The Escalante is life-changing: someone who's been there is involuntarily compelled from then on to make it the object of his every idle thought. At least, that's what happened to me. I spent the last year and a half plotting how I was going to get back, what I'm going to do when I get there, and who I was going to take along. I sort of obsessed over it.
After returning home from abroad, I started pitching the trip: Five days, somewhere in the Escalante canyons. Somehow it all came together, and we wound up in Coyote, doing the same route I had done last time. I didn't mind retracing my steps. This time around, I had more time, more company, a more beautiful time of the year, and a much better idea of what I was doing with the camera.
Nick, Victor, Hannah, Ellen, Karen, Deborah and I made the two-day drive from Iowa to Utah in the last full week of October. A heavy snow in the Rockies complicated our travel plans, but once under the blue sky of Utah, we had perfect weather for five solid days. After the twin adventures of Highway 12 and Hole-in-the-Rock road, we parked our cars at the water tank on 40 mile ridge and started hiking across the slickrock. We dropped into Hurricane wash, followed it downstream to its confluence with Coyote, and walked through the deepening canyon as it wound down to the Escalante gorge.
We spent four days backpacking through the canyon, checking out the arches and pictographs. (On our fifth day, we drove up to check out the Peek-a-Boo and Spooky slot canyons, which were pretty downright awesome.) The trees were about a week short of full color, and the temperatures didn't seem to get too cold at night. Nick and I pooled our photo equipment and took turns on the tripod. We had a lot of fun taking landscape shots in the moonlight- most of which we shot on the film camera, and aren't online in this set.
We extended the route somewhat to include a night in the Escalante gorge itself, where we camped on a sandy embankment underneath Stevens Arch. The girls spent the evening having a swim, while Victor, Nick and I waded up the river and checked out the first couple turns of Stevens Canyon, a canyon so dim, narrow and deep that it felt almost like a giant cave.
I had a wonderful week. Our group was great, the canyon was beautiful, and for the first time in a while I got to do exactly the stuff that I dream about doing all the time. I couldn't ask for more.