To close off the summer season with the best of the best, we decided to backpack Coyote Gulch. It was probably one of the coolest places I've ever been; towering high walls and breathtaking narrows. Every turn of the canyon had a new and amazing feature that you couldn't help but photograph. We hiked about 31 miles in and out and it took us about 3 days and two nights in the dessert. Talk about big difference from hiking and camping in the High Uintas. If I were asked to pick three words that best described our trip they would be mud, awe-inspiring, and mud. You will soon see why. We began our journey at the trail head at Hurricane Wash. We arrived there late at night a pitched our tent to camp for the night. For dinner we decided to try out dehydrated taco soup that we had picked up from our Philmont trip the year before. It was...pretty gross. The desert insects were attacking us without mercy and the only place to find refuge was in our tent...or so we thought, until Danny and Emily got stung by some creepy looking insect that mustn't be named (mostly because we couldn't find out what it was on the internet.) The temperature outside was just warm enough that you could sleep out side your sleeping bag. We had the rain fly off so we could gaze at the stars. It was so clear and dark that the cloud-like clusters of galaxies that form the Milky Way seemed to shine twice as brightly. Too bad we forgot our star charts.
Sometime around 3:00 am I woke up to the sound of howling coyotes. They sounded like they could have been less then a mile away. Every time Sophie started to fuss a little I panicked in fear that they would hear us and come looking for prey. A series of scenarios ran through my mind as I thought of what I might do if they came to our camp. Emily woke up to the sound of their howling, but she somehow managed to go right back to sleep. After about a half an hour of me psyching myself out, the howling began to fade away and I was able to get some sleep. I guess I now know why they call it Coyote Gulch.
Above: Sunrise, trail head selfie, The coyote tracks that proved to Danny that I'm not crazy,Emily being strong and stuff.
The trail followed along side a dried up wash bed. After hiking about a mile Sophie was getting hungry so we found a nice shady spot and stopped to break and feed her. Nice thing about breastfeeding is that you don't have to worry about packing bottles or mixing formula. It's easy access, so you can quickly get the job done and be on your way. Hiking with a baby isn't bad at all, if your prepared with the right gear. Our Ospery baby backpack, the Poco Plus (which Danny has dubbed, "The Enterprise"), has been super beneficial. It has a sun shade to protect baby from the sun; a rain fly to shield her from rain and wind; a nice size compartment to store diapers, change of clothes, blankets—anything you would normally put in a diaper bag. Sophie loves her backpack! She sleeps most of the time or babbles in her native baby tongue. She just loves to be outside!
Above: We finally saw a sign that assured us we were going the right way, Stepping on this dried mud is more fun than popping bubble wrap... almost, pretty flowers.
A couple miles in, water began to flow down the wash and the walls of the canyon soared to enormous heights. After walking in the dry heat, I can't tell you how refreshing it was to wade our feet in the cool water. The river started winding. Each bend notched out beautiful coves, which hung hundreds of feet over our heads. The curvature of the walls caused our voices to echo like crazy. Upon this wonderful discovery, we immediately broke out into a stirring rendition of, "Hey Jude." Even Sophie joined in.
And then there was the mud. Every now and then we would come across "quick mud" (which is like quick sand but instead of sand it feels like you're stepping into a soupy puddle that is like the constancy of 50% diarrhea and 50% chocolate pudding...or maybe it just looks like diarrhea). It scares you at first, because you feel like you're going to be sucked down to the underworld. Worse yet, there would be sections that were deceivingly dry, but springy, and then all of a sudden the dry portion would collapse and you'd be thigh deep in the ewy-gooey mud. Getting the "Emily out of the mire", as it were, was something of a laborious task. Our shoes would constantly fill with mud and make it unbearably hard to walk. Eventually, Emily and I gave up and resorted to going barefoot. Best decision ever (minus the poky thingies we'ed step on from time to time). Ironically, Em and I hike the majority of both days barefoot and didn't get cut at all. Danny cut his foot five minutes after taking his shoes off, in camp. Sucker.
Above: At the junction of Hurricane Wash and Red Well.
When we made it the Jacob Hamblin's Arch we were astonished to see the massive sandstone roof that hovered over us. Not a single person was there—just as we had hoped. We ditched our packs, set up the tent and continued on to see what was around the bend.
Above: We found a nice level spot to set up the tent, walking around the bend to filter water from a spring, mud.
There was a spring just around the bend that we would filter water from. The water was crystal clear and tasted better than the tap water back at home. Before we found the spring we had just been filtering from the cloudy river water and because of all the silt, it clogged up our filter pretty fast which made it extremely hard to pump.
That night it was especially hot and humid which made for a rough nights sleep. We didn't even bother unraveling our sleeping bags. Sand would blow into our tent creating a sandpaper like feel to our pads which also stuck to our sweaty bodies. It was so uncomfortable.
After enduring the hellish night, we woke up, ate oatmeal for breakfast, and started our day hike exploring the rest of the canyon.
Above: The famous Swiss Cheese Falls. Your never too old to play in a waterfall.
This was probably one of the deepest parts of the canyon. I went first to make sure Danny could make it across with Sophie. It was a little nerve racking to wade in these deep murky waters not knowing what creatures lurked below. I'm happy to say that we made it across safely, all limbs attached.
Above: Emily being all cool jumping off a 5 foot ledge, landing it like a boss, Cliff Arch a.k.a. Jug Handle Arch, Waterfall (When we saw this on the way back, the water had risen considerably due to the incoming storms and water was spilling over the dry portions to the left of the photo. Pretty scary.)
Throughout the canyon there were many waterfalls. As this was "technically" a canyoneering adventure (albeit, the easiest possible rating), we knew there'd be some tough spots. Most of the waterfalls were pretty straight forward. This one, however, had us stumped for a long time. We ended up going up and around on the bench above Emily... But it took us a while to figure out.
Above: Cooling off int he river (note Danny's Band-Aid), "The Poo With a View." or "The Poo-fect Place To Let IT Go." Or... I'll stop while I'm ahead. But, seriously, this outhouse gets a 10/5 rating on my list. I've become quite the connoisseur (if you can say that) of bathrooms in diverse places (the wilderness, campsites... Eastern Europe), but this one beats the Hilton. Serious. Wood shavings and all.
Above: You can't really tell, but it is pouring rain. This spring probably only flows during rain fall (it wasn't flowing when we passed it the first time). It felt pretty cool to get water straight out of a rock; I wish there was an explanation for her. But the scientists have yet to describe her condition.
Above: Coyote Natural Bridge. Almost home.
By nightfall the storms had completely blown over, leaving us a beautiful view. It was amazing to look through the arch and see the stars on one hand, and look up to the towering roof above and see the stars on the other hand. Pretty incredible camping spot. This shot was of our second night camping in the canyon. It was much cooler and we were able to get a better sleep than the previous night.
The next day we decided to take Red Well trail back to the car instead of Hurricane Wash. We wanted to see if there were any cool slot canyons we could explore. Unfortunately we weren't able to find any and because our map didn't have the whole trail on it, it was much harder to find our way back. With the help of Danny's handy tracking/orienteering skills we were able to follow foot prints and make it to the trailhead.
We made it!
Once at the trailhead, we realized that this trail put us out almost four miles north of were our car was parked. We ditched our packs on the side of the road and took what little water we had left (the gultch had dried up miles before the trailhead) to find the car. Half way to the car we realized that the keys were in one of the packs we'd left behind. Danny jogged back to get the keys. We made it to the car. While we were waiting for him to get back with the keys, a few cars drove past. We thought they'd have stopped and given him a ride, but Danny said that they just gave him the thumbs up and drove on—I guess jogging out the middle of the desert is normal.
Sore and dirty, we loaded up the car, retrieved our packs, and drove back to Provo. Too bad Carl's Jr. was closed when we got back to civilization.