Day 4 started out with a quick hike through Peek-a-Boo and Spooky Gulches. These are some of best and easiest slots to get to in the Grand Staircase-Escalante N.M.
After just a one-mile approach, we arrived at the "Moki" steps that allow access to the bottom of Peek-a-Boo. Immediately, this officially unnamed minor tributary of Dry Fork slot up wonderfully with several rock bridges and windows you can pass through.
After only about a 1/2 mile, we emerged from the top of the slot, turned around, and went back down for an opposing perspective of all the formations.
After another mile down Dry Fork, we found the mouth of a second small tributary known as Spooky and started up. Spooky lacks the arches and windows, but it is deeper, darker, narrower, and has thousands of tiny goosebumps on the canyon walls that make for some interesting photos.
After returning to the vehicles we headed farther down the Hole-in-the-Rock Road, soon arriving at Dance Hall Rock -- a large dome of sandstone that rises from the desert plain. The west side of the dome has a huge natural amphitheater that was used by the San Juan Expedition pioneers for recreation. For three months during the winter of 1879-80, they would dance to fiddle play regularly as the "Hole" was being widened and prepared for passage of their wagons.
Above: group shot on the "dance floor."
There are several places along the modern Hole-in-the-Rock Road where wooden posts mark crossings with the original wagon trail. Even after 120 years, in many places, the original wagon trail can still be seen parting a sea of sagebrush.
Above and below: the Scout Memorial south of Dance Hall Rock. Tragic.
After finding a nice little secluded cove at Sooner Rocks and setting up camp, we had just enough daylight to check out nearby Willow Gulch.
Above: one of the most unique pedestal rocks I've seen greets hikers at the Willow Gulch Trailhead (Beege photo).
Above: a tiny but steady stream in Willow Gulch supports plenty of greenery and even a healthy beaver population.
Above: although we never saw beaver, the tell-tale signs are there such as the countless gnawed off trees.
Above and below: Broken Bow Arch - this thing is huge. Supposedly an early explorer found a native's hunting bow beneath the arch, and, uh, as you can guess, it was broken. Got to love how things get named around here.
Above: Eros takes in the grandeur of the arch with an equally impressive alcove in the distance.
Above and below: on the way out, myself and Matt checked out a small grotto and overhang that had these weird pyramids and grooves carved into what appeared to be tufa deposits (old spring minerals). Who carved them? Indians? Bored hikers? Aliens?
After the hike, we cooked hot dogs and brats over the fire and bedded down for the night.
Above: late evening sun burns Sooner Rocks above camp.
Tuesday, June 29, 2010
After packing up camp and filling our water bottles, we had to decide to pass under the arch or continue through the long meander around Hamblin Arch.
A few of us initially wanted to pass through the arch, but we got a hunch that we were going to miss something big if we continued on the shortcut. Good thing we changed our minds, because 100 yards up the canyon is the biggest undercut I've ever seen in Utah's canyon country. It was difficult to take it all in, and even more difficult to photograph with a point-and-shoot.
Above: the huge undercut south of Jacob Hamblin Arch; for scale, look for the tiny black speck (Beege ~6'2") just to the left of the tree in the bottom center of the photo.
Above: my feeble attempt to stitch two photos together and show the view out of the backside of the undercut.
Above: I love this photo Beege took, I still can't figure out exactly where he was when he took it. The tangled web of fins, arches, and undercuts here are mind-boggling.
Above and below: heading toward the opposite (west) side of Jacob Hamblin with morning sun spilling through its massive portal.
Below: one last undercut before Coyote's walls begin to lower and the exit route through Hurricane Wash presents itself.
Above: one final mini-slot in Hurricane Wash before the canyon opens up.
Below: the last few miles along the sandy wash were a bit of a drag, but we finally made it back to the Jeep.
After meeting Dad near Batty Pass, we scoped out a campsite next to several caves (mines) that were home to two German brothers back in the 50-60s.
The cave-homes are very well preserved and tidy -- as if the Lichtenahn brothers had just packed up and moved out a few days before.
Here is part of a 1960s news article from Escalante on the brothers (courtesy of Beege):
Above and below: unfortunately, looks like Cliff never finished his boat that he intended to explore Lake Powell with.
Above: this contraption bolted to a sandstone boulder was likely used by the Lichtenahn brothers to polish slabs of petrified wood.
After checking out the caves, we set out to explore some of the old mining tracks on ATVs.
Above: every ledge and overhang was thoroughly scoped for Anasazi dwellings.
We found a fun little road that led us clear up on top of 50-Mile Bench and the very base of the Straight Cliffs, about 1000 feet higher than our camp. The views over the Escalante Desert and off toward the Henry Mountains were outstanding.
That night, Dad was the only one brave enough to sleep in the caves. Blood-sucking bats? Flesh-eating rats? Hantavirus? Bill and Cliff's ghosts? None of these things were going to deter him. I couldn't believe it when he told us the next morning that it was the best night's rest he had so far.