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October 2006

How to Stay Safe in the Wilderness

Retracing the route to people's accidents can help us prevent our own. These 10 trips lead you to the exact locations of disasters from Denali to the Grand Canyon.

10. Played By The Slots
Tucson photographer can’t ignore the lure of Canyon Country.

The Epic
John Ey had heard that Brimstone Gulch was impassable, narrowing to less than a foot wide. Still, the 53-year-old hiker ventured into the slot canyon, driven by a desire for a killer shot in Utah’s Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument. On October 7, 1996, Ey entered Brimstone from the north, shimmying down several ledges until he landed in a slick-walled, 3-by-5-foot box. “After the first 12-foot drop, I couldn’t turn back,” Ey says. Wearing only a cotton T-shirt and shorts, he was trapped for 8 days with only 5 ounces of water and half a sandwich. Ey was saved because he left an itinerary with his sister, who called authorities when he didn’t return. “Rescuers were looking for a body,” recalls Ey, “I passed the time praying to stay alive. I never did get my picture.”

The Trip
Ey dropped into 7-mile-long Brimstone from the north, but the safer approach is from the canyon’s wider southern end. From Dry Fork trailhead, descend into the Dry Fork of Coyote Gulch and cruise downcanyon, passing Peekaboo and Spooky Gulches, then hang a left at mile 2 to enter Brimstone’s flat, sandy mouth. After about 20 minutes, the slot narrows and you’ll squeeze through charcoal-gray rock corridors for half a mile before it nearly pinches shut at just 6 inches wide. Retrace your steps for a pleasant 5-mile day in canyon country.

Map: Trails Illustrated #710, Canyons of Escalante

The Way: From Escalante, drive south on Hole-in-the-Rock Road for 26 miles. Turn left onto Dry Fork Road and go 2 miles to the trailhead parking lot.

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