Root Family

Root Family

Jul 15, 2013

Death Hollow June 2013

I had a great opportunity to backpack Death Hollow with my brother Jeff and two of his friends he served a church mission with to Mexico about 10 years ago. It was nice to be able to get out and meet some new people with shared interests and to see an awesome canyon.

We did the short route into and out of Death Hollow starting at the Boulder Mail trail off the Boulder air strip, working our way over into Death Hollow, then down to the confluence with the Escalante, then out the sneak route near Micro Death Hollow. The trip was intended as a 2-night packpacking trip, but we were making such good time that the idea of a nice local pizza in Escalante and car camping at the Upper Calf Creek parking lot for some morning swimming started to sound much better.

I packed my two dogs Dexter and Debra along for their first backpacking trip. We got a much later start than you should in the early summer at 11am (left Provo around 4:30am, but happened to be heading over right at the start of the Top of Zion relay over Boulder mountain).

Dexter and Debra on the trailhead

Doggies on Boulder Mail trail

Tom - Always cool and collected (Photo by Jeffrey Root)


Brady - This dude was a HOOT (Photo by Jeffrey Root)


The temps were easily over 100 degrees. I was thinking how stupid I was to bring the dogs because they were panting so hard and sprinting from bush to bush to stay out of the sunlight. I took their packs off and carried them the rest of the way into the canyon, as well as gave them frequent water breaks but they eventually didn't care to drink water after a while.

Telegraph wire on the boulder mail trail

Boulder mail trail

To top off the heat, I had left my GPS in the car, but had my topo map. The one saving grace was that I studied the trail almost 100 times on google earth enough to actually just get there by checking out landmarks. Oh, and the trail was well-used and cairned, but it was nice to know I knew where to go even without a trail. When we arrived at the drop into Death Hollow I had an extreme sense of relief, but the drop in took a bit of time too and the heat started to really set in even more. I was getting nervous thoughts hoping that water was still in the canyon and began to think "what if" we didn't find any.

Dropping into Death Hollow

Death Hollow looking down

Tom and Brady (Yes, Tom Brady joined us) got into the canyon ahead of us while Jeff and I hung back and let the dogs take several breaks. The second we hit the river we instantly stripped down and dove in to cool off. I had to toss the dogs in because they're afraid of water, but I could tell they loved being cooled off.

After cooling off we worked our way down to the first campsite area to swim a bit more, refill our water, and rest up. While the rest of the group rested up, I hiked down a mile or so to see if there were any other camping options. When I returned it was a surreal scene of the guys dozing off under the hot sun (I think Tom was actually half in the water and half on the shore) and them listening to some old Etta James type of slow jazz music. It reminded me of something you would see in a movie. It was hot, but it was relaxing.

At our first stop after cooling off (Photo by Jeffrey Root)

Death Hollow group

Since we still had plenty of daylight and a bit of energy we opted to continue on down the canyon to look for another campsite. We passed one couple on our way down (they were coming up in the opposite direction). We hiked down another 2 miles or so and settled on a little area banked up off the creek near some tall pine trees. It was difficult finding a decent spot because there were ants everywhere.

Hiking on to find our campsite

Death Hollow

We were so tired once we got to camp that it took major energy to get settled, water filtered, and dinner together. We made our dinner and basically crashed. The dogs were great; they slept all the time we were at camp, but as soon as we went to sleep they stayed up and appeared to be "on guard" the whole night. I don't sleep good when camping so I woke up multiple times to find them just sitting together nearby listening to all the sounds of the canyon. I loved the peacefulness of sleeping on a tarp under the stars. Wished I had a summer-type sleeping bag because I spent most of the time on top of my bag until about 6am and even then it was just a courtesy to cover my legs.

The next morning we were up and out on the trail. The canyon is definitely beautiful and deep and everything you would want, but there are definitely more "blah" sections at times, however that all made up for the pay off......

On the trail the next morning

Death Hollow

Bushwhacking was common

Death Hollow bushwhack

......the pay off was the awesome deep swimming hole about midway through the canyon. We stripped our packs and spent a good 1-2 hours just hanging around the pool, jumping in, playing catch with the frisbee, etc. You couldn't get the smiles off our faces with a pry bar.

The pool

Death Hollow swim hole

Action shots (the dogs went in with me) (Photos by Jeffrey Root)

Dexter jump

Death Hollow swim hole & frisbee catch

Tyler & Deb jump

Dexter jump

After getting a bite to eat and saying goodbye to this amazing spot, we reluctantly headed on down the canyon. Soon we approached the set of narrows in the canyon that require swimming with your pack (or holding it high above your head). We came to one set where someone left a ferry raft with a note that said "free to use, please share for others". I was a bit conflicted about this. First, if you're doing this route you clearly know that your pack is going to get wet so you must dry bag your stuff. Second, eventually this thing is going to pop, no one will want to use it, and then it's going to become litter in the canyon (in some ways it already is). I had given a thought to remove it myself, but I had already over-packed as it was, so I became a chump and gave in and used it. Looking back I wished I would have taken it out with me.

The beginning of the narrows section

Death Hollow Narrows

More narrows; Packs will get wet here

Death Hollow Narrows

Death Hollow narrows

Death Hollow pack ferry

After the narrows it was a couple of more miles and we were at the confluence of the Escalante and Death Hollow. I was surprised to see that there was at least 3 times more water coming out of Death Hollow than there was coming down the Escalante. The Escalante was nothing more than a thin stream with swampy spots here and there

Me, Dexter, and Debra getting close to the confluence. They were both such great dogs; never left my side even when distracted by squirrels, etc.

Death Hollow

Death Hollow about 1/4 mile from the confluence

Death Hollow

The confluence. Escalante River is on the Left, Death Hollow is on the right.

Death Hollow/Escalante confluence

We hiked about 1/2 mile down the Escalante and easily found the sneak route out just west of Micro Death Hollow. We debated on which of the two routes to take out of the sneak route and optioned for the crack on the left LUC. It took a bit of scrambling and there was about an 8' section that took some real climbing skills, but with a partner assist (just standing on their knee) it's pretty doable. We ferried the packs up with a rope and the one thing I had not considered on this section was getting the dogs up. luckily they are very light dogs (both under 30 lbs), but as I said earlier they "never left my side" so I would pull one up when I climbed up, then leave it with one of the guys, then go down to get the other one while the one up top went crazy trying to get back down to me. It made it a bit more interesting, but it worked.

Jeff finding a route up

Death Hollow sneak

Keeping the dogs calm on a ledge while I came up

Death Hollow sneak

Pulling the packs up

Death Hollow sneak

We followed the cairned route up and out, but ended up staying a bit too low. Eventually we route found our way up to the top and followed the trail back to the shuttle car. We headed into Escalante for a good Pizza at Escalante Outfitters, headed back to the air strip in Boulder to get Jeff's car, then headed to the Upper Calf Creek trailhead to sleep in our cars and get an early start on the trail the next morning to visit upper calf creek. It was beautiful and warm out. A tiny bit of cloud cover, but the stars came out and my brother Jeff was able to get a nice shot of us under the Milky Way.

Car camp (Photo by Jeffrey Root)
Car camp

The next morning we got up and headed down to upper calf creek falls and the swimming hole above the falls. Again, another paradise in the desert. We had a blast hanging out at this swim hole as well and didn't want to leave but Brady had a flight to catch in SLC and needed to get back.

Hiking into Upper Calf Creek

Hiking in to Upper Calf Creek

Me, at the upper falls (Photo by Jeffrey Root)

Upper Calf Creek Falls

Upper falls (Photo by Jeffrey Root)

Upper Calf Creek Falls

The upper swimming pool. This was awesome because it formed a big natural bowl to jump into. The fall going in was slippery and made for a fun slide

Upper Calf Creek pool

Upper Calf Creek pool

Upper Calf Creek pool water slide

A little video of our water adventures

We quickly hiked out to the trail head, threw up some high fives and headed back home. What a great trip and something I'd definitely recommend to anyone looking to do a hike in the desert along a creek. I'd only suggest starting the hike much earlier than we did.