26 - 29 May 1999
Pat: Have you a map of the area (perhaps some sort of tourist thingy) I can scan and put in here?
My daughter Heather and I headed down the Hole-in-the-Rock road near Escalante, Utah on Wednesday 26th May 1999 to hike Coyote Gulch.
Heather at the Hurricane Wash carpark
The incredible visual beauty of this canyon with it's deeply incised amphitheatres, huge multicoloured vertical canyon walls,
Coyote Creek Canyon
alcoves and arches,
Jug Handle Arch
and natural bridges,
contrasts dramatically with the lush green cottonwood and maidenhead ferns which fill the canyon floor
And everywhere there is water - dripping from natural seeps along the Canyon walls, falling over waterfalls,
Small Water Fall
cutting rivulets or fins in the rock,
Rivulets of water cutting fins in the rock
or lazily drifting along the canyon floor.
Near Natural Bridges
The abundance of water in this dry environment is stunning, making this one of the premier hikes in the Escalante region.
Tall walls of Coyote Gulch
I had hoped that we could enter Coyote Gulch through the Crack in the Rock route,
Crack in the Rock Route
and come out the moqui steps near Jacob Hamblin Arch, but I chickened out once we arrived at Hurricane Wash. I worried that my car would get stuck in the sand if I tried to drive up the four-wheel drive road at Forty Mile. We left the car at the Hurricane Wash parking lot, walked in down a sandy trail for about 6 miles into Coyote Gulch and stopped at Jacob Hamblin Arch.
Sandy Wash Route
There were a number of campers near the Arch and a whole tent city in the ricon before the arch. Some school kids I guess. Heather and I arrived at the beach near Jacob Hamblin Arch at about 1:00 in the afternoon and we sat around in the shade vegging out. Heather climbed up into the arch and walked around back into a hidden alcove high up in the arch - finding a place where hikers carved their name and the date they were in the canyon. She said that many hikers had put their names and then listed year after year, each time they came into the canyon. She wanted to be able to do that so she carved her name into the sandstone, along with the date - forever immortalized as a "hikerglyph".
Hikerglyph carved in sandy bench along creek
When she climbed down I asked her to speak with some fellows at the beautiful site where Larry Calloway and I had watched a full moon rise through the arch one magical night years ago. I wondered they would allow us to camp in the area. They told her that they would be leaving the canyon later that afternoon and offered the whole site to us. At about 4:00 they packed up, along with a couple of other guys who were sitting in camp chairs near them and left to hike out the moqui steps (carved indentations in the rock) located nearby. We followed the two groups to watch them climb out. On the way up, they met with 2 girls and their 2 dogs who also intended to climb out. Heather and I walked around on the slickrock to see if we could get enough grip to climb out. She wanted to try it, so I made her put on my runners (she was still wearing her sandals which she hiked in every day since we got out of Buckskin!!!). She was able climb out, unencumbered by her backpack, and she waited above and I waited below to watch the three good climbers and 4 scared hikers ladened with their backpacks attempt the climb. One young fellow with a huge pack, who appeared to be about 28, turned to me and said that he didn't mind telling me that he was scared shitless. The dogs had no problems once they were encouraged to go up. One of the climbers helped the backpackers up the steep slickrock. Heather said the backpackers were so afraid of falling that their arms and legs were shaking as they passed her. When they all finally made it up, Heather and I clapped and she scuttled back down in a crablike fashion. It took about 2 hours for the hikers to sort their way up.
Moqui steps - (taken in Buckskin Gulch)
It was just beginning to get dark as Heather and I returned to the lovely campsite only to find that someone else's gear was there (tucked away). We sat down for a minute to sort out whether to wait for the hiker to return to ask if we could stay or move on. Around the corner walked Jim - a hiker from Seattle whom we had met a week earlier in southern Utah at the confluence of the Buckskin and Paria on our previous hike. He'd walked down Coyote Gulch to the Escalante River that day. He said he dreaded returning to his campsite as he expected to find a mob of people had moved in. When he saw only Heather and I - he was surprised and delighted, as were we, because he offered to let us camp there with him.
Campsite at Jacob Hamblin Arch
The next day Jim elected to spend the day hiking to Fool's Canyon, located north of Coyote Gulch, and Heather and I headed down the canyon to the Escalante River. On our way back we met up with a couple of older fellows, in the American Airforce, who were showering under one of the waterfalls.
Small Waterfalls along the hike
They told us that they were camped just around the bend from the Jacob Hamblin Arch - they seem to know we were camped there. We returned to the campsite at about 4:00 in the afternoon of our second day and just sat down when Jim arrived. He'd found the route out of Coyote Gulch and started across the slickrock to Fool's Canyon. He'd gotten about half way across King Mesa but found that it was very difficult to route find on the slickrock as the topography was very rough and undulating. After 4 hours of hiking, he turned around and arrived back at camp the same time we did.
At around 5:00 Heather decided to make dinner and she went across the creek to the spring to get water. The spring was a lovely seep along the canyon wall covered with maidenhead ferns. Water dripped continuously from the undercut canyon wall into a small stream on the canyon floor.
Spring near Jacob Hamblin Arch
At one spot, the water poured out of the cliff wall in sufficient quantity to quickly fill a water container. A young fellow Heather's age was playing around with a stick in the water beside the spring. She waited for a while for him to move out of her way, but he just kept fooling around in the water, so she butted in to the pouroff to fill up the cooking pot.
Water collecting below spring
As the pot filled with water, Heather looked to see what the fellow was mucking about with. She yelled out to us "dead scorpion!!!!". The kid had found the dead scorpion floating in the water. I just kept sitting in my chair reading my book - I'd had my fill of scorpions after I'd been stung in the Grand Canyon. But Jim jumped up and went over like a shot. Next thing I knew - Jim was carrying back to the camp the scorpion in a plastic bag. Heather was tremendously excited and was walking along with Jim examining the critter. I was concerned because the bag wasn't zipped closed - but Jim decided to dry out the beast and take it out as a souvenir.
I got up to look at the scorpion. It was huge - a good 4 inches long with a black body and black stinger. The rest of the body was sand coloured and the legs and pincers were gibbled under it's body. It looked really water soaked - and lay there like a limp dishrag. Jim gently laying out the dead scorpion, spreading out his legs and pincers so that it would dry in the typical scorpion stance. He placed the scorpion on a rock near his chair and stove to dry out.
Heather began to cook dinner and our damn stove seized up so she went over to where Jim set up his stove to cook our dinner using his stove. I began working on fixing our stove...and took it all apart to try to find the blockage. The airforce guys came along to fill up their water bottle at the spring and Jim invited them over to look at the scorpion. Both fellows were suitably impressed.
After dinner Heather started to do the dishes and I went to the spring to get water for coffee. I heard Jim say to Heather, "If you wanted it, all you had to do was ask". Heather was joking around with him claiming, "Oh, ya - it better not show up in my sleeping bag. My mom is a great one for that - she once put a rubber snake in my sleeping bag when I was attending brownie camp". And Jim was saying "Sure - nice try - I know what you are up to and it better not show up in my dinner". Much kibitzing was going on. When I returned, they told me that the scorpion disappeared. Much laughter and joking all around...but they both started searching around the rocks and in the sand. Jim even turned over the rocks near the cooking gear looking for the beast. I suggested that it came to life and scurried off. Jim and Heather scoffed claiming that it was deader than a doornail. Heather began referring to it as "Scorpio Nosferatu". I suggested that perhaps it blew away in the wind, or a bird or lizard picked it up for a meal. We discussed the possibility that the airforce guys picked it up and threw it in the bush and were hiding around the corner laughing at us. In fact it was so large that we joked about it being a rubber scorpion and the guy who "found" it had tied a string to it and pulled the string to make it "disappear".
One of the airforce guys returned to refill up his water bottle and we asked him if he took the scorpion. He said "no". I asked him if he knew what kind of scorpion it was. He said "I don't know - but I heard that the blacker they were - the more deadly they were". Heather said, "Wrong question!". This sucker had a body which was as black as Hades.
It got dark and in spite of a concerned search by all of us, we found no scorpion. So Heather crawled into the tent and zipped it up. I tried to sleep outside but chickened out and crawled into the tent with Heather after an hour. Jim said he heard me crawl in with Heather and he was chuckling away at us.
We awoke up the next morning without incident and climbed out via the moqui steps. It was as easy as could be. All you had to do was trust your runners walking up the incredible incline. Keep your bum high and the soles of your runners flat on the rock and trust that the grip on your shoes would hold you.
We walked up that slope like we were glued to it in 20 minutes. Jim's car was parked about 2 miles from the moqui steps and we walked over delightful slickrock.
Heather & Jim on slickrock
Jim fished out his keys for his car and we celebrated the hike by drinking a cold beer he had stored in his cooler.
At Jim's car
Jim drove us back to our car and we agreed to meet Jim in Escalante at the Outfitters to share a beer and pizza - at Heather's expense. It took over 2 hours for Heather and I to slowly drive the 40 miles of washboard Hole-in-the-Rock Road back to the town of Escalante.
Heather and I arrived first at the Escalante Outfitters and Pizza Place and we ordered the pizza. Several bikers were in the restaurant drinking lattes and teasing a woman ranger in a friendly fashion. Heather wanted to ask the ranger about the scorpion but the ranger had her hands full with the bikers. She left the pizza parlour and we saw Jim arriving outside and talking with the ranger at the front door. Heather ran out and yelled to Jim to ask her about the scorpion. A few local cowboys with handlebar mustaches overheard Heather yelling out to Jim and they sauntered over to hear the story. Jim started to tell the ranger about the scorpion and the local fellows began to laugh after they heard about the scorpion being pulled out of the water. When they heard that Jim gently put the scorpion on a rock to dry - one cowboy slapped his leg and yelled "I bet that scorpion plum disappeared". Heather was awestruck by this cowboy. How did he know? The ranger laughed. She said the scorpion wasn't dead. Scorpions goes into shock in cold water and goes limp. Once the scorpion warm up - it comes to life and scuttles off. The mystery was solved. That scorpion surely was "Scorpio Nosferatu" - the undead who rose again.
Heather will return to the Escalante
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