So for some reason I've decided to be long winded for this trip report... here we go.
We took off in the Big Black Truck from Phoenix at around 4:30 on Thursday afternoon. Our destination for the evening was Coral Pink Sands State Park, near Kanab, UT. We passed through Flagstaff on the way up, and couldn't resist the siren call of Oregano's Pizza. Mmmm... Oregano's. After eating our fill of thin-crust pizza, we continued our journey. We eventually wound our way along the road, dodging the occasional cow. Coral Pink Sands State Park turned out to be a pretty nice little place. It even had a couple of hot showers working, though several were closed for the winter. We met up with the rest of our group there, chatted around the campfire for a few minutes and then called it a night. There are definitely trees for hanging at CPSSP. Lows only got down to around 38. Yay!
The next morning, we got up early, made use of the showers and headed straight to Ruby's at Bryce Canyon for a substantial amount of breakfast. Priorities, ya know. Yum! Then we made our way through Escalante and down the 30+ mile section of Hole in the Rock Road to get to our TH. Hurricane Wash. At this point, the road conditions were fine and dandy (a bit of foreshadowing here). When we arrived at the TH, we noticed with some dismay that there were two small school buses in the parking area... boo. It seems that there was a school in CO somewhere that offers its high-schoolers a class in which they get to go on fun backpacking trips. I will have to have a conversation with my parents about why they neglected to live near a school like that so I could attend said class. Sigh. There was also a group of people waiting for their shuttle vehicle to arrive and we chatted with them about their float trip down the Escalante. Sounds like fun, so that is now in the "look in to doing this trip" file.
We said our goodbyes to the TH and headed along the trail to the register to fill out our permit. At this point, it started doing the on/off rainy weather that caused a lot of wardrobe changes throughout the hike. Paperwork completed, we made sandy tracks down the wash. The first part of the trail was quite flat and not much to get excited about, but soon we found ourselves moving through some narrow parts of the wash with taller, red rock walls. We passed a couple signs along the way. One telling us we could drive our vehicle no further down the trail, the next informing us that if we had a dog, it was not welcome in Coyote Gulch. We shrugged and continued on as we were sans vehicles or doggies.
We started seeing bits of (icky)water soon after. About a mile further and we had dropped down into the canyon and were following a small stream through steep canyon walls. The wind was blowing with not quite hurricane force through this area, and I'm pretty sure we all got a bit of free microderm abrasion.
We also started some water crossings, but at this point we could still leap across and keep our feet dry. A few water crossings later, we had to resign ourselves to wet feet for the remainder of the trip. Not a big deal with some neoprene socks even though the temps never got above 60.
Once we reached the confluence of Hurricane Wash and Coyote Gulch, the fantasticness of the place was non-stop. The light wasn't always cooperative for photos since the sun kept coming and going, but there were a few very magical moments of perfect light. We kept moving downstream with our cameras clicking away. The only stop was a quick snack/lunch until we reached Jacob Hamblin Arch. Here we found out that the high schoolers had taken our ideal camping spot. Bummer. But they didn't seem too obnoxious, so we chatted and then moved on. They had the same plan as us to day hike to the river the next day and then leave on Sunday. There really are a ton of good places to camp along the watercourse. We could have camped in many places on our hike in. Camp ended up being a bit further downstream, about 8 miles in and past the established toilets, in a more sheltered bend of the canyon. The wind was still doing its best to scour our faces with sand and it was still sprinkling off and on, so sheltered was good. I saw many places along the canyon where I could have rigged my hammock... and this spot was no exception. Lots of trees to choose from, I was even able to angle my tarp to block the remaining breeze. Good stuff. We settled in, made dinner, and enjoyed the rest of the evening as the breeze died down, the temps dropped, and our down came out to play. Temps dropped to around 35 that night, and we all got some high quality rest in our various shelters.
Woke up Saturday morning, whipped up a yummy breakfast and some instant Kona coffee, and headed downstream towards the confluence with the Escalante River. This was a great hike along and through the water, up and over obstacles, scrambling on slickrock, checking out waterfalls and natural arches, and generally enjoying the day. We got a lot of cloud cover which didn't make for very many awesome pics, but I'll just have to go back. Oh darn. I bet the fall would be lovely with all of the cottonwoods and willows turning. Hmmm. The hike wasn't too demanding. There was a bit of tricky footwork in some places, and a couple of places where we had to figure out how to climb up or get down slick rock walls, but overall it was an enjoyable stroll. It was about 6.5 miles each way to the river. The water in the Escalante wasn't clear, but it was an interesting greenish. Once we got to the Escalante, we walked a bit upstream to have our lunch within sight of Stevens Arch. After about a half hour, we decided to pack it up and head back to camp. About 30 minutes into the hike, it started to sprinkle and soon we all had to break out our raingear. I was very glad to have just invested in a Golite Kenai raincoat. It was awesome.
So, the group who had traveled in my car had been talking off and on all day about wanting to stop at Bryce Canyon on Sunday before heading home. This meant we needed to give ourselves enough time to do a little hiking there, too. We came up with two options. We could get up super, super early and hike out as fast as possible, or we could just keep hiking now and get a room in Escalante and go from there in the morning. Well, even though we knew it was a little on the crazy side, we decided to finish the hike out tonight. We figured that the roads were only going to get worse, and we probably wouldn't get out on time if we stayed in the canyon. So, after our 13ish mile dayhike, we packed up camp and strapped on our backpacks for the 8ish mile hike back to the TH. We started from camp at about 4:30, I think, and got to Hurricane Wash TH at close to 8. There was definitely some headlamp usage. We were definitely dragging pumpkin by the time we reached the truck. Also, we had started to struggle some with soggy trail conditions turning the clay portions of the trail into slip-n-slides, so we were getting worried about the road conditions. So, we threw our gear in the back, changed into something other than our disgusting, mud-covered clothes and hopped in the truck to tackle to 30+ miles of dirt road back to the highway. I volunteered NOT to drive.
Thank goodness for guys who have experience driving vehicles(not 4-wheel drive by the way) on extremely messy roads. Luckily, there were small berms on both edges of the road. It was like we were bumper-bowling with the truck as the ball. But...we made it to Escalante after about 2 hours of torture, found a hotel, cooked our trail meals in the room's microwave, ate them while watching SNL, and passed out. I think the one guy with a GPS said that we hiked 21.4 miles... the longest I have ever hiked in one day. Wow and Yay.
We ended up making it to the winter wonderland of Bryce with plenty of time to do the loop hike between Sunset and Sunrise points, and all was well with our world. As it usually is when hiking and backpacking