Down the Hole: Day 2 - Coyote Gulch
After making final gear preparations and dropping Beege's Jeep off at the Hurricane Wash trailhead, we continued on to the Crack in the Wall trailhead, the starting point for our backpack through Coyote Gulch.
The first couple of miles follow a sometimes ill-defined route over a lifeless Mars-like landscape of red sand and slickrock. You would never guess that a lush, green oasis fills a deep canyon ahead.
Suddenly, we found ourselves on the edge of the enormous Escalante Canyon, just below the confluence with Coyote Gulch. This location, known as the Crack-in-the-Wall, is one of only a handful of entry-points into the Gulch. Here, a slab of sandstone has detached partway from the cliff face, leaving a narrow crack just wide enough to climb through to reach the sandslide below.
As we came up to the rim, we met a large group from Texas, fully decked out in brand-spanking new REI gear, and dead-locked in heated debate on how to proceed down the crack. I'm not sure what the debate was about as it's really quite a simple obstacle. You climb through the increasingly narrow crack until yourself and your backpack can both no longer squeeze through, so at some point you have to use a rope to lower your pack below.
As we started to file down through the first part of the crack, one of the Texans took a look at Beege's large frame, and with raised eyebrows, warned us "uh, you might have a problem with this one!"
This gave us all a good chuckle because of course, Beege sucked it in and made it through just fine.
Above: Beege squeezes through the narrowest part of the "the Crack."
After bidding the Texans good luck (they planned to spend 4 days in Gulch -- too long for most, but at the rate they were going, maybe it was a good idea), we headed down the sandslide. As we descended, the distant but impressive Stevens Arch came into view -- the first of four natural arches/bridges we would see on our trip through Coyote.
The trail eventually leads down into the bottom of Coyote, where you leave the dry sand behind and walk right up the stream bed.
The canyon is impressive from the start and reveals surprises around every bend.
Above and below: the first of several waterfalls in lower Coyote Gulch.
Below: Matt finds a comfortable seat carved out of the sandbar, complete with cup holders.
Above and below: more waterfalls found in lower Coyote.
Above: Cliff Arch a.k.a. Jug Handle Arch.
Below: taking a shortcut near Cliff Arch.
Above: pictographs found high on the canyon's north wall. Personally, I'm a little skeptical about their authenticity. They are awfully fresh looking for being exposed to full sunlight and rain, as there is no overhang to protect them.
Above and below: Coyote Natural Bridge.
Eros expertly points out where a deep hole lurks beneath the otherwise ankle-deep water.
As evening came and the canyon began to fill with shadows, our attention turned to finding a good campsite. After rejecting a couple of sub-par sites (by Coyote Gulch standards anyway), we finally arrived at Jacob Hamblin Arch.
Many of the sites here were occupied, but we managed to find a nice sandy spot in full view of the arch and with a nice spring just across the stream.
After stuffing ourselves with rehydrated backpacker meals, we were quickly lulled to sleep by the nearby creek that, thanks to the echo-inducing cliff backing our campsite, seemed to completely surround us.
That night I dreamed about what more the Gulch could possibly have in store for us the next day.