We’ve been planning on Salt Creek for months and on the day we were going to leave I got a phone call from a Ranger that changed our plans up completely.
He said some other camper decided to burn his toilet paper while in lower Salt Creek instead of carrying it out. There’s a big reason why you shouldn’t do that: he burned down 23 acres of cottonwoods and they had to shut the canyon down.
Change of plans
We looked over maps all day to try to find places to switch too. It was exhausting, but after hours we decided we still wanted to be in the desert — despite the heat. We settled on Halls Creek Narrows in Capitol Reef National Park.
It was an excellent choice!
Capitol Reef is kind of the forgotten National Park of Utah’s Might Five. Most people see the park from the road or the hikes just off the road, but forget that it is a long (60 miles), skinny (6 miles) park stretching down the the Waterpocket Fold. And it doesn’t disappoint.
The Heat of the Day
By the time we started on Thursday it was the hottest part of the day and we had about 10 miles to go to the entrance of the Narrows. We choose that point because the Ranger told us there wasn’t likely to be any water anywhere else, but there would be water down there.
As we dropped off the cliffs from the trailhead the heat had already started to take its toll. I knew my body wasn’t happy with the heat, but I kept mentally checking myself for dehydration and drank about 2 Liters in the first 4 miles.
Bouncing from shade to shade we finally arrived at the Fountain Tanks to find the lower pools empty. That Ranger didn’t lie to us. We did however escape the heat by climbing up to the potholes above and found them to be full of water. After a few hours of cooling off at the tanks we trekked back into the sun and on to the Narrows.
Worn-out from being in the solar beat-down all day we stopped at the first pool in the entrance of the Narrows for camp.
The Heat of the Day…Again!
We woke up and explored the Narrows that next day with the goal to camp again in the same spot that night. The route through the Narrows took us through the twisted gorge and then hike up and over Halls Divide back to the camp, about 6-ish miles in all.
First I’ll say this about the Narrows: it was awesome in there. I love the deep canyons in southern Utah. The sandstone walls seem to reach forever up and its usually from a small insignificant stream continually flowing through.
Among the sandstone
Everything enclosed by walls
Feelin’ pretty small.
–A Haiku for Capitol Reef National Park
You just have to go there to see it for yourself.
Then we started the hike across Halls Divide back to our tents and gear.
It was HOT!
We then cooled off at our camp and decided we would push for the Fountain Tanks after lunch so we had less milage to cover in the morning back to the car. Good choice, but one problem: the HEAT OF THE DAY…AGAIN!!!
This time we crushed out the 5 miles back to the tanks despite the heat. I felt pretty fried, but I was more hydrated compared to the day before and simply cruised up to the tanks. We made it in about 2 hours.
Why Hadn’t We Been Hiking Like This Before?
The goal for that morning was to wake up and be out of camp by 7. I left at 7:02 am.
I walked with purpose that morning: I didn’t want to be going up that 700 ft. cliff-band in the sun. Why had we been hiking in the heat of the day before this? I don’t know, but it was nice to be in the shade and cool temps that morning. Made my quick speed worth it.
We arrived at the bottom of the uphill climb in just over an hour. Pretty good that morning because we averaged 3.5 mph compared to our usual 1.7 mph on the other days.
The uphill began in the shade and stayed in the shade.
Actually I got to the top of a cliff and thought we were there only to see another 100 ft of elevation left.