A Scenic Rest Day
Upper Calf Creek Falls & The Devil's Garden
Monday, March 10
Waiting for Shannon
Ok. With it's icy pools, unsettled weather, and iffy campsite, our initial 2-day backpack had turned into a nice challenging little outing! I could sense that a little breather was in order before even contemplating a full dayhike or, for that matter, a backpack. I floated the idea of a super-easy day: one where the scenery was good, the locations new to all of us, but the hiking was minimal. No complaints were heard!
So... what was easy, fresh and new? Hmmm... Well, none of us had been to Upper Calf Creek Falls, and that was a very short 1.5 miles each way. A little too short to fill a day, actually, so I proposed an afternoon visit to the Devil's Garden (something that Jenn, myself and Pu had already been to). Our easy day was planned.
A leisure get-up time and a stop at the local grocery store rounded out our morning, and then we all piled into one of the Suburbans and headed along very scenic Utah 12, passing past the scenic "Head of Rocks" overlook, winding down into the drainage of the Escalante River, and then back up and along the narrow, exicting ridge section known as "the Hogback". Just beyond the Hogback is the small unsigned side road that leads to the Upper Calf Creek Falls trailhead. It was a beautifully clear but somewhat cool day (partially because of our more lofty 6000+ foot trailhead elevation, no doubt).
With nice light daypacks, we started down from the trailhead. the trailhead is situated on the edge of a flat, wooded bench, and descends down a steep, cross-bedded slope of white Navajo Sandstone slickrock. The slope was littered with rounded black basalt boulders. In the distance, we could see north-facing slopes of the same slickrock across the drainage of Calf Creek. Some snow was still present in the shaded nooks and crannies on that side.
Upper Calf Creek Trailhead
Heading down steep slickrock
Walking at a most pleasant and leisurely pace, chatting and stopping for pictures. We continued downward, with the trail flattening out as we approached the creek itself. Here, two short spur trails split off. We first took the upper trail, which shortly led to a lookout over the top of the falls. The views of the falls themselves are only limited from up here, and you can't really get close enough to the steep, sloping edge of the box canyon into which Upper Calf Creek Falls tumbles to get a good look at it. So, after a few minutes taking some hero shots next to some of the dropoffs, we made our way back and down the lower spur.
The lower spur leads to the real gem: a secluded little riparian habitat, nestled in the overhanging walls of a small box canyon. Trees, shrubbery and grass lend a oasis-like air to the place, and Upper Calf Creek falls pours ornamentally into one end of a nice, round pool. The vegetation was a little brown in the pre-bloom of spring, but even so it was a beautiful spot. and, we had it all to ourselves!
Pu went for a tough-guy swim (I guess he hadn't had enough hypothermic water in Buckskin), and then we settled in for a nice long lunch-break, enjoying the ambiance of the surroundings, examining the falls, and just in general hanging out. A nice, relaxing day!
Lunch at Upper Calf Creek Falls
Deciding it was finally time to go (and I promised that Devil's Garden was cool, too), we started off back up the trail. On the way up, I started thinking about planning the next few days, and I was still wondering whether or not our entire group as a whole was going to be mentally up for another backpack. I discussed this with everyone, and I think the nice, easygoing day was resetting their adventure appetite. Everyone tentatively seemed to want another backpack.
Ascending back to TH
Interactive Trackmap & Photo Points - Upper Calf Creek Falls Hike -Click map to expand
Upper Calf Creek Falls Hike
* : +/- 75 feet
Total Elevation Gain:
Total Elevation Loss:
* : +/- 75 feet
After completing the short but steep climb back up to the car, we started back towards Escalante and the Hole-in-the-Rock Road, along which is located the Devil's Garden Outstanding Natural Scenic Area - our next stop. Along the way, I decided to stop the car at the crossing of the Escalante River, and get everybody to get out and have a look at the River. The backpack I was thinking of doing was the one on our planned itinerary: Scorpion Gulch. the route I'd been thinking of doing involved 3 days and 2 nights in the backcountry. The middle day would involve hiking down a section of the Escalante River, and that meant river crossings and water. I wanted to be very sure that everyone was ok with crossing a small river with current, and presenting them with the actual river they were going to be crossing would be good mental preparation and would also give anyone having second thoughts a chance to speak up.
The river looked to be flowing moderately, with a silty load that prevented us from seeing the bottom. I stated "on the second day of the backpack, you'll have to cross this type of flow maybe 9, 10 times. Is everybody ok with this?" To my mild surprise (I wasn't sure how keen everyone was to get back into wilderness backpacking), everyone seemed to be ok with it. Ok then... Scorpion Gulch it was!
The Devil's Garden
Driving on, we soon turned off onto the Hole-in-the-Rock Road, and in another 20 minutes or so we arrived at the parking lot and developed picnic area at Devil's Garden. We spent the next hour or two wandering around the nearby colorful rock hoodoos, playing peekaboo, sitting around, soaking in the sun, and in general having a relaxing and enjoyable time. We were nicely recharging our bodies and minds for our upcoming backpack.
With the itinerary of the next three days decided, we planned on getting a nice early sleep and a good, prompt start in the morning. We did not want a repeat of the departure time of our first backpack!
Shannon, the Horse Whisperer
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