Stevens Canyon 2009 – Day 1

Synopsis: Hike down The Crack and camp along the Escalante River. April 16, 2009.

We were up bright and early and were at the Prospector Restaurant not long after opening at 7:00am for breakfast. Following that, we repacked gear for a couple of hours.


Great big heap of gear on Ben and Katie’s bed.

Photo by Reid Priedhorsky.
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The Hole-In-The-Rock road was a long 40+ miles of dirt and the last couple of miles to the Fortymile Ridge trailhead was some pretty nasty sand. But, our 2WD rental SUVs got through OK.

There were some snow flurries on the way in, but they didn’t build into any significant weather.


Final preparations at the trailhead.

Photo by Charles Yeamans.
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Ben’s extremely stylish hat, with “3-inch” brim. Note that in the front it is held up with fishing line and Katie’s bobby pins.

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Obligatory “before” picture. Left to right: Reid Priedhorsky, Erin Tatge, Katie Panciera, Andy Exley, Ben Miller, Joel Creswell, Sibyl Siegfried, Charles Yeamans, Andy Wilson.

Photo by Reid Priedhorsky.
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We were on-trail at the crack of noon, with visions of lunch soon.


On the trail! Note Andy’s 1967-era external frame pack.

Photo by Katie Panciera.
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Andy Exley adds: I often get comments about this pack. It belongs to my father, who used it for many hiking and climbing trips before me. Many people I show it to are confused about how I could possibly have enough space, and how it could possibly be comfortable. While it does have a small pack, the point of an external frame pack is that you can attach things to the frame. This makes it able to carry much more than some might think. Also, I find that the pack is quite comfortable as long as it’s correctly adjusted. (Amusing details on this can be found on Day 1 of Spring Canyon Adventure 2007.)

From the picture, you can see that I’ve packed unbelievably light this trip – there’s not even anything strapped to the frame under the pack! In my expert opinion (where 2 trips counts me an expert): This is a secret of successful hiking: Don’t get a large pack. Then you can’t carry as much. When weight is your enemy, being forced to economize is a Good Thing.

Katie did not know this lesson beforehand and bought a ridiculously large pack [on Reid’s advice —Ed.]. I think she also packed extra clothes, extra food, extra equipment, books, pens, pencils, paper, a writing desk, a bookshelf, and maybe a recliner or two. Her pack was heavy. Unfortunately, although Reid has a scale that he usually uses to weigh packs, it was broken, so we didn’t weigh everyone’s pack before setting out, which would have alerted us to this problem.


Pretty soon the trail changed into a cairn-marked route over slickrock (Navajo Sandstone in this case).

Photo by Reid Priedhorsky.
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Overlook at The Crack. Stevens Arch, a giant bulbous freestanding pinnacle, and greenery along the Escalante River are visible. This is a classic view of the Glen Canyon Group – photo is taken from atop the cliffy Navajo Sandstone, the red layer with many small cliffs is the Kayenta Formation, and the cliffs down near the river are Wingate Formation.

Photo by Katie Panciera.
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Andy leaping around maniacally in search of lunch.

Photo by Reid Priedhorsky.
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Dr. Andy photographing.

Photo by Erin Tatge.
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Me (Reid) photographing.

Photo by Erin Tatge.
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We have located lunch. It was in our packs all along.

Photo by Charles Yeamans.
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We had lunch with fabulous views of the lower Escalante River.

The next step was to get our packs down through the The Crack, a narrow passage in three parts through the topmost Navajo Sandstone cliffs to the top of a huge sand dune, which we would follow to the bed of Coyote Gulch.


Andy leering over the edge.

Photo by Erin Tatge.
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We lowered packs by hand down to the ledge between the 1st and 2nd parts of The Crack...

Photo by Erin Tatge.
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... and then roped them down the remaining distance.

Photo by Reid Priedhorsky.
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Ben, Charles, and Katie retrieving packs at the bottom.

Photo by Reid Priedhorsky.
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The third narrow section of The Crack.

Photo by Katie Panciera.
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Traversing down the giant sand slide next to the giant pinnacle.

Photo by Katie Panciera.
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First skyline view of Stevens Arch.

Photo by Reid Priedhorsky.
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Once near the bottom of Coyote Gulch, we (I) got confused following the guidebook directions and there was a little bit of wandering around and backtracking before we found the correct way (the obvious way down led to a nasty traverse, as we discovered on the way out) down a tricky but non-exposed friction slope. I should have listened more to Andy Exley, since he was right twice when I was wrong.

The last few feet down to the streambed were the hardest.


The horrible, nasty place where we went down the final distance to the bottom of Coyote Gulch. If I had been thinking a little better, we would have looked upstream a couple of hundred yards to where there was a much easier way down.

Photo by Katie Panciera.
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Coyote Gulch.

Photo by Reid Priedhorsky.
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We followed Coyote Gulch downstream a few hundred yards to the confluence with the Escalante River and turned upstream towards Stevens Canyon.


Stevens Arch. There were some people flying kites in the arch, which was kind of cool (they are too small to see in the this photo).

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We rolled into camp about 5:00pm.


Stevens Arch.

Photo by Reid Priedhorsky.
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Hanging out in camp.

Photo by Reid Priedhorsky.
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We saw a lot of people this day, but fortunately this trend wouldn’t continue. It was also a day that was very hard on packs, from all the passing in The Crack and getting down to Coyote Gulch.

Dinner for the Your Mom food group was Scandinavian Macaroni and very tasty. Sasquatch’s food was Pasta with Pesto, Pine nuts, and Parmesan Cheese and very alliterative and also having an Oxford comma.

Please continue reading on Day 2.

Copyright © 1999-2013 Reid Priedhorsky. Last modified: 2009-11-01 16:40 CST. Disclaimer.