Thursday, April 3, 2014

Coyote Gulch

Day 1

Nothing was going as planned, I had intended to leave at 4 am to start our very long drive to Escalante, however my buddies airline made sure that didn't happen. With all these set backs, things worked out anyway. Below I will spin you a yarn about my greatest backpacking adventure to date!

The Phone call came late Friday night and we changed our plan from leaving at 4 am to 3:30 pm. Losing 12 hours at first seemed devastating because work has been so hectic and my badly need vacation was eroding right before my eyes. Saturday morning I felt a little better and started triple checking my gear. For this trip I picked up a Goal Zero Nomad and Guide 10 battery pack because I planned on taking my Go pro black 3+ so I needed a way to recharge the camera and my cell phone that contains the app to control and view the footage. I also emptied a couple of memory cards for my Sony Alpha 33 camera; I intended to take many pictures.

My son and I left for my buddies house at 3 pm, he had just made it home from the airport and his two sons were waiting for him. We loaded his truck and were on the road by 4 pm. A few stops had to be made before we committed to the long drive down I-15. A few needed supplies were purchased and we picked up some sandwiches for the trip to the small town of Escalante, Utah. I took for granted the exact path to Escalante due to my intention to use Google for my directions. After we made the break from I-15 in Scipio my buddy noted that the direction we were heading was going to take us over the Boulder mountains. If you are not familiar with the Boulder mountains, they contain some very large Brook trout in which we have had the pleasure of chasing. Unfortunately we left the fly rods at home, intending on just doing some hiking this trip. Around 9 pm the range's shadow came into view and we began the long drive over. The lack of snow shocked and excited us and we started planning our next trip to chase the aforementioned trout.

   Shorty after completing our decent into and through the town of boulder, we continued on into Escalante around 11 pm. During the drive we decided that trying the find the trailhead in the dark was going to be a bad idea. We elected to stay at a local hotel for the evening and I actually slept quite well since hotel beds and I rarely get along. The next morning we were up and at the Prospector restaurant eating breakfast soon after they opened at 7 am. The portions here are just as large as they claim and the service is terrific so stop by if you're hungry. After breakfast we loaded back into the truck and left town in search of hole in the rock road. Once on the road we traveled the 40 or so wash board laden miles to the water tank trail head (also so known as the Jacob Hamblin arch trailhead). The trip to the trail took well over an hour and once there, we quickly shouldered our packs and began the 2 mile trek across the sand stone desert.

We reached the top of Jacob Hamblin Arch at around 11 am and started our decent. One website I looked at stated that ropes were not needed to use this section of trail, although ropes may not technically be needed, I suggest you bring a climbing rope! We slid down on our backsides due to the angle of the slope and it cost me the seat of my good hiking pants, so please take a rope if you go in this way.

Jacob Hamblin arch isn't visible until you start your decent.


 Almost there!

Pay dirt, or in this case sand!


Breath taking!

I have many more pictures but these are the ones that called to me as I was sifting through them, we spent around two hours absorbing the sights and sounds that Jacob Hamblin arch offered. It was a struggle to leave the arch but more of the Gulch beckoned. Each bend in the canyon had more surprises and everyone just walked in stunned silence. How can something so beautiful be in such a desolate place? 

As long of a hike it was going to be none of us complained about the dampness of our feet or the weight of our gear. We were experiencing the absolute awe of our surroundings and what we were going to see around the next bend. At this point I was several hundred pictures in and eager to take more! We ran into a group from Washington state and their description of Coyote natural bridge reignited our smoldering desire to see more! Coyote Natural bridge was smaller than Jacob Hamblin, however Coyote has its own beauty. The wind was so intense as we waded under the bridge I skipped the pictures knowing that we needed to make camp in order to explore more of the canyon. The group from Washington encouraged us to press on farther into the Gulch in search of water falls and another arch. We made camp about a mile past Coyote and enjoyed a well deserved lunch amid the flour fine sand laden wind blasting away layers of our skin!

Once lunch was out of the was we pressed on without our packs in search of  Cliff arch and the waterfalls. More pictures were taken along the way.

Cliff Arch!

Some more sights!

We even found some quicksand, this was one of the sallow ones. We did run into one that took us down to our knees. You definitely need to be careful wading through the creek, at first the ground just feels spongy and then the air trapped underneath releases and down you go!

We traversed the creek above the waterfall back towards camp after taking in Cliff arch. The trip back was quite fun but the wind was taking it's toll, and we were all hungry. Once back at camp we made dinner and discussed options for the next day. After studying the map, my son brought up slot canyons and as much as he liked the Gulch he was expecting to see a some slots. I tried explaining to him that the Gulch was just an oversized slot canyon but my argument fell on deaf ears. After weighing our options we decided to visit Peak a boo and spooky slot canyons twenty or so miles north of the gulch. None of us stayed up late and we all hit the bags quite early; excited to see what tomorrow had is store. Stay tuned...

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