Cedar Breaks National Monument = Bryce Canyon – (.5 * Bryce Size) – (.95 * Bryce Crowds)

Basically Bryce Canyon, but not as big and definitely not as crowded. Similar hoodoos though. I was there on June 22nd, driving from SLC to San Diego.

Later that night I slept at a rest stop on the California side of the CA-NV line. I-15. The idling semi trucks were like white noise. The person whose car alarm went off once every two hours will one day pay for his (her) insolence.

Long before that, though:

Cedar Breaks National Monument


A marmot.

A marmot.

The road out.

The road out.

It’s a national monument that warrants about four photos and I *do* now realize that I should have taken more (a non-zero number of) pictures of the rest area. Although you’ve probably been there yourself — metaphorically if nothing else.


Coyote Gulch Hike Featuring Jacob Hamblin Arch, An Overnighter

  1. We set off from the Hurricane Wash trailhead and did the hike as an out-and-back overnighter, camping near the Jacob Hamblin Arch.
  2. The most inspiring scenery of the hike (the series of high-walled amphitheaters that curve overhead) is hard to photograph.
  3. Hiking to the arch and back from Hurricane Wash would be very doable as a day hike (ca. 14 miles).
  4. The first five miles of the hike are merely pleasant; the good scenery picks up after the confluence with Coyote Gulch.
  5. Hiking past the arch, there’s some cool scenery for a couple miles, but after the petroglyphs, there’s not much else on offer (we didn’t hike all the way to the confluence of the Escalante, though, so there might be something great that we missed).
  6. The campsites were all pretty amazing with great views and soft sand for easy sleeping. Don’t know that I’ve ever slept any better on a backpacking trip.
  7. You have to walk through the water in several spots, but you never have to go more than ankle deep if you don’t want.
  8. We didn’t find the fresh water sources that I’ve seen referenced in other write-ups.
  9. The problem with Mountain House isn’t that it tastes bad, it’s that it’s too much of one thing; the JetBoil is still an amazing product.
  10. Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument in southern Utah is where this is.



Spooky and Peek-a-Boo Gulch II: Revenge of the Slot Canyon

Right, so headed out to southern Utah a couple weeks ago to meet up with two of my brothers and go backpacking in the world’s longest hikable slot canyon, Buckskin Gulch. Then it was too cold (per the ranger, the puddles were waist deep and, per the weather report, it was below freezing overnight therefore, per common sense, we considered the likelihood of frostbite), so we bailed on that one and drove up to Escalante* instead.

I hiked Spooky and Peek-a-Boo Gulches about the same time last year. It didn’t change much during the intervening 13 months. Here are pictures (obviously).

As was noted last year, it’s a very skinny slot canyon:

Getting through the gulches requires some amount of athleticism (or your older brother to offer you a hand):

It was sort of a rock-fall chimney that you had to climb through. I took the photo from the top part (I went first since I was athletic enough), Garry’s at the middle part, and Craig’s coming up from the bottom.

And then Peek-a-Boo has cool little features like this:

And this:

And then there’s the 20-foot drop to exit Peek-a-Boo, which isn’t as bad as it sounds. This is an awesome hike, btw. It doesn’t hold a lot of surprise for me at this point, but I’d do it again tomorrow just because it’s a fun set of situations to have to navigate.

Then we went to Lower Calf Creek Falls, which I’d also visited before (on the road trip). Not much wonder there, either, but a nice, easy hike and still pretty.

And then we went to Coyote Gulch on an overnighter, but that warrants its own post. Not that I’ll necessarily get around to it, just that it’s warranted.


* That is to say, Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument**, which is accessed via the town of Escalante.

** AKA, the Bill Clinton Came in Third in Utah, So He Didn’t Care about Pissing People Off There by Surprise-Executive-Decreeing a National Monument That Locals Didn’t Want Monument.

Utah’s Paria Canyon, An Overnighter

Hike started at the Paria Townsite, about 30 miles east of Kanab. The townsite was an actual town until 1900 or so and then was later used as the site for some (purpose-built) sets for a few western movies (of which I’ve only seen The Outlaw Josey Wales). Headed up the Paria River and through the canyon until I got tired and set up camp. Camp looked like:

Pretty area. Nothing really in terms of landmark, must-see stuff, but otoh, I didn’t see anyone else in the canyon/on the river at all over the 16-or-so miles I hiked. Kind of a muddy river. Spent maybe 20-percent of the time actually in the river (max: knee-deep). Was probably a good thing I took poles.

Ended up doing this hike because I didn’t really want to do the “big hike” I’d signed up for (Buckskin Gulch and the *Arizona* Paria). Mostly because four days was going to be too long to be sleeping on the ground and too short to have a good time on a 48-mile slot canyon hike through a river. I’ll do it on purpose some time, take my truck so I can park at one of the Utah-side trailheads, and go in at Wire Pass and out at White House. Some day.


Spooky Gulch, Peek-a-Boo Gulch, and Dry Fork Hike

I was told that I had to do the “beginner” slot canyons along the Hole-in-the-Rock Road once in my life. They’re tourist hikes, thus the reluctance. If not for that, they’re pretty fantastic (was the gist).

They were pretty fantastic and there were a lot of tourists. Frex, here’s half of the parking lot:

It’s showing fewer than half the cars that were there. Kind of amazing given that you’re driving 28 miles down a washboardy dirt road. OTOH, the Prius made it, so it’s obviously not a big hurdle.

When I got there, there was a huge family group just heading down the trail. It was grandma’s birthday. Probably 40 people ranging from age 0 to maybe 80. The posted maximum group size is 12. They wore a lot of University of Utah gear. Draw your own conclusions. Mine involves West Valley City, one of those 2 1/2-year missions to Russia, and a ward where there is no Sunday school.

Headed down the trail:

dry fork trailhead

You can actually see the entrance to Peek-a-Boo Gulch in that photo, but you’d have to know what you’re looking for. It’s just a fold in the rock, about halfway up and 25% over from the left. Waldo and so forth. Here’s what it (the opening) looks like zoomed in:

It goes toward the left. Anyway.

Catherine at the B&B had given me instructions that involved starting the loop by going up Peek-a-Boo. By the time I got down there, though, I’d caught up to The Family Group and, thinking that a narrow slot canyon might decrease the usual joy I receive at listening to the cries of a hundred ten-year-olds, I kept going toward Spooky Gulch.

Which, after the fact, I think was better anyway. It’s narrower, but a whole lot easier to get into.

Here’s the one place I had to get down on hands and knees and crawl along the dirt like a common lizard:

And then things got narrower.

So I think that was the narrowest spot in the canyon. I had to walk through their sideways and, even doing so, the rock walls were compressing my chest as I slid through. It’d probably be less dramatic if you squatted down a little bit, but I didn’t do that. (I had to take the backpack off in order to fit through sideways.)

This would kind of be a bad hike if you were claustrophobic. Or, like, stout.

After a while, you come to parts of the slot where you have to scramble a little. Here’s one:

Not sure if the photo captures it, but you’re trying to squeeze through some tight spaces while climbing up “steps” that are chest-high and not crack your head open in the process. It’s kind of fun. Here’s another little hole I had to climb through (photo taken after climbing):

While you’re walking through the gulch, there are some spots where the sun gets down to the bottom of the slot, others where you can’t see the sky. It’s interesting. The rock formations are cool and weird, Seussian even.

Oh, and it’s sort of awkward (especially in Spooky Gulch) when you hear someone coming down the canyon when you’re going up. There aren’t a lot of convenient passing locations.

Not too long after the arch, you exit Spooky and you’re up on a flat, red-sand plain. According to the directions I got from the B&B hostess, I needed to turn left at a right angle and keep walking until I found Peek-a-Boo Gulch. Catherine, the hostess, suggested that I err on cutting the angle too acutely rather than too obliquely, since if I missed the end of the slot I’d end up wandering through the desert for a couple weeks before probably dying.

Here’s what the route between the gulches looks like:

I figured that so long as I followed the footsteps, at least I’d see where other people had died of dehydration before doing so myself. Didn’t work out that way, of course. Here’s the top of Peek-a-Boo Gulch (close to the top anyway):

So, yeah, then you basically just go down there. Peek-a-Boo Gulch isn’t quite as narrow as Spooky, but it’s got a few more unusual features. Here’s a hairpin turn I thought was cool:

Yep. Then here’s a cool arch+light situation:

It’s kind of hard to get into good positions to take photos in there sometimes. Here’s a bridge overhead:

And then you’re just about at the bottom of Peek-a-Boo, where it gets kind of interesting. There are a couple of big pot holes that you have to either long-jump or climb down and back up. Fortunately there were some people around there so that when my long jump fell a little short I got a hand-up so I didn’t have to retreat down into the mud. These potholes are positioned between some pretty cool arches:

And then this is how Peek-a-Boo ends. Or how it begins if you start here:

So it’s pretty close to straight up from where I’m standing to where the green jacket guy is, and then it’s pretty much straight down from where I’m standing to the bottom of that wall. And at this point, I was wondering how it is that this is such a *tourist* hike. Seems like a lot of narrow squeezes, pull-ups, having to trust your entire weight to the friction between the soles of your boots and a near-vertical wall, and stuff like that to be such a tourist hike. Oh well. Maybe it’d be way more crowded without those features. Or maybe way less.

Catherine also suggested heading up Dry Fork as sort of a cool-down after Spooky and Peek-a-Boo. It was nice, not nearly as dramatic, but: nice.

It does open up a little better and let a little more light in, though.

Then once you get to the top of Dry Fork, you head cross-country looking for the parking lot.

Really cool experience, something I hadn’t done before, worth doing, etc.


Snow on the Hoodoos: The Bryce Canyon Story

When I was at the Capitol Reef visitor center last November, apparently some sort of 2010 Southern Utah calendar had come out and one of the rangers had just gotten ahold of one. Speaking to the woman running the bookstore, she said, “Why do they always show Bryce for their winter pictures? The other parks look good in winter too! But I guess not as good as Bryce.”

It’s spring now, but anyway:

Continue reading

Red Canyon, Black Heart: A (Brief) Hike

Writing up blog posts for hikes that I’ve been on just feels really last-fall to me. And it will never stop bothering me that we capitalize days of the week, but not the names of seasons. When I’m king, whoever made that decision will be first against the wall. Or top ten anyway.

Red Canyon is in Southern Utah. It’s a little place that’s west of Bryce Canyon, which is a bigger place. Maybe. I haven’t measured. Bryce Canyon doesn’t seem all that big to be honest. While at Red Canyon, I hiked the Cassidy Trail up and then hung a left onto the Rich Trail (thinking this would help with my finances) and then, at the appropriate time, took the Ledge Point Trail.

It was snowing much of this time and about 50-percent of the trail was under snow. When I got done with the Ledge Point, I tried to keep going up Rich, but was thwarted by accumulated snow and an inability to figure out where the trail was supposed to go. It had all been so much easier when I could just follow the creek bed. So then I turned around and walked back down to my econobox.

Some photos, sure:

Ledge Point in Red Canyon, Utah

Ledge Point!

Some red rock, trees, and snow.

Snow, falling.

What the hike lacked in length, it made up for in cold, snowy conditions and gray skies.

And FWIW, here’s what Highway 14 looked like on Monday.

Snow on Highway 14 in Utah

I suppose I could have bought chains before leaving Cedar City.

Excelsior, I guess,


Southern Utah Itinerary

Heading out in a few minutes here. This is what the back of my car looks like, with stuff in it:

So, yeah, I have a “car” now.  I’ll post on that one later. Maybe.

  • Su: Mt. Helix to Escalante Petrified State Park (or maybe some hotel in St. George)
  • Mo: Escalante (Some Hole-in-the-Rock hike)
  • Tu: Escalante (Somethin’)
  • We: Escalante (Some Hole-in-the-Rock hike)
  • Th: Escalante to Kanab to Page
  • Fr: Paria Canyon Backpacking (start at Wire Pass)
  • Sa: Paria Canyon
  • Su: Paria Canyon
  • Mo: Paria Canyon (exit Lee’s Ferry), probably sleep in Page or so.
  • Tu: Page to Mt. Helix

Now you know.