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Antone Ridge, Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument

October 7-16, 2005

Author: Bill Priedhorsky

Trip Participants: Bill Priedhorsky, Dave Scudder, Allyn Pratt, Francesco Grilli, Kathleen Gruetzmacher, Linda Klosky, Jan Studebaker.

Photo Gallery: Jan Studebaker, click here.

Sunday, October 9, 8 AM:

We are 5.4 miles into the wilderness, settled down to spend a week at a site established by Red Rock 'n Llamas. Our camp is on the west side of Death Hollow and below the summit of Anton Ridge. Today we are well-rested  -  our camp circle broke up at 8:30 last night, a full 11 1/2 hours ago, so there was time to catch up from the short nights of packing and traveling. With a small party of seven, diminished by family emergencies and health, we were able to move fast. We left the motel in Torrey at 6 AM yesterday morning, drove through Boulder at 7 to find no breakfast spot open, but found a sturdy breakfast and an interesting bookstore, the Roan Pony, in Escalante town. We arrived at the Escalante trailhead for the Boulder Mail Trail at 9 AM, just a few minutes before Bevin, BJ, and their 9 llamas from Red Rock 'n Llamas arrived to load our gear. Even with 2 extra llamas we were squeezed, perhaps because we were prepared for cold weather and a long trip. Bevin's llamas are not especially large, and can carry a gross load of 80 pounds apiece.

Backpacking without backpacks: llamas from Red Rock 'n Llamas carried out loads to a wilderness base camp. Kathleen (foreground) and Linda (background)
 leading llamas up the Antone Ridge monocline.

After packing we left at 10:30 and hiked directly to camp, arriving at 1:45 PM. Our camp was a spacious flat with a mix of pinons and ponderosa trees, above 3 pools in the unnamed drainage that heads toward Emerald pools. The afternoon was quiet as we set up tents, guying heavily against what looked like an oncoming storm. Dinner was Al's spaghetti, and we were too tired to bother with a campfire. After dinner we scooted up the bluff north of camp to see our site laid out below and the sunset clouds.

The day before 7 of us crowded into two cars to save $3 gasoline, meeting at my house at 6:30, leaving Jan's in the Jemez at 7:45, and arrived at Leprechaun Canyon at 3 PM for 90 minutes of hiking. We did not hike past the wet narrows. We arrived in Torrey at 6:15, staying at the Best Western Capitol Reef, and had a magnificent dinner at the Cafe Diablo.

Monday, October 10, morning:

View into Death Hollow, the deepest canyon in the vicinity, with a year-round stream
and dense vegetation  -  but too cold a place to camp this time of year.

It was windy all night but calmed this morning. Yesterday, we set out at 10:30 AM after Linda's recital of her adventures with the Australian aboriginals who name her Linda Napiljari. We crossed the west end of the bluff north of camp into the drainage of Mamie Creek. Hiking downstream we reached Mamie Natural Bridge, which frames the pool below. There were a series of pools farther downstream, then a 300-foot (?) dropoff into the final deep run of Mamie Creek. We explored the north side of Mamie to a viewpoint above its confluence with Death Hollow, found no easy way down, then backtracked to the dropoff for lunch. Afterwards, Jan, Bill, Dave, and Franceso climbed surprisingly passable ramp and gulley to the cliff top, and a castle above the southwest corner of the confluence. We recovered nicely from our hike in camp, with sun showers, Francesco's pasta carbonera, and a wind-driven fire, hot enough to melt glass and burn aluminum. Around the fire we sang girl rock and the Righteous Brothers, and finished the first chapter of Edward Abbey's semi-autobiography, "A Fool's Progress".

Tuesday, October 11, morning:

The wind has died, and the clouds are gone, so the night was cold. None of us exited our tents until the sun hit, right at 8:00 AM. The sky was a fantastic sight at 5:30 AM, with the band of zodiacal light rising from the direction of the imminent sun, and pointed towards an intersection with the band of the Milky Way. Thoughtful examination showed three axes of rotation represented on the sky: the Galaxy around which we circle every 200 million years, the zodiac around which the planets rotate, and the Earth's spin every 24 hours.

The wind was still strong yesterday morning, and the sky clouded over by afternoon but cleared by evening. Bevin had warned us of possible snow, but there was not a drop of precipitation anytime this trip. We arrived in camp late yesterday afternoon, and wiped down with a washcloth rather than take showers.

Our hiking objective was to explore the mass of slickrock to the northeast. The terrain is fantastically complex. When we climbed the peak that we had targeted for lunch, we found ourselves a mile from our intended destination, according to the GPS. Our hike started up our drainage to the old Mail Trail, and followed the old steel telegraph wire  -  a single strand  -  to the bottom of Mamie Creek. As we hiked up Mamie, bypassing deep side canyons to the north, the canyon bottom changed from sand to ponderosa and needles, with pools at regular intervals. We found an aspen grove of a dozen trees, still green in mid-October.

From Mamie Creek we turned to the north along a tributary, then took a false turn to the west on what we thought was a main drainage, but was not. Scrambling along the edge of a ridge we reached the red summit of our lunchtime peak. Descent took us past a foot-soaking pool  -  too shallow to swim, but full of flies that flew in water, not air. Jan, Dave, Francesco, and I found a route down a steep side canyon, then down a tree for the bottom 8 feet  -  a tree that was ready to hinge at its base and polevault Dave, our free climber, to the canyon bottom. The rest of us were belayed. We returned to camp by 6 PM, 8.7 miles showing on the GPS odometer.

Wednesday, October 12, 9 AM:

Yesterday we hiked into big canyon country, looping 5.2 miles downstream from our camp. We followed our drainage from one pouroff to another, detouring to the side as needed. One detour was to the left side, facing downstream, then down the nose between our creek and its main tributary to the west. Another diversion went up and down the pillow-texture slick. It was not warm, but Bill, Dave, and Kathleen took a bath in the icy pool below, while the cowardly watched. The pouroffs became larger and more frequent as we descended the canyon, and it opened to bare rock. By working down from the plateau above the Death Hollow confluence and traversing a final set of pools, Dave and others reached a point directly above the Emerald Pool in Death Hollow. Linda was belayed for the final traverse. Our return was along the flat island between our drainage and Death Hollow, with big views in both directions.

Our unnamed drainage nestled one beautiful pool after
another on its way to the Emerald Pool and Death Hollow.

Thursday, October 13, 9 AM:

Today dawned cloudless and chilly, if not as hard a freeze as a couple days ago. The sky was clear enough to be worth waking up at 4 AM for stargazing. Two hours before the earliest signs of dawn, the zodiacal light was prominent in rising Leo. I was excited to see, for the first time in my life, the Gegenschein  -  the dim broad patch of light, perhaps 10 x 20 degrees, due opposite the Sun on the sky, caused by sunlight retro-reflecting from grains of dust in the plane of the solar system. Linda and Kathleen were the only ones hardy enough to wake with me.

Yesterday we hiked up the drainage in which we are camped, exploring the north fork. We passed the usual beautiful pools, and belayed a thin traverse above one of them. We climbed out of side canyon and had a second lunch on peak 6916, past a sharks-fin protuberance, to views of slickrock for miles to the north. I cannot remember seeing such a large expanse of slickrock before. We traversed the upper end of the north fork, past two large crevasses that we named "Kathleen's cleavage", and returned to camp on a miles-long slickrock slope. Bill found a place to splash on the way out of the crevasse, then all had a shower at camp, for once warmed by the sun showers. Linda's curry made an exceptional dinner.

Fearless leader on the shark's fin, climbing peak 6916 on the way to lunch.

Friday, October 14, 9 AM:

We were up again at 6 AM to see the sky. The zodiacal light rising in the west was the most prominent feature in the sky, rising at least 45 degrees up from the horizon.

We have had a campfire every night except our first. This is allowable in the uplands in the National Monument, although not in the canyon bottoms. For three nights I had started the fire with one match and half a paper towel. Challenged by Linda to do better, Francesco and I last night made a fire with no matches and no paper, finding a coal still hot from the night before, and using pine needles for tinder.

Yesterday's hike took us north across Mamie Creek, climbing one knob after another and finishing with peak 6630 overlooking the Mail Trail-Death Hollow intersection. The climb up 6630 involved a series of traverses along sloping ledges over big exposure. Linda was uncomfortable at the top, hoping for an easier way down. There was none, but she watched her feet one step after another and descended without mishap. We followed the Mail Trail back to camp.

Saturday, October 15, 6 PM:

We are out of the canyon and in Boulder town. Sadly, civilization is still here. Our last hike as a full party was yesterday. Augmented by Greg Scudder and Greg's friend Kelsey, we headed up the south fork of our drainage. Not far above the Mail Trail we encountered an aspen grove in gold, and a tangle of berry thorns. We climbed the slickrock on the south side, and scouted a route up a high point that was an outlier of Antone Ridge. This was our viewpoint for lunch. We worked below and along a very rough ridge, and split our party near the top, with Allyn and the Scudder party returning to camp. Just after starting back, Kelsey sprained an ankle, but was able to hobble back to camp, and hiked out the next day not much slowed.

The rest of us topped Antone Ridge and saw the view to the west over Escalante town, including the incredibly convoluted view of the ridge monocline. We returned down a long slickrock ramp, and across the flat part of Antone Flat. Dinner was Dave's potato-leek soup, with fresh ingredients.

Today we woke at 7, an hour before the Sun hit out tents, to pack for departure. We worried not only about Kelsey's ankle, but also Greg's sudden illness. One party went out with them at 10 AM; Jan, Allyn, and Linda waited for the packer, who arrived at 1:45 rather than the promised noon. The gear party arrived at the motel by 6:30 PM. Franceso, Kathleen, and I hiked out the long way on the Mail Trail, crossing Mamie Creek, Death Hollow, and Sand Creek, for a run of about 10 miles that took us from 10:30 to 4:30. The bottom of the Hollow was dark and full of colored vines and trees  -  we weren't sure which were poison ivy, but we were suspicious. Sand Creek was a mess, showing signs of recent flooding. The Mail Trail has been re-routed, with a new starting point near the parking area, rather than down the dirt road to McGath point. Despite worries about the load, the late packer, and injury and illness, everything came together for a successful trip ending, which we celebrated with dinner at the Burr Trail Grill  -  served by our llama lady, Bevin.

Copyright Bill Priedhorsky 2005

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