Escalante way back

paintbrush & sandstone
paintbrush & sandstone, Deer Creek

I am gradually digitizing my slides, and I just completed all my Escalante trips and uploaded to Flickr. Here they are, if you like old photos. The first two trips were taken with an Instamatic square frame camera, the next three with an Olympus OM-1, and then an Olympus Stylus. I’ve also included my three more recent trips, all digital. I took several trips during my no-photos time, as well, but of course have no record of those.

Escalante adventures

Many months later I am finally getting around to posting on my March trip to the Escalante area. Sometimes I have to choose between documenting my trips, and taking another trip, but in this case it relates to being very busy with work.

Joe & animals & portrait rock 2

As we have done three times now, Joe Herbst and I headed to the Escalante area for spring break, March 20-26. We had Sassy the horse, for Joe, and Ruby the mule for me, plus the dogs. We camped the same place above Harris Wash that we’d camped five years ago, an out-of-the-way place with good views in all directions. The beginning of the weeks saw really high winds, high enough to essentially prevent sleep, and wild skies with a bit of rain. Fortunately our camp site has stable clay and rock soil, so there wasn’t any blowing sand and dust that we’d have had if we down in the washes.

We did three day rides out from camp,one in the northern part of 25-Mile Wash including a hoodoo maze of Entrada(?) sandstone, and one in the badlands south of Harris Wash and east of our camp. If not for the date tags on photos, I’d probably not even remember that much. All good rides, with storms playing about overhead and on the horizon but we got wet only once. Joe has spent a lot of time riding this area, so he knows a lot of the destinations, but likes to put them together in different ways.

One day we rode down into the upper canyon of 25-Mile wash, with which Joe was mightily impressed, not having gone that far before. The canyon gradually drops below a rimrock and then deepens impressively. 25-Mile goes through several canyons, and the lower ones may or may not be rideable. I backpacked 25-Miles years ago (1993?), but I wasn’t looking with horse-eyes back then so I’m not sure, but hopefully we will get a chance to try it in some future year.

We moved our camp to 25-Mile Wash, where a branch of the Egypt road comes down to a corral, and did a short exploratory ride in the upper wash area.

Joe at Egypt.jpgThe final riding day we went out to Egypt. I’ve been here before, several times, but Joe never had. It is miles out through the badlands, in and out of washes, and through the piñon-juniper forest, to the edge of the world, where the plateau drops off into the Escalante Canyons. It may be the most spectacular view anywhere in the Escalante area. The origin of the Egypt appellation is fuzzy, I had always thought that it referred to the huge blocks of sandstone that tumble down below the rim, but checking place names later it seems to be a more general reference to the feel of the whole area. We spent a lot of time on the rim just looking, and speculating about the names and nature of the Henry Mountains to the northeast, and the bison herd, and wondering what areas of the canyons below and across from us could be ridden, and which only hiked, and which neither. The Henry’s had some new snow on them from the storms of the last few days. Coming back, we go spectacular views down into the side canyons of Harris Wash.

Given that I only ride with Joe once a year, and these multiple ride trips less often than that, I’m not in shape for all-day rides. Instead, we usually ride for 3-4 hours, though we did one 6 hour day. That leaves plenty of time for reading, eating, sky watching, napping, and most important, story telling. Joe and I have been doing things together since sixth or seventh grade, though with some long gaps when we lost touch, so we have a wealth of stories to tell. As an advantage to being older now, with gradually decreasing memory, we don’t remember which stories we have told and which not, so we tell them again. I think sometimes the details get fitted a bit to the current situation rather than the actual facts, but with no one there to contradict, the stories flow. Joe puts up a pretty good kitchen, so I eat way better on these trips than I ever do backpacking, or even than I did when I used to car camp.

Photos on Flickr:


Escalante horse trip

Joe Herbst beneath Wingate cliffs
Joe Herbst beneath Wingate cliffs

Still catching up with posts…

This spring break I joined my friend Joe in the Escalante area of southern Utah, riding horses and mules. Crossed the Escalante to the east side and camped off the Burr Trail on White Canyon Flat. From there we took a series of day rides, exploring the canyons that head west towards the river, and the draws that head east towards the Circle Cliffs.

We went down three different canyons, but they all narrowed up and became too rough to ride. They are beautiful and intricate, though, as they cut down through the White Rim sandstone.

Riding east towards the Circle Cliffs, we followed one draw up to a spectacular overlook of a canyon in the Waterpocket Fold, a tributary of Muley Twist Canyon. Another ride took us down a canyon that wound down into the edge of the fold, a variety of cliff aspects on every turn. It ended, for us, in a dry fall, though one could hike further down. Another day we rode up a draw to the base of the Circle Cliffs, 400 feet of red sandstone weathered into cracks and arches and spires. From there we rode along the top of the Shinarump formation that separates the flats from a “behind the ridge” area below the Circle Cliffs. We also explored other draws that go up through the Shinarump rim.

The weather that week was much colder than had been forecast, so we spent the nights with Joe’s titanium stove inside his teepee tent. A pretty slick setup! The days were nice, though, cool to warm, with a few light showers. A full moon eclipse occurred, and we stayed up to watch it, Joe lasting the whole time but me staying up for only the first part, and then hitting the sleeping bag.

Though this was spring break week, we saw very few people. Of course we saw no hikers because this is not known as the spectacular part of the Escalante canyons, though it compares well with the rest. But there were very few cars on the Burr Trail, which we expected would be chock full of people driving to Capitol Reef and beyond. Was it too cold for people? Did they all go somewhere else?

This is our second riding trip in the Escalante, the previous being spring break 2007. Far too long, both to spend quality time with Joe, and to be away for the Escalante. We may do it again in two years instead of seven. Though riding keeps us out of some of the most spectacular deep canyons, there are certainly many other areas to explore, years worth.

Photos on Flickr