October 2003 Southern Utah Trip
One objective of this 5-day trip was ultimately to explore a little more of the Upper Escalante drainage, to scout locations for possible future trips. I left with the sense that even if I could hike 'til I'm 80, I'd need more time.
Trip roadmap. We drove to Zion NP, then explored the Escalante / Boulder area, then hit Bryce Canyon NP and did a day float on the Colorado River in Glen Canyon.
This would be my 8th trip to Zion National Park. We camped at the most excellent Watchman Campground, one of my favoritest places in the world, and on Tuesday we hiked the East Rim Trail to Observation Point. This proved to be a pretty good trail and destination, since at the completion of the 2000' climb to the rim, it offers the best view of the Zion Valley that I've seen yet. While at the Point we talked with a vacationing couple who told us that they were in Las Vegas that week and they saw Roy (does he, like, have a last name?) get bit by the tiger. I forgot to ask if they got their $120 per ticket refunded.
Monday: We got a campsite just in time to take this photo of the Watchman as the sun's last rays hit it.
Tuesday: Like lots of trails and routes in Zion, this one follows a slot for a ways.
The wall in this slot was blasted out here to accomodate the ramped path shown here. It was nice and cool in here.
Looking straight down to the bottom of the slot
From the East Rim observation point, with the floor of Zion Valley 2000 ft below. The monolith to the right of Jamie is Angel's Landing, another great Zion hike.
After our hike, at the Zion Lodge....well, you know the routine.
- Escalante National Monument
GSENM is one of the newest additions to the US's wilderness inventory, but this area was the final blank spot in the contiguous US to get fully mapped. The area is big on hiking, but short on trails - most of the hiking here is by routes on slickrock ridges and through slot canyons. All of it is fantastically scenic. This would be my 3rd or 4th trip into the GSENM area.
Wednesday: Our hike on the Boulder Mail Trial starts here, at the dirt airstrip outside Boulder. I guess at least one local resident owns a plane. Anyway, the 16-mile long BMT is the 100 year old mule trail between Boulder and Escalante, UT. Today we'll hike in about 4 miles and then back out to here. Someday I'd like to hike the whole route across.
A lot of this slickrock route looks just like this - slickrock. Basically the route traverses the Upper Escalante River area, where its tributary creeks fan out. The route varies little in elevation, but rolls across from one drainage to the next.
Routes out here are marked by 'ducks', these short stacks of stones placed periodically along the way. Without them a hiker would get quickly and seriously misplaced. Jamers is shown here on our hike out, knocking down each as we pass them by.
Thursday: Here's a good look SW, from 'The Hogback' section of Hwy 12. That's the 50-mile cliffs in the distance, the eastern edge of the enormous Kaiparowits Plateau. I read a few years ago that the main impetus to upgrade the Escalante area to National Monument status was that a Dutch coal mining company named Andalex was set to mine coal on the Kaiparowits, for sale to Asian markets. It was all set for them to start carving exploratory roads onto the plateau when Clinton signed the area into NM status in the mid-90's. Shortly thereafter I remember driving thru the VERY Mormon town of Escalante, and seeing crosses planted in front yards that said ESCALANTE. Evidently many there (and elsewhere in Utah) hold a grudge that they couldn't profit from extractions on federal lands. I predict that they'll see their property values skyrocket as the rest of the world discovers the area, and they'll do just fine without mining. Enough history lesson. The canyon in the foreground is Calf Creek, and that's where we're hiking today.
In Calf Creek Canyon. I thought these boxelder trees made a great photo against walls of Navajo sandstone.
A stillframe from my video zoom of three enormous Fremont human figure pictographs on the opposite wall.
Lower Calf Creek Falls is 126' high, and the cool mist felt great. I stepped into this pool, but I didn't try swimming in it. Because of the runoff's confinement to a deeply-cut canyon, it gets very little sun, so it's stays cool. Also, at night, cooler air sinks into these canyons. Right after this photo was taken, a group showed up, a commercial outfit guiding a bunch of 20-somethings. One of their also-20-something male guides went dashing into this pool. The presence of a few younger women on their trip that day mighta had some effect on his behavior, I thought....
Bryce Amphitheatre from the rim
We stopped off to do a hike below the rim, this is on the Navajo Loop
On "Wall Street"
Friday: Today we're floating the Colorado River from the Glen Canyon Dam to Lee's Ferry. A 2-mile tunnel descends the 800 ft down through the cliff to the base of the dam, at right here. This15 mile, 4-hour float is in motorized 'S-rigs'. It's flat water on this section but we came for the scenery and out of curiosoty.
I snapped this picture of us as we floated under the bridge.
We pulled out at a beach on the left bank to look at these petroglyphs of antelopes.
I couldn't pass the opportunity for a photo standing in the water. This was as deep as I would dare go in this 48-degree water.
Readying to load up again and depart.
Pulling in to Lee's Ferry, with the Vermilion Cliffs and Paria Plateau in back. Marble Canyon officially begins here, and the whitewater. I was thinking that if you lost power coming into here, you'd be in trouble because the next bridge is at Hoover Dam, well below Grand Canyon. I suppose it's happened to at least one boater in the past, but I don't know....