Fall in the desert is an amazing time. Temperatures are mellow, the slots are usually dry, and beer just tastes better. Lucky for me I was able to carve out some time between classes and work to make an escape to Escalante. Any time I have more than one night for a trip, this is the place I am most likely to go. This trip had it all: rain, snow, warm days, cold nights, waterfalls, slot canyons…and many a delicious brew. This is a journey best told with photos, so here’s what me and my buddy, Todd, saw one fine October weekend in the desert.

Boulder Mountain pass Escalante Utah
Boulder Mountain was a mix of snow and gorgeous fall colors

Todd pointed his Jeep, Blood River, south on the highway and we cruised through rainy, sometimes full downpour, conditions. The sun peeked out as we drove near Capital Reef NP, but by the time we hit Boulder Mountain pass on Route 12, the rain had turned to snow! Took a few photos with the iPhone and the one above turned out to be pretty good. Love those fall colors mixed with snow and fog!

Escalante Route 12 drive
That’s more like it! The sun finally broke through the clouds after Boulder Mountain

Seeing all that snow was great, but it had me a little worried. I hoped that didn’t mean the weather was going to turn on us. By the time we had hit the Hogsback stretch of road, the sun had come out again, and my worries were gone. I’ve said it before: Route 12 may be the best damn stretch of road in Utah…everyone should drive it sometime. We pulled into Calf Creek Rec area under a light rain. It was decided that we should hike to the Lower Calf Creek falls despite the mixed weather.

Lower Calf Creek Falls hike escalante
Canyon confluence on the Lower Calf Creek Falls hike

Our decision was a wise one; shortly after our hike began, the rain let up and the clouds began to leave the sky. The trail is usually deep sand that’s tough to walk through, but thanks to the rain it was smooth sailing.

rock cairn lower calf creek falls trail
Rock cairn on the Lower Calf Creek Falls trail

Before long we arrived at Lower Calf Creek Falls. I had only been there once before; it was Todd’s first time. The rain had swollen usually tiny Calf Creek, and the falls were raging! They were far more powerful than during my last visit. The water was icy cold, even the spray from the falls was chilly. Such a gorgeous place, seems like one of those hikes you could do again and again and not get tired of.

lower calf creek falls escalante utah
Lower Calf Creek Falls is a Utah classic with good reason: a beautiful hike in pays off at this awesome sight
lower calf creek falls hikers
Todd dwarfing me, the falls dwarfing both of us. And the circle is complete
random girl escalante
This random young lady took our picture, then helped herself to a piece of my memory card. I figured I should blow up her spot by posting this

We enjoyed the falls and then headed back. By the time we got back to the truck, the rain had stopped and it was turning into a nice evening. Since it would be dark soon, we pointed Blood River down Hole-in-the-Rock road. About an hour later we pulled in to my go-to camping spot…couldn’t believe no one was there! We made camp, cooked up some dinner, and enjoyed some cold brews. It was chilly, but not too cold to enjoy the night. We didn’t stay up too late because the next day we had a full day of canyoneering planned out. Had to save some energy for the slots!

dry fork coyote gulch rock formation
We left the confines of Dry Fork Coyote Gulch and came across some very interesting scenery

Our plan for the day was to hike Peek-A-Boo, Spooky and Brimstone Gulch slot canyons. The temps were warm and the skies were sunny- a perfect day in the desert! We had to scramble out of Dry Fork on the way to Brimstone Gulch thanks to some slippery canyon conditions. After a long hike we arrived to tick off the first of the three.

desert flower escalante dry fork coyote gulch
Life in the desert is often harsh, sometimes beautiful
brimstone gulch slot canyon escalante
Crumbling sand near the entrance to Brimstone Gulch slot canyon

Brimstone was full of water. The pools were bone chillingly cold, especially because we were doing the canyon in bare feet. Neither of us had brought water shoes, so we just left our boots and socks at the entrance. We were forced to turn around when we encountered a waist-deep pool; seems like both of us though better of getting soaking wet. We headed back up Dry Wash to enjoy Spooky and Peek-A-Boo.

spooky gulch slot canyon hiker escalante
Todd getting after it in the ultra-tight walls of Spooky Gulch slot canyon
Spooky gulch slot canyon escalante hiker
I just can’t get enough slots! Spooky may have the longest section of tight narrows I’ve ever been in.

We weaved our way through Spooky, up and over the chockstones that have almost blocked the exit. Then it was over the hardpan of the desert to Peek-A-Boo. This one was wet, too, but we were able to make it all the way through with some creative hiking and jumping.

double natural bridge peek-a-book gulch slot canyon
Taking a look at the double natural bridge near the bottom of Peek-A-Boo Gulch slot canyon
hiker jumps in peek-a-boo gulch slot canyon
Todd taking the leap of faith in Peek-A-Boo Gulch slot canyon

We climbed down out of Peek-A-Boo and that was it. A full day exploring three of the sweetest little canyons on the Colorado Plateau. I love this shit! We hiked back up the sand/slickrock trail to the Jeep. Back in camp we toasted the day’s events and built a nice fire. Before long we were treated to an expansive view of the stars, not a cloud in the sky. For the first time in almost two years, it was clear enough for me to see the Milky Way in all it’s glory. I went to bed that night satisfied, thrilled with life. Finding the time to make these trips is so vital; just a few days can change you, fulfill you, more than anything else I know. Hopefully next autumn’s trip will be as awesome as this one!

hiker climbs in spooky gulch slot canyon
For my money you just can’t beat a weekend in the desert. The author about to climb a dryfall in Spooky Gulch slot canyon

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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