By: Ellen Grau
Well, we just got back from a fabulous vacation. We left last Saturday for UT and arrived in Escalante, Saturday night. We found a camp spot outside of town and made our "hotel on wheels". This was the first time we really got to use our new Ford Ranger 4 door, and WOW what a truck for the kind of stuff we do.
We got up the next morning and had breakfast at one of the "farmer" hang outs. GREAT FOOD. Then we headed for the trailhead at Hole in the Rock Road where Escalante Canyon can be reached. We did the Coyote Gulch route. We hiked in and the desert faded into tall, 300 ft red rock canyon walls. FABULOUSLY pretty rock. The stream meandered through with boxelder and cotton wood and oak. We rounded the bend of one of the streams turns and before us stood a 300 ft high arch -Hamblin Arch. We decided to make that our camp. We broke out the tent and made supper. YUM. Hot soup and cheddar herb noodles. The sun went down and the crescent moon arch where we camped had the constellation move through it. It was awesome. The next day we day hiked the canyon below our camp spot (we had gone about 7 or 8 miles to Hamblin Arch). We meandered along the stream and soon found a natural bridge. It was just as pretty as the arch only this had water running under it. We moved on to a meadow. I noticed a trail up to the canyon wall - thinking it "odd" Neil and I went up it. We found 5 pictographs. They were painted brown, red and black. One of them looked like a medicine man with lots of feathers as a costume and headdress. The other looked like the devil complete with a beard and horns. The others were men with their arms straight out and their elbows facing up and lower arms facing downward. We proceeded on to a waterfall. It was very steep and Bob only had tennis shoes so Neil and I proceeded on while Ron and Bob stayed at the waterfall. We got as far as a boulder rock fall and decided to turn back. We didn't have far to go before we would reach Steven's Arch, but the way down looked kind of iffy. Ron had the route guide, so we were not sure if we had the right way. (going down a tree balanced against the rock wall - about 10 ft. - fine getting down -but how does a shrimp like me get back up?) So we went back. On our way through the Bridge we noticed Cliff dwellings up above the arch of the bridge. I had hiked up there, but thought there were pictographs, and not seeing any went back down. I kept looking, and that is when I saw the Cliff dwellings. The guys did not want to go up there, so we left them "alone". Which is maybe as it should be so we don't disturb anything.
The next day we hiked out. Wishing we could just stay there. We drove back into Escalante and stayed at a local motel.
The next day we drove towards Boulder. We stopped at Calf Creek Canyon and hiked it to the waterfall. Supposedly THE prettiest waterfall in the Colorado Plateau. And it was. We also saw Pictographs across the canyon and more Fremont Grain Storage bins and dwellings. These guys had to use ropes to get up where they stored the grain. They had it in an over hang about 100 ft from the TOP of the canyon! There were natural springs up there, so they didn't have to haul water.
We then headed up Buff Trail Road. What a kick in the butt 4 wheel drive this is! We headed across Devils Backbone - a CCC road made in the 30s and 40s that goes across the ridge. 1000 ft down both sides. A YIKES road.
We then went through some gorgeous country with red Navaho sandstone, Entrada, the Jurassic Red and the green made by the "slim sea". The colors were off the scale and so was the road. The next thing my husband knew we were driving down switchbacks made by the Uranium Boom explorers. It went straight down to the Capitol Reef National Park. About a 14 to 16% grade. We camped at Cedar Campground. I made supper for everyone - canned "HUNTS" Chinese. It is hard to find canned dinners.
The next morning we headed out for the Henry Mountains. This is THE largest buffalo herd mountain range local in the U.S. Unfortunately all we found was "buffalo poop" at 11,380! We hiked up the trail (I am leaving out the ride it - due to time and page length I won't describe - leave it to say - our whole trip was so spectacular with views and red / burgundy rocks - my head would explode!) Lots of people do this during July when you can see the buffalo at higher elevation. This peak must be like White and Charleston (the wind breakers were all over the place. IT MUST get windy and cold. One was 8 ft deep!) Lightning would also be a factor on this peak. Wouldn't want to be up there with my ski pole that's for sure! We did Mt Ellen high point and Mt Ellen peak. The whole ridge (consisting of about 8 ridges is Mt. Ellen - everyone gets confused as to what is the peak.) I must say for my namesake this peak is "VUNDERBAR!!!!" You can see the water pocket fold, the plateau from Zion all the way to the La Salles from up there! It is one canyon after the next - red, burgundy, gray, green, purple, brown, tan, white, it goes on and on. You can even see Navaho from up there. Bob Michael was blown away (he is a geologist). He had to stay and spend 10 more minutes on top than we did because he was so awe struck. The Henrys are a geologic "quirk", they are this little mountain range right in the middle of all these plateaus.
Well, once we turned around from the top of Mt Ellen it was the beginning of the end of our trip. BUMMER. We drove back to Escalante and stopped in Boulder for supper. The waitress gave us some killer canyon hikes that are a must - Peekaboo, Spooky and one where you rappel down a hole in the red rocks to a waterfall! You have to hike out in the water to a canyon - car shuttle is needed. It is an all day hike.
We took the 89 to the 9 which goes through Zion. We drove through the mile long tunnel. More gorgeous scenery. We stopped at the entrance near Virgin and Ron showed me North and South Guardian. (They are on my someday list)
If you guys ever want to consider canyon bagging instead of peak bagging - Ron and I highly recommend it. Like I said - the scenery was to die for. So is Mt Ellen and the Henrys - but take your 4 wheel. Ellen
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