The names on the map tell stories: Scorpion Gulch, Deadman Ridge, Carcass Canyon, Fifty Mile Cliffs, Rattlesnake Bench and Little Death Hollow. This is the Escalante, three million acres of National Monument and National Recreation Area in Southern Utah. Among the most remote in the country, it was the last to be mapped in the contiguous United States.
Over the course of eight days, Paul Gardner and I hiked, climbed and forded over 60 miles of trail less and trackless high desert canyon country: beautiful, but dangerous— inviting, but unforgiving. We were totally alone, finding only an occasional foot print in the sand or cairn marking the route through a cliff band. We crossed miles of sand dunes under a fierce desert sun. We descended and ascended canyon walls of red sandstone. Where the climbing was steep and exposed, we hauled or lowered our packs. Then climbed unroped using the friction of our climbing shoes and holds called Moqui steps cut by Indians hundreds of years ago. Water was always an issue. We drank and filled our water containers from creeks, springs and potholes. The water varied from clear to brown, and was inhabited by various creatures representing a range of Phylum from Kingdom Animalia.
At the end of each long day, we camped under Cottonwood trees in canyon bottoms or high above the canyons on slick-rock benches, watching the land and sky change colors. The weather varied from hot windless days to violent thunderstorms, cold steady rain, and strong winds. On our last night we both fought to keep our tents from blowing away. Once the wind died the rain started. The next morning we packed a wet camp and navigated a forced march of 12 miles over complicated terrain arriving at our car parked 45 road miles from where the shuttle service dropped us off eight days prior.
This is my Escalante story.
The full story has been submitted for Publication.
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