This one had been on the list since I first visited Deer Creek years ago, and finally decided to give it a go. The original plan was to go to Deer Creek, then do two aggressive days to get to Showerbath, and then take it easy on the way out, with an extra night in the Kanab Creek Wilderness. But I hadn't communicated that intent clearly to a couple of the participants, and they were planning on 4 days. I communicated better with my other friends, who planned for up to five nights, so we just figured we could split up after Showerbath.
Camped at a nice campsite a mile from Sowats, dropped a couple cars in the morning, then headed to Indian Hollow, since most of us had already seen Bill Hall trail.
Friday - Indian Hollow to Deer Creek - ~12.5 miles
The first part of this was new to me. Nothing particularly noteworthy, although it was nice getting views of the area from a different angle. Cranberry Canyon really stuck out. Once on the esplanade, the walking was easy, and before we knew it, we were at the Bill Hall junction, where it becomes a superhighway. Got a little hot down in Surprise Valley. One member of our party was struggling a little bit by the descent into Deer Creek, which we had chalked up to lack of sleep, or the heat (they didn't get to Sowats until 3am due to a closure on 89 which required a significant detour). A group of 3 beat us to the campsite and took the nice big area, although they were cool enough and I set my tent up in one of the outlying parts of the big site. Talked to them a little about various canyon adventures we've done. This would be the only day when we would have any amount of "chill" time in the afternoon.
Saturday - Deer Creek to Kanab Creek - ~9.5 miles
Woke up at 5:30am because we knew we'd need all day for the hike to Kanab Creek. NPS insists this stretch is 11 miles, but my GPS had it right at 9.5, and we all know GPS tends to overestimate in canyons. In reality it's probably about 9.
We bypassed the narrows, although nobody in my group seemed to like my decision to do that. Why would we do something harder than necessary? I'm a bit of a wuss when it comes to narrow shelves with a heavy pack.
Once off the main trail, things started getting rough. The path away from the overlook is pretty rough, but not too bad until we got to the river and started picking our way through rocks. Then under a cliff band, and out where we could see the tapeats cliff we'd have to traverse over. At this point, our guy who was struggling yesterday started cramping up. Other friend suggested they turn around (which was the right decision, as we still had about 7 hours of hiking left), so it was down to three of us, and I'd now be doing this trip in four days.
The traverse across the top of the tapeats was by far the easiest stretch of the day, and it was over too soon. After Fishtail it got downright miserable, and I never thought I'd appreciate walking on sand so much. Fortunately it was also mostly shady after Fishtail, on account of the sun being below the opposite cliffs. "Peak BS" occurred about a mile and a half before Kanab, when I narrowly avoided falling into the river thanks to some impossibly strong grass. Would've gone above the cliff had I known what awaited us down there. After that gem of a stretch, the walking got a lot easier the rest of the way to Kanab, which took us a full nine hours from Deer Creek.
It started getting really gusty right before Kanab, so we wanted to find a more sheltered location than right at the confluence. Around the first bend, dropped packs to scout around, and we were getting a bit discouraged, when I found a nice bench at the 2nd bend with some grassy clearings that could easily accommodate our tents, with some mesquites that could maybe provide some meager protection. I declared this our best option, and it actually turned out to be a spot the strongest winds largely avoided. When we went to bed, I discovered my new sleeping pad is garbage, and managed to pop on nothing sharp at all.
Sunday - Lower Kanab to Showerbath Spring - ~10 miles
Gave ourselves an extra half hour until alarm time this morning, which was nice because the drizzle was just ending. We knew this would be another hard day, but we saw the creek in the morning and the prospects were worse. It was several inches higher, and silty. That meant the 100 or so creek crossings would be deeper and require us to check every step. Fun.
The nice thing is it was a heck of a lot more enjoyable than the nonsense along the Colorado.
Stopped at the Whispering Falls grotto for a break, and I took advantage of its clear water for filtering. Kanab had some stretches of easy hiking, and then a few stretches of utter nonsense that let us know that a serious injury could be just one bad step away. Getting to Scotty's Hollow seemed to take forever, and by the time we did, it was almost 4pm, so we didn't have a lot of time to explore it. Just went up to the falls for a quick look.
The rest of the way to Showerbath wasn't too bad compared to earlier in the day, and we got to camp with a good hour of sunlight left. Found the nice campsite a little ways upstream from Showerbath. It was considerably colder this evening than previous nights, but we were happy to have the hard stuff out of the way, and presumably easier walking the next day. Still, we were so tired that we didn't stay up super late, and the three of us couldn't even manage to kill the full 12oz of high proof bourbon I had left.
Monday - Sowats Point via Jumpup and Kwangunk Hollow - ~13 miles
We woke up early again (5:30am) since they had to drive home after, and of course the creek was nice and clear again now that we had the hard stuff out of the way. Barely had to get my feet wet the rest of the way, and the rest of Kanab Creek felt like a dream. Got to Jumpup before 9am.
Jumpup was really impressive, and one of my favorite parts of the trip. There were several flowing springs - not sure if they're all reliable, or if it was just because of the rain. Got to Indian Hollow, but didn't really explore it since we were on a schedule.
Kwangunk started out a little messy, and I was starting to dread it, but once at the bypass to the large pour-offs, things got more interesting. There was a really nice campsite between the two large pouroffs, and then a third (smaller) pouroff where we got to do our only real wall climb of the trip. Great handholds, so a novice climber like myself had no issues, although I'd probably consider lowering the pack if I were going the other direction. I actually really enjoyed Kwangunk Hollow overall, despite slightly less easy walking than Jumpup (but easier than lower Kanab).
Before we knew it, we were at the cottonwood thicket, and back on official trail. The climb out was a grind, but over quickly. Got to the cars at around 2:30pm, and I decided I may as well just drive home since I could get there at a reasonable hour (plus it was freezing up there at this point, and I had no sleeping pad). The muddy road back from Sowats Point provided a bonus adventure, fortunately nobody got stuck.
This was a ridiculously hard route, one that I'm glad I did, but won't do again. The Kanab Creek Wilderness definitely warrants some future exploration, however. The last leg of this trip was by far the most enjoyable (even though the mileage was highest and it had the most climbing).