Thursday, June 04, 2009

Backpacking in Coyote Gulch, Utah

Imagine getting to go on a backpack to a place you haven't visited for over 32 years. That was my good fortune during the week of May 25 when I led a group of eight friends to Coyote Gulch in the Escalante River country of southeast Utah. The trip was coordinated through the Museum of Northern Arizona's Venture Program. This organization provides quality educational backpacks and van excursions on the Colorado Plateau and it has been my privilege to be a leader for the program since 1982. This was an excellent trip with great travel companions who accompanied me to the Hall's Creek Narrows in May, 2008. Check out the pictures from this lush, southwestern oasis.

Our group starting the seven-mile hike to camp. The Straight Cliffs line the plateau in the background and once extended out over the Escalante country. When rocks peel off their face, the cliff edge recedes slightly and through time the line of cliffs retreats back to the west.

Roman Escamilla, a very strong yet gentle 18-year-old who accompanied his father Eluterio on the trip, examines disrupted strata in the Carmel Formation near the trailhead. Soft-sediment deformation caused this block of siltstone to rotate around in a mass if highly deformed layers. The disruption is most likely due to pressure from the weight of overlying strata.

Entering the narrow in Hurricane Wash, our chosen approach route.

About a mile upstream from Coyote Gulch a spring emerges from the bed of Hurricane Wash. Let the greenery begin!

Our first view of Jacob Hamblin Arch along the course of Coyote Gulch.

And a view from the opposite side of the arch. The creek makes a wide turn around the arch and one day soon (10,000 years?) the creek may remove the last 30 feet of material in the floor of the arch and it will be come a natural bridge through which the creek will flow.

From high above, this was a view of our base camp beneath a large, overhanging alcove. The energy of the stream when in flood continues to eat its way deep into the rock creating these alcoves. Although we camped on the inside bend of the creek, we were well covered by the 400-foot high ceiling that was overhung from the outside bend.

A wide-angle view towards the sky from inside our base camp alcove.

After a restful nights sleep within the womb of red earth, we took a hike the next day downstream to see more wonders. The "trail" wanders repeatedly in and out of the creek.

Coyote Natural Bridge where the stream flows beneath its own creation. A cut-off meander bend was found to the right side of this bridge where we enjoyed lunch.

There was only one place where the trail ascended out of the bed of the creek and that led to this narrow, high neck of land where we gazed in wonder at the huge bend that is entrenched into the Navajo Sandstone.

A beautiful waterfall descends over ledges in the Kayenta Formation. We wewre only about two miles from the Escalante River but the day was getting long and we still had to retrace our steps back to camp.

Beautiful patterns created by the stream in the sand.

Beginning our way out of this watery and rocky paradise.

One night while camped in our cozy alcove, we heard the unmistakable crash of a rockfall somewhere in the canyon. The next day we saw the evidence for it and although it was quite small compared to the size of the canyon, we gingerly scuttled away knowing that the canyon is constantly becoming larger.

I've always wondered what the surface of a 'desert tapestry' looked like and the rockfall allowed us a view of the rather thick mat of lichens and moss that make up these black streaks

A look at a beautiful bend containing the tell-tale signs of a spring - maidenhair ferns.

Our group in Coyote Gulch.


  1. Awesome trip. I see I have another place to add to my ever growing list. Kind of creepy to hear rock falling in the night.

  2. Eluterio4:11 PM

    A week has not gone by and I already want to go back.

  3. Another great post Mr. Ranney! I'm going to have to succomb to the call of some Utah arch hunting...soon! Thanks for the sharing.

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