Tag : slot-canyons

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.

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.