COVID is finally slowing down, the weather is getting warmer, and I have been stuck inside for way too long. I hit Puerto Rico last week, but nothing worthy of a blog. Just a short trip with a friend to chill along the beach in Rincon.
This week was the true launch of the travel season. It is the first of many exciting trips I have scheduled. Decided on an easy one to start. Amy and I headed to Utah to explore some areas I never reached after doing the prerequisite stops on everyone’s first few trips to Southern Utah. Also we missed this area on our around the country year-long trip during the peak of COVID in 2020.
We flew into Las Vegas. We made sure to get out of there as soon as possible as we had our fill of that type of life over the last year. Drove 5 hours to the town of Escalante and rolled into the Cowboy Inn. Once we dropped our gear we walked across the street to the Escalante Outfitter. It is basically the one-stop shop for everything in this small one-horse town. They make incredible pizza and am embarrassed to say I had it 4 times while we were there, pretty much eliminating all the pounds I would shave off hiking.
The next morning we stopped at the Escalante ranger station to make sure our intended overnight hike sounded reasonable
Our plan was to hike an old mail trail from Escalante towards the town of Boulder (Boulder Mail Trail), then when reaching Sand Creek in the Box Hallow Wilderness, follow that south to the confluence with the Escalante River, where we would take that back to the town of Escalante. It turned out to be about 26 miles
No one we talked to had actually done this loop and I had a hard time finding many recaps of it online. One ranger was no help and the other one severely misjudged the distance we would travel based on the terrain. But to be fair he did not know I decided to carry about 50+lbs of crap. I felt like a Sherpa in Nepal. Here I was lugging around all this junk while my client (Amy) was carrying just clothes and a sleeping bags. I figured it was a flat trail along/through a river but the first section was anything but. Need to start looking at topographical maps before heading out I guess.
We found the trailhead and were off.
This is Amy. She repeated this process every 10 minutes all week. Taking jacket off, putting jacket back on. She has a very narrow comfort zone
Here is a picture of a rock Cairn
Honestly without an offline GPS route of this trail I am not sure I would do it. You are basically at the mercy of these rock pyramids. If some teenage kid thinks it funny to kick a couple over you are in real trouble as you are on rock the entire first day of 10 miles. For about a 3 mile stretch there is a wire hung from pole to pole roughly in the direction if the trail. I am guessing it has been there for ages and helped people when snow was present, before the kindness of rock cairns.
The below picture is something you rarely see in nature. It is like capturing a picture of Bigfoot, and even when you do see it you are very skeptical of its legitimacy. Wondering if the image was doctored in some way.
You see, for some reason Amy is incapable of walking downhill on any sort of gradient. Most her time is spent on her butt sliding down the hill for fear of falling I guess. She eventually became a bit more trustworthy of my advice and her own center of gravity, but it was a slow process.
About 8 miles in we were both pretty exhausted. I remember sitting behind a rock at one point, feeling like it was the last stand at the Alamo, people firing from all directions as bullets kicked up the sand and chipped off the rock behind me. Me thinking, “Well, it was a great run, but I think I am done, this is where they will find my body in 3 or 4 days”. They would pick up my pack and understand instantly understand why I perished here. We only saw 3 people the entire trip. And none were doing our route, just one section.
When we thought we had cleared all obstacles, and only had downhill to Sand Creek and our riverside campsite, we saw rock Cairns going up an extremely steep section. And there wasn’t just one marker. It was more like 10 markers, as if to say, “ya, I know you think you're not going this way, but you are, I promise.”
We finally started downhill
Here is the first shot of our campsite by the river
Looking at it I instantly had a feeling of dread as I know Amy would find this decent impossible. I had to just pretend that it was easy and not even worth worrying about. “Just follow me over this edge, no problem, here we go!” A shot from the bottom looking back up
We set up camp. I immediately plopped down in this camp chair. I was going to get as much use out of it as possible as I thought about it constantly while hiking all day, “Why am I carry 2 camping chairs!”
It was a great location. The water was at our doorstep with a little turbulence to create white noise for sleeping. We both had sleeping bags rated for 20+ degrees. I woke up at 2 am toasty in mine with no clothes on. I looked over and Amy had all available clothes on, a winter hat, and even an emergency blanket wrapped around herself (the silver ones they wrap around runners at the end of marathons). She told me at that moment that it was to be the last night camping on this trip.
The next day we made breakfast and packed up for part 2 of the hike. Today we would be hiking Sand Creek and there were very few trails along the canyon so much of the hike would be just plowing right down the river. The water was high due to recent snowmelt and the temperatures were cold, but after a few minutes it actually felt good. We bought water shoes for this portion so we tied our boots to our packs. With the water shoes, what you save in keeping your feet dryer you give up in stability and comfort. I knew from past experiences that after a few miles of hiking out of the water up the berms on the beach, I would just say, “Fuck It” and just walk the river without climbing out as the trail meanders. Of course this makes the trail much longer as you are now hiking river miles, not the trail miles as was the way this route is calculated.
It was at this time that we ran into a little trouble. The canyon walls were creeping in and the water was getting deeper, like over our heads deeper. We had to crawl along a ledge next to the pools. I tried doing with my pack on and nearly fell in. Amy slipped and twisted her knee but stayed mostly dry until I pulled her across another gap and promptly put her into the water.
The second half of the day was tough as Amy’s knee was becoming problematic. We had to make a decision. We either camp for the night or press on from the confluence at the Escalante river back to the car arriving around sunset. My concern was that if we camped, Amy might wake up tomorrow and not be able to walk, but also did not want to put her through undo pain to accomplish finishing tonight. We pressed on slowly.
It was at this point that Amy was basically dragging her straight leg by lifting her pants and depositing a couple feet in front of her.
The thought of another pizza and beer kept me motivated. I am not sure how Amy got through it but was proud of her accomplishment.