Death Hollow & The Boulder Mail Trail

Discussion in 'Backpacking' started by Nick, Mar 17, 2012.

  1. Nick

    Nick Post 'em if you got 'em!

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    June 2007

    Ahhh Death Hollow, my favorite. I've accessed Death Hollow a multitude of ways, this time around we started at the Boulder Mail Trailhead hiked west overland into Death Hollow, south to the Escalante River, east to Sand Creek and then east again to the Highway 12 Bridge at the Escalante River.

    The plan was to leave SLC around 3:00. Naturally we didn't make it out until closer to 5:30. I really suck at packing for these things. We intended to car camp the first night just outside of Boulder but due to our late departure we ended up camping between Scipio and Aurora, very near the same place Nate and I camped last year on our way to Escalante.

    • trip date: 6/1 thru 6/5/07
    • distance: 24 Miles
    • starting point: Boulder Mail Trail Trailhead near the Boulder Air Strip
    • ending point: Highway 12 Escalante River Trailhead
    • elevations: 6,760' at the Mail Trail Trailhead, 5,200' at the Highway 12 Trailhead
    This is a map of the area around Death Hollow and with some of the various access points marked.


    We got out of Salt Lake late in the afternoon so we stopped at a nice spot outside of Scipio to camp. We've used this spot a few times before. In the morning we were able to appreciate the scenic drive through Torrey and Boulder.

    We arrived at the trailhead a little after noon. The idea was to drop all the gear off and one of us would drive to the destination trailhead and hitch hike back. Nate being the nicest looking of the two of us took that responsibility once again. The trailhead was very near the Boulder air strip. Not our typical small town airport... take a look. This is the only marker of any sort near the air strip.
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    I figured we would only spend 40 minutes to an hour waiting for Nate to get back from dropping off the vehicle so we went for a walk. The dogs didn't know quite what to think of the Boulder Air Strip. The last time I was here there was actually a plane parked at the end of this. How would it be...
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    So we waited... and waited.
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    And waited. I was drugged up on Benadryl for my allergies so a nap under a tree was a necessity. It took Nate a whopping three hours to get back to the trailhead. No one would pick him up so he ended up going back to town and hiring a shuttle. Damn tourists. What happened to the days when it was okay to pick up hitch hikers in the middle of the desert?!
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    So around 3pm Nate showed up and we were off. The plan was to hike overland via the Boulder Mail Trail into Death Hollow then down to the Escalante River and out to the Highway 12 Bridge. Below is a shot of the first portion of the Boulder Mail Trail. Good thing it was overcast. This would have been nasty on a hot sunny day.
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    After a mile or so the trail turns into a great slickrock expanse in which cairns guide your way. The dogs seemed to like it.
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    A few miles in we ran into our first water crossing, the upper reaches of Sand Creek. The dogs definitely liked this.
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    After Sand Creek we started the ascent to the top of what is known as 'The Slickrock Saddle' before descending into Death Hollow.
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    It's a hot, dry hike and any every bit of shade was more than welcome.
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    The first glimpse of Death Hollow in the distance.
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    6 miles into the hike we started the descent into Death Hollow. This was definitely one of the best highlights of the trip. A 700+ foot descent down a slickrock wall. Nikita leads the way...
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    This is where it gets a little scary. Notice the line of bushes on the right side of this photo, that is our trail down the wall.
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    Looking back up at Nate during the descent.
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    Looking into Death Hollow from the descent trail. We will camp at the bend in the center of this picture tonight.
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    Remember that line of bushes that I said was the trail? Look at it from this angle, top left.
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    After some extra careful footsteps we made it to the bottom of Death Hollow. It's amazing to go from the baren, hot desert to such a lush, green oasis like this.
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    This was a lot deeper than I remembered, Nikita was not pleased. It turns out some beavers had setup a dam just around the bend.
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    We spent our first night on the backpacking portion of this trip at the big fin campsite when you first enter Death Hollow, I will call it Camp #2 however. I somehow screwed up and managed not to take a photo of camp but this is pretty close to it. The camp itself is wide open with a lot of big trees around. A couple of years ago Nate, Taylor and I walked through here and caught two guys sun bathing butt naked by the river. Yikes.
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    On down the canyon. Notice how clear the water is, pretty uncommon for spring time in the desert.
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    Nate and Audra sloshing down the canyon. The majority of our 24 miles will be spent in the water like this.
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    Every now and then we hop out of the water and cut a river bend on dry ground. Notice how tall the grass is here.
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    A little further down the canyon we ran into yet another beaver dam. This time the dam was huge. It backed up the river for about a half mile. When we reached the damn it was about 10-12' high and made the river uncrossable for a pretty good stretch. This is a shot of me shuttling over Audra's pack well before we hit the dam.
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    Audra crossing the dam as it started to rain. Notice how low the water is on the right compared to the left.
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    A little further down we ran into one of the finest swimming holes in Death Hollow. A nice slickrock pot hole with a double waterfall. It doesn't get much better than this.
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    A little further down the river chokes up a bit and drops into the narrows of Death Hollow. Not the most grand set of narrows I've been through but impressive none the less. This is a shot of the river where it first starts its descent.
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    Baby slot in the narrows.
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    It got pretty tight in there. Nate caught this shot of me helping Audra around this pot hole.
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    So then the surprise... we make it out of the narrows... we're booking it downstream to our campsite... We're walking on a trail through some pretty dense foliage and all of the sudden I hear 'Nikka!'. I look over and there is Taylor sitting under a tree. I had to sit there and think about it before I decided I was actually seeing him. Taylor was going to come on this trip when we had originally planned it back in May. Unfortunately he wasn't able to get the time off of work for the June version of the trip. Despite all of that he decided to drive all the way down and speed hike something like 14 miles in a day to meet up with us just to hike back out the next day and make it back to work.
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    Camp 3 - Nate and I stayed here last year. Great spot.
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    The spectacular view down Death Hollow from our camp.
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    We had banked on staying at this spot for two nights. Not only is it a nice camp spot but when we were here last year it had a beautiful beach with a deep pool to swim in. This year it was gone.... vanished... filled with sand I suppose. Below are some before and after pictures.
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    Last year this was a prime beach with a huge, deep swimming hole.
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    Another before and after
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    So we only spent one night at that camp due to the lack of a swimming hole. Fortunately we found this nice one on the way out the next day.
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    Nikita and I walking down Death Hollow near the confluence with The Escalante River.
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    I've walked out of the bottom portion of Death Hollow three times now. Being the dumbass that I am I felt compelled to keep this going...
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    When we reached the confluence with the Escalante River we couldn't help but notice some other big changes from last year. The Escalante was practically dry... and clear. Every time I've been in the area it has had a good milky brown flow to it.
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    The confluence last year.
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    The Escalante lower and more clear than ever before. Last year this was 2 feet of muddy water. It was still brutal on the ankles though.
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    The hike down the Escalante yielded plenty of blooming Prickly Pear.
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    And some Barrel Cactus from the first day.
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    Once into Sand Creek we found our way into som Anasazi Ruins. Nate and I found this last year but we didn't have the time or energy to check it out.
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    700 year old corncobs, arrowhead chunks and pottery. I think the grooves in the rock were used to grind things.
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    This is an interesting little fire pit in the ruins. The ground around this had clearly been worn heavily from use and it was oddly flat enough to sleep on comfortably.
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    Camp 4 - We ended up camping on a ledge above the canyon. It was a bit tricky hiking to it but it was worth it. We found a lot of flint and other unusual stones here too. It was just around the corner from the Anasazi site.
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    An arch on the hike down the Escalante on our last day.
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    An Anasazi cliff dwelling well above reach.
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    The Escalante Natural Bridge. It still amazes me that the water is as clear as it is this year.
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    And we're out. This was the end of the 24th mile and 4th day. This was also Audra's first BIG trip and may I just say, she did pretty dang good... mile after mile of sand slogging and boulder hopping. And of course this shot was immediately followed by an hour and a half of drinking and eating at the trailhead.
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    Featured image for slideshow:
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  2. intuitive cat

    intuitive cat Jurassic Dust in my Bones

    Messages:
    402
    Location:
    Boulder Town, Utah
    How lame is it that i have lived in Boulder for 4 years and have yet to get into Death Hollow? for shame!
    I've only been a little bit past Sand Creek on the Mail Trail. I've reached that spot heading down through Big Hollow as well (the first big drainage when driving west on Hell's Backbone)
    great report. I definitely need to go find that sand creek site.
     
    ibenick likes this.
  3. Yvonne

    Yvonne I lava it!!!

    Messages:
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    Location:
    Keaau, HI
    Death Hollow is still on my bucket list, what a great trip. I would love to go one day. And that one swimming hole looks so inviting :)
     
    ibenick likes this.
  4. Nick

    Nick Post 'em if you got 'em!

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    Shame indeed! Death Hollow is the best! I wonder what it would be like to hike down Sand Creek from where the BMT crosses to the river. Anyone heard anything about that? I have a vague recollection of hearing it is a bushwhack but not sure.
     
  5. intuitive cat

    intuitive cat Jurassic Dust in my Bones

    Messages:
    402
    Location:
    Boulder Town, Utah
    I had some guys come in the store last spring after just doing the entire length of Sand Creek and they were torn to shreds. Long pants are a must. Tons of bushwacking. From what I have heard, most of the hike in the lower portions below the BMT allow no circumnavigation. it is pretty much all in the creek. I know when I was just above the confluence a couple of years ago (2010) there was a beaver dam that clogged up the entire exit with a huge beaver pond as well, though I am not sure if it is still there.
    I have a friend that comes out from the Key West every September, and I think the Mail Trail needs to be on our list this year.
     
  6. Tyler

    Tyler ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^

    Messages:
    478
    Location:
    Taylorsville, Utah
    Very nice. I was just reading about Death Hollow and the route from the BMT. I'd love to do it someday.

    What other routes have you done? Does the upper portion of Death Hollow run under the Hells Backbone bridge?
     
  7. Bigred72

    Bigred72 Member

    Messages:
    124
    Location:
    Clearfield, Utah
    It sucks!!! Three years ago some friends and I started at BMT with intentions to go down DH, but we made a wrong turn and headed down sand creek. We crossed over 30 beaver dams. There are some parts that you have no choice but to stay in the water, which can be backed up and nasty due to the dams. There are some parts you have to stay on or make your own trail which means you may get torn up from bushwhacking it. There were some beautiful spots no doubt. Conditions may have changed, since this was three years ago and we also didn't intend going there. I have gone down the BMT/DH/Escalante River once and up the Escalante/DH. Both with the help of Nick's TR's. Here is a link to the album which includes lower calf creek falls.

    I am writing this post from my phone, so I hope the link works (I can't figure out how to change the properties of the album for sharing).

    https://picasaweb.google.com/lh/sre...43841&authkey=Gv1sRgCIKCnL-80tmSTA&feat=email
     
  8. Nick

    Nick Post 'em if you got 'em!

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    Wow. That sounds intense. Thanks for the info, and welcome to BackcountryPost, Bigred! :)
     
  9. John Kerby

    John Kerby Member

    Messages:
    85
    Ok, so in May of 2009 I did the Death Hollow hike with 3 friends, but we only had the time to get into Death Hollow, down into that large cavern at the very bottom. We then had to hike out.....Could you hike this beginning from the Escalante/ Highway 12 and back out through Death Hollow and end at the Boulder Airport trailhead? How bad is the poison ivy?
     
  10. Nick

    Nick Post 'em if you got 'em!

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    The poison ivy is not bad but I dont' seem to be sensitive to it. In my 5+ trips to Death Hollow, no one in my groups has ever had an issue. Convertible pants and long sleeves are advised but I'd be lying if I said I was that careful.

    It would be much better to do it the other direction starting at the Boulder air strip and ending at Highway 12. Navigation is easier going that way and the finish is nicer, IMO. That's what we did in this trip and it came in around 24 miles and is one of the finest Escalante backpacking routes imaginable. Welcome to backcountrypost!
     
  11. John Kerby

    John Kerby Member

    Messages:
    85
    Can you leave your vehicle at the Highway 12 bridge on the escalante river?
     
  12. Nick

    Nick Post 'em if you got 'em!

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    Yep. There's a full on trailhead there. It's not huge so depending on when you arrive it may be full but there is some space for it to overflow out along the highway.

    If you don't have a car shuttle you can hire one out of Escalante for around $80 or if you're lucky you might be able to get it cheaper from a BCP member that might be in the area.
     
  13. John Kerby

    John Kerby Member

    Messages:
    85
    Ok, trying to plan this trip. We want to leave wichita ks about 1-2am on a saturday, arrive in Escalante about 7-8. Any good hotels in escalante? Figure we might just do that for a night, then get up and start hiking the next morning.....Maybe find an outfitter in the area to take us, again, unless a local on here would do it cheaper......
     
  14. John Kerby

    John Kerby Member

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    85
    Wanted to ask....anyone seen any rattlers in this area? I remember from my last trip a large number of small holes about the size of a gold ball at the base of a lot of plants, which were obviously dug out by something. Not a snake....but what? Not worried, just curious......I remember seeing a lot of lizards of some kind. Saw no spiders at all....no skorpions either......
     
  15. gnwatts

    gnwatts Member

    Messages:
    1,280
    Great trail report Nick
    My wife and I did lower Death hollow on our honeymoon after spending time in Coyote Gulch. We went up a few miles and camped in an incredible cave for 2 days, temps were in the mid 70's in the cave (lower 100's outsde), with our own priviate swimming hole. Other than the poison ivy I thought it was paradise. No rattlers. No people.
    I wold like to do the BMT someday, looks lke a hoot
     
  16. Nick

    Nick Post 'em if you got 'em!

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    I saw a big non-rattler on my first trip in via the BMT back in 04 or 05. Not sure what kind of snake it was but definitely not a rattler.

    Thanks, Greg. I know just the cave you speak of. Check out some of my other Death Hollow trip reports if you haven't. One year it was a double swimming hole, others it has just been the single. Lovely campsite. The BMT is a blast, but I'm really itching to do Death from the top. Perhaps this year...
     
  17. Ben

    Ben Member

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    Location:
    boise, id
    what is.
     
  18. Nick

    Nick Post 'em if you got 'em!

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  19. Janice

    Janice Member

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    Hi Nick - I happened upon this post of yours and see this is the exact route you recommended to me earlier today. I love seeing all your photos and descriptions. Eager to give this a try this April!
     
    Nick likes this.
  20. Nick

    Nick Post 'em if you got 'em!

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