Lower Death Hollow Narrows April 2018

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Man, I am really not a fan of winter. It's not the weather that gets to me, it's the short days. I've been pining for longer and warmer spring days on the Colorado Plateau which brought me to going through and touching up some photos from my favorite backpacking trip of 2018...the mythical Lower Death Hollow Narrows. Now I wasn't initially happy with these photos. Canyons can be inherently hard to photograph and with this trip I was certainly more concerned with getting through the canyon itself than the artistic merit of the photos I was taking. That being said I think I got a few standout shots and the photos do a great job of showing what it was like hiking through the depths of Lower Death Hollow. Now, there are quite a few photos here as there is much beauty to capture in this canyon.

It was my friend J's 30th birthday and we thought there was no better place to celebrate the occasion than Escalante...because well, Escalante is the best. We did the classic route through Lower Death Hollow: Boulder Mail Trail > Death Hollow> Escalante River > Highway 12 bridge. Three days and only 23 miles, easy right? Right!

Day 0: Phoenix into the Grand Staircase and car camp on the wonderful Cottonwood Canyon road. I almost always use Cottonwood Canyon road to get to Escalante from the south. We stopped to check out Candlyland and the awesome and remote Grosvenor Arch before setting up camp in a pretty sweet, wide open spot just off the road. It was a short drive to Escalante the next day to get our permits and stage our cars for the route. We were beyond stoked.

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Day 1: Boulder Mail Trail to Death Hollow. We grabbed our permits from the Escalante Ranger Station, dropped J's car off at the Highway 12 bridge and were off to the start of the Boulder Mail Trail at the Boulder airstrip. The first mile or so of the BMT is nothing to write home about. Just easy walking through juniper anticipating the slickrock paradise ahead...

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Then it opens up and the real fun begins as we make our descent into Sand Creek

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J's diggin the scene here

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Such awesome texture in the slickrock

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We made it to Sand Creek and began our climb up to Slickrock Saddle Bench, stopping to check out the old telegraph wire that connected Escalante and Boulder

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Up on Slickrock Saddle Bench there was more cool textured slickrock and we started to get our first views of Death Hollow

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The anticipation was building for our first view, so close!

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Then...bam! There it is in all of it's epic grandeur!

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It was blast hiking down into the canyon, asking yourself questions like...is this still planet earth? Have I slipped into a Disney fairy tale along the route?

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Once to the canyon floor the terrain takes a complete 180 from the slickrock expanse we took to get there. There are 3 options now...bushwhack, sand, or hike in the water. All are slow going. It's ok though, we're in Death Hollow and surround by epic beauty!

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I wanted to camp at the nice spot at the inscription but there was group there. So we headed down canyon about a mile or so, encountering a snake and setting up camp on a pristine sandy beach.

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What a day! We enjoyed the hell out of this campsite. Drinking beer, walking around barefoot, cracking jokes, and watching the light change. We were excited to tackle the narrows the following day and take in more of the supreme beauty this canyon has to offer.

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Day 2: Lower Narrows to Escalante River. This is probably my single favorite day of hiking in 2018. We saw no other people until we got to the Escalante River and as we broke camp that morning I was not expecting to be as taken back as I was by the idyllic beauty of Lower Death Hollow. It's truly a special place.

On the trail err...in the stream!

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The Ponderosa Pines really gave it a unique feel

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We were starting to see pools which contrasted nicely to the Navajo sandstone. Even came across and old fishing tool?

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New and incredible scenes opening up after each bend in the winding canyon

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The canyon began to narrow and we were treated to small waterfalls, swimming holes, and towering canyon walls. Such monumental scenery!

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And now, the crux of the trip was upon us...the narrows.

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The canyon walls really got close in here and the floor turned into a series of waterfalls and deep pools. I got as many shots as I could before putting the camera away as we skirted the deep pools on all fours. They were trickier to get around than I thought it was going to be, but we made it by unscathed.

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That was awesome! High fives were exchanged and we continued down canyon to the Escalante river. I had a bit of a moment as this section of canyon between the narrows and the river is of unremarkable artistry. Laughing tears of joy and snapping photos in every direction as Lower Death Hollow reached into the depths of unparalleled beauty. A place of true reflection in nature. The Shangri La of the Colorado Plateau if you will...

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Even J cound't keep from smiling

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We made it to the river and chatted up a group that was fishing for a bit before continuing down river and setting up camp at a nice spot above the river. What a day! And one I'll surely remember for a long time to come.

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Day 3: Escalante River to Highway 12 bridge. We had about 5 miles or so out on our last day. It was easy walking in and out of the Escalante capped off by the impressive natural bridge and arch just before the highway.

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An absolutely jam packed 3 day trip through one of the most impressive canyons in all of Utah.

Also to note, if you are interested in doing this trip I can't recommend neoprene socks enough! I forgot mine and just went with chacos during the duration of the hike through the canyon and they ripped my feet up! LOL

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Parma

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#2
Those are some great hikers feet!
We may have to start a new thread called The Beautiful Feet of Backcountry Post! That's gold @Nick
 
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#4
Awesome! But- posting those pix as we face an onslaught of arctic air on our doorstep in Alberta feels like torture to me! As much as I like skiing- I too have been pining for the warmth of spring and the desert.
R&R- looks like the camera is a Sony A-6000. I clicked on several photos which took me to a larger image on Flickr, and the EXIF.
 

RyanP

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#7
Awesome report and photos! Were you able to avoid the poison ivy? Is there anything about this trip that would make you NOT recommend it for an 11-year-old boy (who has been backpacking a handful of times and can handle that mileage on mountain trails) in late May/early June? Also, I wasn't aware that you needed a permit for this... do you know if you need to go to Escalante to pick it up in person?
 
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#9
Looks like great weather and awesome hiking, nice photos too
thanks for the report
 
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Awesome report and photos! Were you able to avoid the poison ivy? Is there anything about this trip that would make you NOT recommend it for an 11-year-old boy (who has been backpacking a handful of times and can handle that mileage on mountain trails) in late May/early June? Also, I wasn't aware that you needed a permit for this... do you know if you need to go to Escalante to pick it up in person?
I did not avoid the poison ivy but fortunately I had no reaction. I actually have video that my camera started recording on accident of myself coming up a bank looking for a campsite only to stumble into swaths of poison ivy! There was lots of cussing so I din't post the video lol. I really don't have any advice on the kid. You do need a permit for all overnight wilderness stays in GSENM. You can pick it up at the ranger station in Escalante. I always like to do it in person just to chat up the ranger a bit about conditions and such.
 

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Did you do any post processing? I can't seem to get my DSLR images to look that nice with that amount of contrast and a similar lens length.
Yes I process in Lightroom. Mostly highlights and shadows, don't really mess with the contrast all that much.
 

Titans

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#15
Loved it! Your photos are awesome and I really like that you added so many, that way it's just like we are hiking with you. :cool:
Your feet looked miserable after that trip, ouch!

Old fishing tool? Do you mean the woven willow (?) basket/net? Some of the branches used for the weaving do not look dry and old, they look fairly freshly cut.

And lastly- what's growing in the background of your profile photo? I'm sensing, it's not tomato plants ;)
 
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Beautiful photos! To bad the water couldn't have been clearer for you.....dang. I loved your conveyance of "awe".
Thanks. The water was quite clear it was the light that was working against me in terms of conveying that through the photos.
Loved it! Your photos are awesome and I really like that you added so many, that way it's just like we are hiking with you. :cool:
Your feet looked miserable after that trip, ouch!

Old fishing tool? Do you mean the woven willow (?) basket/net? Some of the branches used for the weaving do not look dry and old, they look fairly freshly cut.

And lastly- what's growing in the background of your profile photo? I'm sensing, it's not tomato plants ;)
Thanks! Yes, my feet were shredded. Hiking in the water turned them raw and the chaco straps just ripped em up. Yeah that would be it, we had no idea what it was and found it odd to just be sitting there way back in this canyon. And lastly, they are tomatoes! Well, medicinal tomatoes :twothumbs:
 
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#18
This is the hike I've had on my bucket list for awhile. Thanks for sharing the photos. Anyone want to start a meetup for a 3 day weekend i'll drive from CO out there to meet you and shuttle cars for this one!
 

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