After a long, uncomfortable drive over the washboard plagued Hole-in-the-Rock Road, we arrived at the Coyote Gulch trailhead by late afternoon. The late July sun was still sweltering hot, so we roasted some brats, fussed around with gear and left in the evening when it was a bit cooler.
Losing the Trail
Note: If you are planning to backpack Coyote Gulch or just about anywhere else in Utah, I recommend grabbing a copy of Utah’s Incredible Backcountry Trails by David Day. Your chances of getting lost will be greatly reduced.
Early on, I lost the trail and made the stupid decision to “wing it” rather than backtrack. At one point, my right foot, in its unprotected Teva sandal, came dangerously close to two rattlesnakes. Perhaps they were an omen for my soon-to-be evening of errors.
I was in search of Crack-in-the-Wall, a narrow 18-inch wide slot which can be climbed down sideways and allows hikers to get into Coyote Gulch. As the sun sank closer to the horizon, I left my pack atop what I thought was Crack-in-the-Wall and began to shimmy down.
As I lowered myself further, it became too narrow to continue. I had gone down the wrong chute. It was extremely steep and once I was halfway out, I didn’t think I could go any further. Each time I lunged my body upward I felt both cliff faces pressing against my chest cavity. When I inched myself into that particular spot, I couldn’t breathe.
Luckily, I could still discuss the predicament with my girlfriend, Kim, who had used good judgment and decided not to descend into an unknown, cramped crevice. She spoke to me in a soft, soothing voice. She reminded me not to get into a worse predicament by getting stuck completely.
After a dozen or so tries, I finally figured out a way up and out by tilting my body at a specific angle, and slithering through where the rock wasn’t as constricting.
I felt incredibly triumphant and relieved to get out, but also completely exhausted.
At twilight, we set down our packs on a patch of sand between a sea of petrified dunes. It was windy, so we began to wander around in search of rocks to hold down our tarp.
After gathering some good ones, it was now dark, so we turned on our headlamps and headed back. Oddly, our packs were nowhere to be found. We looked and looked to no avail. I was starting to get nervous. At last, after an hour of searching, we found them.
At that moment I was reminded of a Bukowski poem I forget the name of, where Bukowski moves into an apartment in Los Angeles and leaves for a walk. He loses his bearings and winds up searching for it throughout an entire day.
This thought helped me forget the lousiness of my day, and we woke up the next morning ready to find the real Crack-in-the-Wall, which proved to be quite doable, although If I could do it again I’d bring a rope for lowering packs.