Switchups, Swaps and Slots
Goodbye to Kyle, Hello to Gosia & Peekaboo and Spooky Slots
Wednesday, September 28
Now that we were all together with both vehicles, we had to go through the administrative process of allowing Kyle to drive Gosia's rental car. For this we had to drive east for 50 km (30 miles) to the town of Page in Arizona. This was the nearest Avis car rental outlet, and it was only at such an outlet that we could make this switchover happen. It was annoying to have to waste the approximately two hours it would take to do this, but it was the best we could do.
Goodbye to Kyle
The car rental switchover went smoothly, and we bid Kyle good-bye. He'd been a great backpacking companion, and we hope that he can stay longer the next time he joins us on an outing.
After Arn and Gosia got a bite of Pizza, we ourselves headed back west out of Page. Arn and Gosia had expressed an interest in exploring one of the unique super-tight slot canyons that dotted the Colorado Plateau -- and I knew a perfect short intro slot canyon hike that would fit the bill perfectly: Spooky and Peekaboo Gulches in the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument.
There's a lot of rugged terrain between Page, Arizona and the remote trailhead for Peekaboo and Spooky Gulches. The trailhead is located south-east of Escalante, Utah, along the historic Hole-in-the-rock road. To get there from Page, there were several options; only one was paved highway, and was the longest route of the three at well over 300 kilometers. The other two routes had sections of dirt road; however, I had been on one of the two before: The Cottonwood Canyon road. It is a scenic backcountry byway that connects north-south between US highway 89 near the Paria Ranger station and the town of Henrieville near Bryce Canyon. I knew the road well, actually, having used it several times before, so it was a known quantity. And I knew it was quite scenic, which is always a bonus.
Jenn on Cottonwood Canyon Rd
View from Upper Slickrock Bench
We made as best time as we could, given the nature of the roads. We stopped briefly at a few especially scenic spots for a couple of photos, but other than that, it was down-to-business driving from Page to the trailhead for Peekaboo and Spooky Gulches: back west from Page along US89, north onto the Cottonwood Canyon road, then east at Henrieville on Utah 12 to Escalante, then south-east on Hole-in-the-rock road for a final 40 kilometres or so. We were running against the sunset clock, you see, and we wanted to get our micro-slot hike in before the light went.
Dry Fork TH
We arrived at the Dry Fork Coyote trailhead (the trailhead for Peekaboo and Spooky Gulches) at just before 6pm. Not a lot of time until the sun went down not long after 7pm, but enough -- probably -- to do most of our hike in daylight. We brought headlamps for the inevitable walk-back-up-to-the-trailhead-in-the-dark.
Interactive Trackmap - Drive from Page to Dry Fork Trailhead - Click map to expand
Drive Data - Page, Arizona to Dry Fork TH via Cottonwood Canyon Road
* : +/- 75 feet
Total Elevation Gain:
Total Elevation Loss:
* : +/- 75 feet
It was a beautiful late afternoon in the Escalante. Standing at the trailhead, we were presented with a typical Escalante-area scene: pretty but relatively gentle-looking desert terrain, revealing little to nothing of the gems hidden within. Although the route to Peekaboo and Spooky is not offically marked, there were a few cairns and a decent footpath marking the way.
We followed the cairns and footpath down into Dry Fork Coyote Gulch (this is the same gulch, which, if followed far enough down-canyon, turns into fabulous Coyote Gulch, with a gentle stream and huge, beautiful alcoves and arches), then walked a few hundred yards downcanyon. The narrow U-shape of Peekaboo Gulch looked down on us from the north side of the Gulch. A short slickrock climb is required to get into Peekaboo.
Once we'd all managed to scramble up the short bit of slickrock the start of Peekaboo, we could see the cool architecture that defines this little slot. There are several swoopy oval-shaped natural bridges that span the narrow gap. Their oval shape means that this lower part of the slot has a series of low-walled little pockets, and a bit of scrambling skill was required to move from one to the next.
Arn's Peekaboo Scrambling
Beyond the natural arches, Peekaboo becomes a somewhat more convential very tight little slot. With much maneuvering and twisting, we wormed our way up-canyon until we reached a somewhat wider section where we could walk normally.
Another super-tight section forced us back into contortions. Already Gosia and Arn were getting a good intro to a super-tight slot, and we hadn't yet gone over to [narrower-than-Peekaboo] Spooky Gulch!
The section of tight narrows soon relented, and we came to a stretch where Peekaboo was nothing more than a small wash with sloping sides. We turned right here, heading directly across the desert to the east towards Spooky Gulch. Spooky is a slot canyon parallel to Peekaboo, about 600 yards (600m) to the east. There were a few small cairns pointing the way, and we followed a reasonable foot path (which wasn't immediately obvious, but we eventually stumbled upon it).
The last rays of the sun were slanting across the desert as we made our way across the flats of Cat Pasture (the name of this bench across which we were hiking). We were fully in shade as we descended into the wide sandy wash that marked the start of the Spooky Gulch slot.