Escalante Adventure 2006 – Day 5

Synopsis: Hike to Bowington Arch and some ancient rock art. Thursday, June 1.

When I wandered into the kitchen area after waking up, there was a tremendous racket coming from the top of the cliff overlooking camp. It turned out to be a female turkey, which was wandering around and calling on top of the cliff. Apparently the noise had been going on for some hours, and when the early risers got up there was a turkey chick hiding forlornly in camp under where the big turkey was making such a fuss.

Melissa and Petey had wrapped the baby turkey in a towel and carried it to the top of the cliff, secreting it in a cleft near the big turkey. The chick was terrified and completely silent.


The turkey chick which had fallen into camp.

Photo by Bill Priedhorsky.
medium (175k), full size (597k)


Mama turkey.

Photo by Bill Priedhorsky.
medium (167k), large (428k), full size (680k)

It seems turkeys aren’t too bright. The noise continued all through breakfast, and as we were getting ready to leave, an expedition went to the top of the cliff to re-rescue the turkey chick. They moved it somewhat closer to the mother. The noise still didn’t stop, but at some point the mama turkey became silent. A third rescue mission discovered the chick missing and mama gone — so we hope that the two were reunited and not an opportune snack for some hungry critter.


Typical pre-dayhike scene in camp.

medium (148k), large (378k), full size (1443k)

Eventually, we were underway. We headed upstream in the direction of Bowington Canyon and its Bowington Arch.


Gawking at petroglyphs not too far from camp.

medium (218k), large (626k), full size (2385k)

We took a short break for some foot first aid but made it to the mouth of Bowington Canyon in a couple of hours. Bowington is mostly a dry canyon, and it was beginning to be quite hot. A little ways up, we met a solo hiker.


Entering Bowington Canyon.

medium (213k), large (574k), full size (2107k)


Petroglyphs near the mouth of Bowington Canyon.

medium (209k), large (564k), full size (2081k)


Pictographs under an overhang in Bowington Canyon. There are at least 40 figures in the procession.

medium (118k), large (308k), full size (1203k)


Close-up of one of the figures.

medium (76k), large (208k), full size (1492k)


Stopping for a lunch break. There are several folks hanging out under the shade in the center of the photo; several more are a couple of hundred yards upcanyon under an overhang. I had scampered up the side to check out an alcove for ruins — nothing visible from below, and it looked like quite a climb up.

medium (250k), large (708k), full size (2655k)

The canyon twisted and turned, and eventually we reached a large, slimy pool.


Climbing the cliff above the pool.

medium (230k), large (630k), full size (2309k)

Above the pool was a clear trail heading into the leftmost fork of the canyon. The region was dominated by a large monument dividing two of the three forks. After not too long, we rounded a bend and Bowington Arch was visible at the head of a box canyon.


First view of Bowington Arch.

medium (203k), large (558k), full size (2085k)


Bowington Arch.

medium (150k), large (395k), full size (1483k)


Jan and Elizabeth hanging out below the arch. We were able to scramble up a slickrock slope into the roofless “alcove” formed by the arch.

Photo by Bill Priedhorsky.
medium (115k), large (303k), full size (1395k)

With protection, it would be a straightforward climb to reach the rim by climbing through the arch.

After hanging out under the arch for a while, most folks were ready to head back to camp. I was able to talk Kim into going further — I wanted to reach some pictographs which were marked on the map. They weren’t too far, about a half mile as the crow flies from the arch.

We descended on the trail to the bottom of the canyon, then split off and headed up a talus slope towards the top of the first layer of cliffs. Climbing up a pile of boulders got us up, but there was no way to get further. We began to traverse upcanyon on a mixed talus and dirt slope. The objective danger was minimal, but the exposure was unsettling. Our “ledge” began to get narrower and I worried that it would soon peter out, but we came around some junipers and passed above a dryfall, meaning that the drop was now twenty or thirty feet instead of a hundred or more.

We encountered a trail and followed it around the head of another dryfall and around some sandstone lumps. We were on top.

It was hot, extremely hot. “Oppressive” is the cliche term, but that’s what it was. Heat like this feels like it is physically pressing on your body from all sides, and I could almost feel the moisture being sucked away. It was disconcerting. It made me contemplate how rapidly one could die of thirst — in an environment like this, with no shelter or water, it was clear a person couldn’t last from noon to sundown.

We pressed on. It was incredibly rugged terrain. What looked reasonably straightforward on the map was a maze of twisty hollows and bumps, and over the first hill we topped we were looking down into a gaping canyon, one of the other upper arms of Bowington.

We set a time limit — the way would be clear within 15 minutes or we would turn back. We thrashed up a crack full of dry bushes into another shimmering bowl. But the terrain eased somewhat, and looking back we were very relieved to see an easier way down into the side canyon that we had just been forced to head.

Finally, we tramped up a gentle slope to an alcove. It was big, but had only a touch of shade. In the shade were a handful of pictographs. They were nice, but not as nice as the ones we’d seen already that day.


One thing that did strike me was the handprints. There were none of these below. Images of animals and people are somewhat abstract to me. The handprints were somehow deeper — they gave a visceral sense of personhood. The people who remembered when this person was long dead were themselves long dead. But, it seemed like the person who made these prints was somehow reaching forward through the centuries and projecting a sense of humanity through the prints, that I could even touch if I just reached out my finger. (I didn’t.) What was his name? What was he like? Was it as hot on the day he made these prints as it was today?

medium (92k), large (265k), full size (1105k)

We poked around along the alcove some more, but didn’t find anything more. The short walk back to the descent route seemed long and very hot, but this time we knew the way, which made it seem a bit better.


On top a little below the pictograph alcove. We hoped there might be water in this grassy patch, but there was none on the surface.

medium (192k), large (528k), full size (1978k)

We picked our way back down into Bowington Canyon and moved quickly down it. It was much faster moving in a group of two young, fit people rather than ten or twelve of varying ages and speeds.

Eventually, we reached the river. We turned and went down the trail. As we were taking off shoes at the first crossing, my father, Melissa, and Petey came splashing down the river. They and the rest had headed for water as soon as they exited Bowington Canyon and had been wading down the river.


The main party wading down the Escalante River.

Photo by Bill Priedhorsky.
medium (193k), large (523k), full size (671k)


Petey, my dad, and Melissa stopped at this swimming hole.

Photo by Bill Priedhorsky.
medium (189k), large (521k), full size (668k)


Petey with his walking stick in the river.

Photo by Bill Priedhorsky.
medium (212k), large (576k), full size (697k)

They pointed us a short distance upstream to a swimming hole. Kim and I took a dip and then waded downstream for some distance. It was nice and cool, but slow going and we wanted to get to camp. It had been a long, hard day. We climbed out onto the bank and bushwhacked for a while before finding the trail, but we were able to make a few different choices and made very rapid progress, covering nearly the whole distance back before needing to cross. Camp was a very welcome sight.

Dinner was hamburger chili courtesy of Kathleen, very tasty. Good that I had my own tent, though.

Please continue reading on Day 6.

Copyright © 1999-2013 Reid Priedhorsky. Last modified: 2010-01-24 13:43 CST. Disclaimer.