In 2006 I got the idea to do something I’d never done before — take a month off work on go on a crazy long hike! I’d completed several short backpacks in the Grand Canyon, Yosemite and the Escalante region — but nothing ever this ambitious. Like many backpackers, I’d also always been attracted to regions as “far out there” as possible.
This led me to begin the “Curb Pavement” project — looking for the longest stretches of wilderness in the US that were uninterrupted by a paved road. I was surprised to find that less than 10 areas existed where one could go more than 100 miles point-to-point w/o crossing a paved road. One of these places just happened to be in southern Utah and at that very time (and still today) there was a lot of controversy over “roads” and who controls the “existing” roads in the relatively newly formed Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument. That was enough to make me select this area for my first big hike. And, since I’d always been a big fan of the Colorado Plateau, heading back was an easy choice.
So, in April of that year I geared up and set out from the paved highway just east of Zion north of Kanab. The plan was to spend 25 days crossing the monument, Capitol Reef and the Henry Mountains before hitting pavement again south of Hanksville. With a sat phone in my pack, I was able to update my CurbPavement.com website as I went.
Below is the summary of that ignaugral “Big Hike”. If you want more detail and photos, click any link below and see the full original report for that section. From there you can step through the entire trip day by day if you want.
Part 1 — The Grand Staircase
Leaving Highway 89 behind, I checked out Red Canyon before heading up Kanab Creek. By the time I got to the National Forest I was already worn out and several days behind schedule. Climbing up through the snow and getting to Rainbow Point in Bryce Canyon gave me a great sense of accomplishment. The next day I was to my first cache site and ready to tackle the rest of the hike.
Part 2 — The Upper Paria River
Headed down Willis Creek through the cool slot canyon and then down scenic Sheep Creek and upper Paria. After a run-in with a cow or two, I was down around the old Pahriah townsite and the surrounding purple/pink/blue hills. Soon after that I was climbing up to Yellow Rock. This is colorful country!
Part 3 — The Kaiparowitz Plateau
I was a little bit nervous heading out into the desolate Kaiparowitz Plateau. My off-trail route gave me no solace and many times I questioned if I would find my way across before running out of water. Luckily I found water and a cool slot canyon along the way — absolutely zero people though.
Part 4 — The Escalante
Happy to be into the Escalante Basin and having refilled my supplies via my next cache site, I headed down 25-Mile Wash. The flies were awful and water was tough to find before I reached the lower end. There the water flowed and the canyon was beautiful — though somewhat of a bushwack. When I reached the Escalante there was actually too much water. After trying to fight it, I turned around and headed back up the slickrock of the Egypt Bench and back down where I would cross the Escalante once more.
Part 5 — Choprock, Capitol Reef and the Finale
Safely across the Escalante it was awesome to check out the Golden Cathedral of Neon Canyon and then an awesome hike up Choprock Canyon. From there is was cross-country once again to Lower Muley Twist Canyon, across the Waterpocket Fold and to where I would eventually end my hike on day 25.