“It’s like DISNEYLAND!”

Box Canyon Mark and Bobbie have been everywhere, and have mental files of boondocking spots and scenic hikes that would rival any travel publication.  So when Mark says “It’s one of my most favorite hikes,” I take note.

It’s over Jim’s celebratory birthday lunch when Mark makes his pitch.  “Hear me out.  I know of a place you would love.  It’s a long drive, and we would have to get an early start, but it is one of the most fun hikes ever.  It’s like Disneyland!”

There is some hesitation as we finish up our desserts.  It would mean an early start, and a total of three hours on the road.   We are already positioned in one of the most scenic areas of the country.  Why drive 3 hours?   But it’s not one, but TWO slot canyons!  I really want to do this hike, but two slot canyons in an area I have never been before is not a hike I would be comfortable doing alone.   I keep my mouth shut, since I am the “junior member of the Red Rocks gang.”    I wait.  I study facial expressions.  Finally, Mark says, “Well, Bobbie and I are going regardless, so anyone is welcome to join us.”  YIPPEEEEE!!   And slowly, one by one, Gayle, Jim, and Debbie are in.

Beautiful scenery near Goblin Valley State Park

Beautiful scenery near Goblin Valley State Park

Crazy Cottonwood Tree

Crazy Cottonwood Tree

Let this be a lesson to you...KEEP UP!

Let this be a lesson to you…KEEP UP!

One thing I learn quickly is that punctuality is critical with the Box Canyon Duo.  They are sitting outside my door 3 minutes early at 7:57am, while I haven’t even brushed my teeth yet!  I race out the door as fast as I can, and we are off for a grand adventure!

We will hike up Bell Canyon first, then take a long, uphill connector road, and return via the more scenic of the two slot canyons, Little Wild Horse.

Box Canyon Mark says "It's just like Disneyland!"

Box Canyon Mark says “It’s just like Disneyland!”

Choke-stone

Choke-stone

Jim in a tight spot...

Jim in a tight spot…

We are not into the first slot canyon but a few hundred feet when we come to our first obstacle…and it’s a big one.   Being the slowest, least experienced of the hikers, I stay to the back, and I soon learn when I come upon the group stopped, there is trouble ahead.   There is a shelf in front of us that is higher than our heads.  A few rocks have been piled up as steps, but even so, the path is still over our shoulders.    It is interesting to watch between Mark, Bobbie, Jim and Gayle how they discuss getting the six of us up and over.  Mark slaps his knee and says “Step here.”  I say “Only if you want a broken leg!”   It is at this point that all vanity must go out the door, or get left behind.   Mark and Jim are on both sides of my posterior end, trying to hoist me up over the ridge, and I am just holding my breath hoping I don’t fall backwards and topple them both.  Well, at least I shaved my legs…

"You want me to step WHERE?"

“You want me to step WHERE?”

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The one with the longest legs is the last one up...

The one with the longest legs is the last one up…

Although there are more “choke stones” (the large rocks that fall into the slot canyon, causing an impasse,) none are as challenging as that first one, and navigation through the canyon does indeed start to feel like a game from my childhood.  Mark is right.  It IS like Disneyland!

Bell Canyon offers many dramatic landscapes with stark opposing angular walls, overhangs, and varying shades of rock, with a few challenges to navigate through.  But we ain’t seen nothing yet…until we get to the red rocks of Little Wild Horse.  Though one advantage of Bell Canyon, we have the entire canyon to ourselves with the exception of a mother daughter duo.

Path is only as wide as your shoe.

Path is only as wide as your shoe.

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Soon, we are on the long and winding road uphill that is the middle section of the loop leading to the entrance (or actually, in the case of the loop hike, “exit”) of Little Wild Horse Canyon.   We stop for lunch in a scenic spot with nice flat rocks for a bit of a break from the uphill climb in the sun.

IMG_1265IMG_1269IMG_1267IMG_1272Jim and Gayle always look like clean, crisply pressed Columbia Sportswear models when they are hiking.   But Jim has a certain swagger that reminds me of someone, and I have been trying to decide who it is all week.   Finally, as we are sitting on the rocks, it hits me.  He reminds me of J. Peterman of J. Peterman Catalogue fame.   If you were a Seinfeld fan, you will remember J. Peterman was Elaine’s boss, the eccentric adventurer who has a love of fine clothing.  Even after climbing over rocks and scrambling through dust and dirt, Jim is spotless.IMG_1299 IMG_1301 IMG_1305

We are having a grand time, walking single file through the narrow, high walls of the canyon, climbing over choke stones, dodging mud puddles about half way through the Little Wild Horse Canyon, when all of a sudden, crowds are upon us.  It seems as Mark said “Church must have just let out!”   It is UEA weekend in Utah, Utah Education Association, which equates to all of Utah being out for fall break, and it would appear half of them have come to do this hike!

Bobbie checks out the path to the canyon floor, which is filled with water, so we must go up and over.

Bobbie checks out the path to the canyon floor, which is filled with water, so we must go up and over.

Mark is attempting to coax the rest of us down the "slide."

Mark is attempting to coax the rest of us down the “slide.”

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Throngs of people, most of them kids come flooding into the canyon making it impossible to move.   There is a line behind us, and a never-ending line in front of us, all waiting for their turn to walk through the narrow, single-file section of the canyon.   I do not suffer from claustrophobia in tight spaces, but the crowds are enough to make me want to climb the canyon walls.  Given the long lines of sweaty bodies, Mark’s description of “It’s like Disneyland!” takes on a whole new meaning, as we find ourselves waiting in the longest line yet for the “ride” out of the canyon.IMG_1287IMG_1289

Finally, we all emerge intact.  We are covered in bright orange dust on the seats of our pants, elbows, backs, socks and shoes.   All except for “Peterman,” that is.   He still looks like he just stepped out of a catalog shoot…IMG_1320

What’s in the Wash?

There is unfinished business in the Capitol Gorge Wash. After the Golden Throne hike, only five of the original eight opt to hike the wash, and two out of those five turn back early. So the group decides to return the next day, as there are many reasons to revisit the wash.IMG_1155
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Prior to 1962 when Highway 24 was constructed, the “wash” beneath Capitol Gorge was the only road through what would later become Capitol Gorge National Park. Diversion dams were built along the road, and one can only imagine the amount of rock clearing required after a rain. This must have been one tough road to navigate through soft sediment, curving canyons, and massive boulders.

The first signs of settlers are seen along the walls on what is called the “Mormon Register,” or the more politically correct version, the “Pioneer Register” which contains signatures carved into the walls of the canyon dating back to the late 1800’s.

One of the "tanks" or water pockets that flow into the wash.

One of the “tanks” or water pockets that flow into the wash.

View from the top of the tanks spur trail.

View from the top of the tanks spur trail.

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About a mile into the canyon is a sign indicating “tanks,” or water pockets two tenths of a mile up.  This part of the trail leaves the shade of the canyon behind, and begins a long circuitous route over many steep steps in what feels more like two miles to me, rather than two tenths!

Debbie makes navigating the obstructions around the edge of the tank look easy.

Debbie makes navigating the obstructions around the edge of the tank look easy.

The day prior, Mark has spotted a natural arch that has both a concave and convex side, opposing curves from water flowing over and under the arch. But the lighting was not right for photos on the previous afternoon hike, and only he, Gayle and Bobbie saw it, so Debbie and I want to return. Besides, Mark has decided he needs his photo standing on the arch. But a closer look reveals a steep, slick decent to get onto the arch, and what would potentially be a long fall into a steep stagnant hole below.

Box Canyon Mark surveys access the the arch below.

Box Canyon Mark surveys access the the arch below.

Even those long legs are not long enough to reach.  Hard to see, but the arch is actually the curved shelf one level below.

Even those long legs are not long enough to reach. Hard to see, but the arch is actually the curved shelf one level below.

Bobbie maintains her cool while Gayle and I shriek “NO! DON’T DO IT!!” until Mark either comes to his senses, or gets tired of the women all yelling at him, and settles for a photo instead.

Bobbie watches calmly while Mark explores a route.  He can get down, but can he get back up??

Bobbie watches calmly while Mark explores a route. He can get down, but can he get back up??

A collective "WHEW!" can be heard amongst us.

A collective “WHEW!” can be heard amongst us.

Thank goodness, he settles for a photo from a distance.

Thank goodness, he settles for a photo from a distance.

We continue on down the wash in search of what we have heard to be an old abandoned car. We must cross the barbed wire fence and continue to the point where the canyon opens up, but we finally make it to the car, our designated turn around point. Apparently this was an old sight-seeing vehicle, as the sign painted on the door says “Scenic Attractions entering capitol Reef National Monument.” (The monument received National Park status in 1971.)
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Gayle quizzes our Junior Ranger Bobbie on geology.

Gayle quizzes our Junior Ranger Bobbie on geology.

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There is another side climb past the turn off to the tanks to “secret petroglyphs.” Mark, Bobbie, and Gayle found the secret. Gayle reveals the secret over on her Life’s Little Adventures blog. But for this blog, they will forever remain a secret, as I was just too hot and tired to make the scramble….

My one poor excuse for a petroglyph.

My one poor excuse for a petroglyph.

Trail to the Throne, or Go It Alone?

I awake after my restless boondocking night to see Debbie outside my window walking her dogs, the ever-entertaining Rupert and Elliott.   I have originally announced my plans to do a “solo acclimatization” hike on my first day, but Debbie assures me the group hike will be “doable,” with plenty of photo stops along the way (READ:  Opportunities to gasp for breath, slow my pounding heart, and steady my dizzy, swirling head.) Continue reading

Sixty is the New…Retired???

As if I don’t have enough going on during the current convergence…dealing with the my little Tracker, the “automotive heart transplant candidate,”  I have also been helping move my 86 year old Mom and 93 year old Dad back down to the farm.  Turns out, they aren’t city folk after all…

Throw in one more simultaneous life-change, and you have the makings of what I have been calling “The Perfect Storm,” as all these things converge during the same week.  Coincidentally, sixty days ago, I could not have known about the first two “storm elements” when I announced my intent to retire Continue reading

Together…Again

There have been a few tense moments here at the Highland Village Hospital.   I have tried to stay occupied outside the “waiting room” by doing a few menial tasks of my own, like changing a couple of burned out blubs in the Winnie, changing out the air filter and cabin filter, and cleaning and washing her inside and out…..just short of pacing as the two “smiling surgeons” keep assuring me that everything is progressing nicely in the lane next to me. Continue reading

We Have a Donor!

I send “email postcards” to friends and family along the way with jokes about towing “The Hearse” behind me for 1,760 miles.   A steady week of blacktop camping has me wandering the aisles to count dead animal heads in Cabelas, trying to sleep while the Winnie’s walls rumble all night in the Flying J advertising “over 150 Truck parking spaces,” and being woken up at 2:00am in the Walmart parking lot so they could repaint the yellow stripes beneath me.   All while working a full 40 hour week.  It was a memorable week, to say the least. Continue reading

Montana, You Were the Best of Times, the Worst of Times…

Life on a Sprinter Chassis is both a blessing and a curse. The rig drives like a dream. Hardly more struggle than driving a regular-sized van. For a solo-RVer, it’s both comfortable to drive and easy to maneuver. But placing an entire 24 ft house on a van chassis also means we Sprinter squatters must “watch our weight.” Not only are we limited in how much we can carry on board, but also on how much we can tow. The maximum towing capacity is 3,500 lbs, fully loaded. Continue reading