Tag Archives: Canyoneering

A week in Moab – can’t help but have fun!

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Moab is my second “happy place” (behind Tofino) in North America. I just can’t get enough of the laid back lifestyle and amazing rocks. It doesn’t hurt that when we come in the late fall it is still summer like weather and it’s almost guaranteed that I can wear shorts and swim outside!

canyonlands rv park

We had planned on spending the week boondocking outside of Arches National Park but decided that with temps in the 80’s it would be wiser to spend the money on a campsite that came with shade and a pool. We ended up at Canyonlands RV, where we have stayed before, and had another great stay. It is right at the south end of main street and within walking distance of groceries, restaurants, parks etc.. The only downside is that it is right next to the high school – while this comes with the benefit of Friday night football in the fall, it comes with the negative of 7am marching band practice Monday – Wednesday.

pool handstandsChoosing the pool was definitely a good decision as we were in it at least once a day and many times twice. The boys spent time working on their headstands, underwater summersaults and playing battle with pool noodles.

In addition to spending two days mountain biking at the Bar M trails we also ventured off to the Moab Skate Park for some fun.

We spent our last day on a Fiery Furnaces hike with Jay from Tag-a-long tours. Tim and I did this on a ranger lead tour back when Hunter was 3 (and we carried him in a back pack) and loved it. While it was more expensive going on a commercial trip ($85 vs $16) the group size and experience made it well worth it. The Ranger led hikes have 25 people in them and are all about managing liability. They can also be booked online up to 6 months in advance so are very hard to get when you just show up in town. We were 5 plus the guide and Jay did a fabulous job customizing the experience for us while still managing risk. It made for a great mix of hiking, canyoneering and education. We would definitely recommend this hike and Jay at Tag-a-long!

Another great week in Moab left us looking forward to our next visit!

Canyoneering in Zion National Park, Utah

zion road photo

 

Zion National Park is a wonder of colours – blue skies + red rocks with a little orange, yellow and green thrown into the mix with the fall trees.

zion road photo 2

We drove from east to west through Zion, getting to drive the Zion tunnel right down the middle (for a small $15.00) park fee along with a bunch of other RV’s because we are too tall to drive in just the regular car lane due to tunnel height. The Park Rangers pause traffic at one end and let all of the RV’s from the other end go through and vice versa. Hunter thought this was really cool.

truck trailer zion backdrop

We camped just outside the park at the Quality Inn RV Park in the town of Springdale, which is literally right next to Zion (the Virgin River acts as the border). It was quite something being surrounded by all these majestic cliffs and colours.

Hunter was excited because the campground had a pool. The helpful person at the check-in told me that it was “solar heated”. It was a hot sunny day, with a temp around 24c so we all grabbed our bathing suits and headed down for a dip. One jump in and you quickly figure out that “solar heated” refers to it being heated by that day’s sunshine vs a bank of stored heat… Refreshing is a bold descriptor.

hunter 1st fire

The other highlight of the campground was a fire pit and no fire ban. Hunter has been wanting a fire for the past month and we’ve either had no fire pit or a fire ban in place. I headed off to the grocery store to find hot dog and banana boat materials while the boys got the fire materials pulled together. Hunter very proudly made the fire himself, tended it all evening and was even responsible for ensuring it was out when we went to bed.

lee hunter zion national park sign

The next morning we headed into Zion for a day of hiking the Zion Narrows. We hiked this seven years ago with Hunter in a backpack and thought it would be fun to come back and do it again. It is a canyon hike that can be either an overnight or full day hike if you start at the top or a family friendly wander up a river if you start at the bottom, which is actually at the top of the accessible part of Zion.

With a weather forecast of 26c and sunny we weren’t all that concerned that the river temperature was only 5c and that the wading would be up to waist height in a few places. We figured we would dress in quick dry clothes, good water shoes and the heat of the sun would manage the rest.

A few things occurred that lead to it not being as amazing as we had hoped – 1) the tourism level in Zion (and on this trail) has increased ten fold since we were here in October 7 years ago and 2) the weather never really made it past 20c and most of the canyon was in the shade. Nevertheless we ended up hiking for 2 1/2 hours and had a fun experience making our way up the river.

It’s always tough trying to recreate a memory…

hunter with rock squirrel in zion

We also discovered the “Rock Squirrel” which seems to be very well fed and deceivingly tame as it walks beside you and on you in search of food!

hunter junior ranger swearin

We finished off the day with Hunter getting another Junior Ranger badge as part of his homeschooling for the day.

 

Canyoneering – Peekaboo & Spooky Slot Canyons, Escalante Utah

lee hunter in peekaboo

 

We came canyoneering in the Grande Escalante region 3 years ago and had the misfortune of arriving days after a major flood, which washed out a number of the key access roads. Top of our list that trip was the Peekaboo / Spooky canyons, which are a set of family friendly canyons that run parallel to each other.

We stopped into the National Park Visitor Centre and chatted with the local guide shop to get the scoop on the roads and the trails. While the road was not in great shape, everyone said it was passable so we decided we had to at least try.

peekaboo spooky canyon vista

The canyons are located 26 miles down Hole in the Rock road, a gravel washboard road that takes about an hour to drive. You then travel 1.5 miles on a true sand side road with washouts and gulleys throughout. Four wheel drive and high clearance are 2 important features to have in a vehicle in Utah. We had left the trailer at the campground so just had “Fordo” who performed extremely well under Tim’s careful driving. We knock on wood on a daily basis as Fordo is running better than he has in years!

Peekaboo and Spooky are full length canyons of their own right. The family friendly route is a 5 mile loop that starts at the trailhead, goes down into the valley, up Peekaboo about 1/3 of the way then exits out of the top of the canyon and goes cross country until you drop into Spooky and go down the bottom 1/3 of that canyon and then back to the trailhead. The guidebooks and people we spoke with all agreed that it was about a 3 hour hike.

tim hunter entrance to peekaboo

 

We successfully made it down the trail into the valley (following the cairns) and found the entrance to the canyon (no signs anywhere out here…). In order to access Peekaboo canyon, you have to make it up the 20 foot wall at the entrance. As always, we sent Tim up first and then used a rope belt to support Hunter and I up for safety.

lee hunter peekaboo slots

 

Once you make it over the wall you are immediately in a series of bowls and slots that are perfectly kid sized!  Lots of over and under and wind our way through as we made our way up to the exit point. Nothing but giggles and smiles all around – this was exactly what we had been hoping for and it made the 1 hour washboard drive well worth it!

We attempted to follow the cairns and footsteps out of Peekaboo Canyon and through the sand and slickrock to the Peekaboo drop in point. We, and another set of hikers, ended up at the top of a sandy wash that led down into a canyon so we had fun running down the sand and made our way through the canyon brush to a salt flat area. We could see some canyons to our left so we chose to check them out and ended up in some portion of the Spooky Canyon…

tim hunter spooky slots

 

These were full length SLOTS from floor to ceiling with many places so narrow that you had to carry your backpack vs wear it. We meandered our way up for about 20 minutes as the slots wound their way up the canyon and started to get tighter and tighter. Eventually we hit an end where even Hunter had trouble getting through so we decided to turn back to the salt flat.

lee spooky slots

 

We hit the salt flat at around the 2 1/2 hour mark. Walking past the flats there was a washed out area that ran perpendicular and you could go left or right. We got out the map and the trail instructions and neither mentioned a turn or trail junction, just “exit down through the bottom of Spooky Canyon to the trailhead”… I ran ahead and checked out the right hand turn and found it entering into a slot canyon about 1/2 mile down the wash. This didn’t seem to match any information so we chose to go left and followed it for about 30 minutes until it ended up in another slot canyon full of sucky mud. We had been told that Brimstone Canyon was full of sucky mud so we figured we must have gone the wrong direction and turned back. Mid way back to the other canyon, we found what looked like a fairly heavily used trail off to the left.

At this point we were at about 3 1/2 hours and Hunter was fading. We had said that we would rather climb back up the sand hill and go down Peekaboo than go cross country in the desert BUT between the look of the short cut and the look of Hunter, we decided to go for it (yet another Parental mistake ala the EPIC bike trail).

Needless to say, this path did not pop us out nicely at the trailhead. As always happens when you are going cross country, you swear that the trail will turn the correct direction right around the next corner, and it rarely does! We opted to climb out of the river valley and up onto the mesa so we could get a better view. At this point we could orient ourselves to the mountain range that ran parallel to the Hole in the Rock road and off we went in that direction. We eventually reached a point where we thought we could see the truck and camper off in the distance AND we could see the access road. Tim ran for the truck and Hunter and I continued cross country towards the access road.

We ended the day at a total of 5 hours (approx 8 miles) – happy but weary and proud of ourselves for getting ourselves “found” safely 🙂  We treated ourselves to cold beer and yummy pizza at Escalante Outfitters after making it an hour back down the road and stopping to wash all the dust off the truck. Another successful adventure!

Canyoneering at Leprechaun Canyon, Utah

hunter leprechaun

Full of enthusiasm from our Little Wild Horse Canyon day, we headed south down the highway past Hanksville to the North Wash area where there are a cluster of slot canyons that are fairly family friendly. We determined that our monstrosity would not fit into the trailhead so continued down the road about 3 miles and found a fabulous dirt pull-off that became our campsite for the night. The full moon was out and the valley was awash with light.

camper redcliff pull out oct 18

 

The full Leprechaun Canyon is a drop in slot that requires a bunch of technical gear and 6-8 hours to complete. The family friendly version is to hike about 1.5 miles up the creek bed at the bottom, climb up some rocks and enter into the bottom of the canyon. This takes you over top of some cracks and into an amazing subway (big space) that is full of red stripes and makes lots of echoes.

hunter rock leprechaun

lee hunter subway leprechaun

After the subway you reach some water. We did this hike when Hunter was 3 and success was making it to the subway as he walked most of the way on his own. Neither one of us could remember what the trail write up said about the water and after much discussion, decided that this is an ADVENTURE and we should push through to check it out. Our standard approach on things like this is to send Tim first… lucky him!

tim going into water

He made it through with only his shorts wet so he returned, we had more discussion, and then loaded Hunter onto his shoulders and off they went…

tim hunter pre water

hunter tim heading into water

The great news is that everyone made it across the VERY cold waist deep water. The not so great news is that there was another water feature about 10 feet further down. Both Tim and I tested it out and after 2 feet it was already close to waist deep and had a really slimy/slippery bottom.

lee heading into water #2

More discussion ensued and we determined that safety had to prevail and we would turn back. That meant going BACK through the very cold waist deep smaller pool AGAIN!

lee in water

lee coming back in water

 

It was a very fast run from the edge of the water back out to the main canyon and the sun beam – the water was FREEZING…

We felt somewhat validated when a group of 4 men came through about 10 minutes later (doing the same sprint from the water to the sunbeam) as they had rappelled into the canyon and then had to swim across water feature #2!

hunter leprechaun muck

Hunter decided to play in the muck zone as we headed back out of the main canyon. 2 1/2 hours of hiking / exploring and everyone had fun. We will come back again one day and rappel in from the top and that will officially complete our Leprechaun Canyon experience.

Canyoneering at Little Wild Horse Canyon, Utah

lee hunter bell canyon slot

After spending the afternoon at Goblin Valley State Park, we headed over to the  trailhead for Little Wild Canyon. Most of the crowds were gone and we found a quiet spot at the end of the overflow parking lot and set up camp for the night. With about an hour of sunshine left we enjoyed sitting outside in our chairs reading in the setting sun while Hunter played lego in the trailer. It was close to a full moon that evening and the skies were amazing to see – so clear with no lights around.

camper little wildhorse

Our original plan had been to have a slight sleep in and then hit the trails by around 10 am, thinking that it would be a 4 hour hike. Just past 9am, Tim announced that cars were starting to stream into the parking lot and that we needed to move up our timeline to avoid hiking with the masses. Turns out this was the equivalent of a “PD day” so all the kids were out of school for a long weekend…We managed to hit the trailhead by 9:30 and unfortunately this was about the same time as a group of 13 year old boyscouts, whom we leapfrogged the entire day.

Little Wild Horse Canyon is an in/out canyon that can be turned into an 8 mile loop when you match it up with a BLM trail section and then return on Bell Canyon. We boldly chose to do that, knowing we were pushing our limits with Hunter… with no where to go, and no time limit we thought “why not”???

lee hunter bell slot

Both Little Wild Horse and Bell Canyon are family friendly slot canyons, which means that you don’t need ropes to get around features and with a little creativity, you can make it up (or down) all the features on the trails. Hunter enjoyed putting his new “climbing” skills to good use and could often be convinced to not take the easy path.

little wild horse, utah

The BLM connector section was the hardest part of the trail as it was pure hiking with not alot of distractions. We played a number of games of 20 questions and then moved onto verbal games related to school work, managing to cover off Geography (Canadian Provinces & Capitals) AND the Human Body (bones & digestive system). It made the time go faster and we had lots of laughs 🙂

tim hunter lwh canyon 1

After all was said and done, we made it the full 8 miles. It took us 5 1/2 hours and Hunter was very tired by the end. We were so proud of him as there was little to no moaning or complaining and he kept his feet moving most of the time. Definitely the longest he has ever hiked – woo hoo! (the $100 we spent on hiking boots at MEC is sure paying off!).