trail.
A glance at my overview map, I see a dashed purple line. I ask Gabriel about it as this leg his maps are more detailed than mine. The dashed putple squiggle is Halls Creek Narrows. Should we go? It looks cool. But we have not been moving fast today. Still, what are we out here for?
We turn off the alternate to this “sub-alternate”, adding a couple miles and a whole lot of wow and delight to our day. This is where Halls Creek goes into the Waterpocket Fold for about 4.4 miles.
The narrows are deeply incised into the white Navajo sandstone. Wwaving from grand towering alcoves to walls just a few feet wide.
As soon as we enter the canyon our pace slows, our senses become more alert, and we are quiet. The slickrock, varnish, towering walls are akin to parts of Muley Twist. But this place is different thanks to the gentle stream of Halls Creek. A riparian oasis next to the desert. Lush hanging gardens of maidenhair fern abound.
Walking in the waters, we see fish (a chub, maybe) darting through the pools. Frogs hop in front of our feet. Reason to walk slowly.
We linger with delight.
Hours later in the day we emerge from the canyon. Our feet sandy and wet. Fewer miles traveled, but we are in a dazed state of awe. We go a few miles and find camp above Halls Creek. Cowboy camping beneath a young cottonwood in the sand.
Happy Easter everyone.
Day 19: 19 miles; 292.4 miles total. Muley Tanks to about mile south of Millers Creek along Halls Creek.
GPS: not needed; people sighted: 5, talked to one interesting canyon explorer; roads: nope, none.