The Making Of “Reflection Pool, Escalante River Side Canyon”

October 23rd, 2014 by David Leland Hyde Leave a reply »

Travel Log by Philip Hyde

Group Sierra Club Trip, Escalante River Canyon Backpack

Escalante, Utah, May 1968

Note: Thanks to Bill Clinton, On His Last Day in Office, The Escalante Wilderness Is Now Part of Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument

By Philip Hyde

May 1: Gates Cabin Camp to Camp Below 25 Mile Canyon

Reflection Pool, Curved Sandbar, Forming Arches, Escalante River Side Canyon, Escalante Wilderness, now Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, Utah, copyright 1968 by Philip Hyde.

Reflection Pool, Curved Sandbar, Forming Arches, Escalante River Side Canyon, Escalante Wilderness, now Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, Utah, copyright 1968 by Philip Hyde.

(To view the photograph larger or order prints: “Reflection Pool, Forming Arches, Escalante River Side Canyon, Utah.”)

The canyon was narrowing and the river stretches between bends were getting longer while the bends were tighter. We began this day to traverse the upper part of what the wranglers call “The Narrows.” The canyon walls were intermittently higher and the big alcove bends characteristic of the lower Escalante River near Glen Canyon had begun. There were also more short side canyons.

I turned and wandered into one canyon on the left at right angles to the river. Suddenly, another sharp bend next to a large sand slope looked promising, with a narrow bottom and high walls, cottonwoods, box elders and a few Gambel oaks. About two miles up this canyon, it ended abruptly, but there was a small, hard to see passage between two huge angular boulders. I entered the chamber, which was not unlike Cathedral in the Desert—its equal in quality, though not in size.

The vaulted roof was not so soaring and the dimensions of the chamber much less, but the same feeling of remote, secret beauty was there. At the bottom sat likewise a plunge pool for reflections and the beauty of a curved sandbar. This pool was fed by a now-dry set of chute-like chimneys in the roof, rather than a waterfall, like Cathedral in the Desert. The chimneys, one alone and a double-barreled one next to it, were beautifully water-sculptured and made me wish there was some way to ascend to the level of the chimneys to see the carved stream channel above. I spent perhaps two hours there, then left reluctantly, but elated to find this chamber well out of reach of “Lake” Powell’s inundation.

I continued back to the river, then down canyon, crossing through the water back and forth innumerable times. The canyon was really narrow by then and the walls were more impressive, creating a chamber of darkness with a thin strip of sky above. I wandered on, past some sharp bends with great sandstone columns and overhangs. I kept on past the “Wrinkled Eyes,” two rounded out holes high in the wall of the left bank. I passed 25 Mile Canyon, but at first I started into its mouth, went 100 feet or so, reflected on the hour and decided to head for camp instead.

I was the last man in. Campers were having their soup in their Sierra Club cups beneath a deep red cliff perhaps 350 feet high that was catching the last rays of the sun. I ate and then made my bed among the limbs of a medium-sized cottonwood tree—a leafy bower with a sandy floor and more privacy than usual. It was cloudy again with stars and blowing broken clouds overhead, their moisture too diminished by the time they reached us to dump any, though it looked a bit threatening at times. My tarp was ready to be rigged, but no drops came and I slept.



  1. pj says:

    To read your father’s own words about his travels is always a treat. Thanks David.

  2. True, PJ. My mother, Ardis, did a superb job writing most of the travel logs. At the same time, it is also informative and motivating to read the trip logs when Dad wrote them, mainly on his solo travels.

  3. Mark says:

    I admire the way your father was able to capture his experiences not only in photos, but in the words as well.

  4. Thanks, Mark. Dad did not always keep up with the travel logs on his own trips by himself, but when he did, his love of secluded country and his ardor for new discoveries, sure came through in his prose.

  5. Tyson Steele says:

    As a resident of Escalante, I just love this spot in the desert. I’ve been there once and I’m itching to go again. I love that the Grand-Staircase Escalante National Monument was created, because we have places like this. Some people disagree with the creation (especially in Utah), but the local economy of Escalante benefits greatly. In recent years, tourism has skyrocketed while ranching has been safely preserved (though there still exists some unsettled politics in that area). The natural environment will always be our greatest assets. I work for one of the biggest contributors to the Escalante economy, a local drug-rehab program for teens, where teens go to places that were preserved by the monument designation. Places like the spot photographed above. Some other areas in Utah are under the scope for new monuments, and I think they’d be wise to consider it. There’s nothing better than unlimited wilderness out your back door.

  6. Tyson, I much appreciate you making these statements here. I believe you are providing a very important service, in a memorable and different way. Without knowing the statistics, I’m guessing it must be one of the most effective methods for rehab that provides a lifetime of other benefits. People like my father, Edward Abbey, David Brower and many, many others, against great opposition and while being misunderstood and resented, worked very hard on protecting wilderness in Southern Utah. As you may know, conservationists were working toward a national park unit in the Escalante area even before World War II. It is a testament to the leadership of Bill Clinton that he got it done. A national monument will bring long-term prosperity to the Escalante region, unlike oil, gas and coal mining. People say gas and oil drilling and coal development would have provided higher paying jobs than the ranger, restaurant and other service jobs that go with the increased tourism brought in by Grand Staircase National Monument, but sooner or later the oil, gas and coal mining would be done and what would people do for jobs then? Not only would they have no jobs, but they would have poisoned lungs and blood streams, as well as a decimated landscape no longer fit to become a national park or national monument. We’ve seen this over and over all around the country. The lumber industry did it here in the Northern Sierra of California. People sided with the lumber industry that promised jobs, but when the timber was nearly all gone, then the lumber mills pulled out and people were left just as high and dry without jobs as they were before. What we need is long-term thinking and long-term prosperity for our communities and small towns.

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