WASU Part 4:Northward Bound

The midpoint of my journey also means I am now steadily heading northeast towards the Colorado border.

I am starting to see places visited in the past.

A gas station where I have stopped many times is a resupply spot. I walked a trail where a memorable Thanksgiving was spent.  And I passed an area where I had one of my first Utah jaunts.

Memories are echoes of our past often tinged with nostalgia.

Utah was where I first experienced an environment different from where I grew up. The White Mountains of New Hampshire may not have the scale of the Colorado Rockies, but those above treeline peaks are not dissimilar.

Utah’s canyon country? It is stark and harsh. An austere beauty. And nothing like my original home in New England or my adopted home in Colorado.

Through the trips here over the years, Utah’s canyon country was embraced. And some of my closest friendships were further deepened walking under the canyon rims.

And as I walk through Utah and experience where I’ve been, I continue to marvel at what was first enjoyed many years ago.

And with all those memories and feelings of nostalgia in mind? My first day out of Escalante saw me hiking a new route for me: The Boulder Mail Trail. 

A well known day hike, the route was the last mail route served by mules in the contiguous United States. Only the road construction in the 1930s ended the original purpose of this route.

Now? It is a route that takes in sweeping views off Navajo Sandstone cliffs and travels through lush canyon bottoms.

From Boulder, UT  I made my way cross country to Capitol Reef.

But some good karma points were earned first on my road walk to the canyon entrance. Some puppies started chasing after me from out of the sagebrush. They whined until I picked them up. One puppy even licked my face in gratitude. Two puppies in hand  I walked until about twenty minutes later I flagged down a family driving by on the road. They took the puppies to Boulder and drove by me a little later. The mother said a local business owner took them in and was bringing them to a (relatively) local animal shelter.

Good karma assured, I entered Grand Gulch and later Egg Canyon.

That evening, I  easily had one of my most memorable campsites in my twenty years of backpacking. From an overlook over The Flats, I could see the cliffs of Capitol Reef illuminated by the light of the nearly full moon. Phenomenal.

I made my way into the park proper and into Upper Mulley Twist.  Another place where I’ve been in the past.  The canyon was as enjoyable then as now.

Alas three of my potential water sources were dry and my increasing thirst made it challenging to enjoy where I was traveling.

My map showed a stock pond as a potential source if needed not far away. But stock ponds are always a coin toss, especially in Autumn.

On a hunch, I waited for a 4WD van I saw up the jeep road. I thought the passengers would exit about the time I made it to the main road. Sure enough, the van came within ten minutes of me waiting.  I flagged them down, and they graciously filled up my water containers. What could have been a potential mishap turned out to be OK. Perhaps my good deeds were being rewarded. 🙂

The following morning I made way into Swap Canyon and out of the park.

Swap Canyon involved lots of micro navigation that made for slow going.

But what a canyon!

Hoodoo, vistas, and rock formations that made me wish I knew more about geology.

I could even see the Henry Mountains  I’d be hiking in the following day.

The day was growing late. I had less than two hours of daylight left.

I came to an obvious exit point for the canyon. But how to get out?

If I was at home, I’d Google ahead of time and read one of many canyoneering sites for route beta. But this was not.a weekend hike.

Instead, I went on a hunch and looked for cairns. And I found one!

Up the steep slope, I went following cairn after cairn. One climb up a ledge was a bit of a challenge for my 5’6″ frame esp with a full pack near sunset.  I finally made it to the canyon rim, let out a sigh of relief, found a flat spot not far from a jeep track and made a late camp.

The following day I made my way up into the Henry Mountains. My route took me into the foothills more than the mountains themselves. But the views were impressive, and the terrain was different from the canyons below.

From there I bushwhacked to Slate Creek Canyon. Some slow going.

Once the canyon was reached, the route finding was easier. But I reached a chockstone spot that had a steep drop. Not something I wished to do alone. I had to clamber out of the canyon, drop back in with some moves that made me grateful for basic climbing techniques (Thanks, Mark!)  and made my way through the small slot canyon.

Another memorable campsite was had by the moonlight lighting up the canyon with a silvery glow.

Today. I did some easy cross country hiking, made my way to a jeep track, passed some stunning rock formations by Little Egypt, and was able to hitch into Hanksville for a resupply package waiting for me.

A tough stretch, but perhaps my favorite in many ways. Every day was intense. But every day had me seeing something that would have been a highlight for the year as a weekend hiker. Amazing.

Next update? In Moab!

NoteLooks like the route creator had a similar experience to me. Including the water situation. Too funny!

Read part 5…

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4 Replies to “WASU Part 4:Northward Bound”

  1. Looks like a great trip! A friend and I are flying in to Las Vegas December 26th and are planning on renting a car and doing some backpacking around Utah and Arizona for about a week. I know it will be pretty cold that time of year, but do you have any recommendations for spots to hit up? We were thinking a couple days in Zion, maybe Bryce and the Grand Canyon…

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