Taken in Coyote Gulch, Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument on May 28th, 2011
Call me impulsive, but sometimes I plan trips based only on a single photo of a place. The first time I did this I visited L’ile de la Reunion in the middle of the Indian Ocean, all because of an amazing photo by Yann Arthus Bertrand. More recently I decided to backpack through Coyote Gulch, Utah, thanks to a spectacular shot by Michael Anderson. The Gulch did not disappoint: soaring walls, massive amphitheaters, gigantic rock arches, and even a waterfall or two. Truly a southwest paradise.
One of the more unique backpacking trips I’ve done, the hike into Coyote Gulch brings back many fond memories when I think about it. Since I most frequently backpack in the Sierra Nevada I’m used to carrying a big pack, heavily laden with cold-weather clothing and gear, and the ever-annoying bear-proof food canisters required throughout bear country. But for this trip, the temperatures were forecast to be in the 70’s and 80’s. Goodbye cold weather gear! And there aren’t many pesky bears roaming around the Escalante canyon lands, so goodbye bear canister! That left me with just a tent, some food, and some camera gear: maybe 25 pounds of weight for a 3-day, 27-mile hike.
And what a wonderful hike it was: though the trail started out roaming across a hot, dry mesa, it quickly dropped into a gravelly wash. As I walked father and father down the wash, the soil at my feet became wetter and wetter. After a few miles the trail had simply become a shallow stream running across the silty sand. And though I tried to avoid getting my feet wet at first eventually I gave up and kicked my shoes off, slinging them across the back of my pack. And for the next 23-odd miles I hiked barefoot in 3″ of 75-degree water up and down Coyote Gulch.