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.
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.
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…
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.
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.
Jim 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.
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!
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.
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…