Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Celebration Road Trip - Adventure in Escalante, Utah / Slot Canyons

So much of our anniversary, celebration trip was filled with surprises and the next stop was no exception.  After Capitol Reef, we headed south to Escalante, Utah via Utah's Highway 12/Scenic Byway.  The scenery and roads were filled with surprises...from gorgeous, tall, wooded mountain summits to winding roads that ran along ridges with drop offs on either side...

(Click on any photo to see them larger)


...to steep grades...sometimes 14% (this isn't one of those sections but it does show the rolling road)...


...vast and incredible landscapes...


Amazing!


I could see this from the passenger seat...dropping far below the road...


I snapped a photo of a vulture soaring above us when we stopped to take in the view...


After a couple hours of driving, we pulled into the Shooting Star RV Resort in the tiny town of Escalante.  We'd made reservations because there aren't many options in the area and we wanted to be sure we had a place to stay.  It turned out that there were very few people staying in this park.  They gave us a choice of sites and we chose one that was all by itself and nestled in oak trees.  Nice!


The park is interesting.  Their main attraction is Airstream trailers that can be rented like hotel rooms.


They're far apart and each one has a deck, a barbeque and chairs for taking in the gorgeous views.



Another feature is their mini drive-in movie theatre complete with vintage cars that can be rented to watch the show.  A fun idea!  We never watched any of the movies though because they weren't showing any we wanted to see.



The park has brand new owners.  When they bought it, it came complete with the vintage cars.  There's even one that runs and they use it for errands.  I think it's super cute!  The owners have a lot of great ideas and vision for the park and they have a lot of work ahead of them.  Sounds like fun!


Some of the yellow daisies I'd been seeing along roadsides were in the park.
Yay...I finally got a picture!


These plants were growing in the park too.  Pretty!


Our main reason for going to Escalante was to hike and explore some of the many slot canyons in the area.  So, early one morning, we loaded up our packs, hopped in the SUV and headed out "Hole in the Rock Road".  It was a 28 mile long trip (one way) on a rough dirt road to the trailhead of the canyons we'd picked out but the scenery was gorgeous!


Hubby got such a kick out of this sign that he had to stop and take a picture.  We can't figure out why they would call it "Cat Pasture" but it conjured up some silly ideas.


We eventually turned off onto another dirt road and drove a couple more miles.
Then, it was time to hike down into the main canyon and wash...


Luckily, there was a little bit of shade along the way as it was already hot.



There was a wash/riverbed at the bottom that several the slot canyons feed into.


There had been some substantial storms a few days earlier that had washed clay into the canyon.  The gray clay seemed like something new and different to that canyon as the sand below it was red.  It must have been quite a storm and washed that clay from somewhere quite far away that normally doesn't reach this area.  Wow!


Much of the hike through the wash to the slots was covered in dried clay that was curled and crunchy.  It was fun to walk on and hear it crunch beneath my feet.


Some of it looked like a mini moonscape...


Curly...


Really curly and thin...


We followed the directions we'd gotten from the Escalante Visitor Center and easily found the first slot canyon we'd planned to explore, "Spooky"...


Wow!  The wavy walls are so cool!  Beautiful!


The canyon quickly narrowed as we made our way into it...


Sometimes we had to duck under large boulders to get through...


It eventually got so narrow that we had to walk sideways to squeeze through...



It was very skinny, got pretty dark in some places, and the walls were bumpy.


It lived up to it's name...it was a bit "spooky".  And, I did get a bit nervous when it got really skinny and darker.  But, it was so much fun that we followed it all the way to the end...or as far as we could easily go.  Then, there was a section that required a tricky climb.  We passed on that.  Not sure what's beyond that or how much further it went.  Here are a few more shots going through Spooky...




After coming out of Spooky, we sat in a shady spot and enjoyed our lunch.  Then, we were off to explore another canyon.  This one is called "Dry Fork" and it's usually dry but after that storm a few days earlier it was definitely not dry.  The clay had washed through and left a thick, mucky, slippery layer.  Luckily, other hikers had already gone through and left a nice trail that made it much easier to explore.  What a spectacular canyon!


Like Spooky, it was shady and cool...a welcome relief from the heat.


It was a long canyon and we came across lots of interesting changes.  Including some pits of clay that were like thick pudding and impossible to avoid.  It added to the adventure and fun though.


It was interesting to see how high the water had risen in the canyon during the storm.  The clay/water line was sometimes waist high...


 ...and sometimes shoulder high...


Some sections were so narrow at the bottom that only one foot would fit...


The clay was amazing.  It was so pure and creamy...almost like the clay you buy for ceramics.


It sure made for dirty shoes and pants!


We saw quite a few lizards in the canyon.  We think so many were out because the rain seemed to have brought out more insects for them to eat.

I felt bad for this little guy.  It had clods of clay dried on it's feet and couldn't climb.  I wanted to help it but it was so afraid of us and I'm not brave enough to pick them up...yet.  Hubby thought it would be fine and that the clay would probably chip off.  I hope so!


We searched through books of lizards for the area and even asked rangers but had no luck finding out what kind of lizards they are.  No one had heard of pink lizards.  We can't even find them on Google!  We were wondering if they change color and were pink/red to blend in with the sandstone.


We only saw one of these guys.  I think it's a Collared Lizard.  Cute!


This one had rangers stumped and we couldn't find it in local books either.  It was eating a Whiptail lizard.  It was scurrying away from us carrying a lizard almost as big as it was.  We've never seen a lizard eat another lizard but I guess it's not uncommon for some types.  We later found one in a book that looked similar and think it's a "Long Nose Leopard Lizard".  


Here's an enlarged photo to see the interesting pattern of spots and stripes.
Kinda creepy!


The third canyon we explored that day is called, "Peek-a-boo".
It's in that slit in the rock...


It was the first canyon we'd come across that day but it seemed a little busy at the time.  So, we decided to go on to Spooky and come back to this later.  


We tried getting up into it after lunch but it proved to be quite challenging.  I only made it to the first level up and wasn't comfortable going any further.  Hubby made it to the next level but said it looked too tricky to get beyond a section of water to get into the canyon.  But, he got this picture while he was up there.  Amazing!


It's best to be safe and not push the boundaries of our comfort zones on stuff that could be dangerous.  Especially because we were so far out in the middle of nowhere and had absolutely no phone signal if something were to happen.  So, we moved on to Dry Canyon.  After coming out of that, someone told us they'd figured out a way to get into Peek-a-boo from the top and gave us directions.  It was a short little hike and voila...there it was...the opening...


Yes...it is very skinny!



This canyon was worth the wait.  It's short but spectacular!


It was so much fun maneuvering through various sections.

Going down...


Around...


And, through...


The view at the end was spectacular!  I gasped when I slid into that final section and saw this...


I sat for a moment and took in the beauty.  Including a reflection in one of the water pools...


Of course, I took photos of some of the flowers we saw throughout the day...




I've never seen these before.  Interesting!...



Whispy!...


We saw a lot of these tiny, purple daisies on our trip.  In some light situations they're almost neon...



Little...


Like fireworks...




We even came upon a Geocache that day...


It was hot and I was pretty tired from a day of exploring but we still had to hike up and out and back to the truck.  But....WOW!...what an awesome day!  We had SO much fun!


It's amazing to think that what we explored that day was only a tiny sample of all there is to see and explore in the Escalante area.  I think we'll definitely be going back to Escalante again!

5 comments:

mamasmercantile said...

Wow, that certainly was some adventure, what a wonderful trip to celebrate your anniversary. Idyllic...

lynn cockrell said...

Happy Anniversary! That must have been an awesome trip and the trek through Spooky looks like a once in a lifetime thing. It would definitely not be one for any of us with a fear of tight spaces. Your photos are amazing and help us to see how nature has formed this phenomenal place!

Delighted Hands said...

Thank you for sharing your hike with us! I would love to play with the clAy! The scenery was spectacular!

Carol Z said...

Fabulous collection of photos. I love the Utah countryside and would like to visit here.

Tammy@T's Daily Treasures said...

Awesome. I actually never new Utah had that kind of landscape. Truly beautiful. And what an incredible day of canyons and hiking. Wow! As for the lizard, darn, I thought he was hugging the other one -- yikes, he's eating him. Unbelievable. The drive reminds me of Colorado where there were some winding skinny mountain roads that took all my concentration to maneuver. Have a fabulous Friday. Tammy