The fourth and last day would be our easiest. It was a cool morning, so I started out with all my layers on. Many of the clear pools were chock-full of small trout darting here and there. It took only 15 minutes of walking to reach the confluence with the Escalante.
Above: the clear Mamie Creek (that drains Death Hollow) converges with the cloudy Escalante River.
The Escalante was surprisingly high for mid June--mid-thigh or deeper in many places. And flowing fast. In fact, I recall that the BLM had put a sign up at the Escalante Bridge trailhead discouraging anyone from fording the river. It wasn't that bad, but I could see where it could be iffy with small children or pets.
The low-angle morning sun created some blinding contrast along the Escalante gorge's massive golden walls. This created quite the challenge to get decent photos with the ol' point-and-shoot.
We enjoyed hiking in the rushing river for a time, but we soon found ourselves looking for short-cut trails along the benches. There seemed to be a main path that became clearer (and often marked with red tape tied to trees) as we went downstream.
As the canyon continued to open up, the main trail had us hiking mostly on dry land with just an occasional river crossing. We were making very good time.
Above: while following a faint path, we ran into a family of skunks. Luckily, we spotted them first and we were able to avoid spooking them.
At one point, the path delivered us to a shady overhang with a cool microclimate. We found faded pictographs that appeared to depict the river in the rear of the overhang.
By late morning, it had really warmed up. It would be bone-dry desert whenever the trail took us any distance from the river. But just as we would start to feel the heat, there would be another river crossing to cool us down. I shed all of my layers down to a t-shirt, and since we were out of poison ivy country, I zipped off my pant legs. Unfortunately, ferocious deer flies started biting the backs of my legs, so my pant legs went back on after only about a half hour.
When a huge skyline arch appeared on the south rim, I knew we had less than two miles to go. Just past the arch, are some hard-to-reach, and therefore, well-preserved Anasazi granaries in a mid-cliff alcove. Looking closely, you could just make out some more pictographs above the granaries that again appeared to represent the river.
Escalante natural bridge presented itself around the next bend in the canyon. At this point, we knew we were all but done, and we all decided that this had been the best backpack trip any of us had ever done. It was like four different trips in one since each day offered terrain and scenery markedly different than the day before.
Even though we were exhausted and beat down, we couldn't help but start day-dreaming about what big adventure to do next. The Black Hole of the White River? The Paria River to Lee's Ferry? Canyonland's Maze District?
Naturally, the conversation turned to food. We could try the Boulder Mesa restaurant or Hell's Backbone Grill. Or, there's that double-bacon cheeseburger at the Circle D in Escalante. It didn't matter. Just as we began frothing at the mouth, we realized we had all left our wallets in my Montero at the upper trailhead on Hell's Backbone. To make things worse, Hector recalled having less than a quarter tank of gas left in his Accord.
Above: Hector crosses the river below Escalante natural bridge.
Above: Woohoo! Hector and Eros makes the final river crossing to the trailhead.
When we reached the trailhead, we unloaded our packs and took a breather as we chatted with various people doing day hikes. There was a large group of Utah Division of Wildlife folks gearing up for a hike upriver to conduct some sort of a fish survey. A couple of them were concerned about the water levels and hiking conditions.
We were exhausted and hungry for real food but there was one last task to complete. The hundred-hand pictograph panel was a short and steep hike up the canyonside. Eros's knees were killing him, but I knew he wouldn't pass up a chance to see this amazing site. He slowly followed us up the well-warn path.
After snapping some photos, we made our way back down to Hector's car where we promptly took our wet shoes off. Hector assured us that he had enough gas to pick up my Montero and then head into Escalante to fuel our cars and bodies, so we headed up the twisty Hell's Backbone Road. I wish I had insisted on driving Hector's car, because as soon as we hit those curves I started feeling car sick. The worst thing about it was that I knew I wasn't going to be able to down that massive burger that I was looking forward to.
I forgot about how good of gas mileage Hondas get. We pulled into Escalante with gas to spare and b-lined it to the Circle D. With envy, I looked on as Hector devoured the double with bacon. I managed a single as I pulled out my camera and started reviewing the some 500 photos I had taken.
After we cleaned our plates, we said our goodbyes and headed our separate ways.
Death Valley is well known as having the lowest point in North America in Badwater Basin at nearly 300 feet below sea level. Much less we...
At 11,253 feet, Lone Peak isn't the highest summit in Utah's Wasatch Mountains (that'd be Mt. Nebo in the southern Wasatch ...
Running barefoot along the salt flats near Stansbury Island, Great Salt Lake. I had an excellent 20-mile run around and over the top of ...
The Trans-Zion is a 48-mile route across Zion National Park that wanders from the East Entrance to Lee Pass in the Kolob Canyons section o...
Here are some highlights from the rest of our trip with friends to Kauai. We fit a lot in in just a few days. Big thanks to Casey and Mil...
Here are a few photos from a little jaunt to seldom-visited Black Crook Peak near Vernon, Utah, back in June. At 9,274 feet, it's not ...