1981 Hole In The Rock Canoe Adventure

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powderglut

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This was an interesting trip.... worthy of a report (I believe anyway) by foolish young men many years ago. I managed to dig up some pictures that I've scanned. Very limited on shots but enough to get a pretty good idea of this adventure. First week of June, 1981. (I stand corrected ....Actually first week of May)
My friends and I, had it in our heads, that we could float down the Escalante River from hwy 12 into Lake Powell. We would then paddle out of the Escalante lake arm over to the Hole in the Rock and then carry the canoes and our packs back up to the top. Our trucks and jeeps would be waiting to whisk us back into town to brag up our huge adventure. We assumed,(well at least a couple of us) that there would be plenty of water at the hwy 12 "put in" from snow melt off the Aquarius Plateau.... Similar to the snow melt out of the mountains above Steamboat Spgs in the spring. Also..We had camped down at the Coyote Gulch and Escalante confluence a few years back and determined water levels should be sufficient to pull off this crazy canoe trip. WRONG!!!! Once we got a look at the extremely low water level at hwy 12, we realized we needed a new plan. No one...... was in the mood, to pinball.. and mostly wade the canoes for half the trip downstream. So........ Here's our story.


Eight of us and four canoes left Steamboat for an awesome canoe adventure down the Escalante.

This is hwy 12 at the top.... between Torrey and Boulder. Somebody told me the hwy got paved later that summer of 1981.
1980 Hole in the Rock Canoe Trip - 01.jpg


After determining, that running the Escalante river form hwy 12 would be a joke. We decided... that if the Mormans could take wagons and such down the Hole in the Rock. We sure as hell could drag our packs and canoes down and then paddle into the Escalante arm. After all... we were planning on climbing out anyway. So....... here we go...... let's head all the way out to the HITR.

1980 Hole in the Rock Canoe Trip - 02.jpg



1980 Hole in the Rock Canoe Trip - 03.jpg


We got our packs packed and put the neccesaries in the canoes and each team of 2 started down the Hole In The Rock. That's a long freakin way down. Her we go.
1980 Hole in the Rock Canoe Trip - 04.jpg


We are severely suffering like proper Morman pioneers. But...with all the cussing, we decide to not call it a religious experience. Though..god's name was called out more than a few times.
The red canoe.
1980 Hole in the Rock Canoe Trip - 05.jpg


1980 Hole in the Rock Canoe Trip - 06.jpg



1980 Hole in the Rock Canoe Trip - 07.jpg


DOH!!! Bubba is down! Are we having fun yet? Maybe we can camp right here..:)
1980 Hole in the Rock Canoe Trip - 08.jpg


Yah baby we're getting there.

1980 Hole in the Rock Canoe Trip - 09.jpg
1980 Hole in the Rock Canoe Trip - 10.jpg


This is where it get's sketchy on the memory part. We explored the first 3 canyons of the Escalante: Indian Cr, Clear Cr and Davis Gulch. We chose one to camp in for the duration, and honestly can't remember which one it was. :facepalm:
Anyway we are on the water!
1980 Hole in the Rock Canoe Trip - 11.jpg


Heading up the Escalante
1980 Hole in the Rock Canoe Trip - 12.jpg


1980 Hole in the Rock Canoe Trip - 13.jpg


1980 Hole in the Rock Canoe Trip - 14.jpg


1980 Hole in the Rock Canoe Trip - 15.jpg



The Eagle has landed!!!

1980 Hole in the Rock Canoe Trip - 16.jpg


Water filters???? We don't need no stinkin water filters!!!! We got canteens!!!!
Bob make sure you get the water dripping from the creek.

1980 Hole in the Rock Canoe Trip - 17.jpg


1980 Hole in the Rock Canoe Trip - 18.jpg


No Bubba...you can't camp up in the ruins.
1980 Hole in the Rock Canoe Trip - 19.jpg



All righty guys let's go swimming.
1980 Hole in the Rock Canoe Trip - 21.jpg



Peewee surveying the scene.
1980 Hole in the Rock Canoe Trip - 22.jpg


We might as well go cliff jumping eh? :twothumbs:
The perfect ledge for whatever altitude you're comfortable with.

1980 Hole in the Rock Canoe Trip - 23.jpg


There goes Jakey!!
1980 Hole in the Rock Canoe Trip - 24.jpg



Bubba in fine form.
1980 Hole in the Rock Canoe Trip - 25.jpg



1980 Hole in the Rock Canoe Trip - 26.jpg


1980 Hole in the Rock Canoe Trip - 27.jpg


I believe we spent 3 nights camped in whatever canyon it was before we headed back up.. I remember we brought a frisbee and had the most epic games at the edge of the beaches in the canyon. The wind would carry the frisbee forever along the wall.
Moe had his lily white shirt from his sister's wedding in NM, and... thoroughly turned it black and muddy from diving for frisbees. :poop:
Exploring each canyon was epic. I think there are way more pictures but it might be a monumental task to find them from 1 of the 3 picture takers. (I am trying to get more history from the photographers)
Bubba and I almost swamped on our way back to HITR. We decided we would use the tent fly from our North Face Oval Intention for a spinnaker. High waves and wind almost did us in. We did kick everybody's ass getting back with that big sail. Scary ride though!
Cliff jumping was epic as you can see!
Believe it or not...I think we only saw 2 or 3 houseboats whole trip.
The hike back up was pretty much an "egg sucker" like we thought. Bubba and I picked up all the stuff Nelson and Peewee threw out on their way up. Nelson said "we don't need that anymore" like fry pans and whatever seemed to heavy to carry back up. It all ended up in our canoe. Last trip for you Nelson. Dick!!:disagree:
We drove back into Escalante and went to (I'm sure of this) a bar that was on the eastern and north side of town on main St. (many people doubt me on this. No bar in Escalante they say. But I know this to be true) When we walked in, all the local boys looked at us and said "You environmentalists?" Bubba scratched his head for a second and immediately responded with 'Hell No!" Buy these boys a drink! Ice cold 3.2 beer and some rot gut whiskey tasted pretty damn good. They laughed their asses off hearing our story. Spent the night in one of the locals backyard and left the next day.
We had a pretty good laugh when we stopped at the Escalante river and walked down stream a mile to confirm how scrappy going down would have been.

This is about how I recollect this trip. :moses: Probably a good thing there wasn't internet yet, to stop us from our folly. WOOHOO!!
 

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HomerJ

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Love the story and pics!
 

Vegan.Hiker

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Great story. Thanks for sharing. That canoe carry looks miserable. I had to portage a 12' kayak and 5 days of gear over 1.5 miles of rough terrain once but it didn't look nearly as bad as what you guys had to do. Looks like it was all worth it though.
 

Nick

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Dude!!! DUUUUDE!!!

This is SO awesome! Now every time I'm down there I'm going to be retelling this story to everyone I know. Before this, if someone had asked me "do you think anyone has ever dragged canoes down Hole in the Rock and then back up?", I would have laughed my ass off! That is some serious OG shit! Kids these days and their fancy packrafts! So awesome man. Thank you so much for going to the effort to share with us.
 

powderglut

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We told many people about this trip but most didn't believe it. Many others didn't care because they had no idea of the effort going down the HITR. That's OK. In the end we did what we had to do to salvage the canoe trip. No one can accuse us of being the smartest kids on the block. It was good fun!
I'm told that cliff jumping is.. and has been... a discouraged activity for quite some years now. So.... don't you guys and gals go out there and break the law. Also, Looking at the bathtub ring, I have a feeling that the lake level might be 100ft or more lower than when we were there. Maybe someone can confirm that.
 

gnwatts

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That's nuts. But very cool. A little bit of coincidence, my wife and I were parked at Crack in the Wall on June 20th, 1981 on our honeymoon. Maybe you drove by us. The lake was up to the mouth of Coyote Gulch, maybe a little past.
 

Nick

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I'm told that cliff jumping is.. and has been... a discouraged activity for quite some years now.
It's legal if the jump is less than 15 feet, but that doesn't stop anyone and there is little to no enforcement.

Also, Looking at the bathtub ring, I have a feeling that the lake level might be 100ft or more lower than when we were there. Maybe someone can confirm that.
On June 5, 1981, the water level of the reservoir was 22 feet below full pool elevation of 3700 feet. Right now it's 79 feet below full pool, so 57 feet lower. The current level is the highest it's been in the last 4 years. It's just starting to drop again right now.
 

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Mike K

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I loved reading this and seeing the 35 year old pictures. Very entertaining and great stuff. Thanks for taking to time to scan the pictures and write up a cool trip report!:twothumbs:
 

powderglut

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That's nuts. But very cool. A little bit of coincidence, my wife and I were parked at Crack in the Wall on June 20th, 1981 on our honeymoon. Maybe you drove by us. The lake was up to the mouth of Coyote Gulch, maybe a little past.
I think we were just a about a week and a half before you. Moe's sister got married in Santa Fe New Mexico on June 5 and we probably started the trip on the 8th or so?????? I think we did Coyote the year before or two. The lake was maybe 20 or 30 ft from the confluence with the Escalante. I think this is when we were hatching a plan to do the Escalante float.
Thanks for those water levels @Nick and the cliff jumping rules. Good perspective.
 

gnwatts

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I think we were just a about a week and a half before you. Moe's sister got married in Santa Fe New Mexico on June 5 and we probably started the trip on the 8th or so?????? I think we did Coyote the year before or two. The lake was maybe 20 or 30 ft from the confluence with the Escalante. I think this is when we were hatching a plan to do the Escalante float.
Thanks for those water levels @Nick and the cliff jumping rules. Good perspective.
You have inspired me to find my slides of our honeymoon, it was a pretty special time to have visited this area.
 

klank

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frickin awesome!
 

slc_dan

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You've mentioned this in a few other threads, and I've always wanted to hear more about it.

Thanks for sharing. This really flirts with that line so many of us young men like to flirt with. I guess it's kind of like a continuum, with stupid on one side, and brave on the other.
 

powderglut

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You've mentioned this in a few other threads, and I've always wanted to hear more about it.

Thanks for sharing. This really flirts with that line so many of us young men like to flirt with. I guess it's kind of like a continuum, with stupid on one side, and brave on the other.
We had made such a big commitment to doing a canoe trip in the Escalante area the we were not to be denied. Believe me when I say, it was a hard decision not to just put in at hwy 12 and take whatever would come our way. The thought of beat up, pin balled canoes, abandoned less than halfway down to the lake.... would not be a pretty picture. We did question how stupid it would it be to carry them down HITR. The fact that we would be carrying them back up that way made the decision easy. Like I said, if the Mormons could take wagons down this route, we sure as hell could take canoes down. We probably got a few strange looks from some of the people we passed on the way out HITR. "WTF are they doing with canoes. Dumb idiots."
@gnwatts I'm now told that my dates are a month off.:facepalm: We did this trip in early May 1981.
Not surprising as my short term memory is slowly slipping too.
 

WasatchWill

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I chuckled the whole way through it. Great write-up of a great adventure that obviously made for a great story. These vintage reports are always neat, especially with reading how gear and what not has evolved, and seeing pics of the landscape as it was then knowing what it looks like now (dirt road Highway 12 over Boulder Mountain) and so on. Thanks for digging up those old photos and sharing.
 

piper01

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Totally awesome! Sounds like it was one of those trips you shouldn't tell your mother about in advance.
 

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