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Twisties & Timbers
Little Death Hollow & Wolverine Canyon
Tuesday, April 7
Our streak of good weather continued with a mild, clear early morning. We packed up and headed out of the Deer Creek Campground, heading east on the paved Burr Trail Road, crossing through several interesting topographic areas on our way to the Wolverine Loop Road. We were in the very northeastern quadrant of the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument -- an area that none of us had ever really explored in any depth. Today was to be our first day.

The northeastern quadrant of the Monument features a landscape that noticeably slopes away from the long spine-like structure of the Waterpocket Fold in nearby Capitol Reef National Park. Owing to this tilt, and to the varying hardness of the rock strata, a beautiful landscape of flats and cliffs has formed. The cliffs, known as the Circle Cliffs, are made out of beautiful orange Wingate Sandstone. The cliffs stand 'uphill', towards the Waterpock Fold, in long gentle curves (hence the name), and the streams and creeks that eroded the Wingate into these cliffs course down between them, often creating elongated buttes and mesas before narrowing into interesting canyons. Ultimately, the entire area drains through the Circle Cliffs on the way down, ultimately, to the Escalante River.
Wolverine Loop Road
It was two such interesting canyons that we would be exploring today: Little Death Hollow, and Wolverine Creek. Both area drainages that start in the wide flats above the Circle Cliffs, and head down through them until they reach another canyon -- Horse Canyon -- that itself drains into the Escalante. The two Canyons each had their own highlight: Little Death Hollow has a beautiful and tight narrows section, and Wolverine Creek's upper end passes through the Wolverine Creek Petrified Forest Outstanding Natural Area. One small side-note: The 'Death Hollow' we had just crossed on our Boulder Mail Trail backpack has absolutely no relation to Little Death Hollow (well, other than the fact that they both ultimately drain into the Escalante). And the fact that we were doing one right after the other was simply a matter of curious coincidence.
Wolverine Trailhead
We turned off of the Burr Trail Road onto the Wolverine Loop Road, heading south. The Wolverine Loop road is the main access road into the Circle Cliffs area, and it is un-paved. It was well-graded, though, and we headed south at a decent clip on the dusty road. We drove across wide flats, with the ruddy face of the Circle Cliffs forming a continuous rampart on our right-hand (western) side. Presently we reached the first of our two trailheads -- Wolverine Creek.
Wolverine Loop Road
The two canyons run roughly parallel to one another, and typically to do both in a day one would need to hike a little extra to complete a loop. Since we had two vehicles, we had the ability to do a quick 15 minute shuttle between the two trailheads, saving us a mile or two of total hiking distance. So, we left one vehicle at the Wolverine Trailhead, briefly admiring the paleo-historic interpretive panel that showed the formation conditions of the nearby petrified wood forest, and then drove off in the other for the Little Death Hollow trailhead.
courtesy BConnell
Dry streambed next to road
Down Little Death Hollow
Upper Little Death Hollow
It was nearly nine A.M. by the time we headed off on our hike, walking southwest across a wide open area. Two large, curving Wingate cliffs far on either side of us marked the very large upper mouth of Little Death Hollow. The canyon is over a mile wide here, and there is little indication that it narrows to but a few feet somewhere in the distance.
Cattle in Upper LDH
Crossing LDH wash
Tree, Stone and Sky
This upper area is clearly still used by cattle (owing to various signs). There is a very decent footpath, though (likely at least partially created by said cattle), and we made very good time walking downstream along it, admiring the still, clear, calm morning, and the rugged Marlboro Man-like scenery all around us. We spent the next hour or so walking down the nearly completely flat upper section of the canyon, avoiding the occasional cowpie as necessary. Ever so slowly, the width of the canyon was decreasing.
courtesy BConnell
Panoramic LDH view
Presently we came across a huge boulder of Wingate that had a smooth, overhanging side on it. On the lower part of that side were some old survey markings in faint white paint, and below that, what looked to be some authentic old petroglyphs. Further on down the canyon, we stopped for a snack break up on some Chinle ledges, just below a towering orange point of Wingate Sandstone. The general tilt of the strata down to the southwest meant that the thick layer of Wingate was inching ever closer to the canyon floor, and soon there would be no more Chinle -- just Wingate -- and that meant that that is where the Little Death Hollow's narrows would start in earnest.
Petroglyph Boulder
Ancient Petroglyphs
Marlboro Country
courtesy PChen
courtesy PChen
courtesy PChen
Pu's backlit tree
Snack-break under a monolith
Explanations...
It was this big...!
Mid-LDH upcanyon view
Mid-LDH downcanyon view
With a final look back up-canyon at wide-open scenery, we picked up our packs and headed down-canyon. Soon there was no more Chinle underfoot, and the orange Wingate Walls reached right down to the bottom of the Canyon. The width narrowed to perhaps 30 feet, and the course became much more sinuous.

We began to notice chunks of petrified wood in the streambed. This made sense of course, given the Petrified wood-bearing member of the Chinle far back up-canyon in the wide flats near the head of the Circle Cliffs. Over the eons, chunks of this stuff (like all the other stones and rocks here) got washed down into these narrow canyons during flash floods and such. The Petrified wood was pretty neat stuff, showing hints of growth rings and bark. It was a tantalizing glimpse of what would hopefully come when we reached one of the Petrified wood source areas in Wolverine Canyon!
courtesy PChen
courtesy CDoucet
Glowing bushes
Andrew in LDH
Petrified Wood Closeup
courtesy PChen
courtesy PChen
Getting more intimate
Brushy section
Peek-a-boo
courtesy PChen
courtesy PChen
Framed by Rock
The Marker Arch
Bob in LDH
We continued down Little Death Hollow, admiring the twisting, orange walls. We'd been in many narrow canyons before, and noticed that the texture and nature of the walls here were a little different than the other spots we'd been. There were many solutions pockets in the sandstone -- often so many that they kind of melded together to form a weirdly alien-looking organic look.
Built-in Bouldering Wall
Dwarfed by nature
Alien-looking Rock
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