CJR Escalante Adventure 2005 – Day 9

Synopsis: Hike from Camp IV down Death Hollow to Camp V in “Moonshadow Canyon”. Backpacking; May 25. View Day 9 route map.

The first obstacle on Day 9 was manhandling us and our packs through the rugged and soggy narrows.


Me making my way through a pool. Charles is waiting to lower another pack.

Photo by John Garbe
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Another lowering operation. Most of the pools required this kind of thing. This pool had a chockstone on the lower end, too, so we had to hand the packs out in addition to lowering them in.

Photo by John Garbe
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Charles and me floating our packs through one of the deeper pools. This is why we dragged along the life jackets. We realized later that we should have brought extra sleeping pads instead, which would have been dual use.

Photo by John Garbe
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Charles and his floating pack.

Photo by John Garbe.
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Me chest deep.

Photo by John Garbe.
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There is foreshadowing in the reason I took the next five photos. I hadn’t intended to take any photos in the narrows, instead carefully packing up my camera in ziplock bags. However, I heard a mysterious buzzing coming from my pack; I opened it up but my camera was perfectly dry. I was mystified, as I couldn’t recall any other electronics I was carrying. I concluded that it was escaping air. But, since I had the camera out, I took some pictures of John climbing into the swimmer.


John starting the swimmer pool. As I commented before, this pool was immediately very deep. So to start out, you had to place your pack in the water, which was two feet below where you’re standing, then carefully climb down into the water until you’re deep enough to swim, this while (for me at least, not John apparently) holding onto the pack to keep it from tipping over.

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Oh no!

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It’s getting away!

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Hurry, John!

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A successful conclusion for John.

Photo by Charles Yeamans.
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Photo by Charles Yeamans.
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It took us only an hour to get through the narrows. It was very nice to have been through them the day before and know what to expect.

We had a few casualties from the water. Charles had some medical supplies get wet, and his moleskin didn’t stick as well after that. I had three items soaked: a small bag of gorp (no big deal), my wallet (annoying), and my cell phone (yipes!). Obviously I was most worried about my phone -- it was delicate electronics, and it was dripping wet. I disconnected the battery and carefully dried it out over several days, then left it in the car at the end of Part A. At the very end of the trip I was very pleased to discover that, while the battery that was connected at the time was toast, the phone itself worked just fine! It is a little confused about when charging is finished, but that doesn’t seem to affect anything and otherwise it is A-OK. That was a big relief.

We bypassed the next fall and its gigantic black chockstone, handed our packs around a ledge above a large pool, and made our way down the canyon. The springs had started, and there was a small, clear stream trickling down. It remained necessary to wade, up to waist deep at times, but there were no major obstacles.

Shortly before lunch, it became overcast with occasional rather menacing thunder.


Mmmm, lunch.

Photo by Charles Yeamans.
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I greatly regret that we didn’t take any photos in this section of the canyon. (The frequent deep wading meant that each of us kept our cameras carefully packed away.) It was extraordinarily beautiful, perhaps the prettiest canyon I’ve been in. The stream was so clear that the bottom was as clear six feet down as it was at six inches; the banks were covered in dense, very green, almost jungle-like vegetation; and there were almost continuous springs, which left broad mats of glistening green, brown, or black algae, sometimes streaked with bright orange.

The threat of storms and occasional raindrops pushed us along, however, and what would have been a very nice hike at a more leisurely pace became a slog. We passed a side canyon emitting a faint rotten-egg odor from its sulfur spring. I clipped my sunglasses to my pack and promptly lost them.

Finally, we arrived at what the guidebook calls “Moonshadow Canyon”. The book promised excellent camping, but it took quite a bit of scrouging to find a nice spot which wasn’t exposed to sun and wind, and the site was a 20-minute round trip from water. We settled down for some much-needed relaxing.


A lizard which I caught hiding under my pack.

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Me on a hill a couple of hundred feet above Camp V. Charles in his yellow jacket is barely visible wandering around camp, which is under the leftmost ponderosa in the middleground forest.

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I cooked mashed potatoes for dinner, and the stars were even more vibrant and numerous than they were the previous evening.

Please continue reading on Day 10.

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