Little Death Hollow-Wolverine Loop, GSENM June 5-8 2013

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slc_dan

Desert Rat-Weekend Warrior
Joined
Jun 7, 2012
Messages
1,659
Dan: Matt, when are you going to come on an adventure out to the desert with me.
Matt: You ask me this every time you talk to me. Sometime...I suppose.
Dan: You should really consider coming out, you’d be amazed.
Matt: It’s a little intimidating when you say “the desert.” You’re not going to bury me out there are you?
Dan: Yeah Matt, I’ve known you since 5th grade, and I’ve been plotting your demise in an unmarked grave all these years.
Matt: I knew it all along.
*3 months pass*

Dan: Hey Matt, when are we going to go on adventure?
Matt: When is the next one you are going?
Dan: I’m going this weekend.
Matt: Well I can’t make that, but when are you going on a multiple day thing?
Dan: June 5-8, I have some plans to hit the road when school gets out, and before I go to eastern Europe with the wife.
Matt: Alright, count me in on that one.
Dan: Excellent. You won’t regret it, it’s going to be great.

June 5 came around, school was out and I came running out the door to my friend Matt was waiting in the car fully loaded and ready to go. We packed the night before. One night of car camping and two of the good stuff. I hopped in the car. “How long have you been waiting?” I ask. “Aw, not too long.” Matt has a way of not becoming too bothered by minor inconveniences.

Matt isn’t much of an avid hiker, but the fact that he lives on a sailboat tells me he’s used to roughing it. This will be his first backpacking trip. I’m glad to show him the way. There is nothing more liberating than relying on your own feet, and the shit strapped to your back to sustain yourself for a few days. Guiding a friend through their first experience can be rewarding, but comes with a risk. What if they just don’t see the beauty the same way? What if all those in-laws were right? What if I’m the crazy one getting out here every chance I can get? I know that’s all wrong, but what if my long time friend took all this time off, just to hate the struggle, the sweat, the canyons closing in around you, and that very still silence? I’ll roll the dice.

We start driving. I15 is the great roadway of our incredible state. We fly down it at a speed most westerners are very comfortable driving, 10 over the limit, just to be safe. As we drive we catch up with each other. Matt moved to the west coast a few years back, and we try to keep in touch. A car drive will force people to reconnect. We blast some tunes in the blown out speakers of my decade plus old car. Sure, we may talk online from time to time. We speak face to screen often enough. This trip will bring out many aspects of Matt that I hadn’t heard.

Onward we fly down the road. The Scipio exit comes, and we stop to fill up the tank. Why the hell does this run down, rural gas station make the poor clerks wear a shirt and tie? “You bring any rain with you?” The clerk Hank asks. “Not much up north to bring,” I answer. “Those Californians and that range they have steal it all from us.” I continue. “Well hell, at least we don’t have to live there.” Hank states. We may live in their rain shadow, just as long as those hordes stay there. That I keep to myself.

Back on the road we head southeast on the 50. I’ve driven this road several times. I owe much of the high mileage on my ol’ dependable Honda to this stretch of blacktop. It’s worth it. “I can’t believe you drive all that way for just one night,” Mom often tells me. I’d drive this just for the drive. A deer darts out across the road, I let off the gas and tap the brakes. The deer dashes out of sight. The green hills leave us behind and we soon begin to witness that world famous red rock. We pass through Torrey, and hang a right. On this southern road we drive over Boulder Mountain.

Like good auto-tourists, we stop at the lookout point. I point down and start blabbing my ass off to Matt. “That’s the Henry Mountains, last range in the U.S. to be written on a map. Down there, that’s Grand Gulch, and the Water Pocket Fold. It runs a hundred miles. You can see it from space, and….” He entertains my ramblings before we continue. I regained my love for the desert, and the outdoors in Capitol Reef. This point is a small look into much of myself, or at least how I think of myself.


Boulder Mountain Overlook by slc_dan, on Flickr

We pull over amongst some fallen dead trees, and smash some dead pine, and cottonwoods for the fire this evening. I lay my back seat down and we fill er’ up. Onward to Boulder. We pass through, and I stop at the first gas station in town. I go into the station thinking it may be where @intuitive cat works. It’s not. I would have liked to get some inside info on an amazing spot for the evening. We head on through Boulder, and down the Burr Trail Road. The blacktop is smooth. Matt asks me to slow down around the curves. “You really don’t know if someone is coming around that bend,” he states. “Yeah, you’re right.” I answer with my foot on the gas.

We drive through an amazing sight with a view, someone has already snagged it. Damn. We drive on. We come to the Wolverine Loop, where our hike starts in the morning and turn into it. We pass a couple of C grade sights. Finally a good B+ place to stay for the evening. I pull in, riding on top of the ruts as to not high-center. First thing, we grab a couple of beers and climb up the biggest rock in the field. We hang out up there, guzzling our first, and second. I setup my camera and take a timelapse like a good photographer.


Wolverine Loop Camp 2 by slc_dan, on Flickr


Wolverine Loop Camp_ by slc_dan, on Flickr

Twilight has entered our view. We climb down off the rock and get camp moving. I set up the tent while Matt throws our newly acquired logs close to the pit someone had set beforehand. I had lofty ambitions to cook pizza from scratch on the fire tonight. We cooked that pizza on a slab of sandstone. As we lay into the first bite, we look up and start laughing. This is so good it’s stupid.


Campfire Pizza 2 by slc_dan, on Flickr

We stay up not very late. Everyone I hike with will tell you, I’m the first to hit the sack. I hate it, but my natural clock likes to get up early. After our amazing experiment with sandstone over the fire pizza, and quite a few more beers, we climb into our bags and pass out.

The sun wakes us early. I’m too excited to lay in my bag for long. Little Death Hollow is calling. I hurriedly rush the process along. We clear out our pizza mess from the night before. We stuff all of our cans in a pile by the car back into the cooler. We pack up most of our shit into our packs and take off. I expected a little more of this road. I can imagine in bad weather this being terrible for any vehicle. In its current state, it flies by quickly. We pass one group collecting data of some sort. I have no idea what it’s about. Hopefully it has something to do with the damn cows out here. If people had to buy the land, instead of our BLM lease situation, beef ranchers couldn’t make a dime out here.

We pass a few trailheads. On our left, there are incredible Canyonlands-Needles-like formations. I’m scared of ropes, but dropping in there looks awfully romantic. We discuss the possibilities, and even stop once to stare out at this expansive topography.


Wolverine Loop by slc_dan, on Flickr

We arrive at our final destination, the trailhead to Little Death Hollow. Is this the longest slot canyon? I swear someone told me that. We finalize our packs, and fill our plastic bladders. Everything is in order. We sign in, and fill out the permit needed. We exchange high-fives and we are on our way. We start walking.

After a mile or so we see a large boulder to the north. Some jackass has written LOOK above some nice petroglyphs on the boulder. We follow the jackass’s orders, and walk up the boulder.


LDH Petroglyphs by slc_dan, on Flickr

As we move on, I spot an interesting formation on the north side of the cañon. “English Butler,” I yell out as pointing up towards it. “Yeah, weird how specific you got with that,” Matt answers. We continue.


LDH The Butler by slc_dan, on Flickr

The canyon begins to tighten up. Incredible erosion patterns become apparent. Is this the longest slot of the Wingate formation? I barely know the different layers of sandstone. Hell, I can really only name Wingate and Navajo off the top of my head.


LDH Alkaline Trail by slc_dan, on Flickr

We stop for a minute at a perfect bench in the shade.


LDH Rest Bench by slc_dan, on Flickr

As we continue on, there are a few obstacles come in our path. They were quite simple in this very dry state. Kelsey has mentioned some serious swimmers after a bad storm, but nothing even remotely wet for us.


LDH Pack Shuttle 1 by slc_dan, on Flickr


LDH Pack Shuttle 2 by slc_dan, on Flickr


LDH Pack Shuttle 3 by slc_dan, on Flickr


A foul smell is being carried up the canyon. The dead cow looks as though he wandered too far up the canyon and got stuck. There is nothing but bones and hide now, but damn it still stinks. Not far ahead there is a deer in the canyon rotting. It’s final resting spot is in a laying position. I look up, and see where it may have slipped down, and wasn’t able to get out. I picture this deers last few days, running, or perhaps limping back and forth, and back and forth. Ultimately, it runs out of energy, or the will to live. It lies down for one final time. I’ve chosen not to take any pictures of their resting places. The smell passes as we continue down the canyon.

This scratch in the sandstone keeps going, and going. Although it never slots up like, say the Dry Forks, the length is staggering. We are walking south-west down this slot, and we are graced with enough sun to warm us, and enough shade to keep a comfortable trot. Matt isn’t an experienced hiker, but keeps pace like a seasoned veteran. I’m not used to tight canyons lasting so long, and I’m baffled by the views. I’m a bit concerned I’ve ruined Matt to less spectacular hikes, but glad to initiate him in such beauty.


LDH First Bend by slc_dan, on Flickr


LDH Bend by slc_dan, on Flickr


LDH ME 2 by slc_dan, on Flickr


LDH ME by slc_dan, on Flickr


LDH Heart Sunray by slc_dan, on Flickr

The slot finally opens up, and a runs into a wide open canyon. We’ve reached Horse Canyon.


LDH Meets Deer Canyon by slc_dan, on Flickr


We look at the map, and continue south towards the Escalante. There are a few areas where we must slog through the sandy dry wash, but for the most part its a quick jaunt down to the river. We arrive at the river named after a Spanish monk trying to find a faster way to California. He never found it, but was the first recorded white guy in our fair state. We immediately strip down and jump into the water. I dip my purifier and let gravity feed it through the filter.


LDH Down to the Escalante by slc_dan, on Flickr


Escalante Meets Horse Canyon by slc_dan, on Flickr

After we float and swim we find a suitable camp spot for the evening. We heat some water, rehydrate our meals and sip on some whiskey. The stars are looking good with clear skies. Exhausted from the days hike we sleep well, although a bit hot.


Escalante Meets camp stars by slc_dan, on Flickr


Escalante River Near Horse Canyon Stacked by slc_dan, on Flickr


Escalante Meets camp by slc_dan, on Flickr

The next morning we pack up our bags, and stash them. I’m not sure why we take this precaution, as we haven’t seen a single person in two days, nor will we see any until back on the Burr Trail road. Our goal of the day is to reach The Gulch. I’ve been curious to explore the Spencer Canyon area due to it’s interesting look on topo maps. As we trip, and fall our way up this river running unusually clear, we take several stops to take a dip. We don’t make it quite to Spencer. According to my SPOT reading, we turned around one river bend before.


Feet in the Escalante by slc_dan, on Flickr


Dip in the Escalante by slc_dan, on Flickr

Another trip, another time, I tell myself as we head back down the river. We walk faster with the current going our way. Walking through water is strangely exhausting. The river is full of fish. They don’t look like the trout I’m used to seeing, but seem to be some type equipped with a sucker . The fragrant and rampant tamarisk fills each bank. We see a few giant Cottonwoods along the shore line. We reunite with our stashed bags, fill up with water and head back up Horse Canyon. Our goal for the evening is the opening of Wolverine Canyon.


Escalante River by slc_dan, on Flickr


Alcove Along the Escalante River by slc_dan, on Flickr

Bzzzzzz, ow. Ow. OW. OUCH!! Slap. 8-12 more horse flies dead. The ten thousandth siege on my calves is underway. To hell with those bugs. Whatever nourishment they provide for their ecosystem will need to end. I swear genocide on the entire species. OUCH!!! Slap. We walk on, I slap my calves for the eight hundred and ninety-sixth time. Their microscopic knife-like mandibles tear into my flesh. I will kill all of you. SLAP! Blood is streaked across my lower leg. I turn to my long time friend Matt, “I almost never experience this kind of bugs in the desert.” OUCH, Slap. “Yeah? These bugs are pretty awful,” he answers candidly. He’s not the type to over exaggerate, like I am. I think back to the time, any time, I’ve encountered such persistent pain. Halls Creek Narrows, in my favorite National Park. It has been a while, but I have fond memories of that trip. Perhaps this pain too will be overcome by the...ow, OW, OUCH!!! Slap. Death to you all. What canyon is this called again? Oh yeah, Horse Canyon. I don’t see any of the gigantic domesticated beasts, but plenty of their small insects with a common name. Ouch. Swipe, slap. 20 more dead.

After the horror of billions of bugs tearing away at your flesh, we finally arrive at the opening of Wolverine Canyon. We throw our bags down and collapse. I find an excellent spot of sandstone to lay on. I prop my head up with my pack, and stare up at the sky. For all the pain of those damn flies, the short sunset erases any memory of pain I have.


Wolverine Camp Sunset by slc_dan, on Flickr

The sunset becomes pink for 5 short minutes. Stationed and firmly planted in my spot on the sandstone, I yell out at Matt. “Get out here, the pinks are out!” He comes out and stares up as the short window of that awe inspiring color flashes by. Bats swoop down from small caves behind us. It frightens Matt. I tell him to shut up. “Bats are cool, and besides they eat all of those god damn flies.” I haven’t been forgotten them after all.

In the morning we head up Wolverine Canyon. One system down from Little Death Hollow, cutting through very similar layers of sandstone, but looks very different. The erosion patterns are unique, and beautiful. For all I hear of Little Death Hollow, this is the goods to me. I would walk down this canyon as an out and back anytime. We are a down to about a liter of water each. It should be enough, but the thought of hydration is constant walking through such a dry climate.

Wolverine’s beauty was a worthy distraction.


Wolverine Beauty by slc_dan, on Flickr


Wolverine Giant Alcove by slc_dan, on Flickr


Wolverine Matt by slc_dan, on Flickr


Wolverine Me 2 by slc_dan, on Flickr


Wolverine Me by slc_dan, on Flickr


Wolverine Return by slc_dan, on Flickr


Wolverine Canyon 8 by slc_dan, on Flickr


Wolverine Canyon Juniper Shadow by slc_dan, on Flickr


Wolverine comes to a fork, and with most directions in this loop we go right. The trail disappears, and we try and navigate south to return to the trailhead.


End of the Loop by slc_dan, on Flickr

We go up, and down far too much. We’re both exhausted, and eager to fill up on water, and cold beer back at the car. The large chunks of petrified wood are littered through each step we take. We pass over some badlands. We’ve entered a new planet. The soil is composed of vibrant clay, and bentonite. We delicately walk over what appear to be odd sinkholes. We spot the road, and later the car. Our spirit is renewed, and we walk quickly.


End of the Loop Bad Lands by slc_dan, on Flickr


End of the Loop Car Reunion by slc_dan, on Flickr
On our way back we stop at the world famous Hell’s Backbone Grill for breakfast. Viewing people for the first time in 3 days is an odd, but welcome sensation. The food sure beats the hell out of the stuff we’ve been eating. Back to comfort, and driving back north, we discuss what we have seen, and what we have coming ahead of us in the coming months; a new job for Matt, and a glorious summer for me. As we drive Matt asks me a few questions about backpacking gear. “What kind of pack would you get, if you were buying something tomorrow?” “What about a hammock if I was doing most of my stuff in Northern Cal?” I knew he’d love it.

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Nick

Spiral out.
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Joined
Aug 9, 2007
Messages
12,708
Awesome man! Fantastic write up and great pics! LDH isn't the longest slot, I believe Buckskin takes that title, but it certainly is amongst the longest. Full Neon probably is longer but with technical obstacles. Definitely the longest I've walked through. It's really mind blowing after a while - almost numbing because it just keeps going and going like that. Good stuff.

So was there any water at all in LDH or Wolverine? There was decent flow at the breaks between the Chinle and the Wingate in both canyons when we went through. And what about Horse? Totally dry or was there flow up by the line shack?
 

slc_dan

Desert Rat-Weekend Warrior
Joined
Jun 7, 2012
Messages
1,659
Awesome man! Fantastic write up and great pics! LDH isn't the longest slot, I believe Buckskin takes that title, but it certainly is amongst the longest. Full Neon is probably longer but with technical obstacles. It's really mind blowing after a while - almost numbing because it just keeps going and going like that. Good stuff.

So was there any water at all in LDH or Wolverine? There was decent flow at the breaks between the Chinle and the Wingate in both canyons when we went through. And what about Horse? Totally dry or was there flow up by the line shack?
LDH was totally dry. No water at all. Wolverine had a couple of very small puddles, nothing that would even get your shoes wet.

I don't remember seeing much water by the shack, but that is when the horse flies were going crazy.
 

powderglut

In search of Fresh
Joined
Oct 17, 2012
Messages
367
Nice TR and pix. Got me Jonesing for a little canyon hiking. Enjoyed the narrative.
 

intuitive cat

Jurassic Dust in my Bones
Joined
Mar 9, 2012
Messages
402
Too bad we didn't connect, Dan. My store is just down the hill and up a rise south of the Burr Trail on the southern end of town.

i'd love to get in these canyons right about now but we have had one of the wettest monsoon seasons since I have moved here. everything is super saturated and rain is immediately running off at this point. major wash floods all over the place. I am sure that any low spots are just about topped off with water at this point. good thing is that there will be PLENTY of water in the desert for my adventures I have planned for this month.
 

slc_dan

Desert Rat-Weekend Warrior
Joined
Jun 7, 2012
Messages
1,659
Too bad we didn't connect, Dan. My store is just down the hill and up a rise south of the Burr Trail on the southern end of town.

i'd love to get in these canyons right about now but we have had one of the wettest monsoon seasons since I have moved here. everything is super saturated and rain is immediately running off at this point. major wash floods all over the place. I am sure that any low spots are just about topped off with water at this point. good thing is that there will be PLENTY of water in the desert for my adventures I have planned for this month.
I've spotted your place now, and even laid eyes on your awesome wagon. I was with my wife end of July and she was craving a latte, but we were a bit early. I'll definitely stop by next time.
 

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HomerJ

Member
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Jan 19, 2012
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1,198
Such an awesome write up Dan! It was a lot of fun to read! Love the shots too!
 

nonameiwant

Member
Joined
Jan 25, 2012
Messages
151
Love it, love that your friend had such an awesome first trip he immediately wanted to get his own gear.
 

TannerT

Hike Hard, Tread Lightly
Joined
May 15, 2013
Messages
589
Excellent TR! Thanks for sharing a very well written description and the amazing photos. I am jealous.
Salud!
 

Michael

Alien from over the pond...
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Sep 5, 2012
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844
Great TR and wonderful pictures! That's a beautiful area. :)
 
Joined
Feb 11, 2012
Messages
125
slc_dan. awesome TR.

In the morning we head up Wolverine Canyon. One system down from Little Death Hollow, cutting through very similar layers of sandstone, but looks very different. The erosion patterns are unique, and beautiful. For all I hear of Little Death Hollow, this is the goods to me. I would walk down this canyon as an out and back anytime.../ Wolverine’s beauty was a worthy distraction.
agreed.

fired through that loop counterclockwise last april. our intention was to not sour the experience of LDH with a then perceived "long slog" up and out of wolvernine the following day. suprisingly, too the contrary, wolverine won out over LDH in the visual stimulation category. LDH slot was cool, but not really mindblowing per colorado plateau standards. it was the handful of miles of intermittent narrows - cum - supremely over-grazed flats back out to the trailhead that kinda tainted the overall experience of LDH.

i too would recommend an out-n-back of wolverine via the south (east?) fork, if one is ever in the area.
 

Artemus

I walk
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Joined
Jun 25, 2012
Messages
4,367
Alright Dan! Nice story and beautiful photography. Thanks! I too liked the star trails....
 

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