Escalante Canyon 1999
Down Harris Wash
Boy, I slept like a rock that night. It seemed like I hardly turned over at all. Nice grass and cool temps, although it was not as cool as I thought it would be. It had dropped into the high 30's. But we were up by 7 am. It was clearing, and looked like it would be a nice - no, great - day. We sat around and joked at breakfast. But George was ready to rock and roll. I suspected that he, after two bypass operations, wanted to prove to himself that he could still do it. His last one - last summer - had gone badly, and as I recall, the docs had to open him up again to stop some bleeding. But with his discipline, I never had any doubt that he would be ready. It was obvious to everyone else that he wanted to go out and set the pace. Such was fine with me, as I hate having to make those decisions like where specifically are we going to set up camp for the nite. Let those out in the lead do that.
Susie and I pulled out of camp at 9:15 am, and did not have far to go till we got to the first attraction: About 200 meters down from the "narrows," there is a little indentation in the canyon wall. It goes back to something like a hanging canyon, but it is only 100 yds deep or so. Anyway, in the face of the slickrock are cut moki steps. Probably the best example of such I have ever seen in canyon country. About 150 meters back upstream on the same side there is a small grainery up on a shelf that is impossible to get up to. Perhaps that is why it is so well preserved. Anyway, it was nice to see a ruin on our first morning. It wasn't too long before the Canyon Wrens started up their little whistle, that always sounds like they are in a tailspin. Susie and I hiked alone. Most folks were ahead of us, but Will and Mark, who like to sleep late, were behind.
Susie and I stopped for a rest break, and the latter two caught up to us. Everyone else had gone up into an alcove on the north side of the canyon, but only found a few pottery shards. At that point, I did a quick guess as to where we might be, because I could not see exactly where the stream was going. But, according to the new GPS I was carrying, I had guessed wrong: we were further up canyon than I had thought. Harris Wash is just a delightful, lovely hike. No big excitement, just a great stroll. OK, it is something like 11 miles or so to the river from the trailhead, so maybe it is more than a stroll, but there are no difficulties, unless the canyon would be flooding. Susie and I strolled along, taking pictures and looking at the slickrock walls and the back lit trees. We pulled into the mouth of the first real side canyon (about 477,700 Easting), and decided to poke around before lunch. We hugged the left wall of the canyon and came to the fork, and went left. There were lovely but slightly steep slabs of slickrock that you could follow to get further back into the alcove. Susie first thought that the slickrock looked a little steep for her tastes, and I said that was fine. I was comfortable with it, and after a few minutes, I turned around and apparently, she had become comfortable with it too. I continue to be amazed how much more you can do on sandstone vs. granite. Pretty soon, Barbara showed up on the other side of the canyon, so I knew that the whole crew (with the exception of Andy, Sue, and George) was showing up. That is one of the great things about hiking in canyon country: most of the time, everyone can do their own thing. Hike fast, hike slow, poke around explore, swim, pretty much whatever the spirit moves you to do. And the scenery in which you are doing it changes with every twist of the canyon.
The canyon mouth had a nice grassy bench in it, and we all gathered in the shade for lunch. Ray reported having major gut problems like he had on the Sierras trip last September. Tremendous pain in his abdomen. The doc thinks it is diverticulitis. Ray had some prescription pills to take in case he had the problem. He had to lay down awhile, and that seemed to make him feel better. I surmised that the combination of a not-very-full stomach combined with a tight hip belt was aggravating his condition. He loosened the latter after lunch, and that seemed to help. After a while, the shade got a bit too cool, so Susie and I hoisted our packs and rolled again. After lunch, the walls of the canyon really got higher, and the places where the stream undercuts them and forms overhangs got bigger. Really mighty stuff, and this was the third time I have seen it. Susie and I stopped for a rest break in the shade, and right before some of our folks passed, there was a little change in the water flow of the stream, as though the flow had gone up. Maybe it had, as snow melt started to increase the hydrostatic pressure in the water table.
It was not too long until we got to what we now call Flying Camera Bench. We gave this charming campsite that name 4 years ago, after a gust of wind blew Lance's 4x5 view camera off a bench overlooking the campsite, and pretty much destroyed it. He felt pretty dumb, as I recall. FCB is just up about 3/4 of a mile from the river, and we ran into A&S, who said that they had been waiting and waiting nd waiting, but no one showed up. I think they forget how fast that they hike, relative to the rest of us. They reported that they had come upon George at FCB, just relaxing and waiting for others to catch up. Itwas interesting: we all left FCB together, but within a few minutes, A&S were out in front by more than 00 meters. Our plan had been to camp across the Escalante from the mouth of Silver Falls Canyon, in ome nice spots that the new Grand Staircase-Escalante hiking guide had described. (We always like to do omething a bit different: in '86, we had camped across from the mouth of Harris on the east bank of the iver, and in '95, we had camped at FCB.) Well, I am not sure that the guy who wrote the guide had ever een there. The "nice" spots across from the mouth of Silver Falls Canyon are nice if you like sand and cattered brush in the trees of a flood plain. So we kept moving across the long bench. We got close to the iver, and Sue and I decided to drop our packs and look for a spot on the other side of the river. Eventually, we came to a nice little grove of cottonwoods where the grass had grown back in the absence of he cows. So everyone beat their way thru the stream side brush to get down to the river, cross it, and then eat their way thru on the other side. The brush was particularly bad at this spot. We sort of spread out, and were into camp a little after 4 PM. That gave me some time to get a bath, and get some water out of the river.
It was a nice evening, altho we waited a bit to fix dinner, so we could get some shade. We all commented on how nice it was to have some grass without too many old cow pies. Susie and I had the Pasta Pimevera left over from the Sierras trip - boy, it did taste old. Sue built a little fire up against the canyon wall (although the bench was pretty low at that point). Except for George, who always goes to bed early, we stayed up and watched the stars come out. A fine end to a fine day. The river was nice and clear, and not too high. Although the river banks were very steep in this particular spot, I knew that they would not be that way the whole way up.
© Roger A. Jenkins, 1999