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 corkscrew...it 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!

34 comments:

  1. Wow! I've been to a few slot canyons, but never any as amazing, or challenging, as these two. You made it through some really tight spots. Utah is so beautiful!

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    1. We LOVE Utah! This was one of those absolutely perfect days!

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  2. This is an incredible blog post with marvelous photos and commentary. I couldn't stop thinking about the movie, 127 Hours, though. Glad you all are safe and sound.

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    1. Thanks Vicki! I too, was thinking of 127 hours...it would be so easy to twist an ankle, much less have a rock fall on you!

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  3. Wow Great shots. We were in Utah a couple weeks ago we rode some slot canyons the bottom of the Grand Staircase Escalante in the Paria Canyon. Check out our Blog http://www.campingandhorses.blogspot.com

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    1. Kelly, those are some fantastic trails you went on! I think I could spend the entire spring and fall in UT!

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    2. Lovely photography and beautiful topography in Utah!

      The blog post was exciting to read...kept me wanting more...

      What a wonderful adventure!

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  4. What an amazingly cool place!! Great write-up Lisa!
    Nina and Paul

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    1. Thanks! This area is so worth a stop!

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  5. We love slot canyons, but having a fear of heights not sure I could go up or down some of those drops. And with Jim being claustrophobic not sure he could make it through some of those tight spots. But, we will definitely give it a try if we get back to that area. It looks like a great place to hike!

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    1. Fortunately not all of the slots around here are so tight or difficult. This place is awesome...we'll be back some year.

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  6. Oh, oh, oh!!! This was most definitely a spectacular day!! When I read about these slots last year, I so wanted to do them. But, they weren't on our route and something had to give. Next year these are a must. We ran into some choke stones in Shetz Gulch in Capital Reefs. Thank goodness we had done the Fiery Furnace hike with a ranger in Arches and she taught us how to navigate (crab crawl) up the walls using both out feet and hands. But I still needed John's hand for the last push over. Being this short can be a real bummer at times. Coming out I actually had to sit on his head to get down one spot!! Wish someone was around for a photo.

    I was wondering about your exit as I was reading about the drops getting through the slots. I was glad to read it was one way. I can just imagine your exciting at the end of these. Congratulations!! Great job!! Can't wait to see what tomorrow brings!!! Sounds like it will be tough to top this.

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    1. We were thinking of you two while we hiked this...I know you would love it!

      What a crack up you had to use John's head to get down!

      Actually neither of these slots was one way...folks were going both directions...which was interesting in the really tight spots!

      I think we're going to check out Zebra and Tunnel tomorrow...

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    2. Just looking at the photos again!! Man, you did an awesome job of capturing the fun. Hope you get to the Zebra. I had never head of it until it popped up on Facebook after I commented. The pictures are magnificent.

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  7. Yikes! Sounds beautiful and fun but too tight for my comfort. Your photos captured it beautifully.

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    1. It was a crazy experience and I am actually amazed that I made it through without any anxiety!

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  8. Looks like an amazing place. I'm glad you shared it but a little too tight for me.

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    1. Isn't it great to be able to read about a place and then know you don't need to attempt it?! ;-)

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  9. very very cool slot canyon...

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  10. Spectacular pics, I was holding my breath through most of them! Especially love the one of Hans up in the tunnels. I don't think I could handle the "crushing" but making the trip with you and Hans was wonderful.

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    1. So glad you could join us thru the blog! :-)

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  11. These pictures are just stunning. I was holding my breath too. What a wonderful day you had. I was wondering how difficult it would be for someone only 5' tall. That would be me. I don't have a bucket list either but this will definitely make it to my places to see in Utah. Many many thanks.

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    1. I am 5'4", Hans is 5'8". In Spooky the only challenge would be the drop, which was about 10 feet I think. Peek-a-boo is another story altogether...I think if I were to do it again, I'd try going down instead of up...it still would be a long drop from some of those pools. You'd just have to slide on your butt!

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  12. That's about as tight as you can get through without going on a diet!
    If you get a chance do "Little Wild Horse" ? slot…it can be done in a loop.
    Box Canyon

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    1. Yeah, this trail was tight! I'd hate to get in there and discover I was too thick!

      Thanks for the tip, we aren't going to be in that area so I'll mark for future reference!

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  13. I am at a loss of words as I was reading and told Steve we've got to do this. Stunning, Beautiful and the hikers are very adventurous. What a great day for you guys!

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    1. This area has so much to do you could easily spend a month here!

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  14. Amazing slots. We're putting it on the list.

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    1. Yes indeed, it is worth a return trip!

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  15. Can't believe you managed to take pictures while negotiating all those tight spots. Well done! What an incredible area. Hope you like Capital Reef. It's one of our favorites. See if you can make it up to Cathedral Valley for a real adventure.

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    1. :-) Lots of stopping, whipping out the camera, and moving on! Gotta keep the blog in mind you know!

      We have been to Capitol Reef before, briefly about 7 years ago. Thanks for the Cathedral Valley tip. Looks like a beautiful loop drive. We never made it to that part of the park.

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  16. Amazingly beautiful! Stupendous adventure. We have to see this. Thank you for sharing. What a find

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  17. Fantastic place and fab pics Lisa! Can't believe I haven't done that yet. Always nice to know when we get back that way we left stuff to do!

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