Highway 12 – – The Million Dollar Highway between Escalante and Boulder, Utah – – over the slickrock canyon country. Took five years in the 1930s for the CCC to complete. As the name suggests, it took a lot of money as well as effort. Before that the only wagon route between the two Utah towns was the Hells Backbone Road (still in use today as hiking and recreation access), also built by the CCC earlier, but due to the snow at elevation, it was impassable during the winter.
Highway 12, properly designated a "scenic byway highway" is truly that. It has been a road I have enjoyed traveling in both directions for decades. Escalante to Torrey, through slickrock then climbing high into magnificent aspen groves with killer views of the Henry Mountains to the east.
Fred and I left Escalante in car convoy, after our much appreciated Neon pizza lunch at Escalante Outfitters. We both had a couple of slices left over of the big pizza, wrapped in aluminum foil. A welcome, later on treat for the both of us.
At Boulder we pulled over and made an agreement that Fred would head east to drive the scenic Boulder-Bullfrog/Notom road route(Burr Trail Road), which he had never traveled. I opted to drive highway 12 on north to Torrey then cut across and camp at Capitol Reef NP for the night, if I was lucky enough to find an open campsite (I was).
From Boulder on, both Fred and I freelanced our way back to our homes, his in Boise, and mine in Eastern Washington. We kept in touch by cell phone to see what the other one was up to.
I hope you have enjoyed some of the photos of our three days of hiking, camping and backpacking plus a few of the trip down and back. Oldmantravels 1 May 2016
Escalante Country Hikes and Backpacking Trip
April 1st to the 3rd, 2016 Oldmantravels and Sawtoothphoto
These are the photographs taken on a:
* two day drive down and two day drive back from my house in Eastern Washington to the Escalante River country of Utah (different routes down and back).
* 42 mile drive down the HITR (Hole In The Rock) Road.
* day hike to Zebra slot canyon (about 3 miles round trip).
* stop by Devil’s Garden and Dance Hall Rock.
* hike to Broken Bow arch (about 4 miles round trip).
* campout at Sooner Rocks off the HITR road.
* backpack trip down Hurricane Wash and Coyote Gulch (about 18 miles round trip).
And the always interesting people you meet along the way when you travel back roads and hike to scenic, historic, and interesting places. On this trip that included more than the usual cast of characters (Fred and myself being up high on the list of "characters").
On this trip there was the:
* Day hiking couple with the Labrador Retrievers (Zebra slot).
* Cute, young, independent, self sufficient, adventuresome French girl.
* "Can’t agree on hiking time" backpacking couple from Chicago.
* "Have No Fear" backpacking couple near Jacob Hamblin Arch.
* Bulgarian, now Brit adventurer towing a kayak down Coyote Gulch (honest).
* Little backpacking toddler, named Zion, from Winthrop, WA with parents and friend.
And then for Fred, running into the "real" Forest Gump, walking the Burr Trail.
Fred from Boise (Sawtoothphoto on Flickr), and I had exchanged emails for months, talking about the possibility for a meet up in Central Utah to do a few hikes and perhaps a backpacking trip together.
With a responsible and demanding job, Fred’s ability to "get away" is limited and especially on short notice, so the major issue for doing these hikes would be the weather. We hoped we could find a reasonable "weather window" as the two of us have been able to do in the past, for backpacking trips together into the Wind River Range in Wyoming (Titcomb Basin one year and the Cirque of Towers another).
It looked like the weekend of April 1st (no fooling), was going to work. We set a time (10 am on Friday April 1st) and a place (BLM interagency visitor center in Escalante, Utah), to meet and it was a done deal.
It is putting a hike plan like this together that reminds me how lucky and fortunate I am to be retired. I can go where I want and when I want at the drop of a hat, and often do. When I put together plans with friends and kin, who work (most of all of my hiking friends do), it requires more careful planning.
My best hiking buddy is my wife of 45 years. But the two of us made an important decision to help with the upbringing, care, and love of our two little granddaughters (Sierra – age three years and Aspen – age three months). So my wife spends the majority of her time commuting to and from her granddaughter care assignment. Sierra and Aspen’s parents (our youngest son and his wife) both have demanding jobs with a lot of travel and are currently living in the Rocky Mountains in Colorado.
This interesting and somewhat unique temporary lifestyle is made possible since two of our three kids, work for the airlines so my wife’s ability to commute by flying is "close to free" and therefore within our old timers’ fixed income budget. It is rewarding, always interesting, dynamic and most of all ….. fun for all (we make it that way).
I had a vision "health event" (double vision) back near the first of February that has fortunately recovered 100%. I saw an ophthalmologist for the last time just a week before this trip. Nothing to do but to return to hiking and backpacking without the limited vision challenges.
So back to the Escalante hike and backpacking trip. I left my house at 4 am on Wednesday the 30th of March. I drove steadily, wanting to get as close to Escalante, Utah as reasonable that first day of driving. I ended up south of Salt Lake City where I got a motel for the night. I could have "camped" in the back of my pickup truck, but I turn 70 years old this year, and don’t mind extra creature comforts at times.
The next morning early I looked out the window of my room and it was snowing. Oh boy, that was a surprise. Not sticking though and not a heavy snow. I ate a big breakfast at Denny’s and headed south. The snow stopped, the fog lifted, and the weather appeared to be improving.
It was windy and a little stormy when I arrived at Escalante, Utah. I went to the visitor center to check on the latest weather report for the area, plus road and trail conditions. Zebra slot canyon hadn’t been on my list as a possible hike until I found out from the rangers that this year it was "dry". Some years the bottom of this short scenic little slot canyon is filled with ice cold water. I had hiked it about ten years ago and thought Fred might enjoy seeing it and I would enjoy another hike there as well.
The weekend weather forecast looked great. I checked into a local motel (The Prospector) for Thursday night, to get a good night’s sleep, hot shower, and organize my gear – – before Fred would be arriving the next morning. I usually stay at the Circle "D" in town, where Robert, the manager, has always been kind and helpful (storing gear for my wife and I when we did the Coyote Gulch backpack trip back in 2009). But the Circle "D" was full so I got a room across the street at the Prospector.
I decided to have dinner at Escalante Outfitters, a center for and collection of: travelers, hikers, and backpackers. It is a small place but has a good selection of books, maps, hiking apparel, and the best place to eat in town (wonderful pizza!). The people there are always friendly and helpful, so it is a magnet for the outdoor types.
As I made my way to the tiny restaurant portion of the building I had to look over the maps and books first of course. I had brought a book or two to read on this trip but I found one at Escalante Outfitters, that interested me and was by an author, who’s books I have on my bookshelves at home, and who’s articles in magazines I have enjoyed. I bought it: "In Search of the Old Ones – exploring the Anasazi World of the Southwest" by David Roberts.
Everybody there for a meal, were obviously hikers and backpackers. Across from where I was seated was a dark haired young lady with a map in front of her, a couple of hiking guide books, and a couple of bright hi-liter pens. In the corner on a chair was a fully packed, stuffed to the limits, backpack, that looked almost exactly like the REI Flash 65 pack, that I would be using on the Coyote Gulch backpack.
I ordered my BLT on Sourdough bread sandwich, I too started looking over a folded hiking map I had made at home and had folded in my jeans pocket. People wandered in and out, of the store and restaurant, all like attired and all apparently like minded.
When the young woman shouldered her backpack and got ready to leave, she smiled as she saw my book and map on my table beside my fast disappearing sandwich. I asked her if her pack was an REI Flash 65 pack. She didn’t seem to understand my question so replied "Sorry, I am French", as an explanation of why she didn’t understand my question. "Don’t worry" I replied. "Have fun, wherever you are off to". And away she went.
Across the street from Escalante Outfitters was an outdoor gear store, that I hadn’t seen on previous visits, so with promises of "sale items" posted in the window, what else could I do but go in and see if there might be something I "needed". I was the only customer so I soon found myself talking hiking with the owner.
A young fit man, with a firm but friendly gaze, Jim Clery explained how he had been a "slot canyon hiking guide" in town and had decided to go into business for himself. So, he opened "Utah Canyon Outdoors" in what appears to be an old house in downtown Escalante. Outdoor gear sales, Guide, and Shuttle Service was now how he hoped to make a living. He handed me his card as we finished talking and I started out the front door.
A deliveryman was bringing in a couple of large boxes of inventory items as I left and behind the deliveryman was a familiar smiling face…the backpacking French girl. We both smiled and laughed as we passed each other, with her heading in the shop and me headed out, for my walk back to my room.
Back at my room I read, watched a little of the NIT basketball tournament, and arranged my day hiking gear for the next morning. I knew Fred well enough that like me, he would be early not late, and would be ready to start hiking the earlier the better. I was to meet him at the visitor center the next day , between ten and noon.
FRIDAY 01 APRIL 2016:
My cell phone rang at 9 am. It was Fred (In Escalante early – – no surprise). We had breakfast at the Subway in town, topped off the gas tanks to our vehicles and headed for the Halfway Hollow trailhead for a hike into Zebra slot canyon.
NOTE: By agreement, we both drove our vehicles out the HITR Road, so we could use them to shuttle to different trailheads, should we want to and so I could stay in the area longer, should I wish, since I didn’t have to head back home for work as Fred, would need to do on Monday morning.
The weather was great and the short day hike down Halfway Hollow, to Harris Wash, in and out of the Zebra slot canyon, and back was a great way to start the day. Fred and I passed a couple with a big yellow Lab on the trail, on the way to Zebra. The Lab, instantly melted my heart with the always friendly, rambunctious, energetic, manner that they all tend to exhibit. The couple was from Washington state. Later we would meet as Fred and I were making our way out of Zebra slot canyon and I helped the woman through two challenging places in the slot, while her husband and the faithful Lab, waited closer to the middle of the slot canyon.
When I had first hiked Zebra slot canyon, year ago with high school friend and photographer John, we had come across a delicate grass bird’s nest with viable light pink eggs, in it, located improbably on a low sandstone shelf in Zebra slot canyon. I sent the photo to several "bird experts" but none would or could, venture a positive ID on the bird, based solely on the eggs and the nest.
On this hike into Zebra slot we heard the strange echoing unfamiliar sound of a nesting raven. It has a slip shod, haphazard stick nest high on the narrow wall of Zebra slot and the raven scolded all those who hiked beneath the nest. The raven flew low above our head as it exited the canyon, waiting for us and other to leave to return to the nest. It is surprising that birds choose and apparently successfully use these very narrow canyons as nesting sites.
We left Zebra Slot Canyon, Harris Wash, and Halfway Hollow and drove on to the popular Devil’s Garden site, just a short drive off the HITR road. In past visits I have always had the place to myself, but this was a busy weekend and things have changed, so there were a dozen of more cars at Devil’s Garden and a big camping tent set up near the picnic area (Camping is prohibited here and somebody, perhaps the campers, had removed the sign that I presume said "no camping").
That said, you cant find a place with more interesting rock formations and arches, Metate Arch in particular – – so easily accessible, so it is difficult not to stop. We did, and were glad we did so. It is a photo op rich environment.
Our plan (which is something to start with and deviate at will with as circumstances and whims intervene), was to head out to Sooner Rocks and set up a car base camp for a day hike to Broken Bow Arch. So south we continued on the HITR road.
NOTE: I have made at least four trips down the HITR road. The first, over a decade ago, was to hike to Davis Gulch, where the young artist Everett Ruess disappeared [Read Everett Ruess a Vagabond for Beauty by W.L. Rusho as a first book on the subject and the later book Finding Everett Ruess by none other than, David Roberts – – for the still never solved missing person story]. Bement Arch in Davis Wash was where they found Everett’s last camp and donkey.
That was the farthest I had traveled the HITR road, never the additional six miles of Jeep route to the actual Hole In The Rock, a story that centers the road and the region with its fascinating scenery and story.
On other trips down the HITR road I have hiked with my wife to Spooky and Peek-a-boo slots, where my wife waited for me to hike through those two unique and narrow slot canyons; Hurricane Wash where my wife and I backpacked into Coyote Gulch; to Egypt trailhead to hike down Fence Canyon up into Neon Canyon to the Golden Cathedral with friend John.
Each time I have traveled the HITR road I said I wouldn’t do it again, as the road was side to side deep washboard and a jolting drive, the farther from highway 12 that you traveled. But the scenery and hiking opportunities always beckon, so I have returned.
On this trip, they had just graded the road and it was rough in just a couple of places but now easy to drive the 35 mph speed limit (or a little higher at times, if nobody is looking) almost all the way out to the 42 mile turn off to the Willow Gulch/Broken Bow Arch trailhead road.
I hope they don’t pave the road, but they will and when they do, expect a lottery system for taking many of the hikes you can now take at will.
Fred and I were making good time toward Sooner Rocks and Willow Gulch (where the Broken Bow Arch trail is located), so we chose to spend a little time at Dance Hall rock. The Mormons traveled by wagon from Escalante, Utah to form the short lived (flooded out) community they established at Bluff, Utah, by establishing the route, part of which is now the HITR road. What they did is mind boggling, lowering wagons, taking families, and livestock down through the "hole in the rock" to cross the Colorado River (without loss of life).
To get a feel for the area you really need to read a good book on that journey. The one I have is called appropriately: The Incredible Mission (Hole In The Rock) by Lamont Crabtree.
Dance Hall rock is where this strong willed group of pioneers camped, while the route ahead was explored, rejected, then ultimately followed ahead. While camping and waiting in the area of Dance Hall rock, they did indeed hold "fiddle" accompanied dances on the sandstone flat rock floor of the big alcove there (are you listening to this Flickr friend from Idaho Ken Pollard, who crafts fiddles and plays them well?).
On my previous drive out to hike Davis Gulch, I had been in a hurry and drove by Dance Hall rock without stopping. Now with Fred along, we decided to stop and really take a look. It turned out to be a propitious decision. One of the highlights of this trip for me, was hiking up into the dance hall alcove, see the carved names of some of the pioneers, and most of all clambering around at the huge, unique, sandstone "wells" behind Dance Hall Rock. From up high on the backside of Dance Hall Rock the landscape views are incredible.
In fact we could see snow clad Navajo Mountain in the distance and also to the south of us, Sooner Rocks, where we would camp Friday night. Of course the landscape commanding cliffs of the Kaiparowits Plateau, are never out of site along the entire HITR road drive.
Friday was fast disappearing and Fred and I made the decision to do the Broken Bow Arch hike first and then see about a car camp at Sooner Rocks after the hike. We had even discussed backpacking on down to Broken Bow Arch, but finally decided that the backpacking could wait for Saturday morning, when we would head down Hurricane Wash into Coyote Gulch.
There was only one other vehicle at the Willow Gulch trailhead, where we began our hike down to Broken Bow Arch. We met a weathered older couple hiking up out of Willow Gulch as we hiked down into it. The woman said that there were some bright wildflowers in bloom along the canyon bottom (there were).
CREDIT: Most of the ideas I get of places to hike come from hiking guide books, maps, magazine articles, and from photos posted on Flickr. I keep of a list of hikes and backpacking trips I hope to take each year, and put that list together each winter (keeps me partially occupied and mostly out of trouble). BUT the inspiration to hike to Broken Bow Arch came directly from the photos posted by Flickr contact: Jim Doss (W9JIM – – on Flickr). Thank you Jim!
It was getting late, windy and a tad cold, when Fred and I drove through the sagebrush to the south side of Sooner Rocks to car camp for the night. Fred pitched his tent and sought places to set up his cameras on tripods to try some star trail photographs. I climbed into the back of my pickup truck put on a headlamp and read into the night, all the time glancing out at the black sky and diamond white stars. Friday had been a great day, start to finish.
SATURDAY 02 APRIL 2016:
Fred and I took our time making our way to the Hurricane Wash trailhead for our two day backpacking trip to Jacob Hamblin Arch. I boiled up some water in my car camping Jetboil stove and Fred and I both had a hot Mountain House freeze dried meal breakfast. I went with biscuits and gravy, my favorite. We had talked about leaving one vehicle at the Red Well trailhead and the other at Hurricane Wash so we could go in one way and back out the other, but on discussing it, decided to leave both at Hurricane Wash and go into Coyote Gulch and back out, the same way.
The way Fred and I did this backpacking trip it was essentially the same backpacking trip, my wife and I had done in 2009. It is a quality trip well worth repeating. We would end up putting in about 18 miles of hiking on Friday and Saturday.
We backpacked down to a quiet private campsite about 250 yards up canyon from Jacob Hamblin Arch. A good decision as the area around the arch was festooned with numerous backpacking tents. In 2009, my wife and I camped on the shelf of the creek (right bank) at the toe of the arch, and saw very few people.
The only "noise" we heard was an ear splitting roar as a fighter jet pilot made one very fast, very low, extremely loud pass over the canyon.
Once we had out "base camp" set up, we grabbed day hiking gear and headed for a hike down canyon to photograph Jacob Hamblin Arch and farther down the canyon, Coyote Natural Bridge.
NOTE: Fred and I have different hiking styles and agendas but get along exceptionally well by recognizing and being respectful of our differences. Fred is a professional grade photographer. He carries LOTS of high quality photography gear and is patient and exact when setting up for some photos. As a result his backpack always weighs at least TWICE what my pack weighs (and his photographs are always twice as good!).
With this weight handicap of packs, I am able to backpack at the same speed of the much younger Fred, who is a strong hiker. When we take off on day hikes I like to travel light and fast and tend to take LOTS of shoot on the move photos, using a small Canon Powershot G series camera, set at low to medium image file size, and not really caring too much about photo perfection. I am more into "preserve the memory". I do my best to take "good" photos but I don’t worry about photo perfection.
So, when Fred and I got to Jacob Hamblin Arch, he did his thing (out came the tripod) and I did my thing (off like a shot). Again, both of us truly respecting and accepting our differences.
Since I had done this backpack and hike before I really didn’t need a map, but since I have my senior moments, I forgot to pack the nice topo map I had made for this hike, with distances shown. Now I was a little frustrated. I knew that Coyote Natural Bridge was a short hiking distance below Jacob Hamblin Arch, but wasn’t certain of just how much hiking time it would take.
During the 2009 trip with my wife, my wife and had set up camp earlier in the day, and had hiked on down Coyote Gulch beyond the natural bridge. Now I just wanted to make it to the Natural Bridge and be able to return to base camp before dark if possible (I had my LED headlamp along in case I couldn’t).
As it turned out it was a cinch to do so. Only about a 45 minute hike down to the Natural Bridge from the Arch, but at the time I didn’t know for sure. I knew Fred would be taking his time getting some quality photos at Jacob Hamblin, but hoped he too would find the time Saturday night or Sunday morning, to hike to Coyote Natural Bridge as well.
After hiking along down canyon from Jacob Hamblin Arch, I got into the habit of asking hikers coming up the canyon "How much hiking time would you say to the Natural Bridge – – 15, 30, 45 minutes or an hour?". It got to be fun and I was amazed and the answers I got. Most were pretty accurate but some would look at each other like "what natural bridge?". AND I seem to get the 30 minute answer, most often, even when I was in fact 45 minutes or 10 minutes away.
One couple was funny though. They were from Chicago and came hiking up the canyon toward me. I popped the question. The woman immediately (and dead on accurate) said "20 minutes at most", while at exactly the same moment her husband blurted out "At least an hour". They gave each other a stern and quizzical look like "how could YOU be so wrong!". I laughed and said "No worry" and thanked them.
Next I passed a young man trying to start a campfire (not allowed), in a perfect setting for a campground. I will remember it for a couple of reason but most of all because it was the PERFECT place to camp, from my viewpoint. He looked up, smiled and we exchanged a wave. Far across the canyon, sitting under some cottonwood trees I could see a dark haired young woman looking over a map, apparently waiting for him to get the fire started. I hiked on.
I quickened my pace and soon arrived at Coyote Natural Bridge. I took my time and spent quite a long time just snapping photos from both the upstream and downstream side of the lovely natural bridge (roughly speaking a natural bridge is carved by flowing water while an arch, supposedly is formed by forces other than water (like Delicate Arch or Landscape Arch in Arches NP). But to me it seems that Jacob Hamblin ARCH was likely formed by the same flow of water than now passes under Coyote NATURAL BRIDGE, so I really don’t get hung up in the definition.
I started back up canyon toward base camp and had only hike about 10 minutes when I ran into Fred hiking down toward the natural bridge. I was glad that he got the photos he wanted at Jacob Hamblin, and could now visit and photograph Coyote Natural Bridge, even in the limited light, at the bottom of the canyon with the day disappearing.
I gladly hiked back to the natural bridge with Fred and took some more photos while he did the same. Then we both started our hike back upstream toward our base camp above Jacob Hamblin Arch.
Soon Fred and I arrived at the "ideal campsite" I had passed earlier and the young man now had his fire going and the young lady sitting down beside him, enjoying the beauty of their campsite. I congratulated the man on his choice of campsites and then glanced over at his female camping companion as she made eye contact with me. Yep. You got it. The Escalante Outfitters/Utah Canyon Outdoors: French girl. We both laughed out loud upon recognizing each other.
Without embarrassment, she explained that she had "met" the young man at the trailhead and decided to backpack together since Coyote Gulch was their same destination. I asked if I could snap a couple of photos and they gave me the go ahead.
The next "interesting person" encounter was to me the most unusual. In fact I had to really try to process the scene quick enough to say something to the lone backpacker (with no pack on his back at all). He was making his way down the canyon and would soon be coming to a large balance rock overhanging a pretty set of carved out falls, that requires a short drop down across the sandstone to the creek.
HE WAS TOWING ALL OF HIS CAMPING GEAR DOWN COYOTE GULCH, IN A FOLDABLE, ELEGANT, WHITE……. KAYAK.
He was hiking (wading) barefoot and said that he was a Brit, from Bulgaria (his words). He said he hoped to meet friends of his at Coyote Natural Bridges. His intent, I guess, was to tow and carry the kayak to Lake Powell/Escalante River, and paddle on out somewhere.
He had the self assured smile and demeanor of the "no problem" adventurer, who you meet from time to time, that makes your own "adventures" seem rather mild and pedestrian in comparison. Again I asked if I could take some photos, got the OK, then Fred and I hiked on, continuing up canyon.
The mass of backpacking tents resided right at Jacob Hamblin Arch. There weren’t many, much above the arch (where we set up our base camp) or below (where the French gal was camped). But it wasn’t long before Fred and I came to another couple camped.
Their tent was along a wooded sand shelf on the right bank. The young man waved at us as we hiked by, then 50 feet up the creek I could see his wife having trouble filtering water from the creek. I have now switched to a Sawyer mini filter but I could empathize completely with the trouble she was having with her MSR Sweetwater pump filter. I have been there too many times.
You have to keep a hold on the tube carrying the filtered water into your water container, while holding the pump between your knees, while trying to prevent the pickup tube and float from drifting off into trouble (silt laden water).
So I asked if I could help, she smiled and said certainly, and so I held the float and pick up tube stationary in the current, where it wouldn’t drift into shallow water and start picking up sand off the bottom.
Her water bottle quickly filled, I asked which trailhead they had come in on and was astounded to find out they had taken the "roped recommended" short route in over the lip of the canyon.
Read the hiking books description (this isn’t the crack in the rock route way down canyon – – this is the over the edge route) and you will conclude that PERHAPS you might try hiking OUT of the canyon on this route but unless you are a backpacker with rock climbing skills, you probably wouldn’t try descending the route, at least not without roped protection from above.
So I asked, if they had used ropes to descend into the canyon with all their backpacking gear and she allowed as they had used "cord" to lower their backpacks in a few places, but hadn’t used any roped based protection themselves. She didn’t answer in a bragging way, just a matter of fact, that is how we got here way. Kudos.
Fred and I made it to our base camp above Jacob Hamblin arch before dark. It was nice to have the tents all set up and camp organized. Now different priorities set in. Fred was trying to figure how he was going to hike back down to the arch after dark and set up camera in the middle of the creek on a tripod, to capture a four hour or so delayed shutter, star trail photograph with Jacob Hamblin Arch in the foreground.
Me? I wanted to eat, read, and go to sleep. So we both followed our own wishes. I think Fred used a film camera for his star trail attempt at the arch, and I can’t wait to hear how the photo turned out.
SUNDAY 03 APRIL 2016:
A warm sunshine bathed the upper walls of Coyote Creek Canyon. Fred and I took our time having breakfast and breaking camp for the hike back up Coyote Gulch and then the route out up Hurricane Wash. The hiking distance wasn’t much nor was the elevation gain (almost none) BUT the miles of backpacking by wading Coyote Creek, then lots of soft sand wash and soft sand trail sections of Hurricane Wash, meant you weren’t going to set any world land speed records on the way out. No worries. We both decided we would take a casual pace out and enjoy the hike.
At the confluence of Hurricane Wash and Coyote Gulch, the two of us tried out the Sawyer mini water filter, using a 20 oz soda bottle as the water pickup container. It worked like a charm. Then we waded the creek across Coyote Gulch one last time and started up Hurricane Wash (no more wading required).
At the confluence taking a rest break, was a hiking party of four. A man, two women, and the cutest little boy, no more than one year of age, you have ever seen. The little boy could stand but hadn’t yet mastered walking without "aid" but he would hold on to one of the big backpacks with one hand and try walking about, while never letting go with his one hand, of the support of the big pack. He was adorable.
This party of four had already passed us once coming up Coyote Gulch, so Fred and I waited until they hiked on up Hurricane Wash ahead of us before we started out. As it turned out we would catch up with them a couple of times on the way out on the way to the trailhead.
Near the trailhead, Fred encouraged me to pass him and to hike on ahead, while he adjusted his pack and drank some more water. I soon caught up with the two women, the mother carrying the young, always smiling, adorable little toddler. The mother was carrying him in an Osprey child backpack, the same model I had bought for our first granddaughter Sierra.
As I passed the two women (the father had evidently hiked on ahead to the trailhead, my guess being that he was going to dump his pack and return to give his wife a break carrying the little adorable smiler).
I congratulated them on their accomplishment (my wife and I have carried our three kids many miles, when they were small). I asked if I could get a Mother and child photo and was told "absolutely", so I did.
When I arrived at the Hurricane Wash trailhead I was puzzled to see the father of the young smiling toddler, setting up a tent. We shook hands and struck up a conversation. They had parked their vehicle at the Red Well trailhead and now he was going to hike several miles to get their car and bring it back. He had set the tent up so his wife, child, and their friend could have a place to wait.
Fred and I had talked about heading back south on the HITR road to hike to Sunset Arch, so I couldn’t really offer to give him a ride until Fred arrived at the trailhead and we agreed upon what we were going to do.
So I dug into my ice cooler for a cold diet Pepsi and seeing the young toddler smiling at me, holding on to the outside tent pole, while his Mom and their friend organized their gear – – I walked over and offered a cold Pepsi to them, which they gladly accepted.
To shorten this story, we had a great trailhead discussion and the two gals, ended up sitting on the shaded tailgate of my pickup truck, on a closed cell pad, while the young boy had the time of his life, crawling around my camping bed, inside the truck canopy. It turns out that the little, always smiling boy, in the tiger striped pants, was named "Zion". And they were from Winthrop, Washington (a place my wife and I have passed through and had meals at … often). The young lady with them was a friend from Ensenada, Mexico. They were off on a two month "see the West" adventure together. Small world.
It was hot by now, so when Fred and I talked we decided to skip the Sunset Arch hike and head for Escalante Outfitters for a pizza dinner. That cinched the decision. Still smiling, little Zion from Winthrop, was happy to see his Dad drive up in their car and after I passed out another round of cold soda to everybody, we shook hands, waved, and parted.
I can’t tell you how good that meal was Sunday night at Escalante Outfitters! Fred had a tall cold beer (something called Spiral Jetty), and I had a wonderful small glass of Merlot wine, and we both ate a delicious pizza called a Neon on a hand tossed crust. One of the best pizzas, that I have had in a very long time.
After dinner Fred and I drove our vehicles to Boulder, Utah. I was headed to Capitol Reef NP to camp for the night and after discussion, it was decided that Fred would take his first trip on the Burr Trail and then up the Bullfrog-Notom road along the Waterpocket Fold.
If we ended up at Capitol Reef to camp together …. fine. If either of us decided to travel a different route, or camp at a different place…fine. That is what makes traveling with a flexible and good natured companion…fun. And we both had a lot of fun in just three days in the Escalante River Canyon Country.
Fred and I made cell phone contact Monday morning. Fred was on his way to Boise, having really enjoyed the Burr Trail/Bullfrog-Notom drive. And if we hadn’t met enough "interesting" people already on this trip. Between laughs, Fred described having his tripod and camera set up on the Burr Trail switchbacks (impressive road section), when out of nowhere a man came walking by him. This was the "real" Forest Gump. The man, for no particular reason or cause, had decided to walk the entire way across Utah. He had a wife or girl friend, follow him in a "support vehicle" but most of the time he was just walking by himself, at his own pace, and for his own reasons.
The Burr Trail Walker did accept some pro-offered bottled water from Fred and even an ice cold can of Boise area brewed beer. You never know who you will meet or where, when you take off on back roads, or hike a trail!
I arrived back at my house at 7 am Tuesday morning the 5th of April. Can’t wait to download all the photos from two G series cameras I took along and used (Canon G15 and G10). A good time was had by all. I will never forget the hikes, the people we met, and that Neon pizza that Fred and I shared at Escalante Outfitters. Thanks Fred.
Enjoy the photos. Oldmantravels. 6 April 2016.
Link to April 2009 Coyote Gulch backpacking trip photos:
Tagged: , Utah scenic highway 12 , Henry Mountains , Million dollar highway , CCC projecst , Escalante to Boulder , Utah slickrock landscapes , road trip