Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Capitol Reef National Park, Utah - Halls Creek Narrows - Backpacking

What better time to backpack in Capitol Reef National Park than July!?  Probably any of the other 11  months of the year!  Hunter, Col, and I were craving a hot desert adventure for the 4th of July weekend to compensate for the endless winter that we had to endure this year, so this is the trip we all selected.  On our last backpacking trip in Zion last February, I remember Col saying that he "would never know warmth again".  We found warmth on this trip.  Dear god it was hot.

We left Salt Lake Friday evening and camped near Torrey, UT at a higher elevation campground called Singletree in Dixie National Forest.  It was a holiday weekend and we knew we'd be arriving late.  This was the closest campground to Capitol Reef that takes reservations.  Our spot was fantastic - there was a small stream right next to my tent and the nighttime temperatures were perfect for sleeping.

On Saturday morning we headed into the park to pick up our backcountry permit to hike into Halls Creek Narrows, in the southernmost portion of the park.  The ranger immediately slapped a paper withe the 5 day forecast in front of me and asked me to read it.  I think she wanted me to be horrified and change my mind.  Yup, yup.  Hot.  We knew what we were getting into.  Off we went, driving the Bullfrog-Notom road all the way to the end of the park, near Bullfrog at Lake Powell.

Driving down Bullfrog-Notom road

At the trailhead - good thing we had high clearance!  Although a Subaru managed to make it, of course

Looking into Halls Creek

Looking hot!

We hiked about 5 miles the first day in scorching heat.  The first mile was a steep drop into the canyon, followed by 4 miles of walking through the dry riverbed of Halls Creek.  There were a few pockets of water, although some recent rain was probably responsible for them.  I have a feeling water is normally very scare above the narrows.

Hunter and Col enjoying a slightly shady spot

Happy campers

Fetching some water

Our camping spot, about 5 miles from the trailhead

Our plan for the second day was to get up early, hike 5 miles down to the narrows, hunker down in the narrows all day to avoid the heat, and then hike the 5 miles back to out camping spot.  This plan worked out fairly well as the hike down wasn't too bad and the narrows were indeed much cooler and shadier.

Hiking down Halls Creek

Entering Halls Creek Narrows

An amazing alcove near the beginning of Halls Creek Narrows

 Hunter and Col enjoying the water in the narrows

Enjoying the cooler temperatures in the narrows

 A desert oasis

Halls Creek Narrows

Halls Creek Narrows

We spent several hours in the Narrows not only because it was a beautiful area to explore, but also because it was far to hot to be out in the open desert.  It was amazingly cool and comfortable in the Narrows - we filled all of our water containers and took naps on the cool rocks.

Desert varnish

Halls Creek Narrows

 Filtering water

Halls Creek Narrows

Halls Creek Narrows

The second night in Halls Creek was unbearably warm for sleeping.  A fine dust blew into our tents all night.  We packed up camp in the darkness at 4am to escape the canyon before the scorching sun returned.  The four miles up the canyon weren't bad at all, and with the exception of my water filter breaking, everything went rather smoothly in the comfortable morning air.  The last mile up and out of the canyon was brutal, and the sun hadn't even made an appearance over the rim of the canyon until the very end.  It was steep, hot, and we were all low on water, but we all made it.  Sadly, there were no margaritas to be found in Torrey.  Someday, I hope Hunter and Col will join me for a more comfortable backpacking trip!