Spring Break 2024 - Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument -  Day 2 (pm)

The quick sand started just an hour into our hike.  Pablo was the first to start sinking.  He was down to his knee before he knew it and almost lost his shoe as he struggled out of the deepening hole.  Over the next few hours, we were both in awe of our surroundings and a bit anxious of when the next hole of quicksand would appear.  During our walk in Harris Wash, we each hit quicksand at least 30 times.  Some were ankle deep, most knee deep, while one took me down to my waist.  Every time we were each able to get out on our own but we were both always on guard for the next sinkhole.

As we slowed to appreciate the small details, we came to the entrance of Glen Canyon National Recreation Area.  It’s interesting to peek at the oversight in this area.  We would be hiking in and out of many managed areas over the week.

The walls grew higher and at times we were able to climb out of the wash for bigger views.  After almost 13 miles we hit the Escalante River and turned upstream.  We were at mile 45 of a 90 mile stretch which starts in the town of Escalante and ends at Lake Powell.  The water immediately became deep and powerful and the tricky river crossings began.  All in all, we would cross the river 30+ times a day on our 4 day adventure.  

Walking in the river was challenging because of the powerful current, the icy cold early spring temperatures and the hidden river bottom covered in slippery boulders and loose sand.  But at least it didn’t hurt.  Walking on land was about 80% bushwhacking through dormant willows which gouged at our packs, scraped our legs and arms, and from time to time, threatened to poke an eye out.  But damn this was a beautiful place.  

Towards the end of our almost 15 mile day, in which we never saw a trail, we climbed up high to find our camping spot.  It’s amazing how getting just 50 feet up above the canyon can both be much warmer and much drier.  As temperatures drop, a thin layer of air (Katabatic Air) close to the ground undergoes cooling, resulting in increased moisture content and density compared to the air above. This phenomenon creates a completely separate thermal boundary, which limits the exchange of energy with the air layers above it.  Camping above this layer is almost always both 5-10 degrees warmer and also out of the wet air layer that causes condensation.  Our night was beautiful and dry.  We sat out and chatted about the highs and lows of today and what might come tomorrow.  The food was terrific, the stars were amazing and the conversation, as always, was plentiful.

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