Hayduke Trail Day 18: Getting Tanked in Waterpocket Fold

Daily Neat Beat
Day 18
Total Miles: 23.4
Cumulative Miles: 312.5
Map of Day 18 where we hiked down Muley Twist Canyon and Halls Creek in Capitol Reef National Park. We camped at Millers Creek in Glen Canyon National Recreation Area.

I love the Waterpocket Fold that spans the boundaries of Capital Reef National Park and Glen Canyon National Recreation Area. Capital Reef is probably the least visited of the popular Utah parks and is usually a quick stop and look visit as people whizz by are on their way to Bryce or Zion National Parks. 

Hiking along the Waterpocket Fold in Halls Creek

But today we are lucky because we will spend all of it along or in the midst of the Waterpocket Folds’ internal cavity.

We awake and start off in Muley Twist Canyon. We wind around the bends and turns as the canyon steepens. The rock walls are massive and anchored in red and black. But like a finely woven Navajo rug, the streaks of varnish on the rock walls play in other natural tones of gold, pink, green, grey and brown. 
The varnish on the canyon walls in Muley Twist are streaked in many colors

As the canyon deepens, there are more alcoves and some of them have been historically used.

One of the large alcoves in Muley Twist Canyon

We find a historic cowboy camp with signatures like “Andrew Hunt 1921” and an old cigarette tin.

There are many historic signatures in this alcove in Muley Twist Canyon. “Andrew Hunt” even tried to draw a horse.
A cigarette tin left at the cowboy camp in Muley Twist

A pioneer route. This twisty canyon with its high red walls must have been quite the respite from the heat and open desert of the surrounding country.

Ray examines some of the historic objects in the open air museum. I am glad to see people have left these treasures here.

After about 4 miles of hiking, Muley Twist Canyon unfurls like a flower and we are spit out into the sun and Halls Creek drainage. Soon we come to Muley Tanks. I am so fascinated by these “tanks”, natural water depressions in the bleached and creamy Navajo Sandstone, formed as the monoclinal fold pushed through the earth’s surface.

Fountain Tanks is one of the many natural water tanks in Waterpocket Fold

The Waterpocket Fold is full of these natural tanks and slot canyons with water. 

We see a few hikers both in Muley Twist and coming in from the Halls Creek Overlook to hike the Halls Creek Narrows. We pass by three people in their mid 20s stopped to eat lunch. One of them says “Hey, are you guys ‘Dukers?” Marvin, Taylor and Tara are section hiking the Hayduke Trail and are hiking from Burr Trail in Capitol Reef to Coyote Gulch in Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument. This is the first time we have met someone else hiking the Hayduke Trail this season. I feel an immediate bond though we don’t speak long and will likely never see them again.
A cool hoodoo with a sandstone top that has ripple marks 

By mid-afternoon we have worked our way down Halls Creek which parallels the fold until it decides to cut and twist into the body of the fold; we have reached the Narrows. We hiked the Halls Creek Narrows and spent time in some of the surrounding canyons on a six-day backpacking trip here about five years ago. It is in the top five all-time hikes for me. The Halls Creek Narrows are spectacular. But how they formed remains a great geologic mystery. Ray had several geology students working on how it formed. 

We bypass the Halls Creek Narrows this time and head up the strike valley over Hall Divide which blocks the main canyon just beyond the entrance to the Narrows. We eventually work our way south along the Waterpocket Fold to Miller’s Creek where we stop for the night.
Miller’s Creek cutting through the Waterpocket Fold

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