Sunday, January 5, 2014

Escalante Hike: Lick Wash, No Mans Mesa, Park Wash

Lick Wash to No Mans Mesa,
Park Wash Return
~11 miles, 6.5 hours


Tom led us on a great hiking loop in Escalante National Monument, which would take us through slot canyons of Lick Wash up to the base of a flat plateau known as No Mans Mesa, with a possible return hike down Park Wash to make a satisfying loop, albeit including some unknown bushwhacking.
With many stunning hiking options in the area, this one would put us into lesser-visited terrain.  I love alternative/less-popular hikes with a bit of exploration and less crowds, and knowing Tom, I think he's even more averse to popular hikes than I am.  As it was, we didn't see a single other person all day.

First things first, though...the scenery of Lick Wash came quickly.

We also realized that snow would be present at the depths of these heights, below the shaded canyon walls.  Many sections would have made decent XC skiing, but many more wouldn't, so hiking boots (or running shoes with holes in them, in my case) were practical options.

I slowed us down a bit more for pictures, none of which can do the canyon justice.

By afternoon, the terrain and sunshine opened up, for a very pleasant day.  We were plenty warm except for slightly wet feet.

We found a mud cave on the side of one of the canyon walls, and decided to explore.

It actually opened up as a straight climb up a hole 10 feet above, onto a higher shelf.  Much better to discover this from below than by accident from above!  We were careful on nearby terrain to avoid unsupported soil.

At the widening confluence with Park Wash, we took a lunch break below a towering sandstone wall. Soft, beachy sand makes this a great place to rest (and, in another trip report, to make camp).

Or build a cabin.  Shortly thereafter, we explored this abandoned cabin.  The cabin itself is a geocache, and I suppose would come in handy if bad weather/flash floods moved in.

We gazed up toward No Mans Mesa, where a supposed goat trail led to the top, 1200' above us.  The trail was supposedly roughly defined and sketchy, as the only break in the cliffs.  In fact, the inaccessibility means that the top has a variety of native grasses and other plants that have been largely undisturbed from grazing or human influence.

But any potential access was still covered in snow, so we pressed on with remaining daylight, on nearly the shortest day of the year, to complete the loop.

We proceeded north below white cliffs, and as sunset approached, pink cliffs glowed above us.

We skirted a marsh, and then hoped for a passage to the west that would lead us back to the road.  Fortunately, past the marsh and the termination of another canyon to the west, we followed an old road (not shown on our map) as it climbed up to the ridge.  The terrain to the southwest/west seemed manageable, through trees with little downfall and occasional but obvious gullies, so we were able to dead-reckon for about half an hour with a satisfying bushwhack back to the road, where cold feet finally warmed up while walking on solid ground for the first sustained amount of time all day.

We got back to the car right at dusk, perfect timing for the road to be just hard enough (it likely would have been muddier earlier in the day) to make the drive back out.  This was a great loop hike with quite a variety of terrain.

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