Thursday, September 10, 2015

A Quick Jaunt through Peekaboo and Spooky Canyons

 Before I left Escalante, I wanted to check out Peekaboo and Spooky Canyons. These are short, family-friendly non-technical slot canyons. I had wanted to visit them with my family in May, but the abundant rain prevented that. Fortunately, my last day in Grand Staircase-Escalante dawned with nary a storm cloud in the sky. I slept in, which is quite a feat as I was sleeping in the bed of the pickup truck. However, I've found if I wear a little eye cover, I get much better sleep as it blocks out the light of the moon and even the light of the sun!

I had a leisurely start as I drove down Hole-in-the-Rock Road to the Dry Fork Trailhead, 26 miles south of Highway 12. The information I had read said it was passable to passenger vehicles, but I found the Hole-in-the-Rock Road to be quite rough, with lots of washboards and some sandy spots. I did see one passenger car, but everything else was SUVs with a few pickups thrown in. The Dry Fork trailhead road was very rough, with a two-track to the trailhead. When I arrived, two other vehicles were there. I got together my gear (not forgetting knee pads this time, even though these were short canyons), and reread my guidebook. It said you could see the entrance to Peekaboo Canyon from the trailhead, behind the sheer cliff wall. Sure enough, I saw a slot. I took off on the well-marked trail, following the rock cairns.

For those who aren't used to hiking on rock and steering by rock cairns, just the hike down to the canyon start will be an adventure.

Before too long I arrived in the Dry Fork Wash and sauntered (it was kind of hot, so I wasn't exactly trotting) up to the start of Peekaboo Canyon. It was about 9:30 am, and no one else was around. I saw that the entrance required a little bit of climbing, although steps carved into the rock made it a little too easy.

Not far up the canyon I saw the promised double arch.

It was indeed gorgeous.

The canyon twisted and turned, sometimes with taller walls and sometimes with shorter walls. There were a couple little climbs that would be difficult for kids (or shall we say they would be good team-building experiences). And then I came out of the narrow section. Here's the view looking back down the canyon:

Peekaboo comes out into a shallow wash with a prominent cairn on the south side. You can apparently make a much longer loop if you bring rope and rappelling gear with you, but I was just into the short trip today. I started following the rock cairns and sandy trails, not really sure what I was aiming for.

In about 15 minutes I came to this huge sandy wash. This had to be Spooky Canyon. It looked like a big watershed, so not the best place to be in a thunderstorm, when lots of water would be funneled down the wash.

The canyon quickly narrowed, and I was hot and thirsty, so I found a very scenic shady spot and sat down for a break. It was so enjoyable just relaxing in the canyon all by myself. I had been expecting lots more people.

Spooky gets kind of narrow. As in you can't wear a pack and have to turn your body sideways narrow.

The walls are gorgeous, undulating sandstone.

After a climbdown through some boulders and more squirming through even tighter passage, I emerged and headed right (north) back into the Dry Fork Wash. The walls were higher, providing some pleasant shade. If I had had more time, I could have gone down canyon 30 minutes to explore Brimstone Canyon, but I felt home calling me, so I headed in the direction of the trailhead.

When I reached the entrance of Peekaboo, I saw people. A German family was trying to haul their tripod up the Peekaboo entrance with a rope, a couple was approaching, and another couple was heading down Dry Fork, probably trying to avoid the traffic jam.

Very close to Peekaboo I saw a canyon entrance and spent a few minutes enjoying the wider passageway. This is part of Dry Fork Wash, a very scenic part.

I hiked back up to the trailhead, making my journey in about 2 1/4 hours. The usual time recommended is 2.5-4.5, which seems accurate if you're with others and spending more time to enjoy the sights (or waiting for others to squeeze through the narrows and do the climbs). With the kids, I would say 4 hours would be about right. For a few more details about this hike, check out this website.
Peekaboo and Spooky are a really great intro to canyoneering, but getting there is a little more difficult than I expected. Nevertheless, for those who have never done canyoneering, this will be a hike to remember!
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