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[cdt-l] Cathedral in the Desert: A Thanksgiving Trip Report



Not quite on the divide, but I think many will enjoy
the pics and report of a place as remote and isolated
out West as the parts of the Rockies we will be going
through...

Spent Thanksgiving in one of my favorite places in the
world: The canyon country of Utah.

The Colorado Plateau is unique for this country. Large
sandstone formations, huge arches, lush greenery and
abundant wildlife in the canyon bottom.

This is my third Thanksgiving I spent in Utah. Every
year a bunch of us drive from Boulder, CO to Escalante
(just outside of Boulder, UT oddly enough). We set up
camp late Wednesday night in the darkness, and wake up
to a sight that  is amazing. Spent the night under the
stars gazing upon a sky touched by the least amount of
light pollution in the lower 48. Woke up to a sight
that has to be seen at least once by any person who
loves the outdoors: a sunrise over the red rock desert
of Utah. Austere beauty is the best way to describe
what outside the canyon looks like.

Enough hyperbole. In any case, Turkey Day itself woke
up to the previously mentioned sunrise. We drove to
along some bumpy dirt roads and entered the trailhead
for our first canyon: Death Hollow.  Walked into
(scrambled into is a better word) this canyon. As
usual, massive rock formations outside the canyon. In
the not-so-far-distance could see the snow-capped
Henry range. These mountains were the last to be
surveyed and named in the lower 48. Even today, most
of the surrounding area is Wilderness (capital W on
purpose). Remote, rugged, beautiful.
In the canyon, the entire scene changes. Cotton woods,
running streams, flowers, wildlife. Could see racoon
and deer tracks. We waded in the very cold water and
sunned ourselves on a natural beach.  The warm sun
felt great on the cold feet, believe me.
Climbed out of the canyon and made our way to camp. We
had a scrumptious feast in the desert for Turkey day.
Sitting around the campfire (with wood we bought at
grocery stores..not too much wood in the desert!),
drinking my cocoa and chatting with my friends
thought: Life is good.

The following day made our way to Coyote Gulch. This
canyon is absolutely spectacular. Deep red-rock walls,
several large arches, and equally lush wildlife. Was
there two years ago, was glad to be back again.
Made our way deeper and deeper into the canyon. All I
could think of was the lines from Abbey about "where
something strange and more beautiful and more full of
wonder than your deepest dreams waits for you
...beyond the next turning of the canyon walls." 
That is what canyoneering is all about. The unknown.
You are in awe of what is around you..and you want to
see more. Unlike the mouuntains we climb and the vast
vistas we see, canyoneering is pursuit of wonders
revealing a little of themselves at a time. 

We climbed out of the canyon (a class 4 scramble. To
paraphrase Dr. McCoy "Damn it Rom..I'm a thru-hiker,
not a rock climber." :D) Made our way (back in the
dark via headlamp towards the end) for another great
night around the campfire.

On Sunday, we did another canyon. This time 40 mile
gulch. Climbed into the canyon and saw more amazing
rock formations. We also did LOTS of wading. At one
point, the (very cold) water was up to my chest. Brrr!
Typical for me, stayed in the water a while helping
the the others through. I am not much of a climber.
Endurance and resiliency, not skill, is my strong
suit. Rather bull my way through obstacles. So wading
in cold water was easier than "stemming" around the
pool. (See the pics for what this means). All but the
tallest of us had to eventually drop into this ice
cold water. 

Eventually, we made our way to Broken  Bow Arch and
enjoyed not only the sight of the arch, but the warm
sunshine. Made our way out of the canyon, and back to
the cars just before sunset. Saw one last sunset over
the Utah desert. Awesome.

A great, a great trip. I love this place. Someday,
will have to do a "Thru-hike" in canyon country.
Hayduke trail anyone?

Pics at:
http://gallery.backcountry.net/Escalante03

Oh yes, another quick little story:
A good friend of ours was engaged this past year. .
Paul, being the good person he is, went to see
Bridgette's family for Thanksgiving. But, he missed
one of his favorite places in the world. Bridgette
kidnapped Paul's rubber ducky alter-ego: The Devil
Duck! Unknown to Paul, Bridgette passed on the duck to
us and we took the duck out for some adventures. If
Paul could not spend Thanksgiving in Escalante..well,
then the alter-ego would. :-)
Pics of that (rather odd) adventure:
http://gallery.backcountry.net/dd03



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The true harvest of my life is intangible.... a little stardust caught, a portion of the rainbow I have clutched
--Thoreau