Posted by: kerryl29 | September 21, 2021

The Desert Southwest: The Coyote Gulch Saga

Coyote Gulch. Where to start?

Coyote Gulch lies within Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument in Utah. It is a deep canyon, with a creek running through it…kind of a riparian ecosystem surrounded by towering sandstone walls. It is a fascinating place.

So what’s the problem?

Access. The most photogenic parts of Coyote Gulch, according to everyone whose seen it, are in the middle. The Gulch, you see, runs for approximately 25 miles from end to end. It’s fairly easiily accessed, Jason and I were told, on both ends. But the middle 10 miles or so, that’s the part that we’d want to see. The only way to enter from one of the ends and see the middle was to do so as part of a multi-day backpack, something neither of us was interested in or prepared to do. No, we wanted to photograph the interesting part of the gulch as a day hike. To do that, we learned, involved entering (and departing) via one of two somewhat dicey mid-points.

One is known as the Water Tanks (due to the location of some old elements fitting that description near the trailhead), which lies closer to the upstream end of the canyon. The problem with this entry point is that it’s a steep slickrock slant. Best to have a rope, we were told, to go via this route because if you slip and fall you can seriously injure yourself. Oh, and best to avoid this route at all if you’ve got a heavy pack unless you’ve got technical climbing experience. Doesn’t sound very promising.

The second option is known as the Crack-in-the-Wall, which lies a long ways downstream from the Water Tanks. Requiring a relatively easy mile and a half hike to get to the crack itself–on the canyon rim–the crack is an extremely narrow passage way through a break in a series of massive rocks. It’s so narrow that large individuals probably won’t fit through the gap and forget about taking anything–a backpack, a tripod…anything–through the crack with you, because it won’t fit. If you have gear and you want to enter the gulch via this route, you have to lower your gear roughly 30 feet via rope. Alert readers will also recognize that this process must be reversed (i.e. pulling your gear up) if you choose to exit the gulch via the Crack-in-the-Wall.

A mutual acquaintance of Jason and myself who has photographed in Coyote Gulch multiple times told us, in no uncertain terms, that if we wanted to photograph the gulch as a day trip that we should definitely enter and exit via the Crack-in-the-Wall.

And so that’s what we did. We had camped not far from Sunset Arch on the previous evening, as I recounted in my last Desert Southwest entry, which wasn’t a long way from the Crack-in-the-Wall trailhead. We made the short drive before sunrise, and were on the trail to the Crack shortly thereafter. We needed some light to make the hike because most of the trail is over slick rock and open desert and is marked by cairns. Making this hike in the dark would be…let’s just say that without being able to see the cairns, some other form of route-finding would be necessary. Consider this a bit of foreshadowing.

We made the hike to the crack quickly and with ease and soon found ourselves eyeing the crack itself and figuring out how to navigate it. Entering the crack requires scrambling over a massive boulder and dropping several feet into the narrow passage. As it had been determined that Jason would be lowering the gear (all of our packs and both of our tripods) via rope, I had to go through first. I managed to make it down into the passage without a problem, but I remember wondering how on earth I was going to be able to climb back over that boulder on the way out, since I had to drop about three feet over the edge and I saw no way that someone of my height (a bit under 5-6) was going to be able to find a way to pull myself up. I trusted that we’d figure something out, and then I shimmied my way through the passage that is the crack itself. It’s incredibly tight; anyone with a broad-brimmed hat would be unable to get through with the cap on one’s head.

But I made it through and then walked around the rocky cliff face to receive the supplies from Jason. One by one he knotted the gear pieces and lowered them to me; I unknotted them and yelled for him to pull the rope back up. After the last piece had been lowered and secured I started bundling up the rope while Jason worked his way through the crack. All of this took about 10 minutes from beginning to end.

Once we were both through and ready, we started the hike down into the gulch. This hike was down a very steep and very tall dune, made of extremely loose sand. The hike down–nearly 1000 feet–couldn’t have been easier, but as we effectively flew down the dune, I remember saying, out loud, that it was going to be one miserable climb back up at the end of the day. I had no idea.

We were down in a matter of a few minutes and found ourselves at creek level. We knew that the interesting part of the gulch involved a hike upstream, so we made our way off quickly. It was still pretty early in the morning.

The Hike: Expectations

Before I continue with the narrative of our experience, indulge me for a moment (I promise there will be photos!) while I describe what we were in for.

Coyote Gulch involves stream walking–there’s simply no avoiding it, repeatedly. The water is not deep–even in early May, while we were there, water levels were rarely much above ankle height–but it is relentless. This isn’t like hiking the Virgin River Narrows in Zion National Park at the same time of the year, when water levels routinely reach waist-deep and beyond and when water hiking is at least 3/4 of the experience, but the Coyote Gulch hiker must be prepared for repeated instances of sloshing through the creek. As a result, both Jason and I purchased and wore water shoes; my experience was a bit more positive than Jason’s, though this was due mostly to sheer luck, as I will explain.

Given what we wanted to see of the gulch, we expected–including the three-mile round trip hike between the trailhead and the Crack-in-the-Wall–to hike at least 17 miles on this day. That sounds like a lot, and I suppose it is, but since we expected to stop repeatedly to photograph and we had all day long…and because there’s very, very little elevation change (other than the [expletive deleted] sand dune–yes, this is another instance of foreshadowing)–we honestly didn’t think it would be a huge issue…and for the most part (more foreshadowing!) we were correct.

We were pretty concerned about having enough potable water for this hike. We were confident that we could handle the distance, but we knew that access to water throughout the day was important and we didn’t want to weigh ourselves down by trying to slog a gallon of water apiece on our backs. So, we each carried about a quart of water and we purchased a water filtration system from an outfitter in Escalante the day before the hike. Many gulch hikers do just this; we could filter a quart of water at a time in a matter of just a minute or two simply by tapping the endless supply represented by the creek. This was absolutely the right move and it made things much easier for us though, in the latest in an infinite number of instances of foreshadowing, we still had some issues at the end of the day…though this had nothing directly to do with our reliance on the water filter.

Finally, in a fail-safe move that absolutely proved critical in the end (yet more foreshadowing?), I took my handheld GPS with me and made a deliberate point of marking the trailhead…just in case something went wrong. (Ha.)

The Coyote Gulch Experience

We hiked along the creek a short distance before coming to the first of several waterfalls we would visit on the way. We pulled out the camera gear and went to work.

Coyote Gulch, Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, Utah

It was a small waterfall; none of the falls in the gulch are particularly big, but this was the smallest we’d see. I photographed it both with and without the brightly lit canyon wall in the background (which presented some dynamic range issues that were relatively easily overcome

Coyote Gulch, Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, Utah

Reflections–a major element of a number of images that would be made on this day–were the subject of an abstract shot that I made using the pool below the waterfall.

Coyote Gulch Reflection Abstract, Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, Utah

We continued to hike along the creek, clearing problems–like having to climb over a rock wall to get around another, larger waterfall (there were several of these kinds of hindrances along the route), which involved a modest scramble and the handing of packs, tripods and other supplies to one another–as needed.

Our next photo stop was alongside a huge rock alcove on the left side of the stream. I was quite intrigued by the scene but had a very difficult time composing a photo that I felt was at all compelling, let alone doing the feature justice (which was effectively impossible in a two-dimensional medium). But as I was moving back and forth in the water, camera in hand, constantly aware that the problem was a lack of depth caused by the absence of any sort of meaningful foreground, I figured out my answer to the problem: the sand ripples, visible below the surface of the shallow water. That was my foreground.

Coyote Gulch, Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, Utah

I converted this image to black and white as well; the texture and pattern of the submerged sand ripples are more evident in a monochromatic presentation.

Coyote Gulch Black & White, Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, Utah

We moved along the creek, stopping whenever we found something of interest to photograph, including this cottonwood tree backed by a red rock canyon wall.

Coyote Gulch, Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, Utah

At some point during this stage of the hike, Jason’s watershoes–which hadn’t been properly broken in (neither had mine), started causing blisters on his feet. After awhile, he couldn’t take it anymore and we stopped so he could take them off. The skin had been rubbed raw in a few places. Fortunately I had a stack of bandages with me and we applied them liberally to his feet, but they only did so much good. At some point, Jason simply took the shoes off and walked barefoot whenever we went through the water (which, as I stated earlier, was frequently). Walking in the water wasn’t so bad, but having to tread on tree roots and the rocky non-creek hiking surface was a problem. I felt lucky that I had no such problems with my own shoes (which weren’t any better broken in–they just fit better, as it turned out).

By early afternoon we’d reached the site of Coyote Natural Bridge, an impressive arch with the creek running through it. Given the light we had (relatively harsh) at that point, a compelling wide angle image of the Bridge was not to be found, but–as we’d decided to take a break at this point, replenish our water (with the help of the filtration system) and just chill for a bit–I wandered around to see if I could make something ever-so-slightly on the abstract side of the natural bridge’s contours. Before long I found what I was looking for.

Coyote Natural Bridge, Coyote Gulch, Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, Utah

While we were at the bridge, I also found a tight shot of a cottonwood branch backed by the canyon wall that I liked, but the wind was blowing consistently at this spot and it took me at least 10 minutes of (relative) patience before I was finally able to capture the image below.

Coyote Gulch, Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, Utah

We continued our hike upstream as the afternoon wore on, and came to a narrow sluice, three or four feet deep, where the creek water, forced into a tight channel, surged through. Jason and I were both intrigued by this feature and, fighting encroaching hot spots, sought to find ways of rendering it.

Coyote Gulch, Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, Utah

We were at least six miles into the gulch part of our hike when we came upon an interesting gate-like feature of the canyon, which opened as widely on the far side of the enclosure as it narrowed on the side we were on. I looked at the opening closely, and walked around a bit, as I’d discovered a sun-splashed cottonwood on the other side that I could frame with the canyon walls.

Coyote Gulch, Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, Utah

With my telephoto lens I shot the scene as both a horizontal and a vertical. The latter better displays the depth of Coyote Gulch.

Coyote Gulch, Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, Utah

Finally, something like seven miles into our hike–by this time it was late afternoon (we were keeping track of the time–more on this below)–we reached what is known as Swiss Cheese Falls, a small cataract that is framed by pock-marked canyon walls (hence the swiss cheese reference). But what intrigued us immediately upon approaching this waterfall was the reflections; the wet rock was almost neon yellow-green, as it was picking up the bright reflections from sunlit cottonwood leaves on the nearby trees. The scene was mesmerizing, and we hastened to take advantage of it.

Swiss Cheese Falls, Coyote Gulch, Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, Utah
Swiss Cheese Falls, Coyote Gulch, Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, Utah
Swiss Cheese Falls, Coyote Gulch, Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, Utah
Swiss Cheese Falls, Coyote Gulch, Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, Utah
Swiss Cheese Falls, Coyote Gulch, Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, Utah

While we were working the scene at Swiss Cheese Falls, a group of photographers emerged at the waterfall, hiking downstream. This was professional photographer James Kay‘s workshop. They had clearly come to this site to photograph the scene during this window of time when the reflections were at their best. But, as we had arrived first, they graciously stayed out of our way–though we invited them to work in with us as we wrapped up, which they eventually did. I was impressed with how courteous this group was. Jason had met James Kay, and his wife Susie (who always accompanies the group), before and introduced me to them–very nice, gracious people.

But this meeting left us with some questions. How had this group–some of whom appeared to be in their 70s if not their 80s–managed to get down here? They’d come from upstream, so they presumably had descended from the Water Tanks entrance. Alert readers will recall that we had been told not to attempt this route. But if people as much as 30 years our senior had made it down (and were presumably planning to head out) that way…

So, we asked the Kays how they’d made it down to Swiss Cheese Falls and, sure enough, they’d entered (and were going to depart) via the Water Tanks route. They did have a rope and apparently none of their clients had any issue getting down, nor were any issues anticipated for the route back up. So that was interesting.

Meanwhile, it was now early evening and we had to get back to the Crack. We determined that attempting to go up the Water Tanks route would leave us miles (five or six was the best estimate) from our vehicle, over trackless desert, very possibly in the dark. We hadn’t planned on that. So we had to get back to the Crack and we knew that it was imperative that we get through the Crack before dark. It was time to head out. We had about seven miles to get back to the sand dune. The hiking was easy and there would be no stopping; we felt confident that we’d make it with plenty of time to spare.

Actually, though on the hike back we passed innumerable places where we would have liked to stop as the light was now terrific just about everywhere, we eschewed all of them. All but one, that is. We made a two-minute exception, at a beautiful meadow that we simply couldn’t resist. Regrettably, it was the last image of the day.

Coyote Gulch, Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, Utah

The Hike Out

We made good time all the way back, despite the occasional road blocks, Jason’s feet and the sheer seven-mile distance. When we got back to the point where the dune met the gulch–this is going to sound absurd–we couldn’t immediately find the route up the dune. We were too close to it, as it hovered steeply, immediately to our right. But eventually we discovered the opening and found ourselves at the base of the dune and began the climb up.

It was, honesty compels me to report, worse than I’d anticipated, and as you’ll recall, I knew it would be awful. We were in a hurry…but the dune was incredibly steep and the sand was loose, so everything felt like three steps forward and two back. Despite the volume of the day’s hiking–and we estimated that we’d hiked, at a bare, bare minimum–15 miles up to that point, we both felt quite fresh. That changed in a hurry.

I’ve hiked some steep trails in my time and I basically never stop to catch my breath. We must have stopped five or six times, at least, climbing that dune. It was the toughest hiking I’ve ever done. I’m sure that the amount of walking we’d done that day was a factor, but…only a small one. The weight of what we were carrying was no help either. That dune kicked our butts. But, we finally made it up, though it took much longer than we’d expected.

We got to the Crack. This time Jason went through first, with nothing but the rope, and cleared the boulder. He got into position 30-odd feet above me and dropped the rope. Now it was my turn to knot our pieces of gear, one by one, then call up. Jason pulled up whatever I’d tied in and then dropped the rope again and repeated the process. When everything was up, it was my turn to squeeze through the crack and, when I got to the boulder, it was as I’d feared: I was too short to grab hold of anything above me to pull myself up. So, Jason basically reached down and yanked me out of the crack and I got my arms on top of the boulder, allowing me to climb up to the canyon rim.

The sun was setting at this point, but we took a minute or two to catch our breath. We had realized on the hike up the dune that we had very little water–probably no more than a pint between us. We had planned to fill our bottles from the creek (using the filtration system for purification purposes) before climbing the dune, but when we were flummoxed, looking for the access point, we were probably forty or fifty feet above creek level, and given that we were in a big hurry–really concerned at this point about avoiding having to navigate the crack in the dark–we just started heading up the dune. Now it was an issue.

When we navigated our way around several huge rocks, toward the area where the trail would take us the 1.5 miles back to the parking area, it was dusk. We were able to find the first couple of cairns and then…poof. It was too dark to find anything. I put on my headlamp and pulled out the GPS. Thank goodness I’d marked the trailhead; the GPS would tell us if we were heading in the right direction because, if we were, the distance (marked in hundredths of a mile) would decrease.

It was amazing how quickly it was pitch dark. We had no idea where the marked trail was. We were walking through open desert, with frequent vegetation, mounds of slickrock and, most notably, some fairly deep bowls, some filled with water, as had been the case at White Pocket.

When we initially had to rely almost exclusively on the GPS to find where we needed to go, we still had about 1.3 miles to the marked spot. I determined pretty quickly that Venus–bright, but low (it was setting) in the western sky was an almost perfect beacon for us–hiking straight at it seemed to bring our distance down pretty quickly. That was a good guidepost for us for about half a mile, after which we approached a rise that caused the planet to descend out of our view.

The hike back was miserable. Despite one’s best efforts, it’s almost impossible to keep a steady course in the pitch dark. The headlamp helped avoid any major pratfalls, but we were exhausted–the hike up that dune had been a killer–and probably somewhat dehydrated (we took just an occasional drop of water to preserve what we could). We stopped several times on open slickrock spots and just kind of collapsed for a few minutes. It was also somewhat chilly. Not too bad, but nighttime in the desert, given the near absence of humidity, can be a problem. Fortunately there was no wind.

I don’t think either of us was ever really concerned that we wouldn’t find the trailhead, but we did, at some point, briefly discuss the implications if we had to hang out in the middle of the desert until first light, when we’d be able to really see what we were doing.

But we slogged on, and I kept rapt attention on the GPS to make sure we stayed at least mostly on course.

Finally, when the GPS said we were only about 1000 feet from the waypoint, Jason spotted a reflection–something bouncing off a vehicle’s headlights. We simply made a beeline for that reflection and, before long, we were climbing up a rise, to the parking area.

Whew.

We got to the vehicle and tapped into the massive reservoir of water we had. That was a major boost to how we felt. We still had to set up camp, which we did, pretty much right there, and then more or less collapsed into the tent, with no concern at all about how late we got up the following morning.

Epilogue

Jason and I spoke at length, over the ensuing days of the trip, about the Coyote Gulch experience and we concluded a number of things, including the following:

  • Despite what undoubtedly reads as a near-tragedy, we’d done an awful lot right, despite a natural focus on what we’d done wrong. We did have the filtration system. We did have headlamps with us. We did have the GPS and we’d marked the key spot. We did ask for (supposedly) experienced advice about how to approach entering/exiting the gulch. It’s not as though we’d just run in there completely unaware or without having considered a Plan B. Nor had we lost track of time. In fact, it was almost certainly our preparation and caution that had kept the hike out from being more than just a really unpleasant experience.
  • The advice we had received was awful. Just awful. Relying on the crack entrance/exit for an all-day hike was a terrible idea. I heartily recommend that anyone considering a day at Coyote Gulch not repeat this mistake.
  • Doing an all-day, single-day shoot at Coyote Gulch is, broadly speaking, probably a bad idea and, in fairness, that conforms with just about all the advice we received. You end up missing most of the best light of the day both hiking in and out. Maybe–maybe–it’s possible to do this via the Water Tanks entry, but I certainly do not express that notion with any confidence whatsoever. Further investigation is needed.
  • Partial day shoots almost certainly should plan to exit via the Water Tanks or forego the experience entirely. At the very least, no one should plan to hike up that Crack-in-the-Wall dune at the end of a long day with a lot of heavy gear.
  • Coyote Gulch is absolutely beautiful and is a tremendous place for photography. If there’s any way to do it as an overnight or, even better, a two-nighter, that’s probably your best option. Exactly how to go about doing this without it being a miserable slog (hauling both camping and photo gear, both in and out) is the conundrum.

Responses

  1. Kerry,
    Thanks for your remarkable candor about your experience. It’s VERY helpful for your readers. I’m sharing your post with my nephew to ensure that we learn everything we can prior to our (much longer) excursion into the Gulch next spring. Sounds like entering via Crack-in-the-Wall will be a squeeze, although neither of us is too hefty. The water-shoes comfort issue was interesting. I haven’t found any “official” water-shoes that look good, so I’m currently thinking that I’ll use my hiking sandals with neoprene socks.
    Thanks again for sharing,
    Steve

    • Hi Steve, happy to help (if that’s in fact what I’ve done).

      I would recommend looking into all entry/exit points other than the Crack-in-the-Wall. If you don’t want to hike in from the top down, I would investigate the Water Tanks extensively. Have a look at it, if you can show up early. You will very likely want a hefty rope (if there isn’t one already in place–apparently there frequently is one already tied up and usable, but you can’t completely rely on that). I have a very, very difficult time believing that the Tanks isn’t the better option, but don’t take my word for it.

      Re footwear, for the most part a hiking sandal will probably be fine–it will definitely be fine for any water hiking you’re likely to do. Whether you’re comfortable with an open-toed shoe for any general hiking/scrambling (I’m not, but your mileage may vary), is the relevant question.

      This is the water shoe I used for this hike (I was extremely pleased with its performance, both in and out of the water):

      Unfortunately, it appears to be out of stock and it’s unclear if it will ever be available in the future.

      • Kerry, we are planning a through-hike from Crack-in-the-Wall to Red Well, using a shuttle to leave our vehicle at Red Well. I don’t want to miss the lower section of the river, and the Water Tank/Sneaker entry is pretty much in the middle.

        Wouldn’t entering via Water Tank require quite a bit of hiking back down the river to reach lower sections?

        I’m thinking I’ll use hiking sandals with neoprene socks just for the areas where we’ll be wading, not for the other hiking. Did you wear anything inside the water shoes — any sort of socks or neoprene booties?

        Thanks again for your advice,
        Steve

        • Steve:

          Everything we did on our hike was upstream from Crack-in-the-Wall; we were told that this was the most photogenic part of the Gulch: between the Crack and the Water Tanks. The creek flows east to west, so if you’re going from Crack-in-the-Wall to Red Well, you’re going to be going upstream. The distance between the Water Tanks entry–very near Jacob Hamblin Arch–and the Crack is 7-8 miles. But it’s another eight miles, as best I can tell, between Jacob Hamblin and Red Well.

          So are you planning to descend through the Crack, hike upstream, and then hike out through the trailhead at Red Well? One thing I can say for certain: if your goal is, basically, to photograph the areas between Jacob Hamblin and the Crack, you’d do the least amount of hiking, by far, if you restrict yourself to those two (i.e. Crack, Water Tanks) exit/entry points. The question is whether you feel you can make it in/out via those two routes, given your level of fitness, the weight of whatever you’ll be carrying and your personal proclivities.

          I still haven’t actually seen the Water Tanks route with my own eyes, so I’m reluctant to say anything declarative but…James Kay’s workshop participants got in and out via that route, with their gear (apparently with the assistance of a rope, both in and out). That has to tell us something.

          I absolutely recommend NOT going out via the Crack. You’ve read my description of hiking up that dune. I can’t imagine doing that with photo gear AND backpacking equipment. In via the Crack isn’t that big of a deal, if: a) you don’t mind the 1.5 mile hike to the rim (you have to be prepared to follow cairns); b) you can squeeze through the Crack itself and deal with the boulder as a jumping in point; and 3) have no qualms (and the physical strength involved) in knotting your pieces of gear to a rope and lowering them 30-odd feet. (This isn’t trivial; if you’re going to use the Crack you absolutely must bring a sturdy rope with you and be prepared to use it; it’s literally impossible to take anything of any size with you through that Crack.)

          Re your question about footwear, I wore neoprene socks inside the water shoes. That worked just fine. Do understand that this wasn’t my first hike in water, nor anything like my most difficult. I hiked a good chunk of the Narrows in Zion in early May a bit less than a decade ago and that was much, much more difficult as far as the water hiking was concerned because the water volume and velocity was infinitely higher than anything I experienced in Coyote Gulch. The Virgin River water was also much colder, being snow-fed. I wore a drysuit for that hike. That’s completely unnecessary for anything in Coyote Gulch. Regardless, neoprene socks would be a good idea, IMO.

        • Kerry,
          We plan to enter via the Crack and exit at Red Well. We will have a very leisurely trip of 4 days in the Gulch, so plenty of time to traverse the whole length. We plan to arrive in the afternoon and camp the first night near the Crack, so we can shoot sunrise from there (I’ve read that it’s a very nice dawn/sunrise shot). Then we’ll descend to the Gulch and start upstream. I’m not worried about the amount of hiking — dividing the whole distance into four days is a doddle.

          Quite right that the Narrows is a very different animal. I’ve did that in autumn a few years ago. I found the rocks on the riverbed the biggest challenge. I also used a rented drysuit, etc. Terrific experience.

          Thanks again for sharing your experiences and advice!

        • Four days…now THAT should allow for some terrific photography in the Gulch. You’ll have time to go back to literally every spot worth photographing in the best light for doing so.

          I know it’s a ways off still, but have a great trip!

  2. I am amazed at the beautiful photos you produced while surely in the back of your mind was the dune climb to come at the end of the day. Swiss Cheese Falls looks like an incredibly rich photographic opportunity. Because I’m curious, I’m going to see if I can find what James Kay has to say about fitness requirements for this trip.

    • Thanks, Ellen. Truth is, I really didn’t spend much, if any, time thinking about that dune until we started to climb it. Then, I thought of nothing else.

      Note that the excursion into Coyote Gulch as part of the Kay workshop appears to be limited to the Swiss Cheese Falls venue; I don’t think they spend any other time there. I had a look at James Kay’s website last night and I don’t think he has a spring workshop in the GSE area scheduled for the next several years. The fall workshops (he as one this year and next) are sold out. Looks like during this spring time frame, over the next two years, he’s taking groups into the Capitol Reef back country. (Sold out for 2022, but spaces available for 2023.) Not cheap, based on my investigation, but I’ve heard very, very good things about James Kay’s workshops.

  3. Your photos from Coyote are astoundingly beautiful, not the least because of your Herculean efforts to make them. Thank you for sharing your story and amazing photos. Best, Babsje

    • Thanks very much!

      I hope this didn’t come across with a “we led our sled dogs across the frozen tundra and lived to tell about it” vibe. I did want to convey to readers that there is a bit of extremis involved in venturing into the gulch, at least if one does so via the mode that we used. Evidently the folks on the workshop got in and out with a minimum of muss and fuss (coincidentally we saw them again later in the trip, at another location, and they appeared none the worse for wear).

      • Oh not at all. It didn’t have that sort of vibe at all. It was a delightful real-world slant and a cautionary tale for real world people. I’m always happy to hear from photographers who go it alone without engaging services of professional guides. Your blog tone was perfect and your photos awesome. And new shoes? Go figure. I walked the Boston Marathon in a brand new pair of Saucony sneakers with less than one mile of a shake-down break-in jaunt. Sometimes we just get lucky with shoes! Or not.

        • Thanks!

          Re shoe luck…far be it for me to make a declarative statement on the subject, but I’m pretty sure that Jason would raise his hand when the “or not” shoe luck assertion came to light.

          I’ll also say that, while I’m usually happy to strike out on my own (or with another person or two), sometimes a professional guide can be worth his/her weight in gold. I hope you’ll stick around for the figurative Chapter 2, when I get around to chronicling the recently completed adventure to the Alaskan interior, particularly when I get to the part about the glacial ice cave that was photographed (but never would have been known to exist without the use of a guide). πŸ™‚

        • Oooh a part 2? With an ice cave? Count me in. Thanks for the heads-up! 😊

        • Not to dampen any enthusiasm, but it’ll be awhile. I have to finish documenting the desert southwest trip first. πŸ™‚

        • It takes more than a long delay to dampen my enthusiasm. I’m still going through 2012 archives for a couple of projects. Good luck and no hurries.

  4. What a story, Kerry. I’m glad it all turned out well. You managed to get some magnificent images of which you should be proud. We have driven up Grand Escalante and boy, was that a thrill! I can imagine now how incredible the hiking and photography below is, thanks to you.

    • Thanks, Jane. Coyote Gulch really is an excellent photo location and worth some considerable trouble to encounter. But there’s trouble and then there’s TROUBLE and I can’t help but think we took on much more than we needed to in the end. Lesson learned.

  5. Whoa! That was quite the adventure! I’m glad something prompted me to pop in.

    ​Love the contrasting color in the Coyote Natural Bridge shot! Also the sun-splashed cottonwood, particularly the horizontal. Seems there’s a theme developing here.
    ​
    ​Almost as good as being back there in Red Rock country… without the strenuous bits.​

    ​I’m glad, all things considered, that it turned out as well as it did!​

    • Thanks, Gunta. Very good to see you here again.

      It was, in the end, a good day, despite the difficulties. I would certainly consider visiting Coyote Gulch again, but I would definitely go about it differently the second time. πŸ™‚

  6. With any luck, we learn from experience! 😏

    • Luck and the almost criminally undervalued virtue of self-reflection…a powerful combination. πŸ™‚

  7. Loved the photos and narrative of your trip.

    • Thanks very much!

  8. Lovely photography. Glad you made it out OK, I have made a few mistakes hiking. The latest was in Iceland on Viday Island that cost us hours of painful slogging over hillocks of grass.

  9. Wow, beautiful pictures of the Gulch!!

    • Thanks very much!

  10. […] it was directly a function of the previous day’s experience or not, there was relatively little photography on this day of the trip. We did not get up for […]

  11. […] to be truly appreciated. (It was the kind of thing we frequently observed during our foray into Coyote Gulch, a couple of day’s earlier.) Despite the dry desert conditions, a good deal of vegetation can […]


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