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courtesy JInnes
courtesy BConnell
Solitary Dead Tree
The beginnings of the slickrock
The beginnings of the slickrock
The walk across the expanse of wide flat valley bottom did help our overall progress, and by about 3pm, we were starting to notice that the yellow walls on either side, which had been quite far off in the distance, were were very gradually beginning to close in again. We reached a distinctive yellow crag, at which point we descended back into the main creekbed and continued downstream for a bit. There was now a lot more walking on smooth slickrock or sandy creek bottom, marking a further progression in our march from dry tributary to full canyon.
The beginnings of the slickrock
Transitioning to slickrock
More unwelcome attachees
At around 4pm we reached the base of a large rounded navajo dome - an old remnant of a long-ago eroded section of canyon. We were getting a bit weary from a long stretch of walking and needed a longer break. We had come about 11.5 kilometres (7 miles) from the start point. That meant -- if the trip descriptions were right -- another five-ish kilometres (3 miles) to where we could reasonably expect to see water (and we had seen not a drop of it anywhere so far, so we could easily believe that it was that far to water). 4pm was getting on to late afternoon, and being in early fall, sunset came not long after 7pm. It was reasonable to expect (now that the terrain in this area allowed us to move along at a normal walking pace) that we could cover the distance before dark, but there was not much margin for any holdups.
Remnant of canyon wall
Cross-bedded hiking
Final Stretch of Meadow Hiking
Down-valley we continued. We made a few more short cuts across grassy open benches, but then the valley walls started to close in even more, and the large open stretches of flat fields petered out, and we transitioned to a more typical sort of canyon setup. A very shallow 15-foot wide slot formed in the creek bottom, flanked on either side by wide flat slickrock ledges.
Final Stretch of Meadow Hiking
Low Slot
Slotting up
At around 5pm we reach a point where a dark brown streak of water-stained slickrock appears on the left. We've been seeing a few of these on the left hand side as we've been walking, but this one looks a lot like the description I've been reading about in route reports. The only problem is... it's dry - even up higher on an upper wall. The route descriptions say that if the spring appears dry down below, that there are potholes of water above the wall. We're not convinced, though, and the scramble to get up above the wall looks tedious, and no one wants to do it. Plus.... it seems a bit early, distance-wise - we've only walked about 13 km (8 miles) so far. So after a little bit of poking around, we keep going.
courtesy JInnes
courtesy BConnell
Developing into a canyon
The Spring
Forested Canyon Floor
We encounter the first section of narrows... which implies from the route descriptions that maybe that spring back there really was "the spring" - but we're reluctant to undo down-canyon progress, and we're not sure about it anyway, so we keep going. Fortunately there are no pools here and the walking is easy.
Slotting up again
Choosing the high road
The canyon opens out a bit, then constricts back into a second set of narrows. Here, though, we encounter a chockstone with a stagnant dirty pool behind it, and to stay in the creekbed means we'd have to get wet. Everyone is focused on getting to a decent campsite and there's no mood for stopping and getting water gear out or messing around in some scummy, dirty pool. I scout out a high scramble around the section of narrows and the group slowly follows.

The scramble around the second set of narrows gets completed successfully, but not without a few unintended rock-dislodgings on the climb back down to the canyon floor. The unease about not yet finding water and a good campsite is taking its toll, and nerves are getting slightly frayed.

It's closing in on 6pm, and we don't have much more than an hour left before the sun sets. We continue downcanyon, looking for "the spring" (which, as it turns out, was in fact that spot with the big dark streak), or for any suitable spot that will suffice for camping.
First campsite
We come across a straight section with two to three story-high walls that has flat slickrock benches on either side and a tiny sandy-bottomed pool of relatively clear water. Gino briefly scouts out past this point and reaches a constriction with a chockstone and another unavoidable and dank-looking pool below it. We confer for a bit and then decide... that, you know what? that spot just back there with the clear-water pool (well, relatively clear water) might work. It had flat spots for our tents, and we'd be guaranteed to be set up and settled in before sunset (which was rapidly approaching).
courtesy JInnes
courtesy JInnes
Sophie is tuckered
Campsite, evening #1
With a place to spend the night and water no longer a pressing concern, we were able to relax and anxiety levels subsided. The evening was calm and clear, and it was substantially milder than it had been back up at the Blue Spruce Campground.

So, what can I conclude about day 1 in Upper Death Hollow? Well, reading trip reports is one thing, but after completing our first day, I now have a much clearer impression. The upper part of Death Hollow is clearly rarely visited, and there is only the occasional sign of human passage. There are faint paths in spots, but it takes constant attention to locate and follow them, and they are easy to lose. Essentially, what we did here on our first day was cross-country routefinding, and that's a tiring thing to do. On the plus side, there were some beautiful expansive views, as was the sense of solitude.
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