The Lower West Side (of Escalante River): Fools Canyon and the Bobway (April / May 2007)

Phil Hage (55, St. Paul), John Hutchinson (60, Seattle), and I (56) did a 5-day backpack in the Fools Canyon area of the Escalante from April 29 - May 3, 2007.

Sunday: We started early at the Red Well trailhead, followed Coyote Gulch down to where Sleepy Hollow canyon comes in on the left, went a little bit beyond that for easy access to the rim (I learned of this possibility from a nice marked-up map at the BLM office), rim-walked to the Long Branch, crossed the obvious pass in King Mesa, and camped just below the pass on the far side. One interesting sight was the mass of cottonwood tree cotton gathered in the low points of Coyote Gulch.

Monday: We went to the rim of Fools Canyon and, after some false starts, located the start of the descent trail into Fools Canyon (there is a cairn). Down that and then down Fools to the Escalante where we camped. Fools Canyon was unpleasant in places due to thick growth and beaver ponds, but no real problems. There was a short 5.1 climb to avoid a pond and that went quickly, with hauling of packs. There was water everywhere. In the afternoon John and I went up the Escalante for an hour. The signs of the great flood of October 2006 were everywhere. In particular we spotted a house-sized block that had moved downhill recently, leaving clear depressions in its wake.

Tuesday: We hiked down the Escalante past the mouth of Ichabod, which brought back memories of two prior trips, and stopped at the Bobway, our exit canyon. Of course, we bathed in the Escalante before starting up. The Bobway was spectacular: cool, wet, beautiful. At the spring we rested a bit and then attacked the brutal final climb up the sand dune. Since we did not know there would be water on top, I carried a full dromedary (9.5 quarts, 19 pounds; fun). But then John and I wandered the rim and found some tremendous pools just NE of the high point at 4880 feet (GR for the potholes is 997 456). Rim walking in this area was great for the views of the canyons across the Escalante. A few drops of rain came in overnight so two of us retreated to the MegaMid; but in fact there were only a few drops all night.

Wednesday: I again walked to the rim in the morning, but clouds made photography not so great. Then we walked past "Rock" back to the King Mesa pass, and camped not far below it on the right side (looking down canyon) of the Long Branch. High points of this section were: a small lake on the SE side of Rock (GR 985 442), the nice near-slots in the canyon with a spring marked on the map (lots of water), and the generally beautiful Navajo sandstone. Camping and walking on the Navajo when there is abundant water is a real treat. In the afternoon John and I walked to the upper reaches of Sleepy Hollow to see if there might be a way in. No chance. This was a huge and spectacular slot canyon, with no way in without rappel and very difficult travel if one did get in somewhere at the head. In the evening John urinated near a bush and was surprised to hear a rattling sound. Yup: a small rattlesnake was very well camouflaged in this area -- not too far, but not too close, to our campsite. It was chilly and he or she was not moving much.

Thursday: We retraced part of Sunday's route and descended into the bottom section of Sleepy Hollow by the path mentioned in Steve Allen's book; there was a small jump down at the end. Then we explored Sleepy Hollow to the first pour-off, a great walk in a beautiful canyon. On the way out we observed that, if one wanted to enter Sleepy Hollow directly from Coyote, it would be a bit tricky: one would have to get high on the left bank and get into the side canyon that way. The walk back to the car was straightforward, and another nice backpack in the Canyons of the Escalante comes to an end.

Phil Hage Suffering in the Heat

Which Way Do We Go?

Collared Lizard

The Great Escalante Flood of October 2006

Bobway Reflections

John Hutchinson in the Bobway

Portrait of Ichabod

Navajo Striations

A Surprising Lake

The Beauty of Sleepy Hollow

Sunset on the Navajo

Climbing Out

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