Death Hollow Backpacking adventure: Day 2

Death Hollow backpacking guide
Death Hollow beautiful landscapes in the middle section of this hike.  The stream, high canyon cliffs and lots of green trees are common in is awesome section.  
This section of Death Hollow is easily the most beautiful.  The hard work we put in the first day and we would put in the last day was worth it because of this middle day in paradise.  After some small storms through the night, the morning was glorious with blue sky and some light clouds.  Our campsite was one of the more open parts of the canyon.  This yielded fabulous views of the cliffs and canyon.  One of my favorite shots of the trip was my wife and her sister drinking their morning hot chocolate with a fabulous view.
Death Hollow backpacking guide
Two campers enjoy the morning in Death Hollow.
We began hiking and enjoyed some awesome scenery.  The trail itself was an inconsistent thing.  We'd have a traditional dirt path in some locations.  Then we'd have branches and have to push through large bushes.  Then we'd have tall grasses up to our hips.  The trail changed every 50 feet.  We had to cross the creek numerous times also. 
Death Hollow backpacking guide
Morning comes to Death Hollow
Death Hollow backpacking guide
Trail through Death Hollow in a clear and scenic section.
Death Hollow backpacking guide
Just five minutes earlier we'd been bushwhacking through grass
and branches taller than our heads.
Death Hollow backpacking guide
Grass as high as our hips grew in other places.
Death Hollow backpacking guide
Another slanted tree makes a good landscape photo subject!
Death Hollow backpacking guide
A river crossing in a deep section of the canyon.
Death Hollow backpacking guide
Looking up at the pine trees and cliff wall.
Death Hollow backpacking guide
A picture of me with my backpack.  It looks extra light because my
wife held the camera and tripod for this moment.
Death Hollow backpacking guide
Perhaps my favorite photograph from the whole trip.
This was a glorious section of Death Hollow
After a couple hours of hiking and loving the scenery, we reached a deep swimming hole.  I'd see this before on other blogs.  We stopped for a skinny dip and relaxation.  This place is delightful.  By this time, I'd forgotten all about civilization back home.  That's the great thing about immersing yourself in nature.
Death Hollow backpacking guide
THE BEST swimming hole is midway through the hike.  
Death Hollow backpacking guide
The jump at Death Hollow's deep pool.
Onward we marched.  Some areas got really quite deep when wading.  Again, it's hard to put into words how pretty this section of Death Hollow is.
Death Hollow backpacking guide
Poke it with a stick to see how deep it is.
Death Hollow backpacking guide
I loved this deep section of Death Hollow.  The colorful canyon walls is
a different shade of yellow-white.  This is not the same as Zion or
Canyonlands or any other place I've been.  This more like Capitol Reef.
Death Hollow backpacking guide
Another pretty section of Death Hollow.
The character of the canyon changed once again as we went from the lush tree-lined shores of the creek to a more narrow slot section.  This was all rock.  Maybe I should rephrase that. This was all slickrock.  I put my camera away after shooting these shots because it was slippery, wet and some pools here were very deep.  I gracefully slipped and fell through this part.

We were again looking up to darkening skies.  Every day about 3 PM it started to rain.  We were in the deepest and most narrow section of the slot canyon on this particular day.  We hurried through and felt some raindrops on our heads.  The water level never rose.  No flash flood.
Death Hollow backpacking guide
We reached the most narrow section:  some thing that resembles the Subway in Zion.
Death Hollow backpacking guide
Monsoon Skies as seen from a slot canyon.
Death Hollow backpacking guide
Death Hollow slot canyon section with fast-flowing water.
Death Hollow backpacking guide
Coming out of the slot section to some beautiful green again.
Death Hollow backpacking guide
Dead tall tree and Death Hollow creek.
Death Hollow backpacking guide
Semi-narrow Death Hollow section downstream from the "subway".
Death Hollow backpacking guide
Trail in Death Hollow going over rocks, bushes and through water . . . all of it pretty.
Death Hollow backpacking guide
A pretty canyon wall with trees and boulders in Lower Death Hollow.
I hope you can see from the photos how beautiful this place is.  I stopped and photographed fairly often because the scenery changed a lot from one mile to another.  By comparison, Spring Canyon in Capitol Reef, the Narrows in Zion, and Buckskin Gulch do not have such a great variety in one hike.  The Subway in Zion is the only hike I've done comparable in variety and scenery to Death Hollow but it's not nearly as long and does not permit camping.

We found a large and sandy alcove for this night.  The sand was perfectly soft powder and went down to the river for filtering, cooling off, bathing and pondering life.  Here's some pictures of our camp.  We had no chairs or logs for sitting.  I sat in a tree just to find a position different from standing and lying flat.  This night was peaceful with a full moon.

Death Hollow backpacking guide
Sitting in a tree for a different position.  Our pants, shoes and socks
were all out to dry in the tree.  
Death Hollow backpacking guide
Sandy alcove was perfect for the night.  
Death Hollow backpacking guide
Filtering water from the creek.  The water tasted quite good.

Death Hollow Backpacking Adventure: Day 1

grassy trail through sublime Death Hollow, Utah
Trail and Towers:  exploring Death Hollow is a wonderfully rich experience in adventure,
photography, nature, serenity.
Death Hollow is a fabulous adventure and a photographic destination.  The photographic potential for this scenic locale is off the charts because there are 21-miles of pristine wilderness that are rarely visited and even less-rarely photographed seriously.  Death Hollow has been on the top of my radar for years and this summer I hiked the wonderful loop.  

Starting the night before, my wife and I drove to the Boulder airstrip and the adjacent trailhead.  We arrived with rain imminent.  Through the night we had lightening to the north but slept well.  The mid-July forecast was for 10% chance of rain but no flash flood warnings.  

We woke to clearing skies and pleasant temperatures.  I could have worn shorts but I'd heard about the poison ivy and bushwhacking.  The trip to Death Hollow goes roughly southwest from the trailhead.  The trail is good with cairns along the way.  When we reached sandstone, those cairns kept leading us down to Sand Creek.  
Death Hollow hiking guide backpack
Cairns along the way over slickrock
Sand Creek has water year round, or so I've read.  The rain had recently fallen so we were not surprised to see many tanks filled with water and even some flowing water in the creek.  After only 2 miles hiking, we did not require a refill on our water so we kept hiking.  The hike up out of Sand Creek left me huffing and puffing but it was relatively short.
Death Hollow hiking guide backpack
Sand creek:  volcanic boulders and white sandstone with pine trees.
Death Hollow hiking guide backpack
Hikers at Sand Creek:  water runs here all year
Death Hollow hiking guide backpack
Hiking up from Sand Creek:  sun started feeling really hot now.
Death Hollow hiking guide backpack
Two Trees:  these lovely trees contrasted in so many ways.
With the beautiful skies, I had to stop for a photoshoot.
A cool historical piece of information is that the telegraph line from Escalante to Boulder followed this route.  The telegraph wire runs along this trail in many places, even suspended in the air as it runs from tree to tree.  Seeing this assured me we were on the correct path.
Death Hollow hiking guide backpack
Telegraph line and Author:  the trail follows the old
telegraph line from bygone days.  
Correct path?  Did I say correct path?  We came out at the dropoff over Death Hollow and I had to reconnoitre some.  The cairns led off over this sandstone ledge that seemed to drop off into nowhere.  I worried we were in the wrong place but how could this be?  The big fin at the bottom of the canyon is easily recognized as the place we were supposed to be.  I just wasn't sure how to get there.
Death Hollow hiking guide backpack
Route down appears to disappear over this ridge.  Follow the cairns and
you'll discover this is the correct way.  I had my doubts at first.
We followed the cairns and as they went over the ridge, the safe path became obvious.  It just took a little travel down the path to become convinced it was correct.  Following are several photos of the trip down.  We had one member of our group afraid of heights.  She got quite nervous but made it down just fine.  Although you drop 700 vertical feet into the canyon, there is NO place where you are exposed to a huge dropoff.  If you have that on your trip, you are on the wrong path.
Death Hollow hiking guide backpack
On the trail
Death Hollow hiking guide backpack
Rough sketch of how the trail descends to the canyon floor.
Death Hollow hiking guide backpack
Loving the adventure!
Death Hollow hiking guide backpack

Death Hollow hiking guide backpack
2/3 down, here's a view looking back up with a sketch of how the trail goes down.  
Death Hollow hiking guide backpack
Nearing the bottom of Death Hollow
Once at the bottom, we ate a picnic along the creek under pleasant shade.  The uphill portion of our journey was all done.  We also would be near or in water the rest of the trip.  We began crossing the stream to find the trails which went from side to side.  No sense trying to stay dry.  We went around several curves in the canyon. 
Death Hollow hiking guide backpack
A pretty curve in the canyon we encountered on day 1. 
The water depth varied from a few inches to 3 feet.  
About 3 in the afternoon, clouds grew dark and it looked like rain.  We looked for an alcove for some type of shelter.  We found one with sand in a narrow strip for our beds.  
Death Hollow hiking guide backpack
The shallow alcove on the lower left of this butte was our home for the night.  
Our camp for the night was narrow but under some shelter.  It rained briefly but not hard a couple of times.  We stayed mostly dry.  I explored and found several better campsites near the river but they afforded no shelter from wind or rain so we stayed here.  We did not bring tents on this trip in an effort to travel lighter.
Death Hollow hiking guide backpack
Cooking dinner under a shallow alcove.  We slept on the sand.
Death Hollow hiking guide backpack
Gourmet dinner thanks to my wife:  chicken, veggies and couscous.
We ate wonderful food for dinner.  I did some photography downstream from our camp until sunset and then returned for a night of deep sleep.


Escalante Dawn: Tree Hovering over Escalante Wilderness

boulder mail trail trailhead at sunrise, death hollow, utah
Dead twisted tree at the trailhead for Boulder Mail Trail:  taken at dawn after a stormy night.
Dawn after a storm welcomed me to a new adventure.  I was about to hike down the Boulder Mail Trail (BMT) to Death Hollow but this awesome twisted tree and developing sunrise made me stop and enjoy a little pre-adventure beauty.  I set up my tripod several minutes before this shot and took a photo about every 2 or 3 minutes.  The clouds grew more colorful and purple.  Then the light touched the treetops around me and I took this exposure.  

This is the apotheosis of a beautiful dawn.  

Racehorse Falls, Washington (or the Tale for Four Trails)

Racehorse Falls:  A photogenic landscape near Bellingham, Washington
During a recent trip to Bellingham, Washington, I searched for photography destinations and saw some photos of Racehorse Falls.  This waterfall splits halfway down its' course, like an upside-down wishbone.  I'd never heard of it but it's beauty was without doubt.  With some very sketchy online accounts to guide me I drove to what Google called the trailhead.  Happily I discovered a good trail going directly into the woods.  Things were going great until I got to the river.  I heard water, I looked over the edge and saw two smaller waterfalls but not the big one I'd seen in photos.  Not Racehorse Falls.

Trail #1
The trail turned up (left) so that's where I went.

I continued to hear falling water and spied a rope tied to a tree.  This long rope went down a steep slope where I found another rope which continued to go down to the river.  At the bottom I discovered a beautiful waterfall and punchbowl pool.  This scene was photo-worthy so I took some photos but felt I ought to search further for the real Racehorse Falls.  Those two long ropes made climbing up the slope much easier and cleaner.  I'm glad they were there.
Bellingham Washington waterfall on Racehorse River
Punchbowl Pool and Waterfall on Racehorse River
Trail #2
The trail kept going higher so I followed . . . for a long time . . . without any sign or sound of a waterfall.  After much wasted effort I decided to return down the trail and go off on a different trail I'd seen near the beginning that had some logs across it (usually this means it's NOT the right trail).  I didn't know where else to look.  So back I went, almost to the trailhead, to pick up this other trail.
Racehorse falls trail through forest trees
Pretty trail but no waterfall going further uphill
Trail #3
After an easy walk in the woods this trail suddenly turned awful and going down to the water would risk my life if I pursued the steep unstable slope.  I stopped.  I returned again to the trailhead.

Trail #4
My fourth and final attempt at finding Racehorse falls had me hike straight to the river and then I went down (right) and discovered a hidden path that led right to the waterfall.  Alakazam!  There was Racehorse Falls and it was freaking gorgeous!!!
Tall Waterfall seen through the forest trees
First view of Racehorse Falls
landscape photography racehorse waterfall
Climb over the fallen logs and boulders to explore the
base of Racehorse Waterfall
Log at the base of Racehorse Waterfall cascade.
Racehorse Falls as seen from the boulder field directly at its' base.
waterfall washington landscape photography gordon smith
Profile of a beautiful waterfall
Gordon's hike rating:
Hike Difficulty:                   ★★★ Moderate because of steep parts
Trail Condition:                   ★★ Fair:  turns and directions are not marked, easy to go wrong
Trail Hazards:                      ★★★ Moderate:  steep slopes
Trailhead:                             Racehorse Falls Trailhead (on Google maps)
Time Required:                     2 hours if you know where to go
Distance round trip:              2 miles
Off the Beaten Path:             ★★★★ Yes, 4 Stars
Scenery:                                ★★★★ Great
Photographic Potential:        ★★★★  Great, Unique waterfall in stunning setting