Saturday, January 10, 2015

Life Elevated Part 3 - Center of the Universe

After a fabulous day at Kodachrome State park & Bryce Canyon, I headed back to Escalante a.k.a "Center of the Universe". I still didn't get a chance to do the hikes I wanted at Bryce. Guess I will have to make another trip during warmer weather to explore Bryce. I had booked two more nights at Circle-D Motel. But I was clueless as to what to do next two days. Firstly it's all backcountry trails with muddy unpaved access roads. Secondly I'm beyond pathetic in route finding & navigation in backcountry.  I found a brochure for "Escape Goat Day Tours" that had guided hiking services to slot canyons  near Dry fork . The owner Shawn was gracious enough to take my call late in the night & agreed to take me on a hike to Dry fork, Peekaboo & Spooky gulch canyons next morning.  He promptly came over next morning at 8:45 am & we were off driving on Hole-in-the-rock road.  We quickly developed a good rapport & were exchanging backpacking ideas around Escalante. We stopped on Hole-in-the-rock rd to take a shot of this cloud formation.

View from Hole-In-The-Rock road
Road conditions got pretty bad after 15 miles on Hole in the rock & I was relieved that Shawn was behind the wheel. It was exceptionally great day weather wise for hiking. It was sunny and mid-morning temps were in the perfect upper 40s. We finally made it to Dry fork parking lot by 11 am which was deserted and  we were the only ones there. We climbed down the rocks from parking lot and as we were heading towards the Dry fork slot canyon spotted a a lone Coyote which sensed our presence and disappeared in seconds. We hiked Dry fork gulch canyon first and Shawn told me to enjoy somewhat wider canyon as it was only going to get claustrophobic.

Couldn't have done this at Spooky or Peek-a-boo
After reaching the top of Dry fork slot canyon we hiked out of the canyon and walked on the access road to get back to  on the Dry fork gulch. We saw couple of guys entering Peek-a-boo Canyon but we walked further to hike Spooky first. Spooky slot canyon was ridiculously claustrophobic and I was pleased that I wasn't doing it alone.

Climbing out of Spooky gulch was quite challenging for me as I'm not used to rock climbing or even scrambling of any kind. For a moment I felt my waist was stuck between two rocks  and I was glad Shawn was there to help me climb those narrow rocks.  I usually panic and make such a hike more complicated than it usually is.. The two tourists who we saw at entrance of Peek-a-boo were already there patiently waiting for this amateur to climb out of Spooky.

It surely wasn't as easy as it looks here.
Entered Peek-a-boo and it felt lot easier than negotiating the climbs at Spooky.  It was really short hike and I was sad it was over even after all those nightmares hiking out of Spooky.

Part of the hike where I felt like a kid
We saw about 8-10 more tourists as we were heading back to the parking lot.  Once we got back to the parking lot we saw a note from park rangers that a cow had died few days ago inside the slot canyon and they were unable to remove all dead parts completely. I didn't remember smelling anything funny in any of the canyons. Probably it explains why the Coyote was wandering around the canyon entrance. Drive back to Escalante was smooth. We stopped at Devil's Garden for few minutes but I ran out of battery in my camera for pictures.  Guide Shaun was awesome. I'm so glad I chose to hire a guide. If I had ventured on my own I would have turned back half way on the Hole in the rock road. He suggested I plan to hike Zebra / Egypt 3 canyons during my next trip. I laughed in my head about my survival just visualizing myself in those canyons.  I was pretty exhausted by day's affairs but did manage to do a quick run at Escalante Petrified Forest trail before crashing & burning for the night.

I was simply blown away by the endless hiking options around Escalante.  It surely would take few more trips to even make a dent on the Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument.

Life Elevated Part 4 - Capitol Reef National Park