Backpacking Loop in Death Hollow and Escalante River canyons: Day 3 – Death hollow canyon.

We awoke our first night in the canyon to stars. It didn’t get light in the desert until about 7am, later than a reasonable waking time given our early night. Once light, we slowly packed up and had coffee and breakfast, hitting the trail about 9:15am. We anticipated traveling about 6 miles on day two, getting at least to our turn to follow the Escalante River back to our car.

Death hollow canyon is quite narrow, with phenomenal, steep, cliffs on both sides most of the time. There was a trail, though oftentimes there were multiple trails or side trails and it was sort of a choose-your-own adventure hike. Because of the narrowness, the ‘trail’ crossed the river regularly, and sometimes we would just stay in the river because it was easier going. Sometimes the only path was through the river.

It did get to our waste at times, though the water really wasn’t cold. It was a lovely change after the heat the day before!! It was also lovely to have no worry about getting fresh water if we ran out, which of course also means we could carry less.

We both had decided to hike in Keen sandals – the kind that have cover to protect toes but lots of holes to let water and sand in and out. We really had no idea if these would work well or not. We had seen (from blogs and you tube videos before our trip) that many people wore light trail running shoes. Our sandals ended up working out beautifully and I would choose them again.

For many hours of hiking, we had yet to identify poison ivy. Given the warnings we had about poison ivy (not just from the shop in Escalante, but through our research prior to the trip as well), we started to question whether we were able to identify it. I attempted to avoid any plant I thought might be it! However, later in the day we did see tons of it, clearly identifiable. We were able to avoid it for the most part, though I walked away with a couple of minor spots.

The hiking was delightful and relatively easy, though certainly not quick. Walking in water or loose sand, which most of our hiking was, does not make for rapid miles. This worked out fine, we didn’t have that far to go and could enjoy ourselves.

We stopped for lunch at a rock and swimming hole we had seen in pictures and videos. It is one of the only really deep swimming holes, and has about a 3 foot water fall that looked fun to play in. Looked being a key word – I went for a very quick swim but the water, while not cold up to the thigh, was breathtakingly cold to swim in! I didn’t last but a quick second, and then attempted my way out, which took a bit of effort on the slick rock.

Shortly after our stop, we hit the one challenging part of Death Hollow canyon. There is a narrow bit of rock with an overhang, making for a very awkward, skirt around. Or there is a deep swimming hold. I was pretty sure that if I attempted the narrow, dry, way, I would end up falling into the water anyway, so I chose to enter the water on purpose and swam about 5 feet, with my pack on and holding both sets of our hiking poles, to the other side. It worked just fine. We had been anticipating this, so we both packed our stuff in plastic bags so that nothing that couldn’t or shouldn’t get wet would. My husband managed the dry route, though he scuffed his pack and now can’t say that he went for a swim with his pack on.

We reached our turn, where Death Hollow runs into and turns into the Escalante River, at about 3:30pm. We had considered hiking till later in the day, but the river we would be traveling up didn’t have a bunch of water in it, and we found ourselves at a lovely camping spot with a large beach on the river nearby. We decided to set up camp, and we enjoyed an afternoon reading books on that beach and bathing in the river. I’m not very good at taking hours to just relax, and it was really delightful and I’m thrilled we didn’t continue on.

Eventually, we again settled into sleep below the starts and canyon walls, settling into another nice sleep.

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