Wednesday, April 30, 2014

A "Bucket List" Kind of Day

Yesterday we learned what a slot canyon REALLY is! Technically, it's a narrow canyon, formed by water rushing through rock, that is significantly deeper than it is wide. But Peek-a-boo Gulch and Spooky Gulch are something else entirely; it was like going to an amusement park with something incredible, beautiful, exciting and challenging around every corner! In places barely wide enough to squeak through, corkscrew drops, choke stones and rock falls, difficult scrambles, sandstone colors that mesmerize as the light evolves overhead, these canyons had it all!

From Escalante, UT we drove 26.5 miles down the dirt Hole in the Rock Road. It's kind of wash boardy, but if you go fast enough you skim over the bumpy stuff. Then about 1.5 miles on Dry Fork Road; passenger cars may have to park before reaching the trail head as this road is a bit rough.

Dropping down to Dry Fork Wash.

From the trail head, we drop a few hundred feet into Dry Fork Wash. The first canyon on the left is Dry Fork Narrows; we walked up this about half a mile enjoying an easy walk through a tall slot. I read you can walk this for several miles!

Emerging back in to Dry Fork Wash, we headed downstream to Peek-a-boo Gulch. A woman was attempting the steep climb up into the canyon, so we continued on down the wash to Spooky Gulch.

It's a steep climb into Peek-a-boo.

Spooky Gulch started out as a tiny sliver and over the course of a few hundred feet got narrower and narrower.

The entrance to Spooky Gulch.

Uh-oh, the pack's got to come off to continue...

When we came to a road block of a couple of people in an extremely narrow section, we decided to turn back and explore from above...Which turned out to be a serendipitous turn of events.

Maybe a third of a mile or so up canyon we came to the top of the slot and saw a group of 14 hikers heading into the slot. We stopped to eat lunch and let the group go through, then walked into Spooky...

Hans is on the right, a pink shirted person is in the slot.

The top entry to Spooky Gulch.

Narrow, flowing sandstone surrounded us, the light creating layers of color.

It had been about half an hour since the group of 14 entered the canyon ahead of us but suddenly we came upon them...and it turned out to be a good thing for us. We had encountered a rock fall and several choke stones at a steep drop in the canyon. The last two of the group were negotiating the drop and they stopped to help us down too. A good thing...had we been on our own we might not have attempted the drop, especially since we did not know what lay beyond this point.

Hans is on the right looking down into the passage,
while we watch the hat of the guy in front of us as he squeezes through a tiny opening!

Hans went through first then got a photo of me being helped down.
I had to slide down the rock, relying on their hands to break my fall.

We now entered an extremely narrow section of twists and turns, following closely on the tails of the group in front of us. We didn't want to loose them, just in case there were more tough spots where an assist would be nice! A bunch of us were held up for a bit as we waited in a "wide" spot for 3 oncoming hikers to pass through. This is not a hike for a claustrophobe!

Pack off, shimmy through...

This skinny section started off with a corkscrew drop of a couple of feet and continued to drop;
your feet were negotiating a V, while your body negotiated corners.
Bob is figuring out how to position his body for the was a tough turn!

The corkscrew with drop.

We walked out of Spooky Gulch exhilarated at having made it through. After thanking the St George Hiking Club for helping us in the tough spots, we made our way back up Dry Flat Wash to Peek-a-boo Gulch.

We made the challenging climb into the Gulch with Hans powering up first then lending me a hand to gain access to what turned out to be the first in a series of bowls. Fortunately the bowls were dry (rain has been in short supply here this year). We proceeded to scramble up and over each bowl into the recesses of the canyon. It was hard!

Once you get over the first hump into Peek-a-boo, the beauty of the canyon rising above you is apparent.

This was the only way I could make it up to the next level!
The rock was slippery and steep. It would be easier for a taller person, with good upper body strength. 

Looking back towards the entrance after a series of bowls.

Now we climbed up through a few tunnels!

The top part of Peek-a-boo, though fairly flat, was quite narrow.

I learned later that it is supposed to be easier to go down Peek-a-boo, instead of up. Oh well, we made it and had a BLAST doing it!

On our drive back to camp we made a quick stop at the amazing Devils Garden:

This was a day we will always remember. In fact, I'm going to label this one a "favorite". Thank goodness for the blog, it makes an excellent journal!

Seriously, if we were "bucket list" keepers, this one would have to be on it...Peek-a-boo and Spooky were an unexpected delight and will have us seeking out slot canyons whenever possible!

Monday, April 28, 2014

Kodachrome Basin State Park

We just spent the last four nights in a black hole. Kodachrome Basin State Park was the first time we've stayed anywhere with ZERO signal in our year and a half on the road...and it was quite pleasant, peaceful and beautiful!

The State Park has 31 camp sites, about 10 of those have full hookups. Amenities include restrooms/showers, dump station, a few cabins and a tiny store. The park is located nine miles out a paved road from the tiny town of Cannonville, and is nestled in a basin surrounded by colorful rock walls. There are 12 miles of trails in the park. Even though there is no cell or internet connectivity, we had good satellite reception.

Site 31 is very deep, it could hold any size RV. Great separation from our only neighbor.

A view of the campground nestled in the Basin.

During our four night stay we managed to hike all the trails in the park, drive the excellent dirt road to Cottonwood Canyon for more hiking, plus one day spent almost entirely in the RV due to cold winds and threat of rain. We really enjoyed the park and the campground and the surrounding countryside. I'll let the pictures tell the story...

I kept seeing teeth and toes and noses in the rocks!

The fine grit of this particular sandstone creates drip castles under the bulges!

The sandstone layer here was more fragile than we have seen other places.
If you rub your hand on it you remove fine particles.

There are 67 sedimentary spires in the Park. This graceful one is called Ballerina.

Cool Cave wasn't really a cave, but it was pretty cool!

We even managed two meet ups with our friends the Nealys. One afternoon we drove to their campsite in Bryce Canyon, and another day they stopped by our site. Turns out they had the same site immediately following our stay, we even passed each other as we left and they arrived at Kodachrome!

Deas, Jen, Hans and Lisa at the Nealys' site in Bryce Canyon.

The day we drove out Cottonwood Road was cold but beautiful. It was about 11 miles on this excellent dirt road to Grosvenor Arch from the campground.

Looking towards Kodachrome Basin area, with the pink cliffs of Bryce Canyon
and the snowy peaks of Brian Head in the distance.

Grosvenor Arch

On our Utah state map we noticed that Cottonwood Canyon was just a couple miles further on Cottonwood Road. What a pleasant surprise it was when we came upon the Cottonwood Narrows North trail head.

We parked at the North Narrows trail head and walked about 1.5 miles down the canyon.

After about 1.5 miles in Cottonwood Canyon we popped out on the road at the South Narrows trail head. We decided to walk the road back to the truck, which turned out to be an excellent choice...the colors and textures of the surrounding countryside were amazing!

Walking back up the road to the truck.

Back at Kodachrome Basin State Park, we hiked the Sentinel trail.

Along the Sentinel trail.
We were being watched...

Hans is but a tiny speck on the slickrock.

We really enjoyed this little sojourn in a black hole, but it's nice to be back in the land of connectivity. In fact, we were surprised to discover that the internet at our new location, Canyons of Escalante RV Park and Cabins, has better internet than we are able to get on our own!