Monday, March 30, 2009

Coyote Gulch: To Jacob Hamblin Arch and Back

Friday morning, after a long cold night, we got started hiking about 10:00 a.m. The wind had died down but it was still quite cold, particularly the water. Brad Wright, below, takes pains to cross the stream on a log in an effort to avoid putting his feet in the cold water.

The first real fun part of the stream was a small terraced drop, probably too small to call a waterfall. Cole Carlson, Brad, Seth Haws and Zac Willardsen stand at the top of it.

Pretty soon we encountered the first waterfall. In order to continue up the stream, we needed to find a way around it. This involved climbing up the sandstone-lined bank with some tricky footing. From left to right, Kyle Wright, Zac, Craig Wright, Kevin Wright and Cole climb up the sandstone.

Tyler Puchalski and Scott Foley stand at the top of the first waterfall.

Not too far distant, we encountered the second waterfall, probably the prettiest of the three waterfalls we encountered. This also required a scramble to get around it, and although the scramble was longer than around the first waterfall, it was easier.

Rodney Nelson, Pete Nelson and Brian Hartman stand at the top of the second waterfall, giving perspective on its height.

We encountered a number of seeps (spots where the water comes out of the canyon wall) along the way, but most were not as large as this one below. Usually the seep was accompanied by moss, hanging gardens and discolored rock from the regular flow of water.

The third waterfall was the easiest to get around initially, but had a rock jam behind it.

Craig and Kevin Wright and Chase Renick in front of the third waterfall.

The jumble of rocks behind the third waterfall was greater than when I was last here. Below, Scott Foley jumps between boulders.

The boys continue to make their way through the boulder filled stream area.

We eventually reached Coyote Natural Bridge. The difference between an arch and a natural bridge is that an arch is primarily weather-formed, while a natural bridge is primarily water- formed. The stream flows under the natural bridge and obviously eroded the sandstone to create the natural bridge.

Below, the group hikes underneath Coyote Natural Bridge, as seen from the other side.

Tyler and Rodney stand above some weirdly eroded sandstone in the streambead where the channeled sandstone creates smaller streamlets.

More interesting erosion of the sandstone is seen below.

The same area, with a closer view of the area near the large boulder, where the water has cut down through the sandstone to make a twisted passageway. Robby and Brian Hartman stand behind.

An even closer look at the water passageway beneath the large boulder.

We finally reached Jacob Hamblin Arch, our destination, about 5 1/2 miles from camp, about 1:15 a.m. Jacob Hamblin was a Mormon missionary with a reputation for fair dealings with the Indians. Jacob Lake, in Arizona, is also named after him. In contrast to Coyote Natural Bridge, the stream does not flow through Hamblin Arch, but rather makes a wide course around it.

The center of the Arch contains a jumble of rocks still much higher than the streambed around it.

To get to the other side of Hamblin Arch takes quite a long walk in a wide loop around it, beneath a very high overhanging wall. At the other side of the Arch, the stream takes another loop, although not nearly as large as the loop around the Arch. The photo below is of the Arch from the other side.

For some perspective on the size of the Arch, look at the picture below to the right side. Pete Nelson and Brian Hartman are sunning themselves on a large boulder and there are some other boys to the right.

The picture below shows the boys in the stream, skipping rocks in the water. Beyond them you can see the stream as it enters its loop around the Arch and the high overhanging sandstone wall that shades the stream during its loop.

On our way back, several of us stopped at a seep just beyond Hamblin Arch for some water. Robby Hartman, below, fills his bottle with fresh water from the seep.

On our way back, at a different seep not too far above camp, we found icicles hanging on the sandstone. This was mid-afternoon. At this point it did not feel cold enough to preserve the ice, but the icicles were in the shade.

Back at camp, after the 10 1/2 mile hike, Kyle, Tyler, Rodney and Scott Zollinger relax in or near the stream.

Brian Hartman and his grandfather, Paul Hartman, make a dinner of mashed potatoes and gravy.

A future post will feature the last day of our trip, including the trek back up through Crack-in-the-Wall and our visit to Peek-a-Boo and Spooky slot canyons.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Crack-in-the-Wall, Steven's Arch and the Escalante River

During spring break, we took the young men to Southern Utah for some exploration of red rock country. We left Redlands Wednesday afternoon and drove to Petrified Forest State Park outside Escalante, where we camped. While driving some mountain passes over 7,000 feet we encountered snow flurries, but the snow was not sticking to the road. We arrived tired and somewhat shocked by the 35 degree temperature that greeted us. We quickly set up camp and settled in for a cold night.

In the morning, we got a call from Craig Wright who was driving to Escalante from the Provo, Utah area. He was driving in 8 inches of unplowed snow and informed us he and his boys, Kevin, Kyle and Brad, would be late. So we drove in to Escalante for a leisurely breakfast at the Golden Loop Cafe. Along the way we hooked up with Paul Hartman, Brian and Robby's grandfather, from the Provo area as well, but formerly of Redlands. [Clicking on the pictures will give a larger view.]

Cole Carlson, Seth Haws and Zac Willardsen enjoy a large breakfast.

Chase Renick sacrificed the Redlands Bicycle Classic to be with us and enjoyed a big portion of ham, eggs and pancakes.

Outside of Escalante, we caught the dirt Hole-in-the-Rock Road and drove 36 miles south to the Forty Mile Ridge Road. There we turned left and headed east for four miles. We decided, fortunately correctly, that our two-wheel drive vehicles could negotiate the next three miles of sand if we kept going fast enough.

Back to the west, the snow covered Kaiparowitz Plateau reminded us that the chill we were feeling was not all in our heads.

We get ready to leave the trailhead for Crack-in-the-Wall. Craig Wright had not caught up with us and we were having difficulty connecting by cellphone. From left to right are Paul Hartman, Zac Willardsen, Cole Carlson, Scott Zollinger, Robby Hartman, Seth Haws, Scott Foley, Tyler Puchalski, Pete Nelson, Rodney Nelson and Bob Cannon. A stiff wind was blowing and it was extremely cold.

We set off down the sandy trail with the canyon top just visible below.

After 2 miles of walking in sand, Paul Hartman reaches sandstone. Our vehicles are barely visible on the ridge in the background.

Cairns mark the trail over the sandstone.

Nearing the rim and Crack-in-the-Wall.

Paul, Robby, Scott, Brian and Pete view the scene below from Crack-in-the-Wall. Crack-in-the-Wall is an 18 inch wide crack in the sandstone that allows you to pass from the rim down to the sand dune below.

Rodney Nelson at the rim with the Escalante River in the background. Steven's Arch is visible up and to the left from the river. Coyote Gulch is to the left of Rodney, behind the knob.

Brian Hartman, with an assist from his grandfather, lowers a pack to Robby Hartman from Crack-in-the-Wall. The packs were too bulky to fit through the crack.

Most of the group pose for a shot below Crack-in-the-Wall. Craig Wright and his boys caught up to us there. Back left are Rodney, Brad Wright, Scott Zollinger, Robby, Kevin, Kyle and Craig Wright, Seth, Scott Foley, Tyler, Cole, Zac, Pete and Brian.

Cole leads a group of backpackers down the sand dune from Crack-in-the-Wall.

Kevin and Craig Wright with a view of Steven's Arch from the trail.

We camped at the bottom of the trail in Coyote Gulch. Coyote Gulch has a small stream that empties into the Escalante River about a half mile below where we camped. Scott Zollinger, Seth, Cole and Scott Foley set up tents in the sand below some beautiful cottonwood trees.

Camp taking shape. It was later rocketed by strong winds that night which blew tents across the sand. We had to put backpacks and rocks in the tents to keep them from blowing away.

After setting up camp, we headed out about 3:00 p.m. down Coyote Gulch for the Escalante River. Craig and Kevin Wright on the sandstone above a rock jam in Coyote Gulch. This section was a little scary for those that are afraid of heights.

Brian Hartman, in red jacket, follows the rest of the group down Coyote Gulch. Here the sandstone rises hundreds of feet overhead.

Nearing the confluence of Coyote Gulch and the Escalante River. This is just a few miles upstream from where the Escalante River becomes part of Lake Powell.

The group takes its first steps into the frigid waters of the Escalante River. I assured them that it was no deeper than knee deep (well, it hadn't been the last time I was there). The cold wind made the cold water feel even colder than it was.

A short ways up the river we were rewarded with a beautiful view of Steven's Arch in the canyon wall above.

Chase Renick and Scott Foley cross the Escalante. They were two of several that discovered that the Escalante has spots deeper than their knees. Suddenly plunging into the freezing water resulted in a surprising jolt to the torso.

We went to great lengths, trying to find the shallowest portions of the river to cross, sometimes negotiating rocks and trees on shore to avoid deep looking pockets in the river. Brian, Kevin, Kyle and Craig cross trying to avoid getting their pants wet.


We began to lose the group by attrition as some headed back to camp to get warm. We fell short of our goal of reaching Steven's Canyon, about 1 1/4 miles upstream. However, we were rewarded with some more beautiful views of Steven's Arch.

On the way back to camp, one of the boys discovered a dead bat in the stream.

Zac Willardsen leads a group of boys across the sandstone above the logjam in Coyote Gulch back to camp.

Zac settles in for dinner.

The post of our next day's hike, from camp to Jacob Hamblin Arch and back, will follow.