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Muddy Creek Utah

My approach to this years spring canyon hike was a bit different to say the least. The week prior to the hike, my wife and I went to Las Vegas! We ate, drank and gambled while we took in shows by Blue Man and Penn and Teller. Not quite the way I usually prepare for a week in the backcountry. Well, I did rent a Jeep TJ….so I guess that counts for something.

After our week of vice, Rylan flew home and I drove to Hanksville to meet up with the guys for our hike down Muddy Creek. On the way I drove through heavy snow and winds on the way up through Zion NP and towards Escalante NM. At times it was down right freezing in my Jeep as I had no rear windows (the guy said they had been stolen). So imagine cruising along at 60mph over 9000 ft passes with it snowing an inch an hour. Even with the heat up all the way, it was cold.

When I got into Escalante, the weather was better. I decided to drive down the Hole in the Rock road and take some camera gear into Spooky and Peek-A-Boo (slot canyons) for some pix. The light was nice, but nothing that special so it was a short trip. Plus I needed to get going as I still had 5 hours of driving ahead.

As darkness fell, I rolled into the Muddy Creek area. I saw some dirt roads on the map and thought I could drive in from RTE 24 around Caineville to meet up with the group. But as the road becomes worse and worse and darkness set in, I decided to bail and find a place to spend the night. Hankesville was open for business and I made some freeze dried food in my room. Yum.

The next morning I continued north on RTE 24 from Hanksville and found a better road that went in to the west and took me to the trail head. I found the gang just finishing breakfast and wondering where the heck I had been.

Once they were finished packing up, we set sail down the creek. At first it was just a sandy walk with some stream crossings but soon after it became a water slosh most of the rest of the trip. I was sure glad I had stopped in Zion NP at an outfitter and purchased a pair of canyoneering hiking shoes made by Five Ten. These shoes were a huge improvement over the Teva sandals I wore down Coyote Creek in the Escalante wilderness. They drained water really well and kept most of the fine sand and rocks out. And combined with my waterproof Seal socks, I had a very comfortable and warm go at it.


As we walked further down the canyon it started to “slot up” as they say. The walls were now 75 to 100 feet or higher and the canyon was starting to get narrow…maybe 30-50 feet across. And the water was deeper and colder, of course. But it was a pretty walk.

We stopped for lunch and Brad’s kids produced a huge super ball! They started winging it against the canyon walls and it would bounce all over the place. What a great idea. I backed away and took a few pictures trying not to get hit by a 30mph ball.

We continued down river until we reached the intersection with Chimney Canyon. There we found a small sandy area at the mouth of the canyon where we made camp.

The next day we did a full day hike up Chimney Canyon seeing all kinds of stuff along the way. We saw an old Model T near an old miners camp along with tons of strange rock formations. The best the canyon had to offer had to be the “ghouly walls” which can be best described as ghostly haunted looking walls with many holes carved from blowing sand. It was just a place filled with weird natural creations. Rocks the size of buildings sitting in the middle of the drainage, fun places to climb and walk, and much more. Definitely worth the trip if you are down in Muddy Creek.

As we were getting closer to camp on our way back down Chimney Canyon, we saw a weather front approaching. We were slightly nervous about flash flood issues as our camp was fairly close to the main creek and we knew that the weather had called for t-storms in the area. Not that we would die from a flood as we had many options to move to higher ground, but our tents and gear were below and not far above the water.

As we came into view of the tents the front was nearing and a wind picked up and blew down the canyon from our backs towards the tents which were only 100 yards ahead. Then we watched as our tents got uprooted by a sudden burst of 40mph wind. My small green tent was blown, with sleeping bag, etc, rolling over and over into Muddy Creek. I dropped my pack and we all ran after our gear. Moments later the wind stopped and we were able to fetch our gear out of the river. The damage was done. My tent had 5 holes in the rain fly and it was filled with sand and debris. Amazingly it was not that wet inside considering it blew right over the river. And my sleeping bag was in great shape. Lucky!

We regrouped and nailed things back down and started dinner. Before we ate, Davy made a wonderful cheesecake that he set down by this big rock in Muddy Creek to cool down and solidify. After dinner we found that the cheese cake had actually been eaten by the rock and it was no where to be found. We were all very upset. You brave your way through the Jamaican BBQ, using as much Taco Bell fire sauce as you can tolerate, all the while looking forward to that cheesecake…only to have your gut ripped out in the end. We never found the cheese cake or the pan it was in.

On our last day we awoke to a beautiful morning free of clouds and threatening weather. I opened my tent flap and saw some beautiful light in our campsight. I grabbed my tripod (yes I brought a full tripod!) and my Hasselblad 501cm (yes, with two lenses – what was I thinking) and snapped a very memorable image that sits on my kitchen wall to this day – a 50″ print!


The last day we hiked about an hour or so down river to David H’s car that the guys had staged for our return. The car was parked on an airport landing strip – no kidding. Complete with wind sock! I wanted to get a picture of the gang at the end of the hike and was feverishly looking for something to sit my small compact camera on for a self-timer shot. I complained to the guys that there was nothing good to use when Brad piped up, “How about using that TRIPOD you hauled for the last 10 miles!”. He was right. I was crazy 🙂

We departed the scene and made our way to Green River for lunch at Ben’s. After a solid meal we continued on to Moab where we would do a little 4-wheeling on the Merrimack Trail. The best part of this was that we had 3 vehicles…all of them white. We looked like the freaking’ United Nations on a tour of some African war torn nation.

The jeepin was fun and we enjoyed all that Moab had to offer. After all, it was Jeep week (isn’t it always?). Soon after the guys headed back to SLC and I went back to Vegas via the highway through St. George.

View Muddy Creek in a larger map

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