The First Evening
Never been to Escalante before, it is a bit off the beaten path. This was to be a short trip given my lack of planning and an unexpected invite from my sister, Barb, and brother-in-law, David.
After considering my options, I came up with a cheap flight to Las Vegas on Kayak.com. The plan was to fly into Las Vegas Sunday morning, pick up a Jeep, and head for Escalante by way of Zion. I made Escalante by early evening just in time for dinner and a couple of beers.
Day one took us 26 miles down Hole-in-the-Rock Road to the Dry Fork of Coyote Gulch. We wanted to hike through both the Peek-a-Boo and Spooky Slot Canyons. Our first slot turned out to be the Dry Fork but we had mistaken it for Spooky. Although it was pretty, it was not very Spooky, at least not until we were to discover our error with the aid of another hiker with a better map.
The climb into Peek-a-Boo was discouraging for those of us less confident with our climbing skills, but it turned out to be not all that difficult. Upon peeking into the entrance, it was one of those WOW moments. The light was spectacular and I managed to set up my tripod and take several exposures from within. The curves, arches, and color made for a surreal scene unlike I had ever before seen. It was quite a change from my usual Sierra forays.
Setting up to make the catch
Then we found Spooky. When an impressionable 8 or 9 years of age, I experienced my first spell of claustrophobia. My two older brothers had stuffed me into a clothes hamper and sat on it while I freaked out just short of evacuating my bowels. Prior to entering Spooky, I informed Barb and David I might get spooked. Spooky is very narrow. I had to take off my waist pack to fit through the tight spots some 20 or more feet below the ground’s surface. And I was doing fine until the people ahead of us got into a jam and we had to stop and wait for them to proceed. All of the sudden I had this uncomfortable feeling of panic! I’m not kidding, it was a most unpleasant sensation. With nowhere to go except backwards, a few more people began coming up on our rear as the bottleneck developed. My sister instructed me to breath through my nose taking slow and deep breaths and it did help, but the sensation of panic remained lurking within some irrational and primitive part of my brain. After saying I was going to turn around, I managed to muster enough courage to make it through. What can I say? Spooky had indeed lived up to its name. The joke was on me for carrying a tripod through Spooky.
That is me up ahead of my sister... she was clearly having more fun.
After returning to our vehicle, we had enough time to make the Lower Calf Creek Falls hike. The light was not so good, but with the aid of Photomatix and HDR photography, I managed to pull off a decent enough shot using a 14mm ultra-wide angle lens. By then, it was well past beer-thirty.
Lower Calf Creek Fall
Then nice thing about car camping is the food! David is quite the cook and we did enjoy our meals. Having absconded with some firewood from Calf Creek, we piled a few 1X2’s into the fire pit on this windless evening to enjoy our dinner in the comfort of warmth. After pouring what seemed to be a reasonable amount of white gas for priming, I reached down with a Bic and managed to singe most all of the hair from my left eyebrow and right hand, all of my eyelashes were curled and David was having a hoot over the left side of my scalp. Yep, I was lookin good.
The following day we headed for Neon Canyon, a considerably strenuous day hike. Egypt Trailhead turnoff is 16 miles down HITR Road. Another 9 miles of 4WD terrain brings one to the trailhead. Turns out after a few miles into the Egypt turnoff, we came to discover a shredded right front tire! Flat tires on rough roads are not all that obvious, but when the smell of burnt rubber entered the vehicle, any chance for salvaging this Dollar rent-a-car tire was long gone. Never fear, the spare tire worked fine with what amounted to only a 15 minute unscheduled stop.
The hike down to Neon is spectacular. After descending into Fence Canyon, we made five or six easy river crossings on the Escalante and entered the mouth of Neon. The Cottonwoods were brilliant green with their fresh Spring leaves and made for spectacular contrast to the deep red rock and desert varnish. The photos tell the story better than words.
Cathedral Dome at the end of Neon Canyon
It was a long day. A beer stop at the Escalante Outfitters was mandatory prior to another fireside dinner. I’m not all that crazy about Porter beer, but I could not resist a Utah Polygamy Porter! Only in Utah.
The next day had me rushing back to McCarran International to catch my flight home to San Diego. It was a short but sweet trip. We plan to return next year for five-nighter along Coyote Gulch… a foray we figure to be even more spectacular as is this unique country known as the Grand Staircase.