Escalante National Monument
Keen followers of Washington Minutiae may recall the controversy that arose when Bill Clinton - out of the blue - created this 1.2 million acre park. Cynics point to the number of Utahns that voted for Willy (not many) and locals grumble about the need to drive to Arizona to get firewood these days.
In any case, it's a giant wilderness, that we just dipped into for two stops, both great highlights.
First was the "Devil's Garden". (An aside: approximately 15% of all the interesting rock formations in North America feature the word "devil" in their names. It seems like Americans ascribe all interesting geology to the dark side). In any case, the Garden contains a host of rock formations, about ten to thirty feet high. The individual formations are protected by an upper layer of hard rock, which gives them an entertaining top-heavy appearance. They seem like a mob of craggy goblins. What's particularly nice about Escalante is that it's still a relatively new park, and there aren't too many visitors or restrictions. So you can just clamber over these rocks at random.
Second stop in Escalante was a pair of neighbouring slot canyons. (what's a slot canyon? See the description on the Canyonlands page). Now, these two are seriously slotty. First was Peekaboo Canyon, named for some of the miniature arches inside, and the second was Spooky Canyon.
Somewhat in a in a spirit of sheer bloodymindedness, we hiked the length of both. As always, the occasional violent flash floods had carved weird and wonderful curves in the rock. Spooky Canyon was especially narrow, neccessitating shuffling along side-on with the day pack taken off and held at the side! Not recommended after a heavy meal.
Both canyons featured several "pour-offs" or drops of a few feet. Fortunately it wasn't raining today, so there wasn't any pouring going on today, but nevertheless the scrambling in a two foot wide corridor was pretty difficult and extremely mucky. We even jumped down from a huge "chockstone" - big boulder jammed the width of the corridor. This seemed extremely daring, not just because of the height of the drop, but also because we only had our guidebook's word for it that we were going to be able to walk out further down (we certainly weren't going to be climbing back up).
After a total of about four hours, we found ourselves back at the car,
covered in dust and mud and rather exhilarated. Slot canyons in general,
and these two in particular, are not to be missed for any visitor to South
(click thumbnails for a larger picture) |
The Devil's Garden