Coyote Gulch, near Escalante, Utah. A stunning 4 day backpack that Bill and I took in May, 2007.
We started at the Hurricane Wash trailhead, and hiked in about 5 miles to our first camp, near the confluence with Coyote Gulch. (Another option is to start from the Jacob Hamblin Arch trailhead, and cut off about 6 miles of the hike, but you’re forced to go down some pretty scary steps to get into the Gulch, and I wasn’t up for that. Bill would have done it in a heartbeat, of course.) This part of the hike was in the bottom of the dry wash, so no wet feet yet.
Once we reached the confluence the next day, we were walking in the water. I thought it would be annoying to have wet feet all day long, but it was actually quite pleasant. Of course, the other pleasant thing about hiking down a canyon is that it’s just that – down. Luxury. And actually, coming back “up” is not that hard; I think you only lose about 1,000 feet over the approximately 13 miles it takes to get to the Escalante River.
(This is probably a good time for a disclaimer: I’m not writing a hiking guide here, so please don’t use my blog that way! These are my memories, so I can’t vouch for the absolute accuracy of things like distances and elevations. But I do promise that I’ll at least be in the ballpark.)
Day two took us deeper into the Gulch, with red sandstone cliffs and many winding turns. We went under Jacob Hamblin Arch – very impressive – and continued on past Coyote Natural Bridge. Many lovely campsites along here, as well as great lunch spots. We even found a spot with quicksand that was entertaining to play in. We camped the second night just around the bend from Coyote Bridge. We’d seen maybe three other hiking parties that day, which was pretty amazing, since I thought this would be a popular time of year.
The third day we took a day hike from our camp down to the confluence with the Escalante, looking for pictographs along way. They’re there, I know, but somehow we missed them. Calls for a return trip. The weather was perfect: temps in the 70s, sunny skies, and a cooling breeze. Explored a number of pretty waterfalls on the way, and picnicked at a beautiful campspot about a 1/2 mile from the Escalante. I highly recommend it.
We returned to camp, and since we still had plenty of daylight, decided to move our camp up stream a bit, just to have a different camp experience. We found a delightful spot, and lazed around that evening, enjoying our Mexican beans and rice, and the little bourbon we had left.
A huge thunderclap jolted us from bed just before dawn the next morning, and minutes after that we heard the roar of water falling over the cliffs above us. We crawled out and were stunned by huge waterfalls pouring off of the cliffs around us. It wasn’t raining where we were, but there had clearly been thunderstorms upstream. We made coffee, had breakfast, and then watched, amazed, as a small wall of dirty, debris filled water came tearing down the gulch. A little flash flood, and a great example of why you don’t camp in the streambed in canyon country.
I was a bit concerned about hiking out that morning, so we waited around for a while to be sure that the flood was finished. After a couple of hours the water did subside a bit, so we headed out. But I was nervous – sure we were going to be washed to oblivion – until we hit the confluence with Hurricane Wash. It was a long and hot 8 miles back to the Subaru, punctuated (punctured?) by the flat tire that greeted us when we finally saw the car. Of course, having my trusty tire-changing partner with me, I merely needed to provide moral support, which I did very well.