Willow Meets Willow Gulch

WasatchWill

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Paying a visit to Willow Gulch has been on my radar for a number of years, but given the drive and distance to it, it was something I've continually put off. It was also something I've wanted to take my daughter Willow to, given the shared name. This June, things finally worked out to make it happen. Willow Gulch would provide the destination for our annual father-daughter outing. It would also be Willow's first time backpacking in the desert.

Day 1
Tuesday - June 5, 2018


We arrived at the trailhead much later than I had liked, but it may have been a blessing. Temperatures were much cooler with the sun now getting so low in the sky. Not uncommon to hikes in this area, there were big views to be had right at the start due to the trailhead sitting above the canyon. The trail would have us immediately descend down a sandy hill into the bottoms below.


Looking down into Willow Gulch at the start of the trail


A small arch across the gulch


Willow and I arrive down in the gulch

Very soon we'd encounter a little slot coming in off the left. It could have been fun to press up it, but we were already short on time to reach camp before it got dark.


Small slot

While our camp was only about a mile and a half down, the variety of features and wildlife seen and experienced in that mile and a half were incredible.


Willow moves along


In a section of narrows


Evening light dances off the walls


Desert Spiny Lizard


Box Elder Tree


A contrast of clouds and canyon walls


A resident toad, too shy to face the camera


A nice little reflection


Crawdad


Further down canyon


Maidenhair Fern

We ended up with just enough daylight to arrive and settle into the spot I had in mind for the night before the dark of night moved in on us.

There was actually spot a little further down in a big alcove we could have pursued that is supposedly much more popular to camp at, but I purposely avoided it because I knew we'd be waking up to a much better view of nearby Broken Bow Arch from the spot we had. There was also one other group down there camping for the night, a group of 12 from Colorado according to the trail register, and it was apparent by the sound of their echos that they were likely in the other alcove spot anyway.


Dinner at Camp

Day 2
Wednesday - June 6, 2018


When the sun began to rise, the view I was looking forward to began to manifest itself. It did not disappoint. Willow chose to stay asleep.


Dawn at camp

Once the morning show came to a close, I cooked up breakfast. I had gotten a new skillet by MSR that is very light in weight, so pancakes were on the menu for us. It worked out really well.


MSR skillet in action


Breakfast is served

While eating breakfast, the other group who had camped further down moved out, leaving us with the gulch all to ourselves. After finishing breakfast, we cleaned up and packed up to take our packs down off the bench we had camped at and hide them down along the creek. We'd then wander up the short distance to check out Broken Bow Arch up close. Yet again, in such a short distance to that destination, there was much more to see and enjoy along the way.


Willow and I ready to leave camp


Resident cactus


Willow skirts her way along the creek


Broken Bow Arch


Broken Bow Arch Reflection

One spot became a particular delight to us, with it's reflections, shade, and mystical, magical feel to it. Crawdads were abundant and there was also a small waterfall nearby that filled up a great little swimming hole.


An oasis in reflection

A little while later, we moved on to the arch itself and made our way up out of the canyon, following the sandy social trails up to its backside where we got a sense of scale for just how big it was.


Willow at Broken Bow Arch


Willow and myself


Myself at Broken Bow Arch

Having tagged the arch, we followed our footsteps back upstream to grab our packs.


Broken Bow Arch Reflection


Broken Bow Arch Reflection

Reunited with our packs, we made the journey back up to the trailhead.


Willow on her way out


Time to pull out the sunshield umbrella


Mortar Board Rock

Once at the trailhead, someone driving a van rolled down their window and hollered out at me. It turned out to be an acquaintance from a neighborhood and former church congregation I was apart of years ago. His name is Burke, and he along with a few other adults, were getting set to lead a group of teenage boys down to the Escalante River for some pack rafting down to Lake Powell.


Reuniting with Burke, an old acquaintance

One little downside to the trip was an issue with a tire on my car. It had lost most of its air pressure somehow. Fortunately it was not fully flat, and while I would have liked to have put more air in it had I a portable compressor on me, it did at least still have enough air to keep driving for the time being.


Low pressure tire

We pulled over at Dance House Rock on the way back up the road to see it up close. It is the place where a group of Mormon settlers had corralled themselves for the winter while many in the group worked to create a viable wagon road down through what became known as Hole In The Rock, to enable them to get to the Colorado River, cross it, and make their way out to form the town of Bluff in Southeastern Utah.

When we pulled up, there was a group of ATV riders who graciously allowed me to use an air compressor they had to add some air back into my tire.


Dance Hall Rock


Long-nosed Leopard Lizard


Willow taking in the acoustical Dance Hall Rock

After our brief stop at Dance Hall Rock, I drove on back up into Escalante and had the local tire shop there check the tire for any unseen damage that would have caused the loss of pressure. It had not lost any air on the drive between Dance Hall and town, but before driving any further with it I still wanted it checked out for peace of mind. They ended up finding that my valve stem had gone bad. Only a 5 minute fix for $20, and we were back out on the road to Torrey, where my other daughter, Ellory awaited her turn for a night out with me. Willow was to be exchanged for Ellory at their grandparents house.

Video:
 

Vegan.Hiker

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Nice looking trip and great photos Will. I’m surprised to see crawfish and toads in the desert. Similar to when I surprised to see rabbits in the Maze. Thanks for the report.
 

WasatchWill

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Nice looking trip and great photos Will. I’m surprised to see crawfish and toads in the desert. Similar to when I surprised to see rabbits in the Maze. Thanks for the report.

I had no idea their were crawdads in their either and it took us by surprise to find them down there.
 

Ugly

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Sweet trip and quite the view to wake up to. Well planned!

I wonder if crawdads got up from Powell?

Also, I love leopard lizards, really cool.
 

Ross

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Nice report and photos. Am wondering what my 11 year old is capable of? How old is Willow if you don't mind me asking? Are there no tricky downclimbs or upclimbs from the TH to the lake water? How many miles a day was she doing (I'm guessing you split it about half down and half up over the 2 days). I also presume daddy carried 90% of the weight!
 

wabenho

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Great TR! Thanks for sharing. Love that you get the kiddos out.

I have been thinking of purchasing that same MSR skillet. How do you like it?
 

WasatchWill

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Nice report and photos. Am wondering what my 11 year old is capable of? How old is Willow if you don't mind me asking? Are there no tricky downclimbs or upclimbs from the TH to the lake water? How many miles a day was she doing (I'm guessing you split it about half down and half up over the 2 days). I also presume daddy carried 90% of the weight!

She'll be 12 toward the end of the year, though she's quite petite in stature for her age. She carried all her stuff (tent, sleeping bag, clothing, snacks, water, umbrella, etc) all the way in and almost all the way out. It was only about a mile and half to where we camped. There was nothing too tricky to get there. We did not go past the arch and out to the lake. That would have been more of a challenge with some possible swimmers to get there. The heat and the final push up the hill to get out did get the best of her and so I helped her with her pack for a couple hundred feet just prior to letting her finish the last little stretch back to the car at the trailhead.
 

WasatchWill

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Great TR! Thanks for sharing. Love that you get the kiddos out.

I have been thinking of purchasing that same MSR skillet. How do you like it?

Despite many negative reviews online, it performed admirably for the two mornings I've used it thus far for pancakes and showing no signs for the worse.
 

WasatchWill

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Crawdads in the Escalante are invasive and have come up from the lake. Here's more from DWR on crayfish in Utah.

Yikes! Well shoot, had I known that, would have brought a bigger pot, some veggies, and some Creole seasoning to have ourselves a boil. Not that it would have helped. There really were a ton of them in the waters down there and I can see how they're certainly deemed an AIS. It was cool seeing them at the time, in how unique they were, but sad knowing this now.
 

Strawsome

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Awesome trip report! Looks so fun. I'm seeing different numbers for the length on this hike. How far is it one way to the arch? 2 miles? I'm taking a bunch of teens in about a month. I'm assuming we could do an in and out in one day pretty easy yes?
 

Brendan S

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Awesome trip report! Looks so fun. I'm seeing different numbers for the length on this hike. How far is it one way to the arch? 2 miles? I'm taking a bunch of teens in about a month. I'm assuming we could do an in and out in one day pretty easy yes?
Yes, no problem which is great if you have a large group that you don’t have to camp down in the canyon, which isn’t great for a big group. Have fun!
 

slc_dan

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My oldest is 2 now, and I can't wait for trips like this. Thanks for sharing Will.

When I did this canyon solo, I only thought of how serene, and amazing it was. I took my wife Jodi back, and she was terrified by the spiders and crawfish. I'll never understand that. It was such a stark contrast to my experience.
 

Titans

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Great trip with your daughter Willow! Awesome that you take her to such an amazing spot. Thanks for sharing :)
 
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