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Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Flashback To Bell and Little Horse... A Slot Canyon Sermon

I am far removed from the narrows of Little Wild Horse Canyon, seated in a tasteful and comfy leather cushioned oak chair in Springdale, Utah's fine new library. Three large panels of floor to ceiling windows cannot contain great vertical walls of Zion, jutting skyward like improbable stone sculptures... seemingly piercing Heaven's lower realm. Oh various and sundry Utah, how thou doth inspire "religion" in the bones of unbelievers. Utah lumps the throat of this sentimental old sap. I grapple for words, but come up dumb. I sort through hundreds of two dimensional photos, and come up blind. So please forgive when I fall short of living up to the reality, diversity and glory of my favorite place to explore... again, and again, and again. Pardon the  photo "crutches" that assist my bleeding heart recollections and lack of vocabulary that does injustice. 

Little Horse Canyon was convenient to our camp at the base of the San Rafael Swell. A fifteen minute drive with Sue Bee's heater on full blast warmed us for a chilly day's task... slithering through deep, narrow and dark passageways. No need for sunscreen in such a shadowed place, nor claustrophobics. We've hiked a few short slots before... a hundred to two hundred yards that left us wanting more. We finally got our fill in Little Horse and Bell, mile after mile of Nature's hydraulic knife, cutting through sandstone like a Red Velvet Layer Cake. 

A half mile upstream brought us to a sandy fork, Bell canyon to the left, Little Horse to the right. It's a loop either way if you are up for the entire eight miles. If you just want a taste, choose Little Horse and go in at least a couple of miles. I'm a clockwise kind of guy, so we went left, up Bell Canyon. 

Bell didn't waste any time before it wrapped itself around us like a glove. Even though we had clear blue skies overhead, my mind went to a Craig Childs read, "The Desert Cries: A Season Of Flash Floods In A Dry Land." Childs depicts a handful of tragic true stories, how on a perfectly clear day an isolated thunderstorm dumps a torrent out of sight and mind of a slot canyon day hike by unweary tourists, maybe as far as a hundred miles off. In less than an hour comes a rumbling sound... like a train. But there are no trains nearby. They hiked on... wondering about that strange sound, and that it seemed to be getting louder. What could it be? Even if it was a train careening through their slot canyon... it's not like they could step off the "tracks."  

Lights out. It might as well have been a train. The lucky ones lose consciousness immediately, when a log or boulder crushes their skull. The unlucky ones have just enough time to realize what happened... time to struggle in vain against a tsunami that is breaking every bone in their body like dry twigs... reducing them to an unrecognizable shreds of flesh, such that it requires DNA testing to identify mere scraps of remains. Some died leaving no trace. Exhaustive searches to the end of Antelope Canyon turned up not a speck, not even with dogs keen noses. One lone man survived Antelope because of a freak hydraulic that launched him to a ledge just above the tempest, where he clung for his life. 

I knew it was't raining or going to rain anywhere around us; snow, maybe, but not rain. Still, if you read the stories in Mr Childs' "The Desert Cries: A Season Of Flash Floods In A Dry Land," you'd wonder about it. 

Our slot canyon excursion had us feeling like kids at Disneyland. We took turns saying things like, "Darin and Tracey would love this! Mia, Owen, Anita and Brent (MOAB) would think this is so cool. We must bring Martha here. I wish my brother Dan could see this," and so on. You know how it is, you want to share your good fortune of winning Nature's Lotto. But it's like they say, "You have to play to win." We play, alright, and drew yet another lucky number. It happens because we leave the coop... like birds... flit and land here or there as "Accidental Tourists." We stumble across wild and crazy people, places and things... tempt fate, play poker with Miss Sara N. Dippity, and trust the luck of uneducated guesses in the outback of Utah's Canyon Country. 

Today, looking out Springdale Library's windows, I believe in God. We'll see about tomorrow...


I posted a movie of this hike to Youtube. It's gives a better feel than photos... like "being there," hiking right along with us. You should check it out, HERE, or click the top video in the right side column for a smaller version for those with limited band width.

Thanks for checking in. We appreciate your support and enthusiastic comments :)) If you know of anyone on your email list who might enjoy western escapades, especially those who are shut in or not able to get out, please be so kind as to share a Link to the Box Canyon Blog. We'd like to take them along for the ride, too. 

Thanks, Mark and Bobbie.

PS: Over the next few days I'll be adding links to the Blogs of Commenters, one by one. So keep an eye out for your links :)) 


  1. Wow, what a beautiful hike. I need to find me a hiking partner.

  2. The beauty of a hike like that would overwhelm the imagination of the most skeptic person. Definitely a dream to a future adventure. Be Safe and Enjoy!

    It's about time.

  3. Excellent slot canyon hike. A lot narrower than the ones I've hiked. So glad it was a perfect day and no rain in sight.
    Hope you'll eat some Bumbbleberry pie while in Springdale.

  4. Nice photos and a nice video--and nice country to hike in. Do you use a weather radio?

  5. Beautiful! Thanks for the tour, its on my list!

  6. Mark, what a beautiful video clip. Those narrow walls kinda give me the willies so I will enjoy your hike vicariously. Chris

  7. Happy Belated Birthday! Looks like you guys are doing some great hikes.

  8. Been following you since adopting Goldie. As an east-coaster who has never seen the southwest, I love your pictures and posts. Who knew there are slot canyons? The video is amazing-beautiful!

  9. Teri,
    We will hike with you! But you went the wrong way :((
    Maybe next time :))

    Rick and Kathy,
    We did pay our "dues." Now Reaping he Benefits is sooo much fun. Thanks for commenting.

    Ah yes... the bumble berry pie!! Thanks for reminding us (like we forgot something that good :)) Hee hee.

    Desert Scruff,
    No, no radio... just a weather phone app on my iPhone. I hope it's accurate :))

    Al and Karen,
    You are welcome. It will leave you astounded.

    Ok, but I think you could adjust to the closed in feeling... some beer might help :))
    Oh wait... maybe that's not a good idea. Thanks.

    Jim and Gayle,
    Thanks. It was a great hike. I'm wondering if Gayle would be up for a slot canyon hike?

    Mass Girl,
    Well I'm glad you found the BCB! Maybe you can use our blog to plan a trip out here someday. Thanks for commenting, and welcome aboard. We are just getting started :))

  10. I am in the process of reading back through your trip to Utah. We are headed there for April and May. We have been to several of the parks on motorcycle trips but have never hiked. We are now heading back to spend as much time as we need to hike the whole area of beautiful parks.

    This was an absolutely beautiful blog post. This is such a gorgeous country. Guess I better get a refill on my meds for claustrophobia!

    Thanks for the ride along. Now I have more reading to do!


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