Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Desert Backpacking

     Besides biking my next favorite thing to do is backpack, there is just something about putting all your stuff in a bag and going out into the woods to be one with the land. Luckily I live in Utah and that just makes it one of the absolute best places to adventure! Even when you think you have experienced most the state you can cross borders to Colorado, Idaho, Wyoming I mean the fun can NEVER end! This trip was one a few weeks in the making and I was so thankful for the stars to align, I have been wanting to share this place with my friends for awhile now and had just shared it with my wife a few weeks prior to this trip. Coyote Gulch is a grand place, it has many features including, swimming holes, petroglyphs, arches, a winding stream and stunning scenery. This is by far the most traveled roue likely in Glen Canyon Area for good reason, you will be sharing it with others which always takes a bit away from the solitude aspect but incredibly enjoyable none the less.
      On Friday we were on our way out of town by 7:30am with a pretty good start for a 6 hour ride to the trail head. The drive down I-15 is straight forward and fast, upon exiting the highway you are taking the main route to Bryce Canyon National Park, A place I still have not set foot on but plan to this fall likely. The drive was very familiar since doing it just a few weeks prior. My good friends Brent and his brother were my passengers and we were ready for a peaceful weekend away from cell phones and daily duties and happily now on MAN TIME. I was sad to be away from my family but they would be just fine without me. The plan was to explore some slots before the hike but due to Brent's bad knee and back due to a car accident a month or two ago we made the better judgement to not add more miles to what was already a test of how well his body would hold. So it was decided and we would be hitting the trail earlier with more chances to find camp so I could not complain.
      We started on foot at a mellow pace around 1:30 and began the long dry hike down Hurricane Wash. It was not that hot but man the desert sucked every amount of hydration out of my body, I had plenty of water to reach the confluence of Coyote Gulch but found myself with a dry mouth. As we walked the dry desert Prickly Cactus Pear flowered in beauty along with many others. This environment is harsh, plenty of sage brush and junipers and not too many others until you hit the water. With a steady pace we strolled into the Gulch as the walls grew more grand around every corner and Cottonwood trees floated seeds through the Canyon hoping to land a spot to start another generation. It was heaven, cooler and now I was barefoot for the weekend trodding ankle deep stream that flows the entire weekend.

         We passed decent campsites along the way looking for just the right one, when we ended up at Jacob Hamblin Arch.We were tired of our packs and I settled on it being camp for the night despite it being exactly where I wanted not to camp. It sports an alcove of a towering rock that echoes every cough sneeze and fart in the horseshoe. As we set up camp I took notice to a loud mouth next to us that I knew was going to be annoying until it was lights out. We took a walk to the spring and filled up and drank happily as we viewed the majestic arch from it's other angle. It was awe inspiring as usual despite seeing it three times in my lifetime so far. We threw the football along the stream on the way back to camp and soon filled our eager bellies and in restful content I hopped in my hammock to relax and read my Audobon society book my brother gave me. I find it great to read every trip and I love gaining knowledge of all things wonderful in my environment from the the flowers to the trees to the birds and creepy crawlers. Loud mouth mgee next store was at it telling his poor buddies one long drawn out story after another. It was extremely distracting and I begged my friends to move camp with me but I ended up settling due to a long day and lights out was arriving soon. We played cards into the darkness and then my buddies went into their tent and I hopped into the hammock for some final peace and quiet from our neighbors and finally soaked in the tranquil solitude I was yearning for. The stream trickled as I was able to stare into the moonlight of the sillohoute of Jacob Hamblin Arch and review my thoughts and recharge my batteries as I rocked back and forth in bliss. I could have spent a lot more time in the hammock but an hour did just fine, I was nervous to spend my first night sleeping in it. Into the tent I stumbled over catepillars and frogs and had a really good nights sleep. One of the best I can even remember backpacking honestly.


I awoke to Brent's brother coming out of his tent and I opened my eyes and saw mostly a little light and I tucked my eyes back to rest. I shrugged it off and dozed on and off tossing in my bag in complete comfort as the morning went on and the Canyon came to life. I was almost 7am and that was good enough for me as Brent and Brandon were up so I crawled out of the tent and into the hammock for a mighty fine morning.
        After an array of morning routines we were off for the day on river by 8:45 for a long day peacefully treading the stream bed crossing campsite after campsite as the sun grew warmer and I grew more stoked for the day. It's a winding canyon filled with vegetation in a surreal magical setting, every person should experience this place, a true oasis amongst the desert. The sun light would soon hit my skin offering warm heat on my soul as I reflected amongst massive canyon walls towering over my head.

       We walked for miles until coming upon the main features, a stream splitting into fingers and pools and after a tight squeeze it opened up again. Soon we came upon Coyote Nautral Bridge, yet another marvelous sculpture the river carved. Then a boulder choked area where the first real waterfall emerged, we stopped and dunked our heads under the fall which cleansed our spirits and awoke all the more to the majestic place we were ingesting. We had a snack, I sat on top of a large boulder relaxing as I took in the sights, another arch named Cliff Arch. While the other were eating I was playing around getting pictures of the next waterfall down. I came up with the bright idea to leap off of it for a killer picture. Once the guys were done they came over and I hopped off and hit ground a lot harder than I wanted but got the shot!
        A little ways down we came to another waterfall, this one having a tricky but quick down climb, I guess the guys had enough for the day since they were not interested in another down climb. I however planned to reach the confluence with the Escalante River and they happily let me go on my way in doing so. They said they would stay in their spot for an hour and then head back. I insisted they head back when they feel ready. Still I felt the sense of urgency and took off running down the Canyon. I am not a runner but this was as good as one was going to get. Running barefoot I would probably pay for it but man it felt good as I ran freely among the canyon walls in absolute euphoria. I ran a good 20 minutes straight hopping deep spots, rocks and traversing sandstone around the mandatory spot. It felt absolutely magical as I ran. I had reached the confluence, the two waters collided into one another, the Escalante being deeper and almost aqua blue. I turned my head around the corner to see Stevens arch but had more work to do. I crossed the river and made my way as fast as possible without shoes on until I stood before it. Wow what a spot, the massive hole in the wall was impressive, I wish the land could tell me how it ever created it as I gazed in awe at the Arch and blue sky behind it. I took a minute and headed back the way I came with a good running pace despite obstacles. I am pretty positive this will be the most breathtaking best run I will ever have in my lifetime.


   I reached back up my homies in a 45 minute round trip, must have been a good 5+ miles run. We set off back tracking our steps at a very leisurely pace. We had just two more adventures on the way back, the petroglyphs and swimming hole. Neither I have experienced or knew much about but swimming was going to be an impressive way to end the day! We found our approximate entry point for the spring filled pool, it climbed a steep trail laced with massive amounts of poison ivy. The trail split and we soon found the place. It was impressive, a large clear pool with perfect cliffs to jump off surrounding it. I looked around and found that I was too handicapped without shoes to cliff dive, I was bummed but happily hopped in. The water was very cold! too cold to swim and fully enjoy but I happily stood still half sub merged for a good 10 minutes with the sun keeping my upper half warm, the day could certainly not have gotten any better.

           After the swim we made our last detour up a hill side where we could view some Native American Artwork, it was quite a ways up the hill and we were not ambitious to see it up close but we could see it basically from the stream and no one desired the climb up.

       We passed many other people on the way back, I was sure the campsites were going to be bumping. It was quite the opposite, I saw less people than Friday camping and just maybe we might have the arch to ourselves. We passed the spring and loaded up with fresh water and headed for camp. I was happy to find only our tents and we all chilled out for an hour as we took turns in my hammock and soaked in an incredible day. Once we rested our bones a little, we set up horse shoes and had massive fun playing one another. Soon our bellies were crying out and it was dinner time which I was looking so forward too! Two meals and I was still wanting much more food but it will do just fine. The sun was setting and we had neighbors, a group of 12 year olds likely, they sang a hymn that echoed in one heck of a cathedral for us to hear. It was something I will never forget, hearing voices sing against the canyon walls in that setting, absolutely incredible. I wanted to go over and plead them to sing another but soon they did let one more out and I soaked it in. Wow what a place, the desert has been kind, this was an unforgettable day. We played cards into the night and I entered the hammock once more but this time with my sleeping bag and pillow, this was home for the night. As I sway in the darkness I cannot but feel euphoria running through my mind, this is great, then my eyes eventually closed and I fell fast asleep.


             I awoke to the sound of splashing, someone or something was traveling fast through the canyon, I pop up to see a deer bouncing down the stream. Well good morning Mr Deer I guess that's my cue, I lie in my wonderful resting spot floating above the ground for the next hour until I would inevitably be forced to pack up. Extremely sad to be leaving the Canyon I was happy to be heading home to my family, I was really looking forward to knowing they were ok since I was now 48 hours without contact. The hike out was nice, the sun was battling clouds and it was very pleasant compared to others. As I left the stream I wondered when can I be back next, I hope this year! The rest of the hike was smooth, despite my right foot, it ached in pain from likely running barefoot, by the end of the hike it was really really bad. I pressed on without breaks since that made it worse and hit the car and waited for the others. So long desert hope to be back soon, you will be in my thoughts until my next experience.

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