Pioneer Day in Escalante, R/X Canyons and Rappelling Calf Creek Falls


Head south again? Sure, why not. Escalante in the middle of July - uh, well.... Many people think because I am a "desert rat", that I do well in the heat. Not true! I loathe the heat, that's why I hide in the canyons, and avoid canyoneering in July and August, when possible. But Nat and "a climber friend" were up for some of the hard slots down the Hole in the Rock Road, and the opportunity could not be passed by. I rang up Ryan "Always Game" Cornia, and we hit the road. But first ---



Turns out, this was the weekend for BIFF (the Bicknell International Film Festival) hosted at the Wayne Theatre in scenic, downtown Bicknell (not on the outskirts...) and if we left Friday at a good time, we could catch the showing of...



Beach Blanket Bingo - a surprisingly good movie.



Various awards and door prizes were handed out, with the help of our next Senator-for-Life Pete Ashdown (left) from X-Mission. Good times had by all.

We thanked the timing and drove south to rendezvous with Nat and Jeff down in the Escalante. Thankfully, Ryan drives like a demon, so we made it there in good time.



Dawn in the Esclante. Adventure awaits.



We get an early start and charge off toward our first objective – the Headless Hen. We have the first two, half-day and not too high-ball canyons scheduled for our first day.

The Headless Hen seems pretty easy, but it does have a couple interesting potholes at the end. For this pothole, we tossed a ropebag and rope out there for Nat to use for getting out.

Nat pulling on the ropebag…

Which doesn’t REALLY work, so Jeff drops in and gives him a boost…

The first canyon dispatched, we have a little lunch and head over to our next objective – Raven Slot. Here we are, finding a way into the canyon bottom.

Raven Slot was full of arches and natural bridges.
The seldom seen, with several bridges.

And then the canyon got fun. It narrowed sharply, and got quite narrow. We climbed up 50 feet to get to a place we could fit. This shot is actually taken looking down-canyon.

Squeezing through a narrow spot while Mae Westing.

Jeff makes it look easy. Sticky shoes? Nah. Helmet? Nah.

Two rattlers in little pothole. (Nat rescued them).

We finish the canyon in mid-afternoon, and hang out in the shade, waiting for dusk. No real point in charging back up the hill to “Windy Point” until we really have to.

Back at camp – a little R and R. The wind came up after dinner, and we retired early.

Hitting the trail, 6:52 AM, to beat the heat. Today is the big day, heading into Big Tony (originally called here “Frosted Flakes Canyon”), which has an X rating, considerably harder than the R rating of Raven Slot.

The first problem being to get across the main canyon, and onto the slickrock domes and slots across the way.

Nat hiking up a rib toward the top of Big Tony.

Hiking up…

Arriving at the top of the canyon. We hike around, while Jeff warms up by doing the short section. “Couple interesting spots”, he reports.

We start down into the canyon, downclimbing a fun little section.

8:47 am. July in Escalante. I was still feeling dehydrated from the day before, and even before 9 am in morning, it was already hot. We were in the canyon, in the shade, and sweat was still pouring off my face. For me, it was not going well. We arrived at the first hard up-climb, and I called it. For me. Not my day.

Jeff graciously helped me climb back upcanyon and out. Maybe another day I'll be up for this canyon, but this was not the day for me.

So, pictures from the rim, looking down on the boys in the canyon ---

A little further downcanyon. Nat, Ryan and Jeff stemming high above the canyon floor.

Another interesting section further down. No, they are not visible.

A deep narrow section, about a mile further down. Scary!

The canyon opens up, further down.

This is a land of the Moki Marbles. There are many, many of them.

Back into the shade at the main canyon, I hung out in the cool of the creek and trees for many hours.

The boys did a fine job in the canyon. Yes, high and scary and strenuous, but never too high, too scary or too strenuous. – On the hike out…

and Ryan relaxing at the car. After dinner, the wind kicked up, so Ryan and I split up toward town, while Nat and Jeff stayed on for more adventure the next day, Pioneer Day.



Up in Escalante, we went to Escalante Outfitters for a little pizza and beer on the porch on a fine summer evening. No surprise, we found my friends Aimee and Rick (from Escalante Excursions) hanging out. And, more importantly, game for a little adventure the next day. We had tried to rappel Lower Calf Creek Falls a few weeks before, but failed to bring sufficient rope (a minor problem), so a return was scheduled for the next day.

Morning finds us hiking down to Upper Calf Creek Falls.

Last trip, I had been told there were great jumping pools at the top of the Upper Falls. We found a nice pool, but only 3 feet deep. With Rick and Aimee along, we were clued in that the good pools were a few hundred yards upcanyon. Ryan and I, after being baked for two days out at Camp Windy Point, were ready for a cooling jump, even at 8 in the morning.
Tom jumps first…

Ryan jumps second.

Then we climbed down beside Upper Calf Creek Falls.

The hike between Upper and the Lower Falls is amazing – a beautiful stroll down a creek in a jungle. A perfect dayhike for Escalante in July. Ryan in the jungle.

Lower down in the jungle. Yet another tough day in the Escalante (not).

Here’s a nice flower we found in bloom alongside the creek.
Tradescantia occidentalis, the Western Spiderwort. (Thanks Cowboy Dave).

Approaching Lower Calf Creek Falls, a wonderful area of pools and waterfalls appears.

Rappelling Calf Creek Falls.

Hiking out: Rick and Aimee on the trail. It sprinkled a bit on the walk out, very pleasant. Then we drove home. Very pleasant for me, ’cause Ryan did most of the driving…