Tuesday, May 25, 2021

Busy day

A weekend in May is not a good time to be anywhere between Zion National Park and Moab. Crowds, man. So I hunkered down in a boondocking area at the beginning of Hole-in-the-Rock Road just outside Escalante. There were many others there, but I managed to block my view of them with strategically placed junipers.

As soon as the sun broke the eastern horizon I took off for some hikes I’d planned. (Tip: if any section of your route runs east, don’t try driving first thing in the morning. Especially if your windshield is a little dirty.)

There were only a handful of cars at the Escalante River trailhead on Highway 12 when I pulled in at 7:15. That was good. 

Less good was the temperature. Still in the upper 40s. Maybe lower 50s. And most of the river was still in the shadows of the cliffs. Ordinarily I could just put on a few extra layers and peel them off as the day warmed. But this hike required wading across the river several times. So shorts. And if my legs were going to be cold, then the rest of me might as well be. Or not. I couldn’t decide.

So I made breakfast and waited. By the time I’d done the dishes it seemed a little warmer, or I was a little bolder. I stepped outside in shorts and tee. Mmmmm, bearable. Let’s go.

The first river crossing is just beyond the trailhead. I guess it’s good to find out first thing whether the water is too cold. You can scamper—or Frankenstein walk—right back to your vehicle and rethink your life decisions.

The water was, um, brisk. Once your feet go numb you can’t really tell how cold the river is. And it made me feel tough. Onward.

The goal of this hike is the Escalante Natural Bridge. It’s an easy, pleasant, mostly flat, walk through cottonwoods and sage. The river crossings became fun, like a kid playing in puddles. I looked forward to each one.

I didn’t see any other hikers on the way out but passed several on the way back. Early bird… worm… et cetera.

Next on the agenda was a hike to Calf Creek Falls. That trailhead is at a campground. But the place was packed. Nowhere to park. I was not the early bird there. Oh well, some other time.

I continued on to Boulder and the beginning of the Burr Trail—a highway that takes you through the middle of Capitol Reef to the Water Pocket Fold. It’s like driving through Zion National Park with no one else there. The red rock cliffs are stunning, and the switchbacks at the eastern terminus are either breathtaking or nerve shattering, depending on your point of view.

Can you see the road snaking down? 

Heading south on Notom-Bullfrog Road I pulled into the trailhead for Upper Muley Twist. The sign said 4x4s only. I got out to walk ahead and see what the story was. 

There was a short sandy slope into the canyon that would probably be a problem for the Rolling Steel Tent to get back up. I walked about a quarter mile farther and didn’t see what the big deal was—either roadwise or scenerywise. I’ve become jaded. “There’s only great scenery, not amazing scenery? Waste of time.” Besides, I had two more nearby canyons on my list.

The first of those was Surprise Canyon. Did it get that name because someone was surprised there was a canyon there? Was there something surprising in it? Was an old pioneer or prospector taken by surprise by bad guys?

As for me, I was surprised at how much my strength and stamina have improved since my first post-cancer hike. My attitude has improved, too. I use to be a don’t-walk-if-I-don’t-have-to kind of guy. But now? Another canyon today? Sure.

This looks like a nice place to chill before heading back

However walking in the sandy wash on the way back pretty much did me in. So I passed on Headquarters Canyon just a mile or so down the road.

I continued on southward toward Bullfrog, down on Lake Powell. I saw a promising turnoff and discovered a large gravel lot near the rim of a mesa with a camping spot in the corner. And—surprise, surprise—a cell signal. Weak but useable. A good place to end the day. 


  1. Memories of years ago are swarming in my head. Thanks.

  2. Me too Barney. Ain't nature neat !?!