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It is early May and I return to the desert for the second time this spring after a week of wet snow in the mountains.
The drive on Highway 12 down into the town of Escalante is a trip unto itself. I'll never get sick of it. If you've driven on the Hogsback before, you know what I mean.
Its roughly a 33 mile drive on the Hole in The Rock Road and to the Hurricane Wash Trailhead. There are 3 separate trailheads in which you can access the Coyote Gulch from this road. Either way you're getting the full dirt and washboard experience.
A beautiful and interrupted Saturday morning.
A sweet smelling aroma fills the air and I soon find the source.
Reaching deeper into the canyon and following a trail which sometimes fingers off into different directions.
Soon the Hurricane Wash turned into a small stream. It was near this area where I came upon a full sized cooler laying in the middle of the stream and I found a rather large group of people nearby. Now going into this trip I expected to see many people, as the Coyote Gulch is one of the most popular hiking destinations in the Grand Staircase.
An excerpt taken from the guide book, Hiking From Here to WOW by Kathy and Craig Copeland reads, "You shouldn't hike here during April, May, or October. The solitude necessary to appreciate wilderness will be impossible to find. Instead, come in early March or early November." It goes on to say, "and you won't hear other hikers' idiotic chit chat and annoying laughter constantly pinging off the canyon walls."
Thankfully this wasn't really the case, but after passing by the young aged group with the cooler in the creek I began to wonder.
The Jacob Hamblin Arch. I scramble up rocks directly beneath it and eat lunch.
The stream that meanders, the massive alcoves around this part of the canyon can leave you speechless.
I was very awestruck and my mind is blown with the beauty of everything in the Gulch.
Coyote Natural Bridge.
The creek narrows, the water deeper, the Cottonwood trees crowd the banks and the crowds thin out.
Having been in the creek for most of the day, I hadn't noticed any trail signs until this point.
Further down, the creek doesn't have as easy as an exit and waterfalls become a common sight. Instead of aimlessly wandering, you have to watch your footsteps a little more closely.
The walls at this point in the canyon are some of the most impressive.
I tend to stay on the benches and washes as the walking tends to be easier than the deep pools.
Getting closer to the confluence of the Coyote Gulch and the Escalante River.
After walking north through thick brush and wading through the deeper and faster Escalante stream, I came upon Stevens Arch which was way more impressive than I thought it was going to be.
The day was getting late and it was time to find camp. Sandy beaches below the arch were attractive, but the small chance of a flash flood would of given me no quick exit from the bowels of the tall canyon. I backtracked south and found a small shelf to set up camp.
Coffee at camp the next morning. Overcast was what I awoke to, and overcast was what I had all day. My plan was to turn around and head back up the Coyote Gulch and set up camp for one more night somewhere. Play it as I go.
Happy with my decision to bring neoprene.
I made an effort to count the amount of people I saw today. A total of 19.
Looking back at where I came and the confluence of the Hurricane Wash and the Coyote Gulch. This time I decided to make a loop out my trip from here and explore the upstream stretch of the Coyote Gulch.
I kept a close eye of my map from here and did my best to track every drainage I could for I was bound to go off trail soon.
Walking in the stream here proved to be more difficult. Step, sink, step, sink.
As the day went further on and I continued to make good time, I decided to climb out of the canyon and head towards Chimney Rock which laid high above. I filtered 3 full liters of water, took a bearing on my compass and kissed the canyon goodbye.
I began to follow an old wash which had numerous still puddles of water.
At this point I had the most aerobic activity of the weekend. The landscape was wide open and ghostly.
No more footsteps to follow but that of cow hooves.
After following my bearing I end up around 100 feet from the end of the Chimney Rock Road. Chimney Rock itself lies to the left hand side in the frame. I weigh my options while the wind howls on the high plateau. I decided to head straight towards the rock and look for a spot to pitch my tarptent.
I set up my tent in the flattest spot I found dancing around the rock. After stretching inside I came back outside and watch my staked out tent lift off the ground by the wind and tumble 10 to 15 feet downhill. One of two tent stakes down I decided to take another bearing to the Hurricane Wash Trailhead and call it a 32 hour round trip.
Taking one last look at Chimney Rock.