Monday, March 3, 2014

Peek-A-Boo Canyon and Spooky Gulch

I think we all have those "I wanna go there" places on our bucket list, and along with that we probably have a list of reasons why we haven't been there.  I know the first thing coming to mind is probably ideas like fishing in Alaska, a more distant national park, or maybe a foreign country.  But what about some of the places close to home that we talk about but just haven't got to yet?

Well, I'll admit, I live in one of the most beautiful and fun filled areas of the world, and there are still a lot of things within 1-2 hours of my own home that I have not got out to see yet.  Honestly, I think a big part of that is the fact that I have my favorite places I love to return to, and very small kids have kept me from adventuring into a few of the more remote areas as well.  Peek-A-Boo Canyon and Spooky Gulch have long been on my list, and honestly I haven't had a good reason at all not to have hiked all the way through this loop in my 33 years of living in this area.

This was all pretty spur of the moment for our family, mostly because the weather was unseasonably warm, but we decided we were going to do it last Saturday.  We did a little homework, checking out the route online and reading what others had said about young children hiking the 2 slot canyons.  Everything sounded fairly positive so we gave it a go. 

I won't say much in detail now, as the following video does do a great job of it, but I do need to add a few details.  We followed a large group from northern Utah into the canyon system, and at first I'll be honest, I was a little annoyed.  I thought the idea of being alone, just our family was going to be so nice.  As we waited for the group to climb into Peek-A-Boo, a very friendly woman (later I learned her name was Tina Crowder) was very kind to offer us help in getting the family up their rope and into the slot.  We took her up on it as we could see how much easier it would be with a rope.  Three people of the large group helped us up and in.  As soon as we all were up in the canyon, these gracious folks invited us to join them along the way.  Initially, we let them in front of us and just followed, but we found our kids having a blast interacting with them, and Tina was snapping a lot of photos of us, several of which are in the video.  She exchanged information with us and sent them to me via Facebook.  The group also assisted us in getting through the difficult portion of Spooky Gulch. 

Which brings be to my next point, the most difficult part of Spooky Gulch did not get captured of film.  I wanted to pass this on so it doesn't catch anyone by surprise that gives this hike a try.  Half-way down Spooky you will encounter a "boulder jam", where boulders have fallen into the slot (many, many years ago) these boulders being suspended 10-15 feet above the bottom of the canyon.  There is a "hole" between a couple of boulders where you have to lower yourself into onto a lip, then scoot on your back down through the rest of the hole.  You can grab an overhanging rock to kind of hang off of to push through the hole.  As you drop, a ledge on the right side offers a hold for your feet until you can get to where you can see again.  Then you can use both hands (on opposite canyon walls) to lower yourself to the bottom.  I had to jump about 3 feet to hit the bottom.  It's not as bad as it sounds, it's just a little confusing as to what to do when you hit this rock jam.  It was nice to have the group to follow to help us out!

Keep in mind these slot canyons are very tight.  If you are claustrophobic I would not recommend going in!  My 10 year old had to take off his Camel Bak (water pack) to fit through a couple of spots in Spooky.  I am 6'4", and just a little over 220 pounds, and I can recall 1 spot where I really had to suck in to get through.  My chest and back rubbed most of the way through the really narrow part of Spooky.  There were a couple of guys in the group in front of us just a bit bigger than me that made it just fine too though.  Just keep in mind (not to be rude) if you are big you will not fit!  There are no alternate options other than turning back.  Peek-a-Boo isn't as tight as Spooky, but there is a bit more scrambling in Peek-a-Boo.  I would call it a "moderate" hike of 3.2 miles if you do the entire loop.

We hope you enjoy the video!  Feel free to comment or email if you have any questions about the hike.  This is a must-see for yourself!  If it's on your list you should really make the time to make it happen.

And if you come to the area from farther away, check out Escalante, Utah for more to do and more to see!  It's a great spring break destination for your family!

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Running Around

March is almost upon us!

Have you applied for the Utah big game hunts yet?  If not, you have just a little over a week left to do so!  March 6th at 11PM MST is the deadline.  Also keep in mind that Colorado and Nevada application periods are fast approaching as well.

Well friends, again I've had a bit of an absence here.  Its a bit hard to apologize this time as I've spent the last 2 weeks roaming around the state ice fishing, hiking, ATV riding, and canyoneering a bit as well.  I was also able to attend a day of the Western Hunting and Conservation Expo held in Salt Lake City.  If you have never been yet you should go check it out!  I'll have to say my favorite part of it all was the wide variety of wildlife displayed through amazing taxidermy.  Several outfitters highlight the amazing trophy bucks and bulls taken by their clients over the previous year, and as well you will find a great gallery filled with not only western big game, but game from all around the world in the Expo's taxidermy competition.  It's also exciting seeing the new gear and such coming out for the new year, and meeting new people (and old friends) in such a great atmosphere.  It's also exciting to enter to win guns and hunts, even though this guy wasn't lucky enough to land a prize.

As of now I'm working on compiling photos and video to share a great slot canyon hiking trip our family went on just this last Saturday.  While this will take a bit of time, in the mean time I want to share a few photos and thoughts about the ATV ride we went on last Monday (President's Day).

Setting out of Escalante, we headed east down the "Burr Trail" road from Boulder, Utah.  It's been a few years since I've spent much time in the country there known as the Circle Cliffs.  I have fond memories of going there with my grandparents when I was a kid, exploring old uranium mines, checking out Native American sites, and just enjoying the wide variety of geology on display in this region of rough, broken country.  As a kid, we spent a lot of time rock collecting and exploring the high benches, marveling at the ancient petrified logs that scattered the area. 

Today things have changed quite a bit.  With its designation as a national monument (the Grand Staircase-Escalante NM) our rock collecting and such is no more.  However, there is still a lot of amazing country that one can travel and enjoy, and the great petrified forest down "Wolverine Wash" is still around for people to enjoy.

Our trip took us to the northern end of the Circle Cliffs, through "Lampstand", "The Flats", and onto National Forest lands at the head of "The Gulch".  The Gulch was our destination, as we have long heard about the amazing red rock lined canyon that originates at the base of the forested Boulder Mountain.  The Gulch actually cuts a good way north into the mountain, the upper reaches of the canyon filled with gambel oak, ponderosa pine, and giant douglas fir trees.  It was a somewhat tricky ride there by ATV, as I do not believe this road will exist much longer.  It is an "open" road legally, however I would imagine that lack of maintenance will mean it's own natural decommission. 

From the Gulch, we swung back east along the Circle Cliffs through the "Onion Beds", turning south again as we followed the eastern wall of the circle, along the boundary of Capitol Reef National Park.  As the weather began to cool on us we made our way through one last striking red rock canyon and back to our vehicles.  The trip back up the Burr Trail road through "Long Canyon" as sunset neared really capped the day.

I hope you enjoyed the photos of this great scenery we've shared with you today.  There are so many amazing areas like this in southern Utah, it's no wonder this will always be my home.