Added 11 November 2012
Saturday, 29 September 2012, Paw Hole, Coyote Buttes South, Arizona.
This morning I was up at 6 a.m. and out of camp before 7 a.m. on my way to Coyote Buttes South for a day hike. As I drove to Lone Tree Reservoir I realized that if I left the area by mid-afternoon, I could be home before Shan went to bed. I really wanted to see her and I thought it would be a nice surprise for her to have me come home a day earlier than expected, so I planned the rest of my day with that plan in mind. I drove south to Lone Tree Reservoir which is the end of the line for 2-wheel-drive vehicles for access to South Coyote Buttes. From the reservoir it's a 2.5 mile hike up the road just to get to the Paw Hole Trailhead. An older couple in a jeep passed by while I was getting ready to go, and as I walked up the road I saw two sets of footprints ahead of me. All four people ended up at the trailhead, and as far as I could tell, we were the only 5 people in the Paw Hole area all day.
When I got to the trailhead, I decided that instead of going to the places that were recommended by some websites that I found, that I was just going to ignore the information I had in my pack and just let my whim lead me.
I ended up spending most of my time at a circle of rocks that included an area with some amazing colors of sandstone and another area with some large, thin fins of sandstone sticking out from the walls. It was a really neat place, and the lack of footprints, which were prevalent elsewhere in the immediate vicinity, told me that it had probably been a while since anyone had discovered this place.
Around mid-day, I stopped for lunch and played my tin whistle a little bit. I had just started taking photographs again when the older couple in the jeep came walking over the ridge into my little circle of rocks. We chatted for a few minutes before they moved on. They said that at first they didn't think that South Coyote Buttes was as nice as North Coyote Buttes, but that by the time they found me, they thought SCB was at least as nice as NCB, if not nicer. They also talked of seeing some really neat things north of where we were. Even though it was nearing the time at which I would have to leave SCB in order to get back to Tucson tonight, I decided to hike further north to see what I could find.
What I found was a formation that I call "Dante's Inferno." I had found something very special, and I hoped that I could do it justice with my camera. The formation consisted of red and yellow marked sandstone bisected by pinkish sandstone with a completely different texture. The combination gave the effect of abstract flames. I spent the rest of my time there, though I did wander a short distance away to give the sun time to leave an area that I wanted to add into my shots.
In the end, I have to say that Coyote Buttes South was awesome, and at least on par with Coyote Buttes North and The Wave, if not better. I would have to explore both more to say that definitively though. From what saw of both I would definitely say that there's more variety in Coyote Buttes South and in the future if I can only get permits to Coyote Buttes South and not Coyote Buttes North, I certainly won't be all that disappointed. I could have done without the 2.5 mile hike up a really sandy road just to get to the trailhead, but oh well. I hiked to the TH in 50 minutes going in and did it 40 minutes or less coming out.
It was nice that there were so few people there as well. I'm amazed that I even saw two of the 5 who were there, and that was probably only because I was still pretty close to the trailhead at the time. When I hiked back down the road to my car I could still see many of the footprints I had left going in 5 hours earlier. I suspect that only 2 vehicles had even driven the road (one was by the older couple I encountered) the whole time I was there. It's definitely not a place where you have to worry about other people being in your photographs.
All the hiking in the sun through deep sand got me dirty and sweaty, so when I got back to my car and discovered that the other folks parked at Lone Tree Reservoir had left, I hung my Camelbak from the lone tree for which the reservoir is named, stripped and took another Camelbak shower so that I would feel a little nicer for the long drive home.
The Arizona portion of House Rock Valley Road is, on the whole, in much better condition than the Utah portion and I was able to take much of it "at speed," sometimes over 50 miles an hour. But I do tend to drive faster than most would on dirt roads.
As I neared the end, I could see a large black and white object in the distance by the side of the road. I thought it was a cow, but as I got closer I realized it was a beautiful paint horse. It looked very picturesque in the scene so I slowed and got my camera out to take a picture of it. It turned out to be a very friendly (or just plain curious) horse. I call him Pete. Pete the friendly paint. As soon as I stopped he walked to the front of my car, facing me with his front legs pressed against my bumper and his head just about touching my windshield.
He was too close for me to even take a picture of him so I backed up. Pete matched my movements and walked forward to stand in front of my bumper and look at me closely through the windshield again. He then walked up to my side window and looked at me while I took a couple of photographs. I had to back up again to get around him and continue on my way. Later I realized that I should have given him some of the carrots that I had in my food bag. My experience with Pete ended up being a great way to end the backcountry part of my trip. I hit pavement not long afterwards and the rest of my trip home was both beautiful and uneventful.
All of my journeys on this trip were phenomenal and unique. Upper Buckskin Gulch was a treat often overlooked by others, Coyote Buttes North is iconic, Buckskin Gulch/Paria Canyon are totally surreal, and Coyote Buttes South is another gem that I'm glad more people haven't discovered the beauty of.