Photo Friday: Grand Staircase-Escalante

After my trip to the Grand Canyon in mid-April, I met up with my friend Zeke and we headed to Utah, with plans for about 10 days of explorations in the canyon country and the Bears Ears National Monument. The best-laid plans and all that, but I did get some good photos.

The Grand Canyon photos: Part 1 of this series was up on the South Rim. Part 2 took us down the Bright Angel trail and out the Tonto West Trail to Horn Creek. Part 3 is Monument Canyon and Granite Rapids. Part 4 took us to Hermit Creek and Hermit Rapids, where we finally saw some decent wildflowers. Part 5 was the trip up the Hermit Trail and a few extra bits. 

 Grand Staircase-Escalante

The Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument is in the south central part of Utah, and abuts both the Glen Canyon National Recreation Area and Capitol Reef National Park. With minimal development and a maze of canyons (accessed by gravel/dirt roads/jeep trails) it's a favorite haunt of mine.

In camp along the Hole In the Rock road. Our pair of Prii handle the dirt roads well, though clearance is an issue.

The Henry Mountains--the last range in the Lower 48 to be explored.

April 15: Zebra Slot
A few years ago (and the year before that), I visited Zebra and found the water very deep, deep enough I couldn't take my camera in. We headed down the trail early in hopes of better conditions for photography.

Petrified sand dunes are the source of the zebra striping.

Entrance to the slot canyon. All this was under water the last two times.

Deepest water this time.


Compare with the deepest spot in September 2021. Same hiker.

This one was chin deep on me.

Even without water the slot is a fun scramble, so narrow in places that you have to bridge up the walls to get to where its wide enough to pass.
The author, hanging out.

If you stick with it and make it past the squeezes and the climbs, you get to the amazing stuff.

The slot canyon is an out-and-back, dead-ending in a deep pool that *maybe* a rock climber with gear could get past. We weren't going to try. We managed to get back through the narrow bits just in time as another pair of hikers were coming in.

Once outside we hiked around and above to take a look down from above. 
This wasn't even the BIG hole. I wasn't tempted to try to go down the canyon.

There was a lot of cool stuff to look at, especially if you are at all into geology (I'm a complete amateur, but I like it).
Large-scale petrified mud cracks

A cross-section of the (petrified) dune, exposed by erosion, probably mostly wind-driven.

The dark rocks in the foreground are a cool thing:
Moqui Marbles, some kind of accretions that weather out of the sandstone. If you look back at the photos above you'll see some on the walls of Zebra, looking a little like zits.

April 16
After the Zebra hike we drove a lot farther down the road, and had to do some hunting to find a campsite with some shelter and a bit of shade, but managed to put ourselves in position for an early start on Dry Fork Coyote wash, which has a series of fantastic slot canyons.

Food for thought. They mean this: if you don't fit between the posts, don't go.

The first thing we did was explore back up Dry Fork's narrows, since that's where the trail down from the parking lot hits the bottom of the canyon. It's a slot canyon, but much wider than the others we were looking at, often too wide to reach across.
Entrance to the Coyote Wash narrows.

The narrows did narrow and get rougher in places.

When I'd poked my way through to where the walls came down and the wash began to open out, we backtracked and headed for Peekaboo Canyon. I wasn't at all sure we would be able to get up into it, but my much taller companion managed the initial climb, and gave me a hand up.

Starting the climb

Looking back down. Once up, I was committed--no way I could down-climb that.

Peek-a-Boo may be one of the most beautiful bits of rock I've had the good fortune to visit, but it can be a tough scramble. This year it was tougher than either of the other two times I visited, with a series of potholes that had been scoured out deep enough to be a challenge. We more or less pushed and pulled each other through. The following photos show why we did it.
The multiple arches that give Peek-a-Boo its name.

Looking up through the arches.

Based on the time-stamps on my photos, somewhere between 10:18 and 10:24 a.m. I tried to pull myself up a shoulder-high wall, slipped back, and landed badly, putting an end to our trip.

Well, almost an end; I still had to get back to the car, and even then we weren't sure we'd have to quit. After all, I'd managed the two miles out. Icing and elevating at the trailhead got me to where I could drive. We spent the rest of the day and the next in camp, icing and elevating.

Duct tape over the elastic bandage helped to stabilize what we believed to be a moderate sprain.

The serious red patch at the top of the foot should have been a clue. Colors on my foot matched the rocks by the next day.

Long story short, we gave up the trip after a couple of days in which I could only hobble behind the nearest bush as needed, and the wind got stronger and stronger, blowing dust in a most unpleasant way.

Next time I'll share a few pictures from the trip home--we spent a half day in Capitol Reef, and I enjoyed some parts of the drive, stopping every 60-90 minutes to ice and elevate! Thanks to the gas station convenience stores that provided the ice.

When I reached Seattle, on advice, I stopped at the urgent care clinic and got X-rays. That was when I found that I'd broken a bone, putting an end to hiking for the next 3 months, more or less. Sometimes we pay a high price in our pursuit of beauty!

©Rebecca M. Douglass, 2023
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  1. Memorable trip, even if no one went to the Emergency Room. No choppers either.

    1. But I have a great tale about how I walked 10 miles out with a broken bone poking through my lacerated flesh... probably in a blizzard, right?

  2. I love every time I see pictures of that place. It's so amazing and beautiful.

    1. It really is a special place, and keeps drawing me back. Though I don't expect I'll be going through Peek-a-Boo again :D


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