The Box / Pine Creek, Day 2
[Easter] Monday, April 22
We awoke to a beautiful, clear, still morning. Our last full day of "real" hiking on our trip. The objective today was pretty simple - hike the remaining 7 or 8 kilometres - all downhill, to the Lower Box trailhead, where the rental Tahoe was waiting.
Morning, Pine Creek Day 2
Given the relatively short distance and the knowledge that we had a pretty easy trail ahead of us, our breakfast-and-pack routine was pretty relaxed. We finally got started at about 9:30 a.m.
The trail down was easy - and beautiful - lazily crossing open pine needle-strewn forest floor beneath big stately ponderosa pine trees. It was without any major terrestrial obstacles - but there were still periodic stream crossings. Down here in the lower reaches of The Box, the creek's flow had increased such that simple rock-hopping became increasingly difficult (there were less boulders in the stream and the stream was now wider). Chris continued ferrying Katie and Evie across each creek crossing. Overall, though, our pace was decent, and much better than the previous day.
A few passing clouds was all that obsured a nice, warm, sun, and even the most cold-blooded among us eventually peeled off warm layers as the day progressed.
This lower stretch of Pine Creek is where some really nice campsites can be found. Beautifully-situated, with lots of space underneath huge beautiful old trees, but still with views to the tawny walls of the canyon, towering above on either side.
Overall, our second day's hike down the lower part of The Box was what we had envisioned for the first day - easy, untroubled, downhill hiking that would not take very long. And indeed, it wasn't taking very long to hike this lower section. In fact, we had become accustomed to the slower pace of the first day, and when I announced that we were not much over an hour away from the lower trailhead, there was some surprise expressed.
The high canyon walls on either side of us were much more prominent, much more present, now that the trees were starting to thin out. The rock itself was still the same jointed Navaho Sandstone Chris, Jenn and I had visited above camp the night before. The terrain and the climate was definitely shifting to something more arid, and this felt a lot more like "Southern Utah should" than the experience we'd had the day before. It all felt a lot like Zion National Park, down in the southwestern part of the state - the rock, the ponderosa pines, the sandy trail.
A lunch under a warm, beautiful sun punctuated our very pleasant hike down the Lower Box.
By 1pm, we started to see a "V" straight ahead, off in the distance. In the crook of this V was a small glimpse of a wooded hillside - land outside the canyon. This meant that we were nearing the exit of "The Box", and the lower trailhead wouldn't be long after that exit.
Approaching Final Narrows
Shortly after 1pm, we hit the lower trailhead sign, and a few minutes after that, the parking lot. Everyone was fairly happy with the early finish time we'd managed to achieve, and once again, I salute the kids, who managed to keep up a pretty good pace for much of the way.
Chris and I quickly dashed off back up the Hells Backbone route to retrieve the Jeep from near the Upper Box Access point.
Pine Creek Backpack Day 2 - Hike Data
* : +/- 75 feet
Total Elevation Gain:
Total Elevation Loss:
* : +/- 75 feet
Our early return time meant we had a significant chunk of day left. Chris and Gillian wanted to reward the kids with something jungle-gym like after days of walking on trails, and the best we could come up with in this area was the Devil's Garden hoodoos off of Hole-in-the-rock road. So, off we went.
Back down Hole-in-the-rock
Fortunately for our sanity, Devils Garden is not all that far down hole-in-the-rock road, so we didn't have to endure all that much of its dusty, wash-boarded surface.
The turn off to Devils Garden is well-marked, and the side road leading to the parking area is only a few hundred feet long. And the hoodoos are right there, right next to the parking lot, so there is no approach hike. Gillian was feeling a little under the weather and stayed behind to rest in the car. The rest of us headed out to explore the nooks and crannies of the hoodoos.
As expected, the kids loved the place and immediately rocketed out of the car and towards the dental-shaped towers.
In the most concentrated area, the hoodoos are fused together into a compact, flat-topped mesa upon which you can walk, once you circle around to the side that is shortest and climb up on top. From here you can wander around the rounded edge, peering down onto smooth little bowls and in some cases, actual arches (including the named Metate Arch).
After playing a bit of hide-and-seek in a different section of the hoodoos that has a lot of narrow passageways and little windows, we headed back to the cars.
It was finally time to head out of the Escalante, time to generally start heading back in the direction of Las Vegas and the our flight back home, which left late in the evening on the following day. We decided that it might be relaxing and nice to drive just an hour or so to the west, to the vicinity of Bryce Canyon, find a motel in which we could clean up and pack up, and then find a decent restaurant in which to eat dinner together one last time.
A scenic and easy hour-long drive west brought us to the little hamlet of Tropic, where we booked ourselves three rooms at the Bryce Pioneer Village RV/motel. We spent the next while getting ourselves organized and cleaned and all packed up for our return flight the following day. Then, when we had all completed our chores, we decided to take a scenic little drive up to nearby Bryce Canyon National Park for a look-see.
As evening approached and as we gained altitude up to the Paunsaugunt Plateau (the plateau upon which Bryce Canyon is carved), the temperature dropped - precipitously. The time spent out of the car at the various scenic lookouts in Bryce was brief, with everyone soon shivering and rushing back. At one point, the Tahoe's external thermometer registered 4C (39F). Pretty chilly for end of April in Utah, but perhaps understandable at our roughly 9000-foot elevation.
We returned to Tropic from our chilly Bryce Canyon lookout drive, and gathered for dinner at Showdowns Restaurant, our RV/campground's on-site eatery, which was suprisingly decent.