The canyons of the Escalante River in Southeastern Utah are the most remote portion of the United States, and arguably the most magnificent. They are also highly inaccessible, for hikers trekking into the canyons must bring their own food and water, unless they know where the seeps of fresh water are located.
Along with Don Rommes, who has a home within the Escalante River drainage, I have run a series of backpacking workshops into these canyons over the past six years. While we did not present the workshop in 2006, we will again in 2007. We use a team of llamas to carry all of our food, bedding, and some of the other essentials needed for several days in these magic canyons. Once there, we can enjoy these remote and remarkable canyons in relative comfort, concentrating on their extraordinary forms and our photography of them.
One of the canyons we visited in 2001 was Chop Rock Canyon, a tributary of the Escalante River (itself a tributary of the Colorado River). Chop Rock breaks into three branches, and each has its own unique scenery and characteristics.
The aspect of the canyon that most excited me is the long portion of “narrows,” perhaps two miles in length, that starts just about a mile east of its confluence with the Escalante. The canyon snakes wildly to the left and right, as its spectacular walls change in character continuously.
Part way through the narrows I rounded one of its corners, and looked backwards to the strip of sunlight that somehow made its way between the enclosing walls to the canyon floor.
The walls in this area are deeply streaked with black and deep red streaks, known as “tapestry.” It was cathedral-like in its awesome size and magnificence (except that, in fact, cathedrals can only strive to be what these canyons—or the great forests—already are), made even more extraordinary by the glow of light on the walls reflected from the intense sunlit strip on the ground. The lower walls were brighter than the upper walls due to the unusual lighting.