Sunday, August 31, 2014

Yoo 615 - Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument

I'm still cleaning up work issues today but I am getting closer. I hope that doesn't jinx me and result in more problems. Maybe tomorrow will be a real holiday! Officially jinxed.

I don't have my Seattle pictures with me but I can flashback to April and my Utah trip. All of these pictures were taken around Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument on what is currently in my top 10 favorite days of this year.

Dad had just left us to head home and us girls had another 2 days to kill before responsibilities beckoned. We woke up to snow but the weather turned to perfection from there.

We had heard horror stories of a road called "Hell's Backbone" and I assured Morgan that I was not navigating her to that road, though I secretly wanted to give it a try. I wasn't actually sure where the road was but we ended up on a pretty sheer piece of highway right after a sign for the town of "Boulder", where the road of rumor was near. The atmosphere in our car turned a tad accusatory at that point...

We weren't, in fact, on the portion of highway with the reputation.

Though I still chuckle at a recollection I have from the night before. We were at a tourist information center gathering ideas when a van pulled up and a haggard family started pouring out. They announced they had just come from THE Hell's Backbone which was currently in the throes of a snowstorm and were grateful to be alive. I imagine my mom would not have survived that trip if the route is anything like driving up to Pikes Peak in Colorado...

Other fun story: the pop tart incident. This was the only bout of sibling fighting that occurred on the trip. It's stupid but I'm going to lay it out. Dylan ate the last pop tart without announcing that it was the last and asking if anyone else would like to share. I mean, THERE ARE RULES. So I was miffed that my pop tarts were gone while Dylan was on the defensive and Morgan was getting mad that we were fighting the day after promising dad that we wouldn't fight. Not that we fight a lot, but we are siblings.

The argument was hilariously pathetic and in the end I still had no pop tart. Ahhhhh, just like Kenny Chesney, I go back.

Lower Calf Creek Falls Trail: DO IT. Easy and scenic. Plus dogs are allowed!!

It ends at this gorgeous waterfall.

After eating a lunch wrap with some really sketchy spinach (NO ONE GOT SICK), I convinced Morgan that her car could handle 27 miles of bumpy dirt roads to get to several non-technical slot canyons. She's really protective of her car, which I totally understand. But I also wanted to do the slot canyons!

"Let's just start the drive and see how you feel...we can turn back at any time..."

Muahahaha! Success. Twenty-seven bumpy, S-L-O-W miles later we were at the trail head.

Favorite quote from that drive: "Well I don't want a Kia to be my moral compass!"  Morgan, when it was mentioned that a Kia had just passed us and was doing fine at a faster speed.

There was a steep hike down to the wash. After a bit of cairn-searching, we happened upon the first canyon. 

I was not figuring out the correct camera settings to capture the red rock and light just right, but the canyon was awesome. In calm weather, these slot canyons are peaceful and beautiful and full of adventure.

The next one we found, Peek-A-Boo, had a bit of a climb to get into. THIS CANYON WAS SO FUN. It's a tricky one to tackle from this direction and it took quite a bit of teamwork. Plus, any task is complicated by uncontrollable laughter. 

Without thinking, I tossed my bag up and over the entry. Dumb! I lucked out but my bag fell into a deep "well" that should have been filled with water.

This slot canyon was legit. There were so many tight spaces and fun elements to work around. We eventually ditched the bags to get to the end. Again, much laughing at each other.

The best part was watching Smil try to get out of this hole. She has no vertical. We coached her to jump but nothing happened. I tried to pull her up a bit but it was a mostly futile effort. So funny. Morgan and I looked anything but graceful climbing over this same wall but Smil didn't think to take pictures of it so....we'll just look thru hers.

Look at that teamwork, dad! You would have been proud. You also probably would have opted to wait for us at the canyon entrance. We love you!

The last canyon we found was called Spooky. Appropriately so because it was dark and there were things hanging from the walls. Like plant-type things? I don't know. I was leading the pack but I had a claustrophobic freak-out when we had been squeezing between two narrow walls for an eternity and rounded a corner to see nothing but more narrowing walls. Morgan and Dylan were following close behind so my exit was guarded...


We went back and the more intrepid Morgan took over the lead, reached a wider portion of the canyon and coaxed me thru that nightmare.

I did it but I did not love it.

The end was just a few hundred meters after a big series of choke stones. Aron Ralston always flashes thru my mind at these moments. The choke stones involved a lot of stemming and bridging to get over but I reached the top and emerged triumphantly at the end. The end was miles of nothing but red rock desert and no sign of civilization.


These slot canyons were my favorite part of the trip. We had a lot of fun helping each other thru them, plus they were nontechnical but still offered plenty of challenges.

Totally worth the hour-long drive. Even Morgan agreed.

As we were leaving, this bull stood in the middle of the road and looked extremely territorial. It was a tense minute while he stared us down. Especially since we were in a red car! Ok, so they're color blind but he still looked angry.

Eventually he sauntered off and then Morgan played her country playlist and everything about that drive back to the highway was awesome.

Oh yes, we stopped at a rock garden to break up the monotony of slow, wash-boarded roads. Also to let the building line of Subaru Outbacks pass us. Sorry our Camry doesn't have the kind of clearance to allow light speed travel here!

The sun was in its golden hour and the colors were INTENSE. 

Such a great day! The evening took an unfortunate turn when we pulled into a cheap campsite and I remembered that I'd sent most of my luggage, INCLUDING MY SLEEPING BAG, back with my dad. I'd flown Southwest to Utah, so naturally I had checked 2 bags. But then I used expiring miles on American Airlines for my flight back and wanted to avoid checking a bag. My dad was going to be heading down to Texas in less than a month and I figured I wouldn't miss my camping gear in the interim.

But I definitely missed it that night as I curled up in Morgan's car underneath a cheap pink fleece that she "uses to cover her windshield so it doesn't frost".

It was cold, but I survived.

Have a great day :-)

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