Coyote Gulch-Long Version

Coyote Gulch. Escalante. Adventure. Coyote Gulch brought adventure that is for sure. Beginning with a full moon hike in through “Crack in the wall” to a full moon exit, there was plenty of adventure and good times.

I had 2.66 days off so Kyle and I packed up shop and after a few necessary stops in town, we raced towards Salina, UT. Salina you say? Yes, beautiful Salina, UT right off 1-70 and legendary Mom’s Cafe that closes at 9pm. The GPS said we’ll be there in 3 hours or at 8:55pm so that meant 8:40 realistically. 8:45pm we pulled in to find they were open until 10pm. Nice. A full meal was had, complete with dessert and a fresh pot of coffee to go. We still had a long night ahead of us, Escalante isn’t exactly the closest place to SLC.

We found a nice campsite after stopping at 9000 feet on the Boulder Mountain highway to soak in the view under the moon. It was a bit chilly and a bit windy so it was more like “Oh, that’s cool. Let’s go.” Morning was much less windy and a fire was restarted without effort. This led to an alpine start to our final cruise to Escalante.

We stopped on the Hole-in-the-Rock road after it was brought to light that Kyle had never been in a slot canyon. Perfect. There are 2 right off the road to check out for a quick day hike. Spooky and Peek-a-boo are a quick 1-2 hit and serve as a great intro to slot canyons! We did a quick loop through both the canyons, discovering routes through impossible obstacles and emerging from darkness to a still sunny afternoon sky.

Next stop, 40 mile trail head and Coyote Gulch not too distant. Packing up at 7pm led to a night start to our hike in. No worries, the full moon was super bright and it was warm. On top of that, I’d been that way before and was confident we could find “Crack-in-the-wall” even at night. Just in case, I filled 2.5 gallons of water so we could camp on the rim if need be. That water is still sitting on the rim, we found the crack no problem. It is pretty awesome to be at that spot, regardless of the hour. There are a billion photos out there of the view, it doesn’t suck. Time was ticking so we continued on through the crack via headlamps, lowering our packs down ahead of us. A quick slide down a steep sandy hill brought us to Coyote Gulch and a seemingly perfect campsite. Water, sand, rocks, 30 foot drop 12″ from our pillows…perfect. A midnight gourmet pasta dinner with some Old English 800 cans completed an awesome day!

Another alpine start and we were off to see the Escalante River. The sidehill traverse of sandstone above a 30 foot drop to flat looked much more possible in daylight. It was quite intimidating by headlamp! The Escalante River was full but not flooding. The greenish brown/blue color of the water contrasted beautifully with the new foliage, giant red walls and endless blue sky. It was peaceful but we had some hiking to do so we reversed direction and headed back to camp.

Coyote Gulch wastes no time throwing amazing landscapes in your face, at every turn, mile after mile. Waterfalls, constant water flow, canyon walls, old cottonwoods, campsite after campsite appear throughout the miles. Oh, there’s arches there too. And a natural bridge, which as it sounds, is an arch over water. Not bad. There are endless opportunities to photograph this canyon and simply enjoy the sights. It is a visual overload and a treat to the eyes all in one.

We planned to exit on the Jacob Hamblin Arch trail, expecting a cairned path leading out of the deep canyon. Didn’t see it. Instead, I later learned that it is a 45 degree rock slab that you are supposed to scale and it’s not recommended with full packs. No worries, we didn’t see it anyway! It was evening and cameras were put away and the map was pulled out. It was now dark and and we had to decide what our options were. Hike back 6 hours to our entry point, then up a steep sandy hill, through the “crack” and back to the truck. The math on that option equaled a LONG night. Option #2: Continue hiking to the end of Coyote Gulch and out the Hurricane Wash trail. That was 5 hours but it put us on Hole-in-the-rock road at least. Sign us up!

The 5 hours went by in a blur of hunger, exhaustion, pain, thirst and sleepiness. We hadn’t planned on staying out another night but our extra food carried over nicely. We feasted on coconut M&M’s for dinner, reserving 1 Clif bar and 1 granola bar for breakfast. Hurricane Wash trail doesn’t resemble a hurricane as much as a wash and overall I think that trail sucks. We both agreed that hiking that route was best done at night with only a moon and headlamp to guide the way. 2 or 3 a.m. brought us to the trail head where our ground cloth, sleeping pads and bags were laid out.

I woke once in the night to see the moon setting and another time to see the sunrise. Watching a beautiful sunrise from a pillow is amazing and I recommend you doing so sometime. There are easier ways to do it though. I got up, grabbed a Clif bar and Nalgene of water and began the 10 mile trek down the road to the truck. Immediately a car came by and with a lone thumb out, I was soon cruzin’ down the road with a family heading to the same trail. Soon I was back to the parking lot where Kyle had waited and a gourmet breakfast of Gatorade and chips and salsa was prepared.

The entire trip was awesome despite the long, long hike. I can’t wait to go back and spend time in Coyote Gulch and fully enjoy the scenery that passed too quickly on this adventure. It is one of the most spectacular places I’ve ever seen. EE

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