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Utah in May: Coyote Gulch, Zion Traverse, Dark Canyon Wilderness, Ruins and Rock art
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Brad Abrahams
Utah: Coyote Gulch, Zion Traverse, Dark Canyon Wilderness, Ruins and Rock art on 07/03/2012 18:52:18 MDT Print View

Hello everyone,

Back in May I embarked on several adventures in Southern Utah. 28 mile out and back in Coyote Gulch in the Escalante region. 48 mile traverse of Zion NP. 30 miles in the Dark Canyon Wilderness, and several day hikes hunting for ruins and rock-art.

Gear of note
Pack: GG Gorilla 2k2 (amazing)
Tent: Lightheart Solo (love the design but it completely failed by the end of the trip)
Sleep: Enlightened Equipment RevelationX quilt + Exped Synmat UL 7 (both excellent)
Others: Mountain Hardware Seta Gaiters (failed), and NB Minius MT 10 (love them)
Garmin Foretrex 310 (valuable)

I'll make a separate post for each trip including a few photos. You can skip right to the full photo albums which I've put up on Facebook:

Coyote Gulch
Zion Traverse
Dark Canyon Wilderness
Ruins & Rock Art

Enjoy the posts!

Edited by frigger on 07/03/2012 19:43:26 MDT.

Brad Abrahams
Coyote Gulch on 07/03/2012 18:53:08 MDT Print View

Coyote Gulch

Coyote Gulch is located in the Grand-Staircase Escalante National Monument. One of the bonuses is that Escalante area is BLM land. This means you can camp anywhere and there are know entry fees, campsite fees, or permits necessary.

After car-camping off of Hole-in-the-rock Rd. (of which the distance markers are in kilometers for some reason), my friend Cody and I set out for Coyote Gulch. We started at the Hurricane Wash trailhead, and after a few hours hiking through the scrubby wash, we entered the Gulch. This was my first time hiking in these region of the US, and the scenery was stunning to me.

We picked a scenic campsite with great views. But in the middle of setting up, we were hit by a freak dust storm. It was intense, with one painful whirlwind after another. It was impossible to pitch under such conditions, so we found a more sheltered site. Everything was covered in thick layer of dust, and unfortunately my camera was exposed during the storm and did not survive it. From this point all all my photos were taken by my iPhone, which is a real shame!

The next day we hiked to and from the confluence of the Escalante river. On the way we passed by a group of extremely over-packed Germans. Our ultra-lite setups were in such stark contrast to their unwieldily external frame packs with huge pots and pans and roll up pads dangling off of them.

We also encountered a person whom I have politically incorrectly dubbed "The Mormon Space Man". He was outfit in reflective material from head-to-toe. He said he was testing out his own line of experimental outerwear for desert environs.

We hiked out the next day, and I vow to return to the Escalante region.

Some photos below, with more here

Moving through the wash before entering the Gulch.

Nearing the confluence

Cody dwarfed by the canyon wall

Jacob Hamblin Arch

We set up camp under here


Little falls, refreshing shower

Scrambling back to camp

Brad Abrahams
Zion Traverse on 07/03/2012 18:53:41 MDT Print View

Zion Traverse

Our next destination was Zion NP to traverse the park from Lee's Pass to the East Rim Trailhead. A 48 miler. We car-camped in a beautiful spot outside of Springdale which I highly recommend if you want to avoid Watchmen Campground in the park itself. The next day after stashing the car at the end of our journey, we hitched a ride back into the park. We were lucky enough to be picked up by a friendly ranger. All was well until a German tourists $600, 000 Shelby Supercar EXPLODED in the tunnel, closing down the park. For more on that, click here. Luckily, another ranger offered to drive us the long way round the back, which took us through the ultra-creepy polygamist town of Colorado City, of Warren Jeffs fame.

The hike itself was absolutely breathtaking. The variation of environment and climate experienced each day, each hour, was nearly psychedelic. We had a couple challenging nights with extremely high winds that threatened to blow our shelters away, though luckily we remained unscathed. This is one of the challenges of a multi-day trek in an NP, where you have to book your campsites ahead of time, snot knowing how ideal they are. One of our sites was at the edge of the rim, completely exposed to wind and cold. It was on this trip that my Lightheart Solo started to fail on me. until it was rendered almost completely unusable.

I consider this trek as a sort of rite-of-passage. It's challenging, though not distractingly so with an ultra-light get-up. I absolutely recommend it.

Some photos below, with more here

Car camping the night before

Lee's Pass Trailhead

Entering Bear Trap Canyon

Bear Trap falls, flipping freezing!

View from the West Rim

Where's the trail?

The descent

The quintessential view of Zion Valley

Brad Abrahams
Dark Canyon Wilderness on 07/03/2012 18:54:12 MDT Print View

Dark Canyon Wilderness

Cody and I parted ways and I head to Blanding, UT. This was a solo mission deep into the Dark Canyon Wilderness of Manti-La Sal Forest. I shared this wild trail with bear, cougar, wildcat and other unseen beings. An unexpected encounter with ancient ruins and artefacts made this a transcendental experience.

This was my first time in a wilderness area, and it was definitely a challenge staying on course, and map and compass skills really came in handy. I ended up doing around 30 miles in the wilderness, spending 3 days. I would have spent longer and explored more, but I was ill-prepared in the map department and the water sources were extremely dry. I will return to explore young's and lean-to canyon as well as Fable Canyon.

Some photos below, with more here

No turning back

Entering the canyon, looks like a cathedral

ancient pottery, it felt powerful to hold it in my hand

A nice place for lunch

An early moon

Spotted this ruin from the bottom of the canyon. Was a challenging scramble up to it. once confronted with it up close I was speechless

And surprised by the pictographs above it

view from the ruin

Brad Abrahams
Ruins and Rock Art on 07/03/2012 18:54:43 MDT Print View

Ruins and Rock Art

After my encounter with the ruins and artifacts in Dark Canyon, I was bit by the archeology bug. I spent the next few days day-hiking to ruins and rock art in the area. Some of these are truly seldom seen (especially the Doll House), their locations only revealed after gaining the trust of the locals. They are understandably cagey about revealing the locations, as vandalism, unintentional or otherwise, leads to their destruction. Hiking to ruins is one of my new favorite things.

Some photos below, with more here

Car camping at Bear's Ears Pass

This is one of the most pristine and seldom seen ruins in Utah.

1000 year old corn

Under Sipapu Bridge at Natural Bridges Monument

Horse Collar Ruin at Bridges Monument

Rock Art in Ute territory. Known as the Walnut Knob

Double Helix, Shay Canyon, Canyonlands

Warring hockey players, Shay Canyon, Canyonlands

Edited by frigger on 07/04/2012 18:53:39 MDT.

Steven Paris
(saparisor) - M

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Re: Utah: Coyote Gulch, Zion Traverse, Dark Canyon Wilderness, Ruins and Rock art on 07/03/2012 20:11:45 MDT Print View

Great TRs! It seems from your words like this was a real momentous trip for you.

todd h
(funnymoney) - MLife

Locale: SE
Re: Utah: Coyote Gulch, Zion Traverse, Dark Canyon Wilderness, Ruins and Rock art on 07/03/2012 20:26:38 MDT Print View

Wow Brad!

As I browsed your pics, I found myself wandering through the arches and ruins.

I want to go!


sean neves
(Seanneves) - M

Locale: City of Salt
Great trip, Brad on 07/04/2012 10:17:47 MDT Print View

You saw more country in a few weeks down there than many people see in a decade. A couple of questions: Can you explain your failure with the Lightheart Gear Solo? I have one and have been very happy. Also, looks like you did Peavine/Woodenshoe or some variant up high in Dark Canyon, judging by the vegetation/terrain. Can you divulge?

In 2010, I was treated to the most harrowing driving experience of my life driving out of Elk Ridge road after dropping down Trail Canyon for a 5 day loop. Yes, worse than the Maze Roads (Teapot, etc, which can be an exercise in road building, not just road driving), because it rained and snowed and turned everything into mush. No choice but to drive it or wait 7 days for a dry spell that might never come. Just replaced $3,000 of drive-line components that I like to blame on that trip. Looks like you got spectacular weather and hit the water sources just before it COMPLETELY DRIED UP for the year. Great work!

Edited by Seanneves on 07/04/2012 10:26:10 MDT.

Hk Newman
(hknewman) - MLife

Locale: Western US
Re: Utah: Coyote Gulch, Zion Traverse, Dark Canyon Wilderness, Ruins and Rock art on 07/04/2012 10:23:46 MDT Print View

Utah: one of those destinations I need to spend some more time in. Love the pics. Some of them had an old photo quality (or it could just be my eyes).

Brad Abrahams
Re: Great trip, Brad on 07/04/2012 18:39:18 MDT Print View

Thanks for the replies everyone, it truly was a special trip.

Sean. Driving Elk Ridge Road in the best of conditions is a bit sketchy, especially in a rented Kia Soul ;-) That area is just endless for beautiful drives and car camping. Especially the Dry Mesa.

EDIT: I've removed my details of the Lightheart Solo issues. If you'd like to know the details please PM me. Judy from Lightheart is wonderful to work with, and i do not want to cause her any lost business. I've been assured from her and others that these were isolated incidents, and not indicative of the quality of the brand.

Edited by frigger on 07/05/2012 08:39:52 MDT.

Nico .
(NickB) - MLife

Locale: Los Padres National Forest
Great Quartet ot Trips! on 07/09/2012 10:13:38 MDT Print View

Thanks for sharing the photos/trip reports. Looks like you squeezed a lot of great scenery into a handful of trips!

My only hiking in Utah has been limited to Zion NP, but it looks like a beautiful state with lots to offer.

I especially found the ruins and rock art sites fascinating. I would love to see those areas in person sometime.