Hiking in Red Canyon, Dixie National Forest, Utah
The long weekend has mainstream trails busy, so this morning will be dedicated to hiking Butch Cassidy Draw a short distance west of Butch Cassidy Trail which can be hiked the next day when crowds are reduced following the long weekend.
From the Ranger Station, at the Red Canyon Visitor Center near Panguitch, Utah, due diligence suggests weather will be clear in the morning with cloud building in the afternoon and potential isolated thunderstorms in late afternoon and evening.
This hike of Butch Cassidy Draw is through a wash with multiple possibilities for retreat to higher ground. The hiking plan is registered with the Ranger Station. The Butch Cassidy Draw hike is expected to be about 5 hours, so 5 liters of water are carried for the anticipated temperature.
On return the Rangers will be notified the hike is finished. If they receive no word of return, within 2 hours following the estimated completion time someone will be out investigating the reason. The desert is unforgiving. Hiking in early morning reduces exposure to hypothermia. In these here parts, this is serious business.
In early morning the air is still cool and morning sun accentuates the red, pink and white layers in the rock. There are sections of grey and gold mixed into stands of pinion pine and a variety of desert flora. Fauna is generally small-collared lizards scurrying from the path. In areas protected from sun, the creek bed is firm but still damp from yesterday's late day rain.
Continuing through the wash gains gradual and easy elevation. Obstacles like trees or mounds of stone across the river bed, become more frequent and complex. It is known this is a blind canyon.
About three miles (4.8 KM) in, hiking becomes predominantly bouldering within progressively tighter canyon walls.
For general information, the warning of a flash flood begins as a small trickle of water in the stream-bed. This signals the absolute need to run as fast as possible in rapid retreat to last-observed high ground because there is a chance that trickle, within a constricted area, will suddenly become a wall of water containing rock and wood debris that crushes everything in its path.
Many people have been killed by unexpected flash flooding. The source of the water can be rainfall a long way distant. Today there is no concern but even the remote possibility creates an awareness the ability to retreat is becoming increasingly compromised. Eventually forward progress is unreasonably arduous so the decision to turn about is easy and sensible. Rather than hike the same path along the riverbed, an off-trail to higher ground is taken at first opportunity to explore rock formations on the return to the trail-head. There is no-one else around and the freedom is valuable.
The unique desert scenery is special and extraordinarily beautiful. At 1 PM, hike completion is reported at the Ranger Station and the well-earned packed lunch is enjoyed in the shade at the Red Canyon Visitor Center. Temperature in the shade is 95° F (35° C) on this warm day.
In the sun the ambient temperature will be closer to 115° F (46° C), however cloud is building and this may provide some relief in the afternoon for the nearby hike on the Golden Wall, Castle Ridge and Buckhorn Trails.