Hamblin Arch, Grand Staircase – Escalante National Monument
Grand staircase – Escalante National Monument is yet a National Park but I think it will be soon. The park has one of a kind beauty and amazing hikes. Take highway 12 from the more known Bryce Canyon east and you will reach the town of Escalante, the portal to this less often visited paradise.
I had big plans for my visit to Escalante but of course it didn’t quite work out as planned. My first day would consist of a long hike to Jacob Hamblin Arch in Coyote Gulch which is part of Glen Canyon Recreational Area and then wander around the Devil’s Garden area.
In my research, the trail would be 12 miles up and back so I had planned my day for a 14 mile hike since in case I wanted to go to the natural pool beyond the arch as also. Well, the hike to the arch was 8 miles one way. It was much longer than expected. I did go a little further as well since I wanted to see the cliff people had to traverse as part of the shortest 6 mile route to the arch.
The hike started with over an hour drive to the trailhead from the town of Escalante, 33 miles on hard packed dirt road that rattled my car all the way on Hole in the Rock Road or BLM 200. You don’t need to have a four wheel drive vehicle but I do recommend a higher profile vehicle like a truck or SUV.
I found the trailhead and started off at 9:40 a.m. with the temperature at 58 degrees so it was perfect for hiking through the desert landscape that provided no shade in the first four miles.
A dry creek bed is your virtual trail during this period. It’s a sandy path that gives and it’s hard to go at a fast pace. Even still, I was making good time as my adrenaline was fueling my speed. I constantly checked my Gaia app to assure I was still on the trail and check my progress.
The app said I was at the 6 mile mark and the time on the trail would back that up. The app had also contradicted the 12 mile total and stated it would be 14 miles when I checked at the start of the hike. That was still doable and it didn’t bother me. But, it was now apparent that 14 mile number would be incorrect as well.
I was now in the canyon carved out by the creek and passed the seven mile mark and still no arch. The app stated I was getting close and I couldn’t turn back now with all those miles I’d already logged.
Finally, around a bend the arch was revealing its self at the eight mile mark. It’s an imposing land mark with the creek running alongside it. My spirit was recharged as I finally made it. This is the first of many landmarks in Coyote Gulch such as a natural pool, waterfall, natural bridge, and other arches but those additions would be out of reach for a one day hike. The original plan was to attempt to reach the natural pool but that would no longer be feasible.
I did go a little ways longer to see the backside of the arch and I wanted to see the cliff people were traversing as part of the short cut.
I was able to see hikers prepping to go down the rope but they took a little to long to do it so I made my return. I had lunch, a sandwich I packed, under the arch under a shading spot away from the campers. This is a popular spot for them and there were more than a dozen occupants at the bend in the creek. It was now time to make the long arduous hike back to the car.
I back tracked through the trail that crisscrossed the creek. I was lucky that the water lever was low and I didn’t need to use my water shoes to cross it. The canyon is covered with shade so I was still feeling good.
Then, I reached the dreaded four miles of desert with no shade. By this time the low temps of the morning now reached 85 degrees by the time I would finish the hike. The sandy trail felt like quick sand and every step was and effort was compounded by the brutal heat.
Occasionally, a lone tree would provide shade so I rested under it but I mostly rested behind a tall bush, squatting down for a minute or sitting on a rock. Luckily, I had packed more fluids than the 12 mile hike I had thought I was doing. But, that was getting low as well. With one mile to go, I could feel dehydration hitting me. I was no longer sweating and no longer thirsty. I forced my self to continue to drink water. Then, I drank the last drop of water I had which would have been dyer but I knew I was only five minutes away from my car that contained a cooler filled with ice and more water bottles. I raised my arms in victory as I reached the trailhead and the additional water. I consumed water as if I was addicted to it. This would last into the next day as I continued to rehydrate.
True, this hike was more than I expected and I may have had second thoughts if I knew the actual distance. It did teach my of my limits, my endurance and the will of my survival instincts. The canyon portion of the hike is amazing and the arch is unique being along side the creek. The beauty of this region would be unforgettable on its own. The distance of the hike and the pain the last four miles caused will definitely make this one of the most memorable experience of my life.