Queen of the Walkabout
Joined: 15 Jan 2004
| Posted: 7/27/2004, 5:27 pm
|Hole in the Rock Road outside of Escalante, Utah---
One year I spent a whole week off this road, mostly car camping and day hiking, some overnighters. Coyote Gulch, overnight, Forty Mile Ridge- day hike through Crack in the Wall to Stevens' Arch, then overland to Sunset arch, Willow Creek to Broken Bow Arch, from Egypt Bench to the Golden Cathedral, last but not least---Harris Wash.
Harris is one of my favorite hikes in Utah. It is a spectacular canyon; easy to hike, with tapestry walls, huge alcoves and undercuts. It is very densely vegetated in spots, so much so you feel you are in some forest no where near a desert canyon.
There is more water here than in Coyote Gulch, so you will definitely have wet feet. Most of the hiking is in water, if there are no hiker made or game trails through the forested benches you can forget getting through there.
I was a bit late to the trailhead so the sun was high and it was hot. This mid October days were warm and nights cool, with a bit of a change in the air. Initially from the car park hiking down the dusty bone dry wash was not appealing. Gradually water appears in scummy seeps, then larger trees. The walls of the canyon are still low, dominated by the trees. Soon though the walls rise, reddish and pockmarked with water holes.
The canyon starts to twist and get interesting. At a hiker gate, the canyon is positively lush with greenery. The contrast with the red walls and reflection from the water is wonderful. The water is deeper and has a little current; I decide to keep my boots on secondary to my weak ankles. I plan to camp in here two nights, get in as far as I can today--dayhike to the Escalante the next day and explore some at the river, then sleep at my camp and hike out the next day. In the deepening canyon its' much cooler, I am glad because I note this canyon has a prodigious supply of paper wasps with their attractive nests in many crevices in the canyon walls. I have no desire to attract their attention.
The walls of the canyon are decorated with seeps. Lots of alcoves, I drop my pack to climb up to the more accessible ones. No ruins but the usual traces, chert, small arrowheads, a few shards that have not been carried off.
At one alcove I have donned my pack and step off a ledge to get back to the stream which offers easier hiking. I am very surprised to be up to mid thigh with one leg and mid calf with the other in quicksand. Its my first experience and though I know I won't sink to oblivion my heart beat quickens. I crawl out on all fours to the stream. The weight of the pack is what sunk me.
I pass what I call the "Gates" of Harris Wash; closely spaced rock towers where the stream narrows between them; its like entering another world.
The watercourse is crowded with every growing green thing imaginable. Soon I come to the "perfect campsite"-- an alcove replete with a not too hard packed level sand floor, a couple of logs to sit on and some rocks to cook on. Not too shabby. The stream is not far away and I have a commanding view of a small serpentine section of the canyon.
Can you spot the tent??
Since this is just off the canyon right of way I put up my tent for privacy. I don't need it as the deeply cut alcove will keep all rain away. Some clouds show up with some wind; I hope it does not rain very much as Harris has a bad rep for flooding. It drains a large area and hikers have been stranded several days after rains.
Three other backpackers go by in the fading light. I have the primo spot. I sleep well in the tent, its enough to keep the gusty wind off.
The next morning, after coffee of course, I take my fanny pack to day hike to the Escalante---I am close because its only about 10 miles along Harris to the Escalante. The clouds are gone; its sun up. I meet up with the other hikers day hiking from their camp. We chat a bit, one of the fellows is Larry Carver, a professional photographer who has a shot of his on the cover of one of the Falcon guides for Utah. They had treed a bobcat on their hike in the day before. They all had dirty pants legs up to the thigh and I noted they too had stepped in quicksand. We all had a laugh about that one. (Later I shared a pizza with them at Escalante Outfitters before they left for Nevada and California).
We take leave of each other and I continue down canyon; I see a large distinctive butte ahead that demarks the confluence with the Escalante. The narrow intimate canyon is gone to the wide banks of the river. Silver Falls Creek comes in opposite about 10 minutes upriver. The banks are thick with willows and the Harris stream runs in a muddy bed to the Escalante. I climb up and around the base of the butte, I get something of a view. I then hike up and down the river a bit. I return to my camp, taking my time, taking photos and examining things of interest. I laze about my campsite, reading, have dinner and turn in listening to the frogs and other insect singers.
Its' another perfect day in red rock canyon country. These places hold my heart and, as always, I am so thankful to be here. I am out the next day and roll into Escalante to get a room at the old Moqui motel and clean up. Its been 7 days since I've seen a television or bed. Its something of a treat. Too soon I must return to my "other " home. I will return to my true home, when your blood turns to red sand you return often.