We had about 6.5 miles to cover today to make it to one of a number of campsites near the confluence with the Escalante River.
After a warm breakfast, we made preparations to set out. Eros cut his bathroom break short when we heard a group of female hikers coming down from the rim on the Mail Trail.
The first river crossing that day stung a bit. The weather was unusually cooler than normal the entire trip. But the third day was by far the coldest, and it was a day we were going to be in the water the majority of the time. Dark clouds continually threatened throughout the day, and although we only got a sprinkle or two, temperatures really plummeted that evening. I later learned that most of southwestern Utah got pretty slammed by thunderstorms that afternoon, so I guess it could have been much worse.
The canyon below the Mail Trail widens and becomes completely choked with vegetation, including the dreaded poison ivy. At first, there were just a few ivy plants here and there, and they could easily be avoided. But they eventually became so thick, we eventually gave up trying not to touch them. Hiker-made trails along the banks were a lot easier and faster (although completely covered in ivy) than walking in the stream. But with Eros's knees starting to complain, we always took the easiest path we could find.
Now that the trip is several weeks behind us, I can say that we came out unscathed in the poison ivy department. I had a tiny patch show up on my belly about a week after the trip and that was it. I'm pretty sure we can credit wearing long-sleeved pants and shirts the entire time.
Above: Hector wades through a thicket of poison ivy that, at times, would be well over our heads.
Above: I was surprised at how extensive the poison ivy was; here, ivy commingles with cacti a good distance away from the stream.
Above: in a wider part of the canyon, a sandy path provides a quick shortcut.
At some point that afternoon, we came across a small garter snake stretched out over the trail with something in its mouth. At first I thought it was trying to swallow a mouse. Turns out, it was the hugest slug I'd ever seen. The slimy slug must have been about 3 times as wide as the snake, but it had the slug about halfway down!
Sometime that afternoon, the canyon began to constrict and the stream slipped and tumbled down the bedrock-floor through velvety cascades and inviting pools.
We all wished it had been hotter. I don't think it cracked 80 degrees that day, so I avoided getting too wet until I had to, in the upcoming lower narrows. Hector and Eros, however, couldn't resist any longer.
Above: Hector tries to slide down a mossy cascade. It wasn't nearly as slick as it looked though.
Above: Eros takes a swim in a particularly deep water hole.
The walls continued to close and we were soon entering Death Hollow's lower narrows. Some of the pools could be tip-toed around, but the sun had come out and warmed things up, so we didn't try too hard to get around them and we ended up swimming through the majority of the holes.
With my camera dry-bagged at this point, we again rely on Hector's GoPro for images in the slot.
Below the narrows, it was more of the same--one stunning knock-your-socks-off scene after another.
Above: typical of many pools along the bedrock-floored canyons: you have about a 5-inch-wide ledge to balance across to stay dry. One little slip and you're going in the frigid 8-foot-deep pool.
I immediately recognized the spot where an occasional waterfall (dry on this trip) tumbles into Death Hollow. I had led a scout group up to this point last summer, so the rest of Death Hollow from here on was familiar territory for me. I knew we were getting close to the confluence and that we should start looking for a campsite.
Above: Eros descends a cascade with a large dry waterfall in the background.
Below: Photo of same area taken about a year earlier with the waterfall raging with water from an intense thunderstorm that had hit the day before.
Tired and cold, we stopped just short of the confluence when we happened upon a cozy campsite beneath a small alcove. After dinner and water filtering, Eros and Hector promptly holed up in their sleeping bags. I put on all my layers and tried to warm up as I watched the temperature (on my watch) drop into the upper 50s--even though the sun was out and it was only 7:30. I too soon relented and got into my fairly thin 30-degree bag (with most of my clothes still on) and was finally able to warm up enough to comfortably drift off. I slept comfortably knowing that no more surprises or tricky sections lay ahead.
Above: campsite #3.
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