Halls Creek...It was time.

Discussion in 'Backpacking' started by WasatchWill, Apr 14, 2018.

  1. WasatchWill

    WasatchWill Ready For More .

    Messages:
    1,188
    Location:
    Provo, UT
    If you've been following me and my posts over time, you probably know how often I visit Capitol Reef National Park and the surrounding area. With my in-laws now living in Torrey and my wife being a great-great-granddaughter of the man considered to be the father of Capitol Reef National Park, Ephraim Pectol, one might say I've married into the park. With the many visits over the years, I've been trying to get familiar with as much of the park as reasonably possible. Halls Creek and its narrows had been looming for a long time. Thinking it might well be the best of the park, at least subjectively, I had been saving it for last with some vein plan to progress southward with each area I intended to tour. But alas, I couldn't resist any longer and took the opportunity to make a trip of it sooner. This was due in large part to recently reviewing some older trip reports of the place that resurfaced here on BCP as well as new. For the renewed inspiration, a debt of gratitude goes out to @Nick, @NateGeesaman, @lostlandscapes, and @Ross!!!

    ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
    Day 1
    Tuesday - April 3, 2018


    I started out the day by leaving my home in Provo bright and early. I had planned to arrive at the Visitor Center in Fruita right when they opened at 8 in order to have no trouble with parking (it was a Spring Break week for many) and to be the first one to get a permit for the day and thereby hopefully be the first one to register at the trailhead for that day. That plan didn't work out to time, instead getting to the Visitor Center just after 10. The parking wasn't bad and I was able to get my permit pretty quickly. I asked how many others they had signed up for the same area and the ranger said there were two other groups, one who'd be going in with the same agenda I had (2 nights) and were already on their way down, and another group who were spending the whole week. I wondered aloud how much competition there might be for a much sought after and coveted camp site location. The ranger said they weren't sure if the others even knew about it. Time would tell.

    A couple hours later, I arrived at the trailhead. It had been my first time driving down the Notom road further than Notom itself. I was surprised to see a handful of cars at each of the trailhead lots along the way for the various slot canyons that drain off the eastern ridges of the majestic Waterpocket Fold. Still, far less than the more tourist-laden trailheads of the Fruita district.

    When I arrived at Halls Creek Overlook, I was again surprised to find more than a couple vehicles there. Instead, there were somewhere between half a dozen to a dozen vehicles. I knew some were probably just there for the day, perhaps just checking out Brimhall Bridge or hiking a few miles northward to see Hamburger Rocks.

    I had myself a nice little 'sammich' I had picked up on the way down for lunch while enjoying the views from the trailhead which doubled as an overlook down into the Halls Creek runway.

    [​IMG]
    Halls Creek Overlook

    [​IMG]
    Brimhall Bridge from afar

    With my tummy full of food, my pack full of gear, and my spirit full of excitement, I began the hike.

    [​IMG]
    Trailhead selfie

    About a mile later, after descending something close to 800 feet off of Hall Mesa, I reached Halls Creek...or...more so, Halls Wash, at this point and almost immediately, the first crossing of it.

    [​IMG]
    First time across Halls Creek

    A couple miles and a number of creek crossings later and I found myself passing by Red Slide. I knew there'd be some hoodoos to look out for but didn't have any knowledge of a cave to be found along the landmark as well. I'm simply going to call it Red Slide Cave. It was tempting to go up and check it out, but I was eager to keep moving on with hopes of possibly catching up and passing anyone in front of me and increasing any chance of obtaining the prized camp spot.

    [​IMG]
    Red Slide hoodoo

    [​IMG]
    'Red Slide Cave'

    [​IMG]
    'Red Slide Cave' closer up

    [​IMG]
    More hoodoos

    The walk was a long one, 7 miles or so in a fairly straight forward direction from the first creek/wash crossing, before I reached the emergence of the perennial part of the creek and the start of the loop through the narrows. Fortunately, there was plenty of scenery and several crossings of the meandering creek/wash to keep things interesting enough along the way.

    Near the start of the narrows, I had actually encountered a member of one of the parties down there. She had gotten separated from an older guy she had come down with and asked me to be on the lookout for him and to let him know she had set up camp right near the mouth of the narrows section if I came a across him. A quarter mile later, I bumped into the guy looking for his partner. I updated him with the info I had just been given and wished him well.

    Into the narrows section I went.

    [​IMG]
    Entering the narrows

    [​IMG]
    Tree standing guard in the narrows

    After a good little stroll further, I arrived where I had anticipated on camping, a massive amphitheater style alcove. In fact, some refer to this space as The Amphitheater. It was so quiet (no echos) coming around the final bend into it that I was sure it was completely empty and available. But at the last second, I spotted a group of five or six perched down on the edge of the large flat sand bank. I had a chat with them and found out they were from Oregon, the group that had been spending the whole week hanging about.

    They were going to stay put there for the night and so I was prepared to move on, but upon learning I was alone, they invited me to stick around and find a spot nearby. I thanked them and told them I didn't want to intrude and would scope around for something that allowed each of us a bit more privacy and separation.

    They weren't sure what their plans were for the following day yet, so I told them I'd probably want to move onto the flat if they ended up taking off the next morning. They had already toured the narrows that day and were looking to head up to the rim top the next day.

    I asked them how they liked it and they were impressed. Knowing that some sections of it had involved deep wading and even swimming for some people in the past, I asked them for a bit of beta on that. They informed me that the water never got much past above their knees in any one section. It was bittersweet to think I probably wouldn't be trying out the ultralight $1 float ring I had picked up at the Family Dollar in Loa on the drive down.

    I bid them farewell and wandered up a higher bench across the creek a few hundred feet away where I found a spot just flat enough for a solo tent nestled along some rocks that offered a nice little barrier between the group and my lonesome self. It would do. I was grateful to yet again, enjoy the experience of camping in such a setting.

    [​IMG]
    Inside 'The Amphitheater'

    [​IMG]
    Camp, night #1

    With camp all set up, I wandered down along the creek a bit in both directions, just taking in the scale of the whole place and soaking up the beauty and wonder of it all.

    [​IMG]
    Amphitheater reflection

    I soon returned to my camp and enjoyed a quiet dinner and an early bed time, still full of excitement for what was to come the next day.

    ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
    Day 2
    Wednesday - April 4, 2018


    The next morning brought with it clear blue skies. Perfect weather for a watery walk down the creek. The group hollered up to me and informed me they were packing up and that the alcove was all mine for the taking. I opted to just keep my camp where it was for the time being and move one with gearing up for a day of touring the rest of the narrows. If the alcove was still all empty when I returned, I'd consider moving my camp down to the big flat then.

    Once done with breakfast, I descended the bench down to the creek, filtered up a bottle of water, and set sail down the canyon.

    From here, I'll just let the following pictures do the talking for a while and leave it to the reader to fill in their own captions.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]


    ***NOTE: It was at this point where @Jammer survived his now infamous flash flood event.***


    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    In the latter, lower half of the narrows, I encountered the narrowest section and what would be the deepest wader of the day. I'd call it the 'Chasm'. Bring it on!

    [​IMG]
    Into the 'Chasm'

    [​IMG]
    GoPro selfie in the 'Chasm'

    [​IMG]
    'Chasm'

    [​IMG]
    Beginning of the wade through the 'Chasm'

    [​IMG]
    The 'Chasm' wader

    [​IMG]
    Video still of myself walking through the 'Chasm'

    [​IMG]
    Another video still of myself walking through the 'Chasm'

    The Oregonians proved to be an honest bunch. The wader was nothing more than a few inches above my knees at its deepest point. Hooray!

    [​IMG]
    Desert Varnish

    Several minutes later, the narrows opened back up and I had reached the other side of Hall Divide. Needless to say, the hike thus far had been breathtaking and beautiful.

    I had only encountered two other groups through the narrows, beyond the Oregon group. A group that appeared to be a mother and her two teenage sons who were hiking it upstream, the opposite direction, followed by the two I ran into the day before, now reunited. I chatted with the latter two for a bit, learning that the woman had actually attended the same high school I started out at, having gone on to graduate a year sooner than me. I immediately recognized her name and we had a small world moment.

    Moving on...

    [​IMG]
    Exiting the narrows

    [​IMG]
    Looking up toward the rim

    Crossing over Hall Divide provided some beautiful panoramic views from itself, views that may well have been worth the 8 mile hike down for themselves. I had been seriously considering on working my way up and over to the rim above the narrows and making my way back to the creek that way, but ultimately chose to stick to the path and close out the loop the standard way.

    [​IMG]
    Looking south from Hall Divide

    There were few flowers blooming along the trails yet, but the ones that were out provided some welcome colors.

    [​IMG]
    Desert flowers

    [​IMG]
    Along Hall Divide

    [​IMG]
    Hall Divide Panorama (westward)

    [​IMG]
    Hall Divide Panorama (northward)

    As I crested over the Divide, I bumped into another couple. They were a middle-aged married pair who were en route of hiking the whole Heyduke trail, having started weeks before up in Arches National Park. Awesome!!!

    [​IMG]
    Heyduke couple

    A short while later, I rejoined the creek at the loop's junction where I encountered another group of three taking a water rest who were in progress of doing a modified section of the Heyduke, having started out on the Boulder Mail Trail and were en route to finishing out through Stevens Canyon and Coyote Gulch.

    Not far from them was the Oregon group, camped out just above the creek.

    I raced on back to my camp from there and found the whole alcove to still be free from anyone else. I decided to go ahead and move my camp down, just because.

    It was about 4 in the afternoon at this point so I felt like I had a couple hours to just chill until I'd be ready to do dinner. I took the opportunity to do some reading, watch some downloaded videos on my phone, and ultimately take a little nap to pass the time.

    [​IMG]
    Tent view

    [​IMG]
    Edward Abbey time

    The sky had become overcast through the afternoon, but had started clearing up again when I awoke. I got out and made the most of it with getting some pictures to take in the scale of the alcove. Despite lugging along my DSLR with me, I wasn't able to get any very wide view shots with it. I was only willing to bring along its kit 18mm lens. I had boughten a new 14mm lens for it, but opted to leave it back at home due to the fact that the lens itself is more than twice the size and twice the weight of the camera's body. Even then, a 10mm lens may have been the only thing to do it justice.

    I had recently got a new GoPro that I was able to use for capturing some wider images for the sake of scale and perspective. Beyond that, my phone's panorama mode worked out satisfactory enough for some vertical panorama shots too.

    [​IMG]
    The roof of 'The Amphitheater'

    [​IMG]
    'The Amphitheater'

    [​IMG]
    Camp, night #2

    [​IMG]
    'Tree of Life'

    [​IMG]
    'Out of darkness, into the light'

    The sun soon set with out much drama while I ate some dinner and prepared to retire for the night. Before settling into the tent for good, I took a stab at a few night shots, but was pretty tired to fuss around with settings too much. I also didn't have a very sturdy tripod for the DSLR on me, as that would have only added even more weight that I didn't want to carry.

    [​IMG]
    Playing with a long exposure

    [​IMG]
    Goodnight!

    ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    Day 3
    Thursday - April 5, 2018

    The third and final day of the trip started off with a pleasant sunrise. Nothing too dramatic, but a nice compliment of blue and orange nonetheless.

    [​IMG]
    Sunrise

    I played around with the DSLR a bit more, trying to frame up some sunbursts. I'm still trying to teach myself Lightroom for editing RAW images, so forgive me if they appear to be over-processed.

    [​IMG]
    Sunburst #1

    [​IMG]
    Sunburst #2

    [​IMG]
    Sunburst #3

    From camp, I noticed a social trail winding its way up the bend. I decided to follow it up to a nice little overlook of the alcove.

    Again, the size of the enclosed space was nothing short of amazing. Here's some shots of my tent nestled in the alcove as seen from the overlook for an alternate sense of scale.

    [​IMG]
    'The Amphitheater' Overlook

    [​IMG]
    'The Amphitheater' Overlook

    On the way back down the path I paused to observe some of the smaller details in the form of cactus, the crytobiotic soil providing such a fertile space for all the growing flora, and a caterpillar I about stepped on.

    [​IMG]
    Cactus

    [​IMG]
    Prickly Pear Cactus with buds

    [​IMG]
    Fuzzy caterpillar

    And then there was the only creepy crawly I ever have nightmares about...a scorpion! It was my first time ever seeing one in the wild. And it had the nerve to by hiding out right under my food bag back at camp. This after walking all around camp, barefoot. After looking up more info on the ones that can be found in that region, I'm guessing this was a small one of the Desert Hairy variety.

    [​IMG]
    Creepy scorpion

    [​IMG]
    Same scorpion

    Back at camp, I packed up and took my breakfast on the go in the form of a cereal bar.

    [​IMG]
    Heading out

    On the way out, I felt like I was being stalked only to discover what looked like a skull face engraved into the rock.

    [​IMG]
    Skull face

    The hike back out was as pleasant as it was coming down and in. The sky bounced back and forth between being overcast, to clear and blue and back to overcast. When the sky was clear, the air grew quite warm, but not overbearingly hot.

    [​IMG]
    Halls Creek Trail panorama (northward)

    [​IMG]
    Southern flanks of Waterpocket Fold

    [​IMG]
    Halls Creek Trail panorama (westward)

    A few more flowers would be observed along the way.

    [​IMG]
    Pretty flowers

    I was especially in awe of this red Indian Paintbrush I stumbled upon that had purple stocks.

    [​IMG]
    Indian Paintbrush

    Unlike the hike in, this time, I'd pause for a lunch break and water refill at Fountain Tanks. It turned out to be quite the gathering place. There was an older fellow camped out nearby who had been spending the week poking around the Fold and exploring some of the old mining camps in the vicinity. There was another guy with his teenage daughter who were on their way up to the narrows for the night. The group from Oregon caught up and stopped by. And then there was another group of 6 on their way to the narrows, but for whatever reason, they raced on by.

    Had it been any warmer, some of the upper pools would have been tempting to jump into, but no doubt it would have been suicide by hypothermia, if not drowning, with no anchored hand line to pull myself out with. That, and swimming in pools such as these are highly discouraged because of how it can affect and contaminate a fragile ecosystem that relies on them.

    [​IMG]
    Lower Fountain Tanks

    [​IMG]
    Lower Fountain Tank

    [​IMG]
    Fountain Tank reflection

    [​IMG]
    Upper Fountain Tanks

    [​IMG]
    Upper Fountain Tanks drainage

    Not long after leaving the tanks behind, I paused for a few more views of the Red Slide area.

    [​IMG]
    Red Slide

    [​IMG]
    Red Slide hoodoo

    Once back at the final crossing of Halls Creek and the start of the ascent back up the mesa to the trailhead, I had to make one last decision. I had wanted to drop my pack and take a stroll up to Brimhall Bridge. I took a rest and reviewed the map. It'd be about a mile up and a mile back. I was feeling pretty exhausted from carrying a pack that was a bit heavier than I usually carry (no thanks to the DSLR, an extra set of clothes, Teva sandals, and all the extra snacks I have a bad habit of packing along). I had also come down with a cough (one that had turned out to be highly contagious with the rest of my family and some folks at work), so my body was feeling a bit more fatigued from having to fight off that sudden illness. It was also getting later into the afternoon and there was still a good bit of driving to be done to meet up with my family who'd come down to Torrey earlier in the day. And then there was the final mile up 800 feet just to get back to the car.

    Had it not been for the illness, I likely would have made a run for the bridge. But rather than be too greedy, I thought the wiser of it this time and left Brimhall for another day.

    At long last, I arrived back at my car, where I disconnected from my pack much more joyfully than I had in a long time. Excited to get back to Torrey to spend the rest of the week with my family, I drove on out. It'd be my first time ever driving up the famed Burr Trail, complete with its switchbacks and the ever beautiful Circle Cliffs, and yes, even a cattle roundup to slow things down just before passing through Boulder.

    [​IMG]
    Cattle roundup

    Finally, I had arrived in Torrey where my family, a warm shower, a delightful barbecue chicken dinner, and a good night's sleep to precede a day long tour through Cathedral Valley awaited. I'm glad I didn't hold out any longer on making the trip happen and look forward to when logistics allow me to bring back my wife, Jessica, and any friends.

    Video:
     
    Skiwi, Perry, chandlerwest and 27 others like this.
  2. Wanderlust073

    Wanderlust073 Member .

    Messages:
    407
    Location:
    Colorado
    How did you like that green daypack? Saw how small it packed down, looked pretty neat. Is it comfortable with those skinny little straps?
     
  3. WasatchWill

    WasatchWill Ready For More .

    Messages:
    1,188
    Location:
    Provo, UT
    The straps that actually sit on on the shoulders are wider than other packable summit bags I've had, and so it is a little more comfortable. I like how much space there is for being able to use it as a general travel bag or other purposes. And the real seller for me was the water bottle pockets on the sides. That's what will make it such a nice little pack to use away from camp. It is a bit pricey, but being made of cordura fabric and supposedly pretty waterproof combined with all the features, I felt it was worth it for a potential dry bag I could wear as a pack. There is a video of people putting it to the test by putting paper into it and then diving into a pool with it all closed up and coming back out to find the paper still dry. I'm sure it protects well in quick submersions like that, but I'd like to toss in a roll of TP and hold it down in a full sink of water and see how well it holds out water after a minute or two of being submerged. I have no doubts about it's ability to hold out rain moisture.

    You can find them here: https://thepnw.co/

    Since getting it though, I've since found out they are more or less a copy cat of a pack that has been made by another brand named Matador: https://matadorup.com/collections/m...tador-freerain24-backpack?variant=14239811014

    The biggest differences being that the PNW brand improved upon it by adding a little sternum strap (complete w/ emergency whistle), a waist belt strap, some reflective material, and a selection of more vibrant colors. I actually wouldn't be surprised to see some litigation between the two brands happen now, since the base design is definitely with Matador.

    So, if it's worth the cost to you for either, you have a choice between the PNW brand if those extra little features and colors matter, or you can support the original designer and buy from Matador.
     
    JulieKT and Wanderlust073 like this.
  4. regehr

    regehr Member .

    Messages:
    618
    Location:
    Salt Lake City
  5. Yvonne

    Yvonne I lava it!!! .

    Messages:
    2,520
    Location:
    Keaau, HI
    what an amazing trip!!! I really love the big alcove a lot. We were lucky years ago to camp in there as well. It was in May, but there was a lot more water everywhere. You got some really good pictures while there.

    Cool scorpion shots as well. I had them in my backyard in St. George. They can sting, but the venom is not really potent.
     
    WasatchWill likes this.
  6. Jammer

    Jammer ❤2Hike .

    Messages:
    582
    Location:
    Los Angeles -- most of the time
    Great report/pics! Too busy packing for my own trip to check out the video right now, but I look forward to checking it out later.

    BTW -- in theory I will be going back through there in a few weeks on my new big hike. I'm excited to see it again sans the flood. :)
     
    Vegan.Hiker and WasatchWill like this.
  7. Miya

    Miya Because I am able. .

    Messages:
    262
    Location:
    Lodi, CA
    Oooow love the Indian Paintbrush! Beautiful trip report.
    Getting to sleep in the Amphitheater seems like it would be very humbling.

    Thanks for the share!
     
    WasatchWill likes this.
  8. Outdoors24

    Outdoors24 Member .

    Messages:
    66
    Excellent trip report. I will be headed out to Capitol Reef in a few weeks to do some backpacking. Your pictures have me looking forward to it that much more.
     
    WasatchWill likes this.
  9. wsp_scott

    wsp_scott Member .

    Messages:
    318
    Location:
    Lexington KY
    You should look into stitching individual photos together like a panorama, but for something like this alcove go 3 or 4 across and then drop down and do 3 or 4 more. The stitching is more work when you get home vs a single wide angle photo, but it saves weight.

    Looks like a nice trip
     
    WasatchWill likes this.
  10. WasatchWill

    WasatchWill Ready For More .

    Messages:
    1,188
    Location:
    Provo, UT
    Great tip. I took it all down on this one, knowing that alcove would be huge, and wanted to experiment with just about everything I had against each other. Now that I know what I'm capable of getting in such areas like that, even with just my phone's panorama mode and my new GoPro, in addition to what can be done with stitching up images taken with my small compact point & shoot, in the manner you describe, I will definitely be leaving the DSLR at home now for most of my higher mile backpacking trips. It will still get taken on car camping trips and the like because of its strengths in capturing more vivid night/sky shots, starbursts, etc...I'll just have to forfeit those kinds of shots on backpacking trips where I'd rather not carry that extra weight.
     
  11. Reef&Ruins

    Reef&Ruins Member

    Messages:
    173
    Awesome. Just Awesome.
    And I'm envious....
     
  12. chandlerwest

    chandlerwest Member

    Messages:
    278
    Location:
    St. George, UT
    Wonderful!!! Thank you Will
     
  13. DrNed

    DrNed The mountains are calling and I must go .

    Messages:
    850
    Location:
    Utah
    Good stuff Will.

    In case I haven't said it before, your photography has really gone
    up to another level. Whether it's improved gear or improved skills,
    I've really noticed the difference. Great report.
     
    WasatchWill and Perry like this.
  14. WasatchWill

    WasatchWill Ready For More .

    Messages:
    1,188
    Location:
    Provo, UT
    Thanks @DrNed!
     
Loading...