Monday, 5/24/21: Last Day In Paradise

Going into the Long Canyon Slot.

We had one more quest before moving on. Hole In Rock Road had several inviting sites: Devil’s Garden, Zebra Slot Canyon, Dry Fork Trail, Peek-A-Boo Trail, etc. Of course, Hole In Rock Road is another one of those lousy gravel roads in Grand Staircase.

To get a good early start, we decided to forgo our breakfast burrito ritual at the Stage Stop. We aimed directly for Hole In Rock. However, we didn’t even get a quarter mile down Hole In Rock Road. It was just so bad that we turned around and bumped back to our old pal, Highway 12. The washboarding turned Saturn into a tiny ant trying to crawl over mountain-high corduroy on a pair of 1960s pants.

Now what? It was back to Burr Trail Byway and a couple of hikes that we knew of. The first was a short but spectacular walk into a tall pink slot canyon called Long Canyon Slot. It wasn’t exactly long, but it was a genuine slot canyon.

Next, we hiked the Lower Gulch Trail and got the scare of our lives. The actual creek that formed the gulch was bone dry, however much of the creek bed was clogged with bushes. Subsequently, the trail, or I should say trails, as many paths followed the dry creek on both sides of the canyon, and at many different levels looking over the creek bed.

This was a bit confusing, especially because many of the paths kind of petered out forcing us to backtrack to find the main path. Finally, we came to a dead end. To continue, we could either backtrack a long ways back, or we could climb up the side of the canyon. We chose to climb.

Here is where we got into trouble. As we picked our way up the cliff, the ledges we were trying to use got tinier and thinner and very precarious, until we found ourselves huddled on a dead-end shelf. We had to go back down. This was far easier said than done. Sometimes, you can, barely, pick your way up a climb, but going down proves to be nearly impossible. That is what happened here. The climb up was pretty scary. The climb down was on the magnitude of hair-raising. We couldn’t get a toe hold. We couldn’t get a hand hold. As we hugged the side of the cliff for dear life, we couldn’t see our feet. We just had to feel around for anything that might hold a toe without slipping. It was straight down - a long ways down. Inch by inch, we caterpillared our way across three long stretches of certain death.

When we reached safety, I was reminded of the time when my Cessna 150 engine quit and I had to make an emergency landing in a farmer’s field. My mind was clear as a bell, and my veins ran cold as ice during the landing, but my legs badly wobbled when I stepped out of the plane. My legs were again wobbling like rubber bands after that little bit of terror.

The dry Gulch Creek bed. Although open here, much of the creek bed was clogged with bushes. This forced the trail to stay above the creek bed.

The further we got into the canyon, the taller the cliffs walls got.

At this point we had to get higher. The nice fat ledge I was standing on got a lot smaller.

The ledge is shrinking but we pressed on.

We quickly returned to the van and spent the rest of the day slowly driving the gorgeous backroads inside the safety of the vehicle.

Our second drive down Burr Trail Byway was just as amazing as our first.

Glossary of terms used for newcomers: 1) V-Jer. The name of our camper. 2) Saturn. The name of our Van. 3) Duende. Our mischievous gremlin that breaks things. 4) Tata. The good gremlin that helps us fix Duende’s dirty work. 5) The Black Hole. This is what we call Walmart because every time we go in for just a couple of items, we come out spending way more than we figured. 6) QT. Quaint Town. 7) Little Buddy. This is what we call our Dyson cordless stick vacuum.

Dave and Wanda

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