Stevens Canyon 2009 – Day 9

Synopsis: Hike out. April 24, 2009.

Last day! The first order of business was to drag our lazy asses out of bed and hike the remaining few bends down Stevens Canyon.


Ben is Very Enthusiastic about more hiking. Or something.

At this point his hat is held together with bobby pins, barrettes, and fishing line. If you can conceive of a dorkier hat, please contact me as soon as possible as I perceive a money-making opportunity.

Photo by Katie Panciera.
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Mud deposits above the 2nd Obstacle. I’m not sure where these came from – they’re quite high above the canyon floor and the Escalante, even considering the major floods in 2006. I wonder if they’re high-water deposits from the Lake Powell super-high-water in 1983 (when they had to put up 4x8 sheets of plywood to keep the water from overtopping the dam).

Photo by Reid Priedhorsky.
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Andy mocking Sibyl as she climbs a sand dune near the mouth of Stevens Canyon.

Photo by Reid Priedhorsky.
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We were out of Stevens Canyon quite fast.

The Escalante River turned out to be warmer and slightly higher than it was on the way in.


Prepping for the wading stage down to Coyote Gulch.

Photo by Reid Priedhorsky.
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This is the deepest and most difficult Escalante crossing; it was easier than on the way in despite the higher water.

Photo by Katie Panciera.
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Break time, just beyond our Day 1 camp.

Photo by Reid Priedhorsky.
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Some flowers.

Photo by Reid Priedhorsky.
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Charles torching some tumbleweeds.

Photo by Reid Priedhorsky.
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Looking back upstream, towards and beyond our Day 1 overhang camp.

Photo by Reid Priedhorsky.
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After our break, there was a choice. We wanted to avoid the terrible bushwhacking on the left bank that we’d done on the way in, but the direct route down the river was blocked by deep pools. We could (as it turned out) either suffer through a few yards of extraordinarily nasty bushwhacking on the right bank or take the low road winding back and forth down the river, which involved some really sticky and slippery mud.

I, Joel, Ben, and Sibyl chose the former, and everyone else chose the latter.

Katie adds: The sticky and slippery mud was not nearly as sticky and slippery as Reid is making it out to be. Plus it was nice and cool and comfortable and did not involve bushwhacking.


Sibyl marching along atop the sand bank.

Photo by Charles Yeamans.
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Downstream along the Escalante.

Photo by Charles Yeamans.
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The rest of the party coming down the riverbed.

Photo by Reid Priedhorsky.
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The ascent dune and The Crack.

Coyote Gulch is coming in just past the cliff on the right.

Photo by Reid Priedhorsky.
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Descending back to river level from atop the bank.

Photo by Reid Priedhorsky.
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Check out Sibyl’s style.

Photo by Reid Priedhorsky.
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Entering Coyote Gulch.

Photo by Reid Priedhorsky.
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Here’s our descent route, but we’re going to try to find something better on the way up.

Photo by Reid Priedhorsky.
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The ascent out of Coyote Gulch was a bit of a fail, because we spread out and didn’t communicate well (mostly my fault). It turned out that one could continue upstream past where we came through the Wingate and take a difficult scramble and/or a nasty traverse with 20 feet of exposure, or one could take a reasonably easy climb out of the riverbed and then ascend the friction slope we came down.

It was a mess, with Charles and I doing the former and then returning downstream to help Erin, Dr. Andy, Ben, and Katie with the latter, while Joel, Andy Exley, and Sibyl did the latter, kept going, and then wondered where we were.

But, it all turned out OK and I think I know how to avoid similar situations in the future.

We continued on towards lunch at The Crack.

Andy Exley adds: The story of the ascent fail. So I was in the lead, with Joel. We went past the place where we had descended because, frankly, it sucked. The descent was essentially, pass packs, then drop 4-5 feet into a couple inches of water. Not so bad, but really difficult to go back up. Several hundred yards upstream, we spotted a way to scramble up a sandy ledge on the correct side of the creek. I went up, then Joel and Sibyl followed. I think Joel helped Sibyl, as it was a bit of a climb, but not so bad.

There was a path that led back downstream, but also uphill a bit. We went to check to see if it connected back with the trail to where we descended, because if it did, we would be in business. We discovered that it did indeed connect. I went back to tell everyone that there was a route, and could only see Erin. I told her that the trail went up, and she replied that everyone else had gone up ahead. Well, I didn’t really want to wait, and I knew that we could go up, and we all knew where the final destination was, so Joel, Sibyl and I pressed on.

After a short walk, we were back at the friction slope. Joel and I looked at it and decided that after the past 8 days we could handle anything, and started up the slope, no hesitation. About half way up, we decided that maybe it would have been a good idea to change from our sandals into hiking boots. But then it was too late. Fortunately, there were no catastrophic grip failures, and we reached the top where we changed into our hiking boots. Sibyl sensibly changed into her boots at the bottom then climbed the slope.

At the top of the slope we waited a bit, but then decided that the others might come up a different trail. (There was a fork up the trail a ways that might have led to a descent further upstream.) So we went ahead, to essentially where the long sandy slog began. Upon getting there, we saw three hikers ahead of us heading up the slog, one of whom was wearing a pack that looked familiar to me. I started after them, to try and confirm, but was saved from embarassment when Joel convinced me that it was not anyone in our group. So we dropped our packs and waited for a while at the fork.

After around 20 minutes or so, Reid and Charles abruptly came into view on the upstream fork, about 300 feet away down the sandy trail. They dropped their packs, talked a bit, and disappeared again. We figured that they must have seen us, as we were in plain view, and figured that they would probably reappear soon. After another 10 minutes, with no sign of them, we went down to investigate.

Getting to where their packs were, we could see no sign of Reid and Charles. It was clear that going further down the trail would involve actual climbing, and I wasn’t too excited about that. Joel did the investigating, which didn’t turn up too much. They had disappeared.

We took their packs up the short sandy hill to where our packs were, and floated the idea of putting rocks into Reid’s pack. Looking at the sandy hill climb ahead of us, we decided that it would be too cruel. After some more waiting and investigation, contact was finally made with the rest of the group – they were going up the friction slope, the same way we had come, Reid and Charles included.

I was a little grumpy at the situation, but somehow I was able to turn my grumpiness into a motivating will to climb the rest of the hill, as I started off up the sandy slog and didn’t really stop until I got to the top, about an hour later. I had managed to pretty much catch up with the hikers who had been ahead of us, and I got to check out the rattlesnake before it hid in the rocks.


Katie and Charles at the bottom of the friction slope.

Photo by Ben Miller.
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Ascending the dune. This part was pretty hellacious.

Photo by Reid Priedhorsky.
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Another party (bleah) at The Crack.

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Ascending the dune. Oof.

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We had lunch and checked out some local wildlife at The Crack.

To ascend, we passed packs up between the second and third narrow parts and then jammed them through the rest of the way, holding them overhead when necessary. This was easier than roping them up, but still difficult and really hard on the packs.


A rattlesnake scoping us out near The Crack. Fortunately, it was not blocking progress.

Photo by Reid Priedhorsky.
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A strange bug. ID attempts so far: (a) mole cricket, (b) alien, (c) sand wasp.

Photo by Ben Miller.
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Almost done. The trailhead is right on top at the near horizon.

Photo by Reid Priedhorsky.
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The last mile or so was a nasty, sandy, uphill slog. I was glad to be done.


Success! Left-right: Reid, Erin, Dr. Andy, Katie, Joel, Sibyl, Ben, Andy, Charles.

Amusingly, there was another party at the trailhead and one of them offered to take this photo. I think they were a little miffed when I preferred to use my tripod. But, I’m sure I can do a better job setting up a photo than some random stranger, and besides I don’t want some random stranger touching my camera.

Photo by Reid Priedhorsky.
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We were out around 3ish and had an uneventful drive back to the Circle D in Escalante and beer and food at Cowboy Blues. I consider the trip a success.

The End.

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