Howl like a Coyote!
Coyote Gulch is one of those special places worth returning to. I’d been to the Escalante River years ago and into Coyote Gulch in April 2012, both times leaving me wanting to spend more time there. I just returned from 4 days in Coyote Gulch on a solo mission to do just that. My goal was to not repeat last year’s midnight death march and actually exit the canyon where I intended to. I also was hoping to capture some of the remarkable beauty in this little section of the bottom of the world.
There are a few entry/exit points for Coyote Gulch including Red Well and Hurricane Wash. These involve miles of canyon hiking to get into Coyote. After exiting Hurricane Wash in the dark last year, I’ve included Hurricane Wash on my list of places I don’t ever want to go back to. Red Well looked interesting from the confluence of Coyote Gulch and I explored the lower 1 mile section. It’s pretty there:) Crack in the Wall is another option and I think that entry point is the best. Stellar view, mostly downhill and puts you at the confluence of the Escalante River and Coyote Gulch. There are other entry/exit points and I chose the gnarly one getting out!
I found a nice camp site for my first 2 nights a midst piles of dead, dry wood. No fires are permitted in Coyote which is a good thing as all that would be gone. Plus, it’s nice to go to bed at 8pm:) I didn’t notice until the 2nd day as I was sitting sipping a margarita that I was camped below an old Anasazi ruin in an alcove high above me. It’s a cool feeling being camped below a place that people called home over 1000 years ago. It makes all our fancy outdoor equipment seem frivolous, but I’m sure they would’ve enjoyed a nice air mattress and down sleeping pad if they had one! The wind was crazy in the canyon during this time and all my gear and clothing were full of sand. Nice. My tarp held up like a champ in the wind but was a little low to be super comfortable.
After exploring and wandering the first 2 days, I packed up and headed upstream through a natural bridge and past Jacob Hamblin Arch. I located an amazing camp for the next night on a nice section of green grass below a HUGE alcove! If you’ve not been to Southern Utah you’ll have a tough time grasping the scale of some of these alcoves and rock features but I assure you, they’re HUGE! The wind had died down considerably and it was pretty warm all night. I’d adjusted the tarp so I had extra room this time, enough for 2 plus packs.
The alcove was a great place to observe the subtle changes in reflected and refracted light. The wall faced west and was blocked from the direct evening sun. Regardless, the light bouncing off the walls was the most amazing, soft pink light. Many other spots in the canyon were the same way with bouncing light of red, pink and orange hues. A photographer’s dream. The challenging part of photographing in Coyote Gulch is the overwhelming scenery and the extreme dynamic range of light. I’m not into HDR so the images of sky and rock together are limited or are black silhouettes.
During the night the sky clouded up and the temperature dropped. The morning brought a cold wind and grey skies. The decision was made immediately to hike out 1 day early due to the route out of the canyon only being feasible in dry conditions. The Jacob Hamblin Arch trail would be my exit point. It’s more of a scramble/route than a trail and not for those afraid of heights! My vertigo was tested in earnest a few times! It leaves directly from where there was a fancy outhouse and climbs to the rim in no time. That fancy outhouse has since burned to the ground. For those researching this as a possible entry/exit to Coyote Gulch, you’ll have to take into consideration I was solo and not with a large group. For me, exiting here and climbing was more feasible than down climbing and lowering a pack. I would recommend some previous experience on sandstone prior to this climb since you have to trust your shoe’s grip for much of this. I climbed with my pack without difficulty but again, take your group’s abilities into consideration before committing to this route. Once up the steep part, the view is stunning. You can get pretty close to the edge of a large alcove and are above the arch the entire time. The rest of the route is straight forward with amazing scenery until you hit the sand.
I had a great time in Coyote Gulch and will return again for sure. Spring is here and the temps are warm in the desert so I’m probably heading out again soon! Enjoy, EE.