Adventures in Colorado and around the World

Desert Wanderings, A Roadtrip Diary: Part 2

Sunday, November 3: We slept in at the hotel, knowing we wanted to visit some slot canyons in Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument and they’re best in the midday light. We had breakfast at the hotel where I succeeded in spilling waffle batter all over the counter because I didn’t know how to use their upright waffle maker. To be fair there were directions right next to it, but I didn’t bother reading them. We enjoyed one last hot shower before shivering our way into the truck. It was a balmy 14 degrees outside and we were very glad we weren’t camping in that weather!

Spooky slot from above

Our first stop was the semi-popular Peek-a-boo and Spooky slot canyons. We had a slight misstart when we saw a “road closed ahead” sign and parked our car about a mile away from the trailhead. Once we walked up the road, we realized that it was silly to park so far away instead of driving to where the road was actually closed. It turns out it wasn’t closed and I had my first experience driving through deep sand. It was quite fun, even if I really wanted to white knuckle it, and the truck handled it like a champ!

I found a blog online that suggested starting with Spooky and finishing with Peekaboo. It turned out ok for us, but we had a lot of awkward scrambles up rocks that would have been really easy in the opposite direction. We also came to a rockfall that required us to crawl through a very small opening and wiggle our way up the rocks. Luckily we’re both pretty small people, but I don’t think it would have been possible for a bigger person. Although if you do the canyon in the opposite direction, you might get to the really narrow section and not be able to fit through. Then you’d have to navigate up the rockfall anyways. The theme of our trip was “choose your own adventure” after all.

After we finished, we decided to stop by two other slot canyons in the area. I thought the trail would be hard to find, since the slots are hard to access for most of the year, but as soon as we parked the trail was obvious. I’m usually one to follow the trail exactly and I certainly don’t advocate going off-trail in sensitive areas. We came to a section of rock that looked like melted strawberry swirl ice cream that I just had to explore. We were careful to stick to rock and sand, avoiding the sensitive plants and desert crust that may never really recover from a misplaced foot. It felt like we stepped into an alternate universe, where the pinks, whites, and reds of the rocks blended into the blues of the sky. I don’t do drugs, but I imagine it would be quite the trip in a landscape like that.

When we finally found the slot canyon (I thought it was in a different location than it was and had us wandering along a wash for a ways until I finally got my bearings), it was even more narrow that Spooky! The entrance was guarded by ankle deep water, but I’ve heard it is often deep enough that you need to swim. It took me three tries to get my booty through a section that was less than 8 inches wide. Too many squats! After taking some photos in the “popular” photo spot we scrambled up the pourover and explored until we got to a pothole that was too deep and steep to overcome. When we had cell service again I found some blog posts that said when the water is deep enough you can swim through the pothole and scramble up the other side, but then you have three more potholes to deal with before coming to the top of the slot canyon. I’m glad we didn’t try to explore further!

We had plans to camp near the slots that night and wake up early to drive to Bryce Canyon National Park. It was only 2 pm when we got back to the truck so we decided to head to Bryce Canyon and camp there. The 2-hour drive was uneventful and we quickly found ourselves trying to find a camp spot. None of them looked very good and there were quite a few large campervans with generators. I guess we’ve become spoiled in our “old age” because we didn’t want to deal with it and decided to try to find a room at the lodge. We headed over to Sunset Point and then went to find ourselves a place to sleep. The Bryce Canyon Lodge was mostly closed for the season, but luckily I found a fantastic deal at the Ruby Inn (now part of Best Western). We checked in, treated ourselves to buffet dinner, and called it an early night.

Monday, November 4: We woke up before the sun and headed into the park for sunrise. I had done a little research and determined that Inspiration Point was the best place to watch the sunrise, but hadn’t done enough research to figure out where in the park it was. Bryce Canyon is known for being a “dark sky” park and it was so very dark outside that we completely missed the turn for Inspiration Point and ended up driving 16 extra miles to the end of the park road. When we got there it was light enough to see that there weren’t many hoodoos around and I had just enough cell service to search for Inspiration Point on Google Maps. Turns out it was 16 miles away back towards our hotel. We skedaddled to Inspiration Point, making it there as the sky brightened into pinks and purples. I should also mention that I forgot the tripod at home, so I had to stand very still to take photos in the pre-dawn and sunrise light.

Jason and I had both been to Bryce Canyon on separate trips in 2014, but his trip was snow-filled and at the start of his 13-hour drive from Zion back to Avon. He didn’t get to explore any of the trails. On my trip with my mom and sister, we did the Fairyland loop so I felt I like I had seen a lot of the hoodoos. On this trip we decided to do the Queen’s Garden/Navajo Loop and potentially extend our hike to include the Peekaboo Loop if we felt good. We ended up doing both loops for a total of almost 8 miles! The trail wound up close to the hoodoos and then suddenly we’d find ourselves at stunning vistas overlooking the hoodoo amphitheaters.

After our hike, we cooked up some breakfast burritos and coffee that we enjoyed at one of the benches on the Rim Trail. We debated where we wanted to head to next and eventually decided on Antelope Canyon. Antelope Canyon is one of those places that we hate to love and love to hate. Tour companies cram so many people into off-road vehicles and drive them to the most famous slot canyon. It’s a bit like Disney World. A couple years ago, I upgraded from the Antelope Canyon 50k to the Antelope Canyon 50 miler just to be able to see the canyon before the crowds arrived. It was beautiful, but it was the middle of a race, I had torn my MCL a week earlier and my knee was hurting from all the sand, and the light wasn’t ideal that early in the morning to see all the nuances of the rock. Jason had never been. We decided that going during the off-season couldn’t be that bad.