Best of the Decade*

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Yeah, I know the decade isn’t *technically* over today, but I will follow along with the masses and celebrate the end of the “aesthetic” decade before 2020 rings in at midnight! 🙂

Below are some of my favorite adventure moments from 2010-2019. These are all from Utah, so you won’t see any entries from areas outside the state  (even somewhat like Dinosaur, Lower Paria, or Grand Canyon.) I might follow up with a separate post for “Beyond Utah” soon.

I was going to rank these, but quickly realized that that would be too challenging. Each of these moments is unique and special in its own way, so I’m just going to present them in no particular order. So… Let’s Go…

 

Zion to Arches Hike Finale

It was an awesome way to end my 44-day, 726-mile hike from Zion to Arches. Sitting at the famous viewpoint of Turret Arch through North Window provided a great moment to reflect on my journey — my longest and arguable best ever. It was also an opportunity to pay tribute to my grandfather who’d passed away less than six months prior. I’d taken a photo of him at this exact same spot about 30 years before which made the moment even more special.

Cataract Canyon

Later in 2018 I got a chance to join some friends on a float trip down Cataract Canyon. It was a crazy initiation for me into the world of white-water rafting — but I loved it!

“Rainbow Ridge”

I frequently browse Google Earth to scout potential routes or just in hopes of finding something interesting. After the app updated its satellite imagery around St. George in about 2012, I spotted a patch of slickrock that looked really cool. There were surprisingly few photos associated with the area. Over the next year a few more photos popped up, but none of the one specific area that I thought looked really cool. I finally took a trip to explore the area later that year at it was pretty awesome. Turns out it was a known area and has recently become somewhat popular and referred to as Yant Flat. I’m happy it’s still not overrun with people and the adjacent section that I dubbed “Rainbow Ridge” is still seldom visited.

Atop Rainbow Ridge

Rainbow Ridge

 

Stevens Arch

I’ve hiked along the Escalante far below this iconic arch several times (and across from it a few times as well), but… 2018 marked the first time I actually climbed up and hiked THROUGH the arch itself. It was a great experience and the views were definitely unprecedented.  And… due to some misfortune in route-finding, I later got to do it again after being unable to connect to upper Stevens Canyon and thus had to backtrack to the standard route.

Devils Castle

Now for something a little bit different… a memory from NORTHERN Utah. Since my parents moved to SLC from Missouri many years ago, I’ve enjoyed hiking in the Wasatch Mountains during the warmer months when I’d visit. I’d also skied at Alta and had always admired the rugged peak known as Devils Castle. So, when a friend suggested we do the off-trail scramble route to the summit I jumped at the opportunity. The route somewhat tested my tolerance for exposure, but it was an amazing hike.

Dark Canyon

In all my “early” hikes in southern Utah, I’d always bypassed Dark Canyon for some reason. I’d heard great things, but it always seemed to be just a bit too far from the route that I wanted to take. That changed in 2010 on my Escalante to Monticello Hike when I got to see what I’d been missing out on for so many years. I’ve been back a few times since and I can say that it really is a special place with many surprises.

waterfall in lower Dark Canyon

Upper Dark Canyon Granary

Leprechaun Canyon

I’m NOT a canyoneer, but I do enjoy going through “hike-able” slot canyons when possible. In 2011 I explored the North Wash Canyons for the first time after driving past the scenic area so many times. The canyons here were featured in the film 127 Hours (the Aron Ralston story) and though they are best experienced with technical gear from the top, there’s still a lot to see from walking up fr0m the bottom. They are TIGHT and definitely confirmed my fear of ever getting into anything too small with my larger-than-average frame.

The “intro” slot to Leprechaun Canyon

Flash Flood in Capitol Reef

I’ve seen minor flash floods in the past, but nothing as dramatic as what I experienced in Halls Creek Narrows in 2015. This wasn’t a huge flood, but it was amazing to see the previously dry wash transform into a torrent in a matter of minutes in a somewhat perilous location. With over 2 million views, the video of the event has become by far my most popular on YouTube. It’s gotten tons of positive reactions, but it also garners “idiot” or “drama queen” comments almost on a daily basis. Luckily I have pretty thick skin. 🙂

Halls Creek Narrows Flood

Above Red Slide

I didn’t do a big hike in 2014. Instead I did an abbreviated exploratory hike in the Moody Canyons area of the Escalante. Probably the best moment of that hike was watching the sun go down atop the cliffs above Red Slide overlooking the Waterpocket Fold and on to the Henry Mountains.

Wahweap Hoodoos

Another great moment from my Zion to Arches Hike in 2018 — my first ever visit to the Wahweap Hoodoos. This area is accessible as a day hike from the Big Water area, but instead I swung by the iconic location from the other direction on day 17 of my big hike. It really is an amazing site and I remain dumbfounded how it could have been REMOVED from the Grand-Staircase/Escalante National Monument with the presidential proclamation of 2017.

Return to Coyote Gulch

I’d been to Coyote Gulch before, but during my 2015 Zion to Capitol Reef hike I returned and got to spend a little more time in this great canyon. I must have timed my trip perfectly as I didn’t see many people that year, whereas on my subsequent return over a weekend in 2018 there were hoards of backpackers!

Lower Coyote Waterfall

Jacob Hamblin Arch

Back to Behind the Rocks and the Solstice Snake

I hiked into the Behind the Rocks area for the first time in 2012 and that in and of itself was a highlight. But, I got to return in 2017 for a second visit and see more. My big hike that year didn’t go as planned as after leaving Arches headed for Bryce, I aborted after 6 days due to a strained knee. But, the day before leaving the trail I found the Solstice Snake petrolglyph which I’d missed on my previous hike. That and a return to Pritchett Arch softened the blow of the having to leave the trail earlier than planned that year.

Solstice Snake

Devils Golf Ball

Also in 2017 I visited the Devil’s Golf Ball. This usual formation is just off the jeep road in Kane Springs Canyon so it’s not too hard to get to — but for some reason I’d never been. I shared this photo with my Grandfather and he got such a kick out of seeing it — so it will always have a special place in my heart.

Devils Golf Ball

Striped Monster

On my 2013 Boulder Mountain to Moab Hike, there was one stretch I wasn’t sure I’d be able to complete — a steep climb up a talus slope near Lockhart Basin where there was no established route. I’d scouted the area from the top a few years prior and I *thought* it looked feasible, but I wouldn’t know for sure until I actually tried it. If I were to find the route was impasable, it would have meant a few extra days getting around the mesa in a predominately dry area. So, I was ecstatic to find that the route was indeed possible despite a few sketchy parts through some boulders. Since that trip I know a few other hikers who have followed in my footsteps and this route has now become a viable alternate along the Hayduke Trail.

“Striped Monster” Descent/Ascent Route

Zion’s Right Fork

In March of 2013 I attempted what I dubbed the Around-Zion Hike. I ended up cutting it short due to chilly temps, but the 7-day portion that I completed still had many great moments. One such moment included taking a cross-country route from Coal Pits Wash over to Right Fork. I saw a herd of elk along the way and Double Falls was spot I won’t soon forget.

Return to The Barracks

I’d been through the Barracks before, but on my return in 2015 I had a bit more time to enjoy it and explore some of the great side canyons like Poverty Wash and Mineral Gulch. This entire area is pretty fantastic.

Poverty Wash Narrows

Mineral Gulch

Lower Barracks

Trachyte Hoodoos

This is another example of a great memory that came from just looking at a potential route on a map and *hoping* it would work out and then stumbling upon something cool. On my 2010 Escalante to Monticello Hike I wanted to connect the bottom of Trachyte Creek over to the North Wash area. It looked like it should be feasible, but it made for a some anxious moments along the edge of Lake Powell. I still hope to find an “over the top” route someday, but until then, the along Lake Powell route works fine and has some great sights along the way such as these unexpected hoodoos and great views above the lake:

The Volcano

This spot has become more and more popular in recent years (and goes by many other names which I really don’t like!) But, when I first visited this spot back in 2012 on my Bryce to Moab Hike I really didn’t have good beta on exactly WHERE it was. I enjoyed exploring around the Red Breaks area (and the nearby slots), but when I finally found myself at the edge of this cool geologic formation I was blown away (and not in a volcanic eruption kind of way as in reality this spot isn’t volcanic in nature at all.)

 

The “Muley Mushroom”

On my 2013 Boulder Mt. to Moab Hike, I spotted something odd in the distance near Tarantula Mesa. I walked the approx. 1/2 mile over to get a better look and I’m glad I did as it was a really cool hoodoo that I dubbed the “Muley Mushroom” (after nearby Muley Canyon.) I’ve yet to see any other photos of this unique spot online likely due to its remote location, but I think it’s definitely worth a visit for anyone on the nearby Hayduke Trail.

Upper Muley Twist

This is another somewhat popular area that escaped my radar for longer than it should have. I finally did an exploratory hike in 2012 and found an exciting “back door” entrance to the upper end that would help on future long-distance hikes. I have since returned twice and made use of that route.

Strike Valley Overlook

Cap Arch and exit canyon

the upper slot

 

… and MANY more.

Thanks for following along, Happy New Year, and see ya in 2020!

— Jamal

🙂

 

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9 Comments

  1. Thanks Everybody for the comments. Cheers to 2020!

  2. Dee Anna Turner Thomas

    You are living the life meant for me. My favorite places and exceptional photos!

  3. What a wonderful and beautiful tour I just went on!! I knew your Grandpa Ben, a great man, he and my dad used to hunt together. Keep on adventuring Jamie.

  4. Thanks for sharing. Have you been to the Colorado River Overlook (possibly called the ‘diving board’), 4-5 mile hike beyond the Doll House campgrounds? I was able to identify it last year but I couldn’t get across a wide crack to actually climb out onto it. 800 or so feet above the Colorado, just below the Confluence with the Green.

  5. goose0816@charter.net

    Your pictures are amazingly beautiful!! I envy your ability to explore this untouched country….and you are able to share your experiences with us. What is on your agenda for the New Year? Whatever it will be, I will be looking forward to more great pictures!! Thanks, Jamie!!!

  6. Awesome. Photography great. I have been following you for awhile.

  7. Thanks for sharing all this great info!

  8. Awesome list of amazing places! Thank you so much for inspiring and entertaining us. Hopefully, these places will all reside in protected areas for the future generation being able to enjoy them.

    Now, I am sure you are planing something great to start the new decade!!!

  9. Thanks for posting this Jamal. I imagine most of your followers are very interested in what you regard as the best of the best of southern Utah. I probably won’t make it to all of these spots, but I’m sure as hell going to try!