Over Labor Day weekend, I, along with most of my family and some of my favorite nieces and nephews (and another young adult who is not-yet-family but who is already a favorite), hiked three slot canyons in one day and it was a very healthy experience. [What does not kill you makes you stronger, right?!?!?!]
The Escalante part of the weekend started, for Miles, Lance and I, just before midnight when we arrived at Escalante Petrified Forest State Park. There we joined Romney, Aliza, Olivia and Grace and Romney’s crippled car--- which mercifully broke down right in front of our campsite. The night was clear and warm and the people (all of us) were tired so we did not put up tents, choosing instead to sleep under the stars.
Saturday dawned, in Lance’s words, “a bright and glorious morning”, partially because it really was a beautiful morning, partially because Tanah joined us, and partially because we were able to get Romney’s car running long enough to deliver it to Escalante’s only auto repair shop. After dropping Romney’s car off at the local repair shop--which Google said was not open but actually was...kind-of….there was a young man in the parking lot who said he worked there who took Romney’s keys--we drove down Hole-in-the-Rock road to the Peek-a-Boo and Spooky slot canyons trail head. Let the good times begin! Slot canyons carry their own special magic and that magic was magnified by the fabulousness of the people with whom we hiked. Honestly!
Lance charged the entrance to Peek-a-Boo. To enter Peek-a-boo, one has to scale a 10 foot cliff, enhanced by only a few footholds that are much taller than waist high. A blog commenter said he waited for over an hour at the entrance, hoping someone would arrive and help him up the wall. Lance did it by himself. (Romney helped me.) Once inside, Peek-a-Boo was all beauty--twists, turns, and intricately shaped rock surfaces. Spooky was narrower, tighter, darker, and much more challenging. There were times Lance had to drop to crawl because the wider part of the canyon was lower; other times he had to shimmy up because the wider part of the canyon was higher. He scratched holes in his shirt and some skin off his tummy and got an idea for a new, extreme, belly-scraping weight loss program..
Zebra was our third slot canyon of the day. My purpose for planning a Labor Day adventure to the Escalante area was to explore Zebra slot canyon; to check it out as a possible hike for future field trips. Nope. Not suitable.
It is an out and back hike, a short slot canyon at the end of a long hike. The hike was good. Again, it is hard to go wrong when hiking with such fabulous people. The slot canyon was good too. Fabulous in fact. But I feel no need to ever do it again.
The visitor’s center guide told me there were 3 feet of water in Zebra. Given the extremely dry summer we’ve had, I expected 12-18 inches. Nope. There were 3 feet of water in Zebra. She warned me about the water. No one told me about the slot.
It was a narrow canyon--much more narrow than Spooky. And the footing was tricky. There were times--several times--when I was wedged tightly both at my chest and at my ankle. I would struggle to wiggle/drag/push my foot forward a couple inches and then work to push/pull my torso forward, then return to trying to move my foot. Intense. At one point I tried to shimmy/spider along the wall by putting a foot on each side of the narrow crevice. Nope. Not enough traction on my Chacos. A slip would mean a wedged ankle if I were lucky and a shattered one if I weren’t. I also tried to shimmy up the canyon with my feet against one wall and my back against the other. In many places it was too narrow to do that; the canyon walls were so close that my knees were in my teeth which made it hard to move them--teeth or knees or anything else for that matter….. Intense. YEP.
And beautiful! Amazing, awesome, outstanding. Super cool, literally (the water) and figuratively (the experience). The stripes, for which the canyon is named, were magnificent. The tadpoles, tadpoles-transitioning-to-frogs, and the frogs were awesome too. The “I-might-be-stuck-but-I-refuse-to-panic” feeling was great too….after I got out of the narrow spot.
The whole experience, start to finish, was awesome. We did end up pitching a tent but only to house our bags when we were gone for the day; we put it aside at night and again slept under the stars. Lance fished past dark and enjoyed watching and, after dark, feeling the tug of bats playing with his fishing line. Tanah did not so much enjoy seeing the skunk that visited our garbage can while most of us slept. Olivia entertained us with her guitar (a little) and fun campfire games (a lot). Aliza was even more gracious and beautiful and helpful than I remembered (which was hard to do). Miles fished for bass and Grace caught one--on Miles’ line. Before the trip Miles had never caught a bass. He still has not caught a bass. And Romney lived up to the Noel boys’ reputation. “Never go adventuring without a Noel boy” has become a Hislop adage. For my part, I tried to fix lots of yummy food, hoping to lure/bait everyone into accepting my next adventuring invitation.
Yep, yep, yep…..for me, 3 a day slot canyons was a healthy experience...once! Though I do not plan on exploring 3 slot canyons in one day anytime soon, I hope to adventure again with these people really soon.