Saturday, October 27, 2012

a wonderful hiking area in the GRAND STAIRCASE-ESCALANTE NAT'L MONUMENT


The jurisdiction here lies with the BLM. The fee is zero.

The hiking in Hackberry Canyon is easy for an out-and-back hike. The hike up the side canyon to Sam Pollock Arch is more demanding than Hackberry but worth it. The optional loop described below is demanding but worth it.

The environment is back country and self-sufficiency/self-rescue is required.

The best time to hike here is spring/fall, optimally maybe October, after the monsoon season is well over and daytime temperatures are mid 50sF-70F. Feet may well get wet, so one should regard cold feet as a consideration. The lower 10 miles of Hackberry usually flows.

Navigation is easy with landmarks for assistance.

Trailhead: From Highway 89 between Page, AZ and Kanab, UT drive to between mileposts 17-18 and turn north on the well graded, dirt Cottonwood Road. Drive 14.4 miles to just past a cattle guard and right branching Brigham Plains Road to a short pull off on the left (west) that is the trailhead for lower Hackberry Canyon. Do not ever travel Cottonwood Road if it is wet or if rain is predicted. The road is rough under the best conditions.

From the trailhead head west, being sure to cross Cottonwood Wash to find Hackberry Canyon heading right or north.

The canyon is scenic as it breaks through the Cockscomb. This is a nice narrow (but not a narrows) canyon which usually has spring water running in it. About an hour north, on the left on a bench just above the wash floor are some dinosaur tracks on a small rock (3 ft. wide X 5 ft. long X 2 ft. high). This would be 20-25 minutes after the largest "rock tower" on your right as you travel upstream. To the dino tracks is also a little more than half way to Frank Watson's (built by Mr. Thomas?) cabin which is on the west side about 15 feet above the creek bed. The tracks are outies not innies so they are tough to photograph. They are still cool Grallator prints.

.6 mile upstream from Frank Watson's cabin (which is forever being reconstructed), continue easily through the Moenave & Chinle formations, and the first canyon on the left is the canyon which holds Sam Pollock Arch. It is a 3 mile (total out-and-back distance) trek from here to Sam Pollock arch. To get there, walk up this side canyon until you encounter a pour off at the top of the Kayenta formation in 1/2 mile. Look for a trail on the right (facing up canyon) that leads up and around this obstacle. Continue a mile up canyon to locate Sam Pollock arch looming above the stream bed on the right. There is a cave with Art Chynoweth's signature engraved in it north of the arch.
The one-way route to Sam Pollock Arch: Travel north and upstream in and next to Hackberry Creek 1/2 hour to the largest "rock tower" seen. From here it is 25 minutes to the dinosaur tracks. Then continue 45 minutes to the cabin. The first canyon on the left past Watson's cabin is 15 minutes more (TAKE IT). The first 1/2 mile in this drainage is a boulder-hopping 1/2 hour. Past the dryfall is an easier 1/2 hour hike to the arch (and 1 more mile). When ready, return the way you came. Allow 7-8 hours for the out-and-back trip to the arch. The distance being undetermined, it is probably about 12 miles round trip.

Or a loop option return is available, with many elevation changes and therefore more difficulties. Directly east of Watson's cabin there is a steep drainage ascending a series of falls. Pass on the left side of the first dryfall here to find cowboy glyphs and signatures. Continue to climb the next dryfall series on the left or north. (The south side is easier here, however the north side delivers the hiker due west of the amphitheater or overhang which holds "Moki House", an Indian ruin site with a nice pictograph. Search in the Navaho sandstone domes for it.) From Moki House hike and hug the bottom of the Navaho sandstone domes north for about 20 minutes, then find a spot where the top or rim of the formation may be accessed. Travel this rim south (the Navaho domes should be directly west and below you) to where an intersecting drainage chasm and rim head upstream east. At this intersection a nice arch may be viewed to the southwest but it is hard to photograph. Scramble uphill and east on the north rim of the drainage to what appears to be a perfect huge natural cairn. Travel south over a typical Utah "Devil's Backbone" and then basically southeast, keeping beautiful Castle Rock (which may be hiked from the SE side on another day) and a steep drainage on the left. The trails come and go here. This is what Michael Kelsey calls the Ken Goulding stock trail (but built by Mr. Chynoweth?). Anyway, all trails will eventually come together though many foot tracks disappear daily in the wind. There are very few cairns but they are large and visible. It is nearly impossible to get lost unless one could miss the landmark Castle Rock. There is no trail construction remaining other than the last very steep exit against a cliff face into Cottonwood Wash and the access road. There is another nice arch and a "praying Tibetan monk" just before the descent to Cottonwood.

The return loop option from "Sam Pollock" canyon/Hackberry Canyon intersection: Travel south downstream to the cabin, then just short of 1/2 hour east up the north side of the drainage to the top of first dryfall, passing cowboy signatures at 20-25 minutes. Hike and scramble (another 1/2 hour) the north side of more dryfalls and east to Moki House. Moki House to the large "natural" cairn by the described route is about an hour. Then go east and south on the obscure Ken Goulding Trail, keeping Castle Rock to the left, to Cottonwood Wash in another hour. Lower Hackberry Canyon car-park is south about 1 mile via the C. wash or access road. It is a very long day to incorporate the loop hike. Or camp near the cabin in safe weather and make 2 shorter days. Allow 4 hours from the cabin to the car-park. The distance being undetermined, it is probably 4 1/2 miles from the cabin to the car. It is tough but fair going with constant route negotiating and navigating. The loop return only adds about 1/2 mile more than the out-and-back but adds up to several hours more.

If energy is in excess, from the lower Hackberry TH one may also access the beautiful "Yellow Rock" formation by traveling steeply and almost due west a short distance.

This whole area is like a fairyland landscape and was created by cataclysmic geologic events.
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