As we are based in Southern Utah, we get to see some spectacular scenery. Honestly, I don’t get out NEARLY as much as I’d like to. Between a family, homestead, and running a sandal company, the outdoor recreation sometimes gets put on the back burner. However, I’ve decided that instead of getting something for my birthday, I’d rather do something. This year I told my brother-in-law that I wanted to take some kind of adventure for my birthday and I wanted to invite him. His birthday is just two weeks before mine so he was all in. I was thinking a river rafting trip, but he suggested backpacking in Coyote Gulch near Lake Powell. I dropped the ball on planning/deciding anything so he picked it up and planned a trip to Coyote Gulch.
He lives in a different town in Southern Utah so I drove part way, and then he met me and I rode with him. Part of the trip requires 4 wheel drive and I didn’t think my little Saturn would make the cut. After I met my brother-in-law, I jumped in to the cab of his truck and within minutes I looked down and noticed that one of his friends who was joining us was wearing minimal sandals. I was excited that I wouldn’t be the only one wearing minimal sandals but I noticed they were from a competitor so I thought I’d tease him about it. I asked if they were (insert company name here) and he was surprised that I knew anything about them. I asked if he was going to hike in them or just bring them along as a camp/water shoe. He hesitantly told me that they were the only thing he brought, so yeah, he’d be hiking the whole way in them. Then he suddenly asked if that would be OK! He isn’t an experienced backpacker. I told him it depends on his feet and how conditioned they were. I also told him that sandals were the only footwear I brought as well. Most of the hike is along or through a small creek and is very sandy. Eventually, I told him what I do and that his sandals were one of our biggest competitors. Of course, for the rest of the drive, I teased him about wearing competing sandals.
Coyote Gulch is in the Glen Canyon Recreation area just south of Escalante Grand Staircase. As you travel south the fewer trees you see and the more red sandstone you see. Eventually you’re driving in deep sand and all you can see for miles and miles is rolling sand and sandstone hills with hints of deep crevices and no sign of life other than the occasional dusty vehicle passing the other way. The sun and rocks were scorching hot as we got out of the air conditioned trucks and we began our journey. I had been quite busy leading up to the trip because our Customer Service Rep had been out of town and Production Manager was sick for a week. I didn’t have much time to pack let alone study the route. I trusted that my brother-in-law would have put in quite a bit of research and would know what he was doing. However, I began to worry as we wandered off the trail within 3 feet of starting! I asked where we were going and he mentioned that two other guys with us knew. I asked them and they said they had been there several years ago and they thought we needed to go in this direction. Suddenly, I realized that I was in the middle of the desert where a million things can go wrong, off the trail, with a bunch of guys that I didn’t know (except for two). A few of the men there, I could tell had plenty of experience and I didn’t worry about them but there were others who didn’t seem experienced at all. The guys who “knew” where we were going didn’t seem very sure about it. I figured that we ought to just stick together and if we hiked more than an hour or two before finding a real route then I would suggest going back. I’m always up for a good adventure but I wanted to be safe out there.
It didn’t take long before we found the gulch. However, we were several miles too far to the south. You can just drop in to the gulch anywhere. This is a deep canyon (yeah, it’s called a gulch for a reason) with huge cliffs. We followed the winding canyon to the northwest and ended up having to do some scrambling on the slick rock and we had to do a little bit of backtracking but I was more at ease because at least now I knew where we were at. It was about 10 am and the sun was blazing down on us. The rock underfoot was hot enough to cook on. If you used your hands to scramble for more than a few seconds they began to burn. Eventually we found the marker that shows the way into the canyon. At this point, you start walking into a deep slope that looks like it you’re just going to walk right off the edge of a cliff. You have to scramble down some fairly steep rocks. Because of being a Boy Scout leader and an Outdoor Guide earlier in life, I tend to stay in the back of the pack and make sure that nobody gets left behind and help anyone who is struggling. I noticed at this point, the guy wearing the competitor’s sandals was really lagging behind. He looked really worried about the descent into the canyon. I figured that he was just afraid of falling. Eventually, he said that his feet hurt too badly. They had been sweating and had gotten slippery. I decided to wear my Uinta sandals because I knew we’d have to do some scrambling. I wanted the most versatile and rugged model available. I had some slipping around in them with a few small hot spots on my already tough soles. When I looked down his feet were halfway out of his sandals. To be fair, had I worn another model, I would have had more problems than I did. His feel had already blistered and were in immense pain. He couldn’t just take them off because the rock was too hot. I offered to let him use my sandals but he said no. Finally, we got to the steepest part only about 150 feet from the canyon floor. Luckily someone had left a rope. This was a relief for our unfortunate sandal wearing friend because he could turn around and use the rope to descend without having so much friction and pressure on his feet. The second he got into the canyon his sandals came off and he laid in the creek! Actually, we all did.
The canyon floor is nothing like the harsh and deadly desert above! The creek is very small but it flows year round so it provides vegetation. There are canyon walls and green trees that provide shade and a cooler environment. It is much more humid (more than I’m used to) and very peaceful. Immediately we were met by a very large arch right in the canyon. There was also a spring with potable water running very close by. Because of that, this is the most popular place to camp. We, wanted to hike further down the canyon and camp at the natural bridge.
At this point, the hike was easy, mostly flat and in water. Our friend who got the name “tenderfoot” walked barefoot in the water the entire time back to camp. Of course, he was teased a little bit by the others because he “picked the wrong brand”! It was funny, but honestly, going down super steep rock that is blazing hot isn’t really what they were designed to do.
Our camp was located a few miles downstream at the natural bridge. The rest of the day we took time to rest, set up camp, hang out, and explore the area. We didn’t have a set number of miles to hike like many backpacking trips. This would be our base camp and we had the rest of the time to explore.
The rest of the trip included more hiking, playing in the water, boat (stick) races down the creek, jumping into the “Black Lagoon” (named very appropriately for its very deep, and mostly stagnant water), a hike down to the Escalante River and Steven’s Arch, flips into the river, plenty of “guy humor”, a surprise of finding fireflies in the canyon, camp olympic competitions, games, and hanging out in hammocks. It was really chill until we hiked back up and out of the canyon into the dry heat of the desert. This time we took a different route and actually followed cairns but the rough was actually more difficult as there was more sand. When we finally got back to the trucks, we found that one of the guys had left a cooler full of ice and gatorade. I’m not a fan of gatorade, but having something cold to drink was heavenly! Apparently, someone else thought so too because we found a few missing bottles and a ten dollar bill stuffed in the cooler!
The Uinta sandals were perfect for this trip! Some of the other guys couldn’t decide while going to get water if they should wear their shoes or flip flops. Neither were ideal. There was also no small amount of complaining about sand in shoes! #shoepeopleproblems. It was nice to have one pair of sandals that did everything I needed them to. The hot, deep sand was a little uncomfortable at the very end of the hike but otherwise, they were a dream!