Escalante: Peekaboo/Spooky gulch, Calf Creek Falls, and Hells Backbone

Tyler

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Joined
Jan 18, 2012
Messages
464
May 2007

My wife Alene fell in love with this area 6 years ago when she spent 2 months down here on an Archaeology dig while she attended BYU. She had been wanting to return badly and being that I'm still a desert novice, we felt it was a good time to break me in by starting off with one of the very narrow slot canyons in Utah.

Day 1



We drove down caravan style bringing along one of my nephews (Wes), my son Caiden, Alene and I in our truck. Jeff & Mandi, Krystal & Nate followed behind in their car. This was my first view of an area of Utah that I found extreme beauty (Boulder mountain area). That drive from Loa through Teasdale, on up through Boulder, then winding along that amazing ridge that takes you down into Escalante was one of the most beautiful drives I've ever seen.

We immediately headed down the hole in the rock road as we entered Escalante and made the 30 mile drive down to the Dry Fork parking area to hike the Peekaboo and Spooky gulch loop

boys and girls at the trail head





Winding down into Dry Fork



After walking down a sandy wash a bit, Peekaboo gulch appears on the left. This was an awesome entrance because it required a bit of climbing, but also had a couple of cool little arches once you were up inside



Climbing up





The couple of arches. There was a group in front of us who we eventually passed





This was a very narrow canyon and we were in for even more narrows at Spooky



Krystal and Nate



I scrambled my way up above the group and took a picture of them below



Once out of the narrows of Peekaboo, it opens up really wide. You can continue down the wide wash to another set of narrows, but we chose to head SE up over a ridge to our right and follow the cairned trail to Spooky gulch. As we came over the top, there was this HUGE sandy wash. I could only imagine the amount of water that flashes through here during a storm, then empties into Spooky (spooky entrance is on the right)




In Spooky. This slot was narrow the whole way



A little bridge you have to go under



More narrows



We came to this choke stone area that had a good 6' drop you had to kind of shimmy through, then do an assist to get down to the bottom




Jeff doing his zombie scramble



More narrows







It got really dark at times



Me coming out of the narrowest section; got a little claustrophobic here




We stopped toward the end of Spooky where it opened up a bit to have lunch



After our exit we did some sand slogging back up dry fork on up to our cars

Looking back at dry fork



From there we drove back up hole in the rock and decided to stop and check out the Devils Garden area

Jeff up on top



It started to get a little rainy (check out the sky) so we hung around a bit longer, then headed to our campsites at Escalante State Park



It rained a tiny bit after getting set up, but quickly dried up (in typical Utah desert fashion). After it dried up we decided to do a little hike up around the 1 mile petrified forrest loop. Some people don't care for this, but I thought it was cool to see all the petrified wood up there. The trail isn't the most beautiful, but it was nice to get up there and do a little stroll around in the evening





The boys with the reservoir behind them



We caught a lizard on our way down and the boys had fun handling it





We had an awesome campsite at the back of the loop. Later that night we would be serenaded by Coyotes up on that ridge above us. Scared the shit out of us as it was so loud and close (and 2am)



Later that evening my brother Russ and his wife Randa showed up along with our other nephew Riley. Riley got a little car sick on the way down (you can see him in the above picture next to his tent riding out the upset stomach; poor guy)

Day 2

On day 2 our plan was to hike up Calf Creek falls, then head over to do a little hiking up the Escalante River a bit to see if we can find some ruins. Calf Creek is a beautiful 5.5 mile round trip hike. Along the way you'll see several ruins high up on the canyon walls. The end is a beautiful tall waterfall with a nice deep pool that I'd imagine is nice to swim in the late summer.

On the trail





Looking up at some granaries & pictographs





Alene and I on the trail



Russ & Randa



Nate & Krystal



We finally arrived at the falls and could not believe how beautiful it was. The water was COLD, but I opted (on a dare) to take a dip






Looking back at the falls as we were leaving



Selfie on the way out



Alene and her wild flowers



After Calf Creek we drove down the Hwy a bit to the Escalante River area. We didn't have a serious plan, but we thought we could find some ruins by river walking up a ways. The river was not running high/fast at all, so it was a pretty easy walk, but after a mile or so we kind of gave up and got tired of the trudge and headed on back. It was still beautiful to see how large an amazing this area is. There are many foot paths on the side of the river as well as camp sites. It would be fun to head up here and camp someday







At the river overlook





Later that day we went and visited the campsite that Alene stayed at when she spent 2 months down there on her Archaeology dig. It looked so barren and started to be over-grown, but it was awesome for me to think that Alene spent 2 months in that area. It resided on some land just west of the reservoir at the state park. There was still a fire ring and a few picnic tables sitting there from when they stayed (it was on someone's private property), but it was all obviously overgrown.

Day 3

This was our last day so we packed up our cars and opted to do take our drive home through On our way home we took a scenic route up to Posey Lake, then over the Hells Backbone bridge onto Boulder, UT.

Wes and Riley (brothers) at Posey Lake




At Hells Backbone. This place had amazing views.



Loved this tree that had been beaten up by the high winds that come through here







From there we headed on down the road, into Boulder, then back home to SLC. I loved this trip and didn't want it to end, wishing I had more time to explore the area. Can't wait to go back.
 
looks like you had a great time. next time you hit the Escalante river, stick to the trail for much quicker, easier hiking & save walking the river for returning to the trailhead instead of walking against the flow. I don't like walking parts of that stretch in the water unless i have tight water shoes on due to the gravel bottom which can at times suck your feet down and fill your shoes.
after about 3 or 4 river crossings heading upstream, you will come across the natural bridge & about a half mile further on, Kiva Arch which has both ruins and rock art. if you head downstream there are almost immediately two granaries visible on opposite sides of the river. heading up the hill from the trailhead parking will take you to some petroglyph panels & the hundred hands pictograph site.
I know that alcove/cave that you posted a picture of very well. not sure if you noticed, but there is a duff bed with stone slab sides in the back that a friend of mine who teaches primitive skills built at some point in the past.
At one point that cave was not viewable from the trail. the entire front was hidden by russian olive & tamerisk. the recent projects to cut out the invasive species (of which both of those are) has now completely exposed the cave to any passerby.(it looks like you may have visited before this project hit that spot)
During certain times of the year (and they do NOT announce this publicly, even locally) you may run into a crew running chainsaws.
They've also made a mess of some stretches of the river (fall 2011 was particularly bad just west of the trailhead on hwy 12), with downed wood all over the place and swiftly shifting and steep banks due to the instantaneous loss of anchor plants. it's going to be quite a few years before the river is cleared out of this mess & recovers. believe it or not, they are relying on flooding to wash all of the wood they cut away, yes, down the crookedest river in the US, so that it can then get stuck in Lake Powell. the most easily seen part of this mess is the fence that is at the main trailhead. it was totally taken out and knocked down by a flash flood last year, which piled up cut brush & logs against it until it gave way.
There is a large logjam downstream around the Choprock area which spring river runners need to look out for.
I also had a few awesome swimming/soaking spots in the river fill in after the invasive species removal :(
 
looks like you had a great time. next time you hit the Escalante river, stick to the trail for much quicker, easier hiking & save walking the river for returning to the trailhead instead of walking against the flow. I don't like walking parts of that stretch in the water unless i have tight water shoes on due to the gravel bottom which can at times suck your feet down and fill your shoes.
after about 3 or 4 river crossings heading upstream, you will come across the natural bridge & about a half mile further on, Kiva Arch which has both ruins and rock art. if you head downstream there are almost immediately two granaries visible on opposite sides of the river. heading up the hill from the trailhead parking will take you to some petroglyph panels & the hundred hands pictograph site.
I know that alcove/cave that you posted a picture of very well. not sure if you noticed, but there is a duff bed with stone slab sides in the back that a friend of mine who teaches primitive skills built at some point in the past.
At one point that cave was not viewable from the trail. the entire front was hidden by russian olive & tamerisk. the recent projects to cut out the invasive species (of which both of those are) has now completely exposed the cave to any passerby.(it looks like you may have visited before this project hit that spot)
During certain times of the year (and they do NOT announce this publicly, even locally) you may run into a crew running chainsaws.
They've also made a mess of some stretches of the river (fall 2011 was particularly bad just west of the trailhead on hwy 12), with downed wood all over the place and swiftly shifting and steep banks due to the instantaneous loss of anchor plants. it's going to be quite a few years before the river is cleared out of this mess & recovers. believe it or not, they are relying on flooding to wash all of the wood they cut away, yes, down the crookedest river in the US, so that it can then get stuck in Lake Powell. the most easily seen part of this mess is the fence that is at the main trailhead. it was totally taken out and knocked down by a flash flood last year, which piled up cut brush & logs against it until it gave way.
There is a large logjam downstream around the Choprock area which spring river runners need to look out for.
I also had a few awesome swimming/soaking spots in the river fill in after the invasive species removal :(

Thanks for the info. We were able to stick to the trail most of the time, but we found ourselves crossing the river often to see if we could find the arch or some pictographs we had looked up. We didn't bring much info with us, so we were wandering blind. I'll definitely use this info next time we're down there.
 
Thanks for the info. We were able to stick to the trail most of the time, but we found ourselves crossing the river often to see if we could find the arch or some pictographs we had looked up. We didn't bring much info with us, so we were wandering blind. I'll definitely use this info next time we're down there.

It might be worthwhile for the forum members i actively engage with to stop by Hills & Hollows to say hello when they visit the area.
I might be willing to give a few tips on spots & routes that I am not willing to share on a public forum ;)
 
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