Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Family Summer Trip Day 12 - Spooky Gulch and Peek-a-boo Canyon

Today, we were going to make the short drive from our Bryce Canyon campground to the Escalante / Grand Staircase National Monument and visit a spot I last visited in 2007.  This was the origin of my trail name, CanyonMan.  It's about a 45 minute drive from Bryce Canyon to Escalante, UT.  From Escalante, you turn off Highway 12 onto Hole-in-the-Rock Road. Then, it is another 45 minutes or so down the bumpy, gravel road.

To give you a sense of what it's like finding this place, here's the directions to the trailhead:

Go 24 miles on Hole-in-the-Rock Road to Cat Pasture where you'll see a sign for Early Weed Bench.  Go 2.5 miles more and turn left on a dirt road.  Turn and follow this dirt road 1 mile to a parking lot.

From the trailhead, you drop down about 100 vertical feet to the canyon floor.  About 1/2 mile from where you hit the canyon floor, you get your first glimpse of the Peek-a-boo slot canyon, I recommend bypassing this and heading to Spooky first.  Continuing down canyon another mile or so, you will run into Spooky Gulch.  This is an extremely narrow canyon, but it's a great way to get your introduction to slot canyons, because there's no climbing to get into it, you simply walk right in, whereas Peek-a-boo requires a bit of a climb.

Entrance to Spooky Gulch
Entrance to Peek-a-Boo Canyon

There's several options to navigating these slots.

  1. Go in and out of Spooky from the entrance and then walk back to Peek-a-boo and go in and out the entrance (what we did this time)
  2. Enter Spooky, come out the back end, then navigate your way to the back side of Peek-a-boo and work your way down to the entrance (what I did in 2007)
  3. Climb into Peek-a-boo and out the back end, then entering Spooky from the backside and come out the entrance (what a group of scouts were doing when we were there this year)
You could easily spend a day in this area.  There's a third slot in the area, Brimstone, but I've never done that one.  I hear it's a bit more challenging and there are areas which you can get stuck in, so I would recommend going with a partner if you're going to attempt these.

The whole family eventually made it to the back of Spooky.  Some were a bit more intimidated than others by the tight spaces, but we all eventually got back there.  Here's a few pics to give you a sense of how "tight" I'm talking.  If you're claustrophobic, this might not be the spot for you.  Believe it or not, we saw a guy that was probably 5'10" pushing 250+ pounds make it through, so you can squeeze.




We played around in here for a bit and stayed in the cool shade, it was probably 30 degrees cooler than in the sun.

We exited Spooky from the entrance and walked back to the mouth of Peek-a-Boo.  Here everyone, except myself and my daughter, opted not to enter.  Like I mentioned, it's a bit of a climb, so I understand. We helped probably 5 or so others get in or out while we were there.

Once you climb into Peek-a-Boo, it's not as narrow as Spooky, but it is otherworldly.  It almost looks like an alien planet.  There are multiple cris-crossing arches and passageways.  Here's a few shots from inside Peek-a-Boo.





LT and I spent just a few minutes in here, enough to give her an idea of what draws me to this place.  I always tell everyone, there's something special about the desert.  It just has it's own beauty to it.  It's not for everyone, but these places are phenomenal.

Family photo in front of Peek-a-Boo
We exited Peek-a-Boo, gathered the family for a photo.  See the pic above and notice the carved out area above us and to the left.  That's where you climb up.  It looks pretty straightforward, but is extremely worn and very slick.  It's not terribly difficult, but is a bit nerve racking if you're not used to climbing on sandstone.

It was extremely hot that day and we were running low on water.  A bit of advice, even though you are less than a mile from your vehicle, pack plenty of water.  We brought a liter each and were only out for 2 hours, but we drank every bit of it and my youngest was pretty parched by the time we got back to the truck.

If you find yourself in southern Utah or northern Arizona, I highly recommend spending some time around Hole-in-the-Rock road.  There are many slots in this area.  There's a really good guidebook on all the different hikes in the area.  It's the Non-Technical Canyon Hiking Guide to the Colorado Plateau.  I highly recommend picking this up.

Finally, if you're coming to this area, it's worth knowing why it's called Hole-in-the-Rock Road.  Check out this Wikipedia article on the Hole-in-the-Rock.  It's an interesting bit of history and you'll be amazed when you see what it looks like now and imagining what it would have been like in the late 1800's when it was being used by the Mormons.  They must have been some extremely hearty people.

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