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Lower Calf Creek Falls
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14 by photographer avatarAZWanderingBear
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Lower Calf Creek FallsSouthwest, UT
Southwest, UT
Hiking avatar Sep 27 2013
AZWanderingBear
Hiking6.00 Miles 100 AEG
Hiking6.00 Miles   2 Hrs   15 Mns   2.67 mph
100 ft AEG
 no routes
Linked none no linked trail guides
Partners none no partners
The day’s plan was to experience the scenic beauty along Utah Highway 12. We, the wife and I, set out from our cabin in Tropic fairly early. First stop was to enjoy the spires and vibrant desert hues of Kodachrome State Park.

Then it was on to Escalante. Most Southwestern adventurers know of the story and mystery of Everett Ruess. Escalante was his departure point before mysteriously vanishing at the age of twenty. Always appreciative of words woven tightly into a tapestry of understanding, Ruess came to my attention for his descriptions of wilderness exploration. While personally flawed and largely unprepared for the rigors of excursions into the unforgiving country of the Four Corners area, Ruess’s passion for wild beauty and his ability to capture the essence of that in phrase has survived and flourished. We are all heard much clearer after we die it seems, especially if the death is mysterious or tragic.

Escalante hosts an art fair each year called Everett Ruess Days. The good, and few, folks of the small town have never really embraced the Ruess saga, probably due to the various hypotheses that a couple of town folk might have been involved in his demise. There’s no monument or statue of the town’s most well-known resident, all be it a very brief residency. The only official recognition I saw, beyond the art festival, was the town’s ice cream parlor was named Nemo. Those steeped in Ruess minutia will appreciate the reference.

We dawdled a bit at the art fair and decided to grab lunch before heading to Calf Creek. I can heartily recommend the pizza at Escalante Outfitters. They also sell hiking and backpacking gear and often have clearance items out on the front porch. I’d sent up some smoke at my last campfire to Everett offering him a beer if he’d met me in Escalante. I ordered a pitcher and an extra glass, but Everett never showed. We emptied the pitcher anyway.

We headed east from Escalante and found the Calf Creek Campground and the trailhead to the Lower Calf Creek Falls quickly enough. God created a lot of beauty in the Calf Creek area, but the state of Utah charges you $2 to come see it. We filled out the envelope, deposited 2 bills, ambled past some of the campsites and found the trail head. Nicely done trail guides are available at the register and provide information for marked points on the trail.

The trail is well marked, easy to follow, and pretty much sand the whole way. The temperature cools as you work upstream towards the falls with the canyon walls growing higher and thus shading the area. We saw evidence of beavers cutting some aspen for winter food. Squirrels were ready to steal whatever morsels might happen to be available, in or out of your pack. Calf Creek trickled nicely and sometimes loudly alongside the trail.

I’m not sure if Everett ever visited Calf Creek. It seems a place that he would have enjoyed. There would have been fodder for his two burros, cool water, and the falls would certainly make an inviting campsite. Along the way are several Fremont granaries perched high on the cliffs. Three very large petroglyphs also date from the Fremonts, who lived in the area about the same time as the more well-known Anasazi. I was tempted to clamber up to one of the granaries to see if he had scrawled an ER or perhaps Nemo into the rock. But I kept to the trail instead.

We lingered around the falls for a bit, took some photos, chatted with a nice family from Minnesota or somewhere like that. Then it was time to head back to the trail head. The restrooms at the campsite provided an opportunity to freshen up. After all, we had dinner reservations in Boulder at the Hell’s Backbone Grill. We loved the name and loved the locally grown ingredients of the superb food even more. To have a 5-star restaurant in a town of less than 250 people takes some backbone for sure.

The sun had set before dessert and coffee, so the drive back to Tropic along the ever winding Highway 12 was pitch dark. The wife slumbered off and on in the passenger seat and I was lost in thoughts of the beauties seen on this trip. The headlights cut the darkness and bounced off the white sandstone cliffs along the road. But as I rounded one curve I could swear the headlights revealed a gangly young man with two burros in the mouth of a small side canyon. He smiled, raised an amber filled glass and then was gone in the darkness. I’m sure it was an illusion. Well, pretty sure any way.
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