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:


West End Wash with Joe

Joe & balancing rock
Joe & balancing rock

Friday I had the pleasure of going out on a ride with my friend Joe Herbst to the West End Wash & Gale Hills area off the North Shore Road in Lake Mead National Recreation Area. We’ve been doing these rides about once a year for, hmm, probably at least ten years, usually around Christmas time but sometimes other times of the year. Joe is a friend from my childhood in Las Vegas, we met when we were about 12 years old and started hiking together.

We rode in and out of the washes, over ridges, along routes Joe has been before. Joe spends a lot of time out here, riding at least three days a week (an advantage to being retired). I used to spend quite a bit of time off the North Shore Road, but hadn’t been in this particular area in many, many years. Joe has three animals, Sassy and Ellie the horses, and Ruby the mule, plus two dogs. I used to ride Ellie all the time, but Ellie is in semi-retirement and mostly goes along for the trip now, so I’ve been riding Ruby. Ruby is a very sure-footed mule, easy to ride and safe, except…

Dan on Ruby
Dan on Ruby

Well, I got thrown off / fell off. Ruby stepped down over a ledge and stopped. STOPPED. I did not not, and went down hard on the hard rock of the canyon bottom. A few cuts and scrapes, and a pulled muscle in my rib cage, most of which was incurred in trying to stay on the mule, but without success. Ruby’s saddle was forward, which could have been the cause of the sudden stop, or could have just resulted from me trying to hang on as I was flying. No permanent injury. It’s a good reminder that it is my responsibility to check the cinch, and lazing along old roads doesn’t mean I get to relax when the country gets rougher.

As we ride along, we tell each other stories and remembrances, some from recent times and some from long ago hiking and backpacking with Howard Booth and others. We’ve probably told most of these stories many times before, but one of the advantages to only riding together once a year is that we’ve forgotten during the year which stories, and the details of the stories, so we get to tell them again.

Almost seven years ago we spent a week day-riding in the Escalante in southern Utah, and we are starting to talk about doing it again in April. Yahoo!

Photos on Flickr, some from me and some from Joe