A quick fall spin thru Escalante/Grand Staircase

Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Day Trippin'' started by Bullseye, Oct 16, 2016.

  1. Bullseye

    Bullseye Mr. Bad Example Supporter

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    I had only passed through Escalante once before, but it had left an impression. It's one of those places where you need to spend some time and cover some ground to really see much of it. Years passed, but this week I finally had the opportunity to get back to the area.
    I was headed to Hurricane Utah to meet friends for some camping and mountain biking on Gooseberry Mesa. I was already taking a few days off from work, might as well take the whole week.
    The plan was to head to Utah early and spend the first half of the week traveling around GSE and camping off the motorcycle and then meet my friends on Gooseberry Mesa for the rest of the week.
    I trucked the bikes to Hurricane and parked in front of a friend's house, leaving the MTB behind for now.
    This would be my first time camping off the motorcycle. Being that I am on a small bike (WR250R), I went with a Giant Loop Coyote saddle bag. I packed with the mind set of a backpacker... it all fit... after about 3 redos! The Coyote is plenty big, but the inner-gear-junky in me wanted to take too much stuff. In the end, the DSLR Camera gear and a couple of other luxuries were left behind.
    By 2pm, I had made the drive from California to Hurricane and was ready to roll.

    I stopped for a quick selfie to send to the family. Highway 9, Entering Zion National Park
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    #1
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  2. Bullseye

    Bullseye Mr. Bad Example Supporter

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    I wanted to get as far towards GSE as possible before sunset. The shortest path was to take Highway 9 through Zion National Park. As the canyon walls closed in around me, so did the traffic! There was a line for the park entrance fee. Fair enough, it was a weekend and this was to be expected. I made it through soon enough and cruised into the park. I love this place. Riding up the switchbacks to the tunnel, traffic again came to a halt. We were waiting for Eastbound traffic’s turn through the tunnel. I reminded myself that there are worse spots to have to sit in traffic. After 5 minutes or so, we were on the move once again.
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    Exiting the tunnel, I took a fleeting glance down into Pine Creek Canyon... one of the most spectacular slot canyons around. But that's another adventure for another time.
    I was finally up to speed! Only to come to a halt again! This time it was for a good reason. A herd of Big Horn Sheep were posing for us tourists on the rocks right above the road. Each car paused for a picture and then moved on... I was no exception.
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  3. Bullseye

    Bullseye Mr. Bad Example Supporter

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    I continued East out Highway 9 to Mount Carmel Junction, topped off with gas, then headed North on 89 to Glendale. From Glendale, I was finally on some dirt, heading East on Glendale Bench Road. Rumors of mud and impassable washes did not materialize. In fact, speeds of 40-50 (and occasionally more) were the norm. With a little light to spare, I made the turn onto Skutumpah Road and headed North. I was able to get past Deer Springs Ranch before the sun began to drop in earnest. I found a nice camp spot at the top of the bluff before the descent towards Kodachrome Basin. I just had enough daylight left to gather some fire wood and set up camp.
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    The sunset put on quite a show. (Kodachrome Basin low and in shade, Barney Top high and lit-up.)
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  4. DittyBag

    DittyBag A bag of dirty stuff

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    Awesome. :clap
    Think I'm gonna be sick with envy now.
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  5. Bullseye

    Bullseye Mr. Bad Example Supporter

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    Day 2
    The weather was just perfect, low 70's by day and 30-40s by 5am. I packed up and continued down Skumtumpah Road heading North. I made a planned stop for a little hiking at Bull Valley Gorge.
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    I parked my bike at the side of the road, moved any valuables into the day pack and hiked up along side the canyon to a point where it became shallow enough to enter the drainage. I had plenty of time, so I thought I would try to descend through the canyon and out to the South. Conditions at the bottom of the canyon were pretty rotten. Lot's of deep mud. I made the first two drops and decided to back-track out.
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    I've done quite a bit of technical canyoneering, but I wasn't comfortable with the conditions, especially given that I was alone and in a remote area. The last climb out at the top of the canyon proved all but impossible with slippery, muddy shoes. I managed to find a side route and made it out without drama.
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  6. Bullseye

    Bullseye Mr. Bad Example Supporter

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    Back to the bike and heading North again towards Kodachrome Basin.
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  7. Bullseye

    Bullseye Mr. Bad Example Supporter

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    I hit the paved road and exited to Highway 12. I topped off with gas at the Grand Staircase Inn and continued East to Escalante. Wheeled into Escalante Outfitters for some 'real' food and to take a little break. Compared notes with another Tarheel expat who is now living full-time in Escalante. I topped off again for good measure and headed off to Hole-in-the-Rock Road.
    First stop along HITR, Devils Garden.
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  8. troutwhisperer

    troutwhisperer Been here awhile

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    Spectacular scenery. Thanks for sharing. You guys out west have some of the most dramatic landscapes!!!

    Sent from my SM-G930R4 using Tapatalk
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  9. Bullseye

    Bullseye Mr. Bad Example Supporter

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    The next stop was the Dry Fork Slots (Dry Fork, Peek-a-boo and Spooky). A bit further South at about 26 miles in from Highway 12. By this time I was beginning to trust that the dirt roads in the Monument were in much better shape than the BLM's Road Condition Report was admitting. In fact, I passed the grader on the way down to Dry Fork. Very smooth, very dry with almost no washboard. I am sure that parts further South do not get the same attention from the grader.
    Parked the bike at the trail-head, changed into my hiking clothes and donned my mud encrusted hiking shoes.
    Dry Fork - Easy hiking.
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    After talking with other hikers coming out, I decided to hike up Peek and down Spooky. At the entrance wall to lower Peek, I met a retired couple from... North Carolina of course! They were unsure of the terrain, we talked briefly and became fast teammates helping each other through the obstacles in the canyon.

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  10. Bullseye

    Bullseye Mr. Bad Example Supporter

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    This area specifically has an embarrassment of riches when it comes to dramatic landscapes. But let me just say that Western Virginia... not too shabby!
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  11. Bullseye

    Bullseye Mr. Bad Example Supporter

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    By the end of Peek, the sun was getting low and I needed to find a camping spot for the night. I made the hike out and rode the bike to a potential camp spot that I had scoped out via Google Earth. It looked great... but now I had doubled down on mud and dirt. Given the excellent road conditions, I quickly elected to high-tail it to town for a cheap hotel and hot shower. I made it to town just before dark and found a clean, no frills room at the Prospector Inn.
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  12. Bullseye

    Bullseye Mr. Bad Example Supporter

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  13. Bullseye

    Bullseye Mr. Bad Example Supporter

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  14. Bullseye

    Bullseye Mr. Bad Example Supporter

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    There was a little confusion with the East end entrance to Casto Canyon. Even though the canyon is open to moto and atv traffic, they don't want you entering through the same door as the hikers. I followed the signs around to the North for about 4 miles where the trail eventually descends into Casto Canyon Proper. It's beautiful, Bryce 'Thunder Mountain' terrain. The trail was well used, and in fact, I soon came upon a group of slow moving tourists on a guided ATV ride through the canyon. I waited for a wide area and passed each one slowly and politely. Until I got to the lead guide... he looked back and saw me at least twice. I waited patiently for him to give me just a little room to pass or to wave me by... it never came. I finally passed him in a wide wash... perhaps not quite as politely as the others.
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    I exited the canyon and headed South to Highway 12 for Gas at Red Canyon. I had planned to grab lunch, but there was'nt much in the offering here. I gassed up at the Red Canyon Indian Store, grabbed some snacks and took a break on their porch.
    After the break, I headed back East on 12, turning South at East Fork Road. Passed Tropic Reservoir and then headed East on FR109. 109 is one of the few roads in the area that descends the step between Bryce and Hatch. There were some nice campsites along this route, but the elevation was still pretty high. I had seen the weather from the previous night and it would be cold in this area overnight.
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    #14
  15. Bullseye

    Bullseye Mr. Bad Example Supporter

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  16. Bullseye

    Bullseye Mr. Bad Example Supporter

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    Day 4 - (Last Day)
    I broke camp and continued East and then South onto Johnson Valley Road. Nice scenery.

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    About halfway down to Highway 89, I took an ATV trail connecting West to Kanab Canyon. ATV trails in this area equal sand... deep soft sand. My rear D606 is on it's last legs, so I had to stay on the gas. I made it through to Hwy 89 and continued South into Kanab for lunch.
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  17. Jeeper0505

    Jeeper0505 Adventurer

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    Great RR and excellent photos....nice work.
    Keep it coming!
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  18. Bullseye

    Bullseye Mr. Bad Example Supporter

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  19. Bullseye

    Bullseye Mr. Bad Example Supporter

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    One final note of thanks...
    In preparing for this little tour, I made some inquiries in the Rocky Mountain Forum and boy did they come through with some excellent 'beta'.
    RideFreak, swimmer, wbbnm, MisterDumps, DittyBag... a big Thank You!
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  20. bomose

    bomose Long timer

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    Great report and pics. My wife and I were out there in July. We really wanted to hike Spooky, but the road proved too sandy for 2 up on a 990. Thanks for showing us some pics.
    #20
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