Hurst Bridge, Lower Eardley Canyon Pools

I made it to three out of the four geocaches that I’d planned on finding yesterday, and though the weather started out iffy, it turned out to be a nice and mostly sunny day. I left home at around 7:30 in the morning, and the only rain I saw all day was in Cat Canyon just east of Wellington, where it rained for about two minutes. I reached the trailhead for Hurst Bridge at the wilderness study area boundary in Ernie Canyon two hours after leaving home. When I started hiking, there were dark clouds covering the entire eastern horizon and blotting out the sun, but it was all blue skies to the west. For the entire first part of the hike the edge of the storm stayed almost directly overhead, and it was pretty windy. At first I was wishing that I’d brought some gloves, but after a mile of hiking I was warmed up enough that the cool wind felt good.
Hurst BridgeThe first mile of the hike to Hurst Bridge follows the bottom of Ernie Canyon. The canyon bottom was firmly packed sand and gravel and the going was very easy. I kept a fast pace in order to stay warm. After the easy part, I left the canyon bottom and started the climb up the San Rafael Reef along the south rim of the canyon. I’d spent a lot of time at the computer planning out my route using topo maps and Google Earth, and I was eager to see how the actual terrain compared to my perception of what it would look like. I followed the waypoints I’d created in my GPS across the rough terrain, and things turned out pretty good. The path I’d chosen at home worked well on the ground. After an initial climb of about 0.4 miles, the ground sloped down for a short distance, then began climbing again, but a deep box canyon opened up that I had to go around. The south side looked less rugged, but I couldn’t tell for sure whether or not there were any small cliffs that would prevent me from getting past the canyon. I reached the top of the box canyon and only had to scramble down one small ledge, after which the terrain leveled out a bit more and the hike became easier.
Hurst Bridge is in a maze of canyons and sandstone fins that would be nearly unnavigable without good aerial photography to guide you, but luckily it’s near the outer edge of the maze. I approached the arch from the east in the bottom of a wash, and though I had to climb out of the wash a couple of times to avoid some heavy bushwhacking, it eventually led me directly to Hurst Bridge. The sandstone arch was very impressive, as was the general area surrounding it. I lost satellite reception in the narrow canyon a couple of times while taking pictures, but once I passed under the arch the canyon opened up and I was able to get a good enough signal to find the geocache there. After signing the logbook in the cache, I took a few more pictures and then headed back toward the trailhead. I followed the tracklog in my GPS so I could take almost the exact same path back to the trailhead. The hike to the arch had taken me two hours, and the hike back to the truck took an hour and 20 minutes. My round trip hiking distance was 5.4 miles.
Old TruckAfter Hurst Bridge, I drove a short distance to the end of a road and began the hike to another geocache at an old truck that had been converted into a pump jack and hoist. I spent about 15 minutes at the old truck taking photos and trying to figure out what it was used for. The hike was only a mile round-trip, and most of that was along an old road that had been closed by the BLM. It was well past lunch time by the time I got back to my truck, but I didn’t really want to take the time to eat, so I just hopped in and headed to my next destination. On the drive back to the main road, the road crossed over a very steep sandy slope. I’d read about somebody else’s attempt at climbing the hill in their Jeep Wrangler Rubicon, but they couldn’t make it up. There’s another way around the hill, but I was determined to at least give it a good try before taking the easy way out. 😀 I put the truck in 4-low and tried taking it slow at first, but after a short distance my tires just started spinning in the sand. I gave it a few more tries after getting a short run at the hill, and on the fifth attempt I made it to the top!
Pool in Eardley CanyonI got back on Utah Highway 24 and drove 5.5 miles northeast in order to reach the trailhead for the next hike to the pools in Eardley Canyon. The road getting to the trailhead was rougher than the road to Ernie Canyon, and I needed 4WD to get up a couple of steep hills along the way. It was 3:30 pm by the time I got to the trailhead in Straight Wash, and I was pretty sure by then that I wouldn’t have time to find the fourth and final cache of the day, but I knew I’d at least finish this hike before the sun went down. The hike was almost entirely in the bottom of Straight Wash, and again the bottom of the canyon was well packed which made for easy hiking. In the lower portion there were a few places with standing water that I had to go around. There were also a few short stretches that were very rocky and I had to pick my way around boulders and large rocks. I took a shortcut that cut 1/4-mile across a horseshoe bend in the canyon and shaved a mile off the entire hike. I’d been hiking in the sun in the bottom of Straight Wash and I’d shed my sweatshirt because I got too hot, but upon entering lower Eardley Canyon it was entirely shaded and quite cool. I lost GPS reception in the narrow confines of the canyon, but the description on the cache listing specified exactly how to find the cache without a GPS. There were several pools of water in the bottom of the canyon, but they were easily bypassed by hiking along some ledges on either side. My progress up the canyon ended at a huge pool of water with a big dryfall behind it. The pool was almost entirely full from last week’s rainfall and the water was relatively clean–Torrey drank quite a bit from it, but she didn’t go for a swim. After finding the geocache, I headed back down the canyon and into Straight Wash again where it felt good to get back into the sun. During the hike back to the truck, my legs got really sore. I had to stop to rest a couple of times, which I hadn’t done at all previously during the day. About a third of a mile short of the truck, I left the bottom of the wash and tried looking for some petroglyphs that I’d read about on the internet. I had stupidly not entered the coordinates for the rock art in my GPS, and I was hoping that the description I’d read would be enough for me to find them. It took me only a few minutes to find them, but they were behind some thick bushes and in full shade, so none of my photos turned out well.
When I got back to the trailhead the sun had just barely set behind the San Rafael Reef. The hike had taken me two hours and 20 minutes and covered 4.3 miles, for a total of 10.7 miles for the day. I took the time to make a sandwich for me and Torrey (yes, I fed her PB&J too) and then I set out for home. I sped a great deal of the way home, and got there just before 8:00 pm. It was a very fulfilling day, and I’m glad I took a chance and ignored the weather forecast. Besides the chilly wind in the morning, it was a perfect day for hiking. And since I missed finding one of the caches along that section of the Reef, I’ve got a good excuse to go back another day.
Here are some Google Earth .KML files from this weekend’s hikes that include my GPS tracklog and some key wapoints. Clicking on some of the waypoints will show pictures of those areas.
Hurst Bridge (Google Maps)
Lower Eardley Canyon Pools (Google Maps)

2 thoughts on “Hurst Bridge, Lower Eardley Canyon Pools

  1. Awesome trip report. Looks like you had a great time. The weather report didn’t scare many people away though. Temple Wash was packed full of campers today. Getting in one last camp out I guess. I heard the Hurst bridge is hard to find so thanx for the directions 🙂

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