The Gulch 2010 – Day 1

Synopsis: Drive to trailhead and hike in. September 10, 2010.

The basic plan for the day was to wake up early, drive from Salt Lake to the trailhead, and hike in. We planned to camp in the same place as I had during my previous visit to the area.

We got to the breakfast (pretty good for a hotel continental breakfast) right before they turned the operation on.


This is Russ’ standard way of eating bagels, honest. Check with his wife if you don’t believe me.

Photo by Kelly Caine.
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Spring Hill Suites early in the morning. It was a pretty nice hotel: large, clean, inexpensive rooms with lots of hangout/gathering space and separate sink/toilet and showering rooms. Close to the airport and not too far from downtown. I’d stay there again.

Photo by Ben Miller.
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Discussing the route as we’re almost ready to roll. The smaller SUV was pretty much packed to the gills, while the minivan had more room. (Modern minivans are pretty nice in terms of seating; it used to be that to get rid of the rear seat, one had to remove it physically and store it somewhere. Now, they fold neatly into the floor and you can even do one or both halves.)

Photo by Pete Wiringa.
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I believe we were on the road about a half hour late, meaning 8:00am, which is not too bad.


The first part of the drive was through suburban Salt Lake City, but there were mountains and great scenery the whole way.

Photo by Pete Wiringa.
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The drive was pretty standard. We took I-15 south for a while before turning off towards Boulder by way of Salina and Torrey. Kurt drives enough faster than me that his party was able to visit some historical monuments on the side of the road and still wait around where we were stopping for gas.

The last part of the drive winds up and over the ponderosa and aspen slopes of Boulder Mountain. It’s a very pretty finish.

Ben adds: We found out that Kelly loves horses and basically wanted to jump out of the car and hug any large animal with four legs she could.


This is one of my favorite overlooks. One comes upon it at the beginning of the descent from Boulder Mountain and is treated to a view of nearly the entire Escalante River basin.

Photo by Ben Miller.
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Kurt adds: I actually really enjoyed the drive to the trailhead. I like driving just as much as hiking and it was a fun, beautiful drive. In particular, driving through the birch forests was a really exhilarating experience. I’d never seen any landscape quite like that.


We had lunch on this patio at the Burr Trail Grill in Boulder, which turns out to be surprisingly organic/local/hippie.

Photo by Kelly Caine.
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After lunch, we left the highway and started down the Burr Trail, a paved but ratty road that leads to numerous wonderful hiking destinations. The Gulch is the second major trailhead, at the bottom of a spectacular descent into the canyon with a hungry-looking abyss and no guardrails.

After minimal fooling around, we were on trail about 3pm, somewhat later than I had hoped. However, the hike in was not too long.


At the trailhead. Left to right: Russ, Reid, Erin, Kurt, Kelly, Ben (note ridiculous hat), Sara, Pete.

Photo by Kelly Caine.
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The Gulch main wash, dry. A lot of the hike downstream goes through leafy cottonwood shade like this.

Photo by Reid Priedhorsky.
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While there was a trickle of water near the trailhead, very soon the wash was dry. This made me rather nervous; while it would be silly to turn around now, I did not relish the possibility of extensive backtracking or extending the hike a rugged two miles over to Boulder Creek. I kept this concern to myself, though, since it was not yet time to worry anyone else.


The first major landmark going downstream is this metal cabin.

Photo by Reid Priedhorsky.
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Inside is surprisingly modern. Note full bottle of Coca-Cola.

Photo by Ben Miller.
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Stopping for snack among some rocks.

Photo by Pete Wiringa.
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Typical scenery in the middle Gulch.

Photo by Pete Wiringa.
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Fortunately, not far below the cabin there began to appear evidence of significant water around – lots of grass growing out of the sand and such. The first slimy waterhole we passed made me very happy.


Another key landmark is this narrow spot, where the canyon floor pinches between these two rocks. Most of the visible mud is quicksand, as Russ discovered.

Photo by Kelly Caine.
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Folks were pretty tired when we arrived at the side canyon containing the target campsite, “Sleepy Hollow”, and we slogged several hundred yards up this side canyon to the site. Unfortunately, the place had changed since I was there (there had been big floods in the fall of 2006) and was now a pretty crappy campsite.

We dropped packs and Erin, Kurt, and I went to scout out a campsite. After confirming that the target site was no good (it’s a very large one), we wandered back downstream, investigating the dirt neck separating Sleepy Hollow as well as a number of possibilities further downstream in The Gulch.


Russ and Kelly waiting while during the campsite scouting phase. Ben (the white speck in the background) is investigating a large crack.

Photo by Pete Wiringa.
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Finally, we settled on a workable but somewhat grubby site about five minutes downcanyon from Sleepy Hollow. After fetching packs, everyone and all their stuff was in camp about 7pm. Folks were pretty tired.

Kurt and Kelly elected to set up their tent on top of an anthill.

Please continue reading on Day 2.

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