Stevens Canyon 2009 – Day 2

Synopsis: Hike 16 meanders up Stevens Canyon. April 17, 2009.

The goal for this second day was to reach our planned base camp near the foot of the Baker Trail in upper Stevens Canyon.

We were on trail approximately 10:00am ish.


Packing up camp.

Photo by Charles Yeamans.
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Tenting area in overhang camp. I assume that these sandbars (which are quite a ways above the river) are from the major flood in fall 2006.

Photo by Charles Yeamans.
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We continued upstream along the sandy banks of the Escalante, with occasional crossings. The water was deep enough to require thoughtful crossing choices, but not deep enough to be worrisome.


Looking upstream from the first crossing of the Escalante River for the day.

Photo by Reid Priedhorsky.
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Sibyl on the second crossing.

Photo by Reid Priedhorsky.
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Hiking under a giant overhang.

Photo by Reid Priedhorsky.
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Pretty soon we reached our first objective, the mouth of Stevens Canyon, and left the Escalante.


The mouth of Stevens Canyon and the back side of Stevens Arch.

Photo by Reid Priedhorsky.
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Crossing the bay of Stevens Canyon.

Photo by Reid Priedhorsky.
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The first obstacle – climbing up and around a pool – required passing packs but wasn’t as hard as the guidebook (Steve Allen’s Canyoneering 3) promised.


Second obstacle in Stevens Canyon – climbing a rickety rock pile.

Photo by Erin Tatge.
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The third obstacle was a steep and slippery mud slope choked with poison ivy topped with a talus pile that required tricky route-finding to avoid the unstable parts and the exposed parts. It was kind of nasty and horrible.

Charles got to the top first, and lured us up with the promise of a jacuzzi and naked women. Some people requested that there also be naked men, which Charles indicated there were.


Starting up through the poison ivy.

Photo by Reid Priedhorsky.
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Andy climbing the talus slope above the poison ivy.

Photo by Reid Priedhorsky.
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Topping out on the poison ivy rockpile.

Photo by Erin Tatge.
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Once on top, we had lunch and then picked our way down the other side, which was also steep and tricky and had misleading trails.

Andy Exley adds: I found the talus slope to be much more annoying than the posion ivy slope. In fact, although we had constantly referred to it as “the posion ivy slope”, I didn’t really notice or even think about trying to avoid the poison ivy. Either I’m absurdly lucky, or I’m not allergic to poison ivy. The eventual path up the talus slope that I picked was crappy, there was a very exposed traverse that was pretty scary.

Others behind me found a better route avoiding the traverse, but Erin’s route was the most amusing, as it required her to crawl through what was essentially a fairly long tunnel, and she only barely fit with the pack on her back. She was basically doing a GI crawl at the end as the tunnel kept narrowing.

Katie adds: The whole trip was a challenge for me. (I was definitely not physically prepared.) The muddy slope was the first “I’m not sure I can do this” moment, though. I was at the bottom with Ben and Reid. Everyone else was at the top or on their way up. All I knew was that I had to scramble up a muddy slope about 15 feet. If I grabbed things on one side of the path, I’d be fine. If I grabbed things on the other side, I’d have poison ivy. Which would be fine if I knew my right from my left...

But getting started when I couldn’t get my boots to catch, knowing that as soon as I emerged from the mud, I’d just have to keep hiking, up, up, up more rock, only to come straight down the other side, that was one of the toughest things I’ve done. Luckily, Ben and Reid helped by providing motivation and, more concretely, advice on where to place my feet and how to scramble.


Hiking up Stevens Canyon.

Photo by Reid Priedhorsky.
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It was slow going up lower Stevens Canyon. There was a lot of bushwhacking, and at least one false start where I hopefully explored up the side a bit, thinking that there was a match for the next step on the route (there wasn’t). Also, we had 8 days of heavy supplies in our packs; Katie suffered particularly in this regard, and there were some stops to redistribute items.

Soon we reached a pool where there were two options: wade through a giant slope of poison ivy, or ascend the other side a bit and do an 8-foot tricky downclimb with pack passing. We chose the latter.

This was topped by a pretty epic several hundred yards of rock hopping and bushwhacking, but then the canyon opened into a remarkable U-shaped area with a sculpted slickrock canyon floor.

The water options required us to either camp here, or keep going for at least two more hours. Clearly, we would not reach the original Baker Trail objective.


Me leading a powwow – should we camp here, or continue for another couple of hours? We decided to stay.

Photo by Ben Miller.
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Camp kitchen under a giant cliff.

Photo by Reid Priedhorsky.
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Available tent pads were limited. There were three spots on top of these rocks and another one a hundred yards downstream.

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Stevens Canyon view downstream.

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It was another rough day on gear and bodies, but we saw no one after leaving the Escalante. Camp to camp was about 7 hours.

Dinner for Sasquatch was couscous with veggies and dehydrated soy sauce. The latter tasted great but was difficult to work with.

Please continue reading on Day 3.

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