When I hike long trails I often marvel about where I started my day and where I finish. This morning we woke up on a giant bench of red Kayenta formation in Stevens Canyon, a wild, remote feeling place. Tonight we are at The Prospector in Escalante.
Running low on food (~1.5 days worth) and not sure how hard the hitch would be. We gave ourselves a challenge to make it to Hole in the Rock Road with some daylight to spare.
Got up with the stars, timed to start walking at first light. Our first miles required some focused walking. I’d call it second class with severe exposure. Then we dropped onto the floor of Stevens Canyon via a slickrock slab.
The floor, lush and green with cottonwoods, box elders, and poison ivy. Canyon wrens trilling. Red walls of Wingate sandstone flaring color in the morning light tinged with gold and orange, changing every few minutes as the sun rose higher. A fine show to watch while stopped for breakfast.
We wove through the canyon bottom, negotiated a few chalkstones with scrambly boulder passages. Then found ourselves at the Escalante River.
A warm day, the river cool, but not cold. The water low and easy to wade. It felt great to cross it several times through the bends to Coyote Gulch. A very refreshing 1.5 miles in the river and multiple views of Stevens Arch.
Entering Coyote Gulch we heard the screams of children. One point five miles and worlds away from Stevens. We started to encounter lots of people. In just four hours, we’d see 55 overall. The Gulch is beautiful, lush, full of water, interesting sights – it is a great introduction to canyon backpacking. It was our first intro to Utah about seven years ago, and we loved it. It is not the place to go to for solitude.
On our previous trip, I’d noticed Coyote Gulch’s alcoves and towering walls. This time around the features that stood out the most were the vegetation and water, a lush green oasis with abundant water. Both scarce attributes in the last few days.
We enjoyed the meander up, I even stopped for a shower at a showering spring.
With the many people in Coyote Gulch, we were hoping to cultivate a kinship with a hiker headed out this afternoon. No such luck. We did meet some nice people on our hike out. It was fun to share the feeling of awe and enthusiasm for Coyote Gulch with other hikers. But they were lingering. We kept hiking.
The last miles out of Hurricane Wash felt like a slog. Legs tired from a solid day. The sand took great energy. I’ve read sand walking takes about 1.5-2.6 times the energy to walk on a firm surface. I tried to think about all the ways the Hayduke is like a spa. Spiritual and mental well-being from being outside. Sand that exfoliates. Sand that strengthens muscles and tendons. Alkaline water and its “cleansing effects”. Yep… these last sandy miles are just like a spa.
We made it to the TH before 6:20. Go team! Talked to a nice Canadian from Langley, BC. Then scored a ride with Yvonne. The first person driving out Hole in the Rock Road. She saw our packs and felt the need to help some hikers. Thanks Yvonne!
Yvonne is awesome! A lava guide in Hawaii, she’s getting ready to leave her Zion area based photography and tour business to work full time on the main island as a lava guid. Check out Epic Lava. Such a cool woman. She (of course) had to clear room for us in her car. Then drove us into town. Only stopping once when she’d thought she’d hit a snake. We pulled over. She loves snakes. The snake was okay! A bull snake, she picked it up and gave it a few pets. Gabriel took her picture with the snake. It was a very nice bull snake. So cute! It reminded me of Ed Abbey and the bull snake he befriended at Arches.
Then we zoomed down the road. Slowing for cowboys bringing in cattle. Catching the light show on 50 Mile Mountain. Into Escalante before 8 pm. What a day. And we saw a ground squirrel in Coyote Gulch!!!
Salad and a porter at The Outfitter, here we come.
Day 21: 19.4 miles; 325.3 miles total. Stevens Canyon bench to Hole in the Rock Road and into Escalante.
GPS: used once in Stevens Canyon; people sighted: 55 in Coyote Gulch; roads: none walked, one reached.