ADVENTURE REPORTAGE FROM THE SLOT CANYONS OF ESCALANTE

ESCALANTE

The view from our campsite at Wide Hollow Reservoir.

"Really? Three miles from home?" was all I could think as the truck choked to a stop. I would later realize it was all thanks to the 25 gallons of unleaded gas I forced into it's diesel-only tank. Once the initial anger had subsided, and as I waited for the tow truck, I was able to look back on a great weekend, thankful there were so many adventures to be had so close to where I had chosen to call home. I'm a Utah transplant, having left my native Texas for higher elevation more than fourteen years ago. Checking Escalante off the Must-See list was pointless though, because after my last trip South, I added it back.

Southern Utah Fall color.

The trip roster consisted of me, my lovely wife Steph, her sister Les, and Les's husband Jordan. We were an excited bunch, ready for sunshine and red dirt in our shoes. So we loaded up the aforementioned truck Friday afternoon and raced South to set up camp and beat the fading light. After driving our tent stakes halfway into the rocky, RV-ready, campsite soil (if you could even call it soil) we cut out of camp for dinner at the local diner. We were greeted by a pushy waiter that messed up our drink orders and miraculously talked each of us out of our preferred menu item. Feeling suckered into the more-expensive brisket, I am ashamed to say I left a good tip and ultimately quite satisfied with my "choice." We spent some great time talking over dinner then headed back to camp for an evening fire and some more laughs.

Last light over Wide Hollow Reservoir.

Finally retiring for the evening around ten, having been coaxed out of the brisk evening air by a warm tent (thank you Heater Buddy), we spent another hour or two laughing inside the glowing blue of our tent. We nodded off one by one, and like most camping trips, unintentionally took turns as night watch. Sleep invaders would include the cold, the sound of snoring, and a lifeless appendage needing to be roused back to circulation. But despite all of that, I always manage to awake feeling refreshed and ready for the days activities. In our case, we had a lot of them!

Glowing tent and our fire.

SLOT CANYONS

In the morning we ate, packed, dressed, and set out on the thirty-plus miles of dirt road to our first destination‚Ķthe slot canyons. The drive was slow-going in parts, the road being so washboarded I thought the screws were rattling out of the truck's frame. My anxiousness to get off the road and get hiking was fueled further by stories from the prior year's trip of Les and Jordan getting two flat tires on this same stretch of road. We finally arrived at a half-full, dirt parking lot in the middle of nowhere with all four tires and our spare in tact. Other than the ten-second timer for a group picture, we spent no time unloading and setting off down the trail. 

For being so close in proximity (entrances and exits within a few hundred yards of each other) you couldn't find two more different slot canyons. Peekaboo Canyon is filled with arches and bowls, beautiful curves and wedged boulders. It requires a fair amount of acrobatics, both climbing and crawling, all on sandy surfaces. When we arrived at the canyon, we had to wait as other groups slowly navigated the first section of archways. Luckily, once we started, the group on our tail was quite slow allowing us ample time for pictures. Finally pushing out into a beautiful wash, we walked the short distance over to Spooky Canyon passing several hikers on the opposite rotation. It's important to note that the canyons are not one way, this makes for some up close and personal moments with complete strangers.

Spooky Canyon is snug; that's the best way to put it. The beginning (or the end depending on your direction) has beautiful sandstone walls that stretch high and offer ample shade. We took advantage of one of the shady outcroppings to pause for lunch. Seating was limited so I ended up on the cool sand of the canyon floor. I've spent a week on the beach every summer of my life, but I have never felt sand this smooth. It was silky and soft, and left my hands dry and stained a light sandstone orange. I loved it!

Steph on the entrance to Peekaboo.

Navigating the confines of Spooky.

From there, the remaining sections are filled with chokstones, narrow confines and uncomfortable encounters with people heading the other direction. Overall, the slot canyons were gorgeous but short-lived. If you're traveling from out of state I would add Devil's Garden and Bryce Canyon to the agenda.

Spooky Canyon is snug; that's the best way to put it. The beginning (or the end depending on your direction) has beautiful sandstone walls that stretch high and offer ample shade. We took advantage of one of the shady outcroppings to pause for lunch. Seating was limited so I ended up on the cool sand of the canyon floor. I've spent a week on the beach every summer of my life, but I have never felt sand this smooth. It was silky and soft, and left my hands dry and stained a light sandstone orange. I loved it!

Steph at Devil's Garden

From there, the remaining sections are filled with chokstones, narrow confines and uncomfortable encounters with people heading the other direction. Overall, the slot canyons were gorgeous but short-lived. If you're traveling from out of state I would add Devil's Garden and Bryce Canyon to the agenda.