In search of Everett Ruess - Davis Gulch

Howells Outdoors

Adventure is my middle name...actually it's Keith.
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I finally got to search Davis Gulch over Spring Break.

Davis Gulch is the last known place that Everett Ruess visited before he mysteriously disappeared in 1934. It's a really cool story, so you're welcome to search for some information; I'll include some bits and pieces throughout this post.

http://alltrails.com/maps/sat-08-mar-2014-05-39




It was great to be out in the middle of nowhere. I haven't had a trip where I got to just do what I want to do in a long time. I've been leading people or haven't had a change to be disconnected from the online world.

This was perfect!



Granted, I had 3G coverage for most of the trip…oh well...my phone was dead.

Walking away from the car was fun. Knowing that the closest humans were gonna be miles and miles away from me was great. People need the opportunity to get out and away from almost all modern conveniences. It's good for you. It helps clear your mind and figure out who you are and what you're capable of.





The first few miles of the hike was up and down these sandstone hills. We could've made it different by parking a bit back on the HITRR, but this was fine. It added to the value of the hard work of hiking it. Plus we saw some good sites in the sandstone.











A lot of people are against cattle use and grazing on lands. I personally am glad for the early guys who came out to run their cattle in these areas. They discovered a lot of this land and the great places to visit that I enjoy today.

We saw a lot of cattle above Davis. It was full cattle season along the HITRR. They don't bother me. They are actually a welcoming bit of animal life.



After the hike throughout he sandstone hills we reached the area of the old stock trail. Back to some of the history of Everett Ruess, there is a photo of him taking his donkeys down into Davis Gulch on this stock trail (maybe it was just someone else, but it was in the book on Everett).

It was great to see this place. Everett is one of those guys that I read about and just love the story. So finding this place and being here was special to me.





We didn't venture far up stream in Davis. We camped basically right at the bottom of the stock trail in a campsite that has been created (no need to create more campsites).

When the people started searching for Everett they came down the stock trails and found some of his gear and his donkeys right here below the stock trail. I can imagine how crazy it would've been to find his gear just sitting here, donkeys roaming throughout he gulch.





This little waterfall was right there as you came into Davis. Nice little spot. I wonder what Everett was thinking as he hung out here in this spot. Personally I bet he was ecstatic to be there. From the letters he wrote he was not a city person and enjoyed being alone.

As for myself, even though I had two other people with me, it was such a serene and relaxing atmosphere to see nothing but nature in the area. There was the small fence at the stock trail, but other than that…no real presence of man.

I'll bet Everett liked that.





After sitting for a bit we started to poke around the canyon. We went downstream to find Lake Powell. The guidebook said it was only .4 miles to the lake…well…that was maybe when the lake wasn't so empty. It was a mile and half to the lake.





Along the way to the lake is an amazing arch, La Gorce Arch. I guess this was named Ruess Arch at one point (personally think that is a better name).

Right around this area is where Ruess had inscribed the pseudonym NEMO 1934 on the rock. That has since been buried under the waters of the lake (might not be anymore).







We did see a beaver along the way to the lake. I wasn't able to get a photo of him. Here's the best I got.


There were lots of really cool sites throughout Davis. Small things that you had to be watching for to find.













And I guess Davis is a place of disappearance. We found this bag tucked up in an alcove: no footprints anywhere, been chewed through by animals, food was expired, very sun bleached. Interesting! I told the Interagency Office in Escalante about it.



Then we got to spend the night down there. It was gorgeous! I don't know how to explain it. I'm not good at words, but it was great.





In the morning we decided to pack up and head out to the car. So, we only spent one night out there.











Then we found Nemos. This was one of the reasons we got out of Davis on Monday. Nemos is closed on Tuesdays…that would've killed our whole trip relating to Everett Ruess.



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Laura

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#2
Awesome report, thanks for sharing! I've read a bit on him, mostly in Jon Krakauer's Into The Wild. Visiting the places you've only seen in your mind really brings the story alive (I went briefly down the Stampede Trail in Alaska-another one to see if you've read the book). All the pics are cool, but I LOVE that shot of the rock framed by the arch!
 

Nick

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Awesome! Davis looks great except for that damn bathtub ring! It's amazing how similar the lower Escalante canyons are in some places. La Gorce is amazingly similar to Hamblin Arch and that big undercut looks identical to one in Fiftymile next door. I really love this area. I was really hoping to get in there this month but it's not going to happen. Glad I can do it vicariously through you instead. :)
 

Jammer

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#5
Nice report -- and great pics.

Re: Ruess -- I really thought the mystery was solved a few years ago when a Navajo elder came forward with a story from his youth when a young white male was killed by two Utes. The Navajo led National Geographic to a grave site along the Comb Ridge where a body initially was found to have matching DNA and dental records for Ruess. BUT... I guess there was more to the story. Evidently the DNA evidence was later refuted so the mystery continues. That said, at least one member of the Ruess family still believes this rendition of events, even though the body found didn't match.

Here's the recap for those interested:

http://adventureblog.nationalgeographic.com/2010/02/02/everett-ruess-how-the-dna-test-went-wrong/

- Jamal
 
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#7
Excellent! Davis has been on my bucket list for years. Nice to see the canyon coming back, most pics of La Gorce have a boat in them.
 

Howells Outdoors

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Thanks everyone. Yeah, Davis Gulch was awesome to explore.

I was at La Gorce arch via the lake in 2012, the water level has dropped considerably. I love it when the water level goes down, exposing more beauty.
Seriously! Since 2012 it has dropped...a lot.

On the point in front of La Gorce arch, someone carved the date from 2012...it's about 20 feet up on the cliff. The one time I liked a non-Native or cowboy inscription.
 

Eric Christensen

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#12
Great report and pictures! My brother lives in Escalate and has taken me a few places. I love finding native Indian sites and dinosaur footprints. I have sold my pictures at the Everet Ruess art festival, but have not followed his footsteps. Guess it is time to do that, thanks for the inspiration!
 

Michael

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#13
Excellent report and great pictures.
That's a beautiful landscape.
I love to read about the myth of E. Ruess.
 

Howells Outdoors

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Yeah, that backpack is nuts. Did you go through it? Anything interesting?
Just some freeze dried food and tuna. So if you ever get stuck out there... The most interesting thing was the keys to a Ford, but not sure where the Ford is sitting.
 
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#18
How do you get to Davis Gulch? Where is it at in Utah? I am planning a trip to Death Hollow, but would have a couple of days after that to try it. Could a group of four young and healthy guys do it in 2 days?
 
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#19
How do you get to Davis Gulch? Where is it at in Utah? I am planning a trip to Death Hollow, but would have a couple of days after that to try it. Could a group of four young and healthy guys do it in 2 days?
Davis Gulch is accessed from the lower end of Hole in the Rock Road, outside Escalante.

I've just finished reading Jon Krakauer's "Finding Everett Ruess", a great book that not only details the story but delves into the mystery of the subsequent investigations as well as the body found on Comb Ridge. A really great read.

And now that i've read it, given that i'm visiting Escalante in June, i'm also kinda itching to get into Davis Gulch - but it's not one of the canyons I know that much about. Is it doable as an out and back day hike? Or best to camp out for a night at least? Any technical sections or obstacles? And how are the road conditions likely to be that far down HITRR in June? Driveable in a rental SUV?
 

Nick

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The hike to Davis usually begins around the 50-mile mark on Hole-in-the-Rock, right about where the road starts getting nasty so getting there in most vehicles isn't a problem. Just check with the insurgency office in Escalante for current conditions in case there is a washout or something. If you're looking for something to pickup along with Death Hollow, you might want to consider something closer as it is a 1.5-2.5 hour drive one way down Hole-in-the-Rock. (depending on your vehicle and how you drive dirt roads)

I haven't done Davis but from what I understand it's roughly 3-4 miles to get into the canyon via the stock trail. That puts you in quite a way down the walkable canyon bottom so from there you can explore up and down canyon to see the rest of the gulch. A day hike for some but a 1-2 night trip for anyone wanting to take it in and explore. That approach/exit over the slick rock would be very hot during warmer times of the year. It's a couple thousand feet lower in elevation than Death Hollow.
 

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