I will endure a lot to get to play in a slot canyon. Slots have to be my “lighthouses” of the Southwest, as I feel drawn to visit every one on the map. So when the email comes with the promise of a slot canyon, it is an exciting day! Plus we would be taking a road trip down toward Kanab, Utah to visit the Peek-a-Boo slot canyon. I love to ride in the car when someone else is driving! As long as that car stays reasonably level with all four wheels on the ground, that is. We have already established that I am a 4WDer out of absolute necessity. Otherwise, I prefer my pleasure drives on pavement.
The trail description warns that a deep, sandy 4WD road must be navigated to reach the opening of the Peek-a-Boo Slot, so we take the two vehicles with greatest ground clearance to hold the seven of us. Debbie and I will ride with Mark and Bobbie in their Subaru, and the Souva Family will follow behind in their nice big truck.
As soon as we leave the pavement near the Best Friends Sanctuary in Kanab, the car begins careening through the sand like a lizard across the hot dunes, fishtailing through the powdery soft pink sand. I can hear the bottom dragging. Mark says “If we get stuck, you ladies in the back may have to get out. No offense, but we might need to lose some weight….just sayin’.”
As we head up the 3 mile road toward the promise of a gravel wash, the ride gets crazier by the minute. From the back seat, I can see the driver’s-side dash, and there is a yellow indicator light flashing wildly, with the lighted image of a car with squiggly lines shooting from behind the tires in all directions. I ask, “What’s happening up there on the dash?” “Oh, just Traction Control doing its thing! Nothing to worry about!” Mark says nervously, with a poor attempt at reassuring confidence. By now, the car is starting to feel like it is floating across the loose sand, and I am seeing the blur of junipers and pinion trees out the window coming toward me. I am now in the back seat curled into the fetal position.
Finally, Mark stops. He has lost sight of the Souvas behind us. More sensible heads have prevailed in the vehicle behind us, it would appear. 😉 So we turn around and go back. But this means we will now have to hike 3 miles across the desert dunes to reach the slot canyon.
We find a place to park along the road where the sand appears to be hard packed. We set off to wander the desert like seven Israelites on the heels of Moses. The plan is not reassuring. “I am ‘pretty sure’ it is this way.” “I ‘think’ the wash is just over the next dune.” “Pretty sure” and “think” are never words you like to hear when trudging through knee-deep sand. At one point, Debbie turns around and exclaims “I can’t even see your feet!” I look down, and my pant cuffs are wrinkled piles on the sand just below my knees.
Looking back now, I am embarrassed by the amount of verbal abuse I inflicted on my hiking companions as we scaled five monster dunes, sliding back further with every step. I was not a happy hiker.
But as with all slot canyons, in the end, the pay off was worth it. Graceful, erosion-swept formations evoking movement through the striated sandstone hallways. Dimly lit, intimate, rubenesque caves and crevices. The contrast of the cold, hard carved walls overhead in their in their fiery colors. Sinuous curves beckoning me ever further into the sienna, ochre and vermillion glow of the belly of the earth.