Southwest Road Trip: Part III

April 7-18, 2010

PHOTOS AND STORY by Jason Hummel

Part III – Hurricane Wash to Coyote Gulch and the Escalante River and back, 4 days

Driving on, we make a stop at Zion National Park, but Kathy or I aren’t interested in crowded trails, so we head for the Grand Staircase – Escalante National Monument in southern Utah. Refreshed after a nights rest we arrive in the mid-afternoon at the visitor center where I flip open a book and come across a hike that goes from Hurricane Wash to the Escalante River and back. Perfect! After buying the book and map, we were off for the trailhead and 3.5 days of twisting canyons and waterways, just what we needed after a week of parched desert.

Even though it was late afternoon, we decided to begin our hike. Heavy loads carry us down past cattle fences and unappealing waterholes. Soon we are out of their reach for good, happily pinched between high rock walls - a hint of what is to come we hoped. This was proven true as we descended further into the canyons. The walls became higher and the water deeper. Wet feet were par for the course and after several failed attempts to cross, there were no further efforts at keeping them dry. By dark, soggy feet marched up a sandy bank to a pleasant camp beneath a giant cottonwood tree. That night what stars there were above us were swept by canyon walls in their slow-motion dance.

The next two days were full of much the same, not that my lack of words is by any means disenfranchising the beauty of the area. It isn’t. Between glorious red rock walls, dark shadows, bright highlights, and the ever-bubbling stream meandering over rocks and sand bars, I was enraptured. Both Kathy and I bounded down stream, then stopped, bounded again and stopped a hundred more times. For a walk in a desert, you can’t beat the shade and silence. Even if nature is occasionally loud, there is contrast in her unexpected whispers that seem well placed and appropriate even within the boxed confines of these canyons.

At the Escalante River at last, I forged on while Kathy enjoyed a perfect sand bar. Up ahead was Stevens Natural Arch. Through waist deep water and sandy boot-top mud, I made my way up to it. High overhead the looming structure of rock was amazing. Carved by wind and rain it appears so fragile, but with a pang of sadness, I realize it will likely outlast me. Before returning to Kathy and reversing our way back to camp, I sat and stared up at it knowing at long last only familiar was ahead of us now.

On the last day we put our noses to the grindstone and rushed back up river. We needed to reverse everything we had come down. What was an amazing hike in getting there was too much like work on the way back. We had put too much focus on the end goal and not enough on the moment at hand. The miles were set in our minds and each step forward brought us closer to that goal. Before we knew it, we’d passed the sign marking the boundary of the Grand Staircase-Escalante Canyons National Monument. Not too far beyond was the car.

With the heavy weight of our overnight gear off our shoulders, we stand around in the blowing sand. Sadly we knew it was time to go home. Looking out into the desert, high over the canyons, I could hardly tell they were there at all. It’s a wonder what you will find when you step out of the car, off the highway and out to where only trails wander. If the tantalizing scenes glimpsed on the miles home are any measure then there are many more adventures in store for me.

In Conclusion:

When I sit here now, I realize different paths are healthy. They inspire and revitalize ones self-worth. You couldn’t take away my last year of adventures, not even the financial woes and sacrifices. They are what add the meat to “ME” instead of the skin and bones I used to be. The lesson here, go get what you want. You only have now and it isn’t standing still, so don’t be afraid and dragged along by time. Grab hold of the reins and pull hard. It’s a wild ride. Where you go may be on roads less traveled, but that’s undoubtedly more interesting than being marooned in a life you are unhappy with. For once, there’s a ring of truth in the story of my life. And there’s something quite right about that.~

More photos: see Alpine State OF Mind. Or CONTACT ME if you are interested in prints or licensing. If you enjoyed your visit, tell us about it on the GUESTBOOK.