Rob's Wild Vagabond Trip Reports
Backpacking the Escalante: Crack-In-The-Wall From Fortymile Ridge
April 5-7, 1996
by Rob Jones
(Text and Photos © copyright by Rob Jones)
(Click on the THUMBNAILS to see larger images)

Day 1: To the TH: See the Rudi Lambrechtse "Hiking the Escalante" book, page 150, Fortymile Ridge, for a description of this hike. Also, see the Trip Report on backpacking the Escalante River in the IAC index.

I was planning to do a solo base camp in the Escalante, and I was looking forward to the solo part with some trepidation. So, a few days before Easter break, I was encouraged to see, in the Utah Sierran, a hike lead by Toni Wall of Spanish Fork to the Crack-in-the-wall and Coyote Gulch. I called right away and a friendly female voice returned my call.

So, I drove to Spanish Fork, and met the Walls. We drove to Fortymile Ridge along the Hole-in-the-rock road, pausing in Bicknell for a late lunch.

It was open and fairly desolate at the trailhead (TH). Dan, the equipment man, was at the TH and he was fussing over a dutch oven filled with sauerkraut and other goodies. We sat on the TH bump in lawn chairs while the sun set. It was a very cool evening and the morning arrived too soon, with the golden rays of the sun slanting across the slickrock and brush.

Folks entering the "Crack in the Wall" - Photo by Toni Wall. (Click image for larger view)
Day 2: Into the Crack: There were cooking pots puffing across the TH parking area, and bits of steam gave the area a Yellowstone-in-winter look. It got warmer as we got near going. It was short weather for walking the 2 miles across the slickrock and sand to where the crack leads off the canyon rim. One heads for the confluence of Coyote Gulch and the Escalante River. The crack descents in a three-part series of plates against the wall to the top of a broad and huge sand dune that trails into Coyote. It is easy going, except that the crack is too narrow for packs. So, we lowered packs off the edge, a 20-40' drop. Reconvening on a large sandstone slab in Coyote, we ate lunch and changed into river sandals for the short trip up-canyon to a camp area. After establishing the basics of camp, we waded upstream past Wall Arch, and a ruin, to Coyote Natural Bridge. It was a lovely and warm spring stroll. Back in camp long enough to rehydrate, then I walked from camp up on a promontory, the route that one must use if the sewage pond blocks the mouth of Coyote - where it dumps into the Escalante. The Coyote end of this trail is part of a mile above the sand dune leading to the crack (or, about a mile above the confluence). The low-angle light and desert ambience were delightful. And, what fabulous views of the massive Steven's Arch. It's grandeur is deceptive because of the context, amidst massive sandstone walls.

Hikers lowering packs between crack segments - Photo by Toni Wall. (Click image for larger view)
A variety of delectables were created for dinner, including one from an over-loaded group that enjoyed canned, stuffed grape leaves. We saw tracks, but failed to find the ring-tailed cats that created them.

Day 3: Up & out: It's a long way back by road, so we lounged in the canyon respite, packed and headed for the base of the big dune. First, some cool water wading, then the slog up the dune where the brilliant sun glared down on us. And to the base of the Crack, where Rob Wall and I walked up the nose of the Stegosaurus plates with packs, then hauled up the others. On the slickrock and sand hike back to the TH, we saw Enid and Jim (infamous Utah republicans) chewing their cuds, grazing at the public trough.

We reclined at the TH while everyone soaked in the last bits of desert delight. Again, it was sunny and quite warm. We paused at Devil's Garden (off the Hole in the Rock Road), which looked a bit like a miniature Goblin Valley, then resumed our long journey home. I found a map and a Vermont hat (treasures!) on the road, I guess they had been left on top of a car. Back in Smog Lake by 9-something, it had been a great weekend. Happy howling.

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