Friday, June 20, 2014

Goblin Valley State Park and the slot canyons!

Trip Blog - Annual trip to the slot canyons, where we try to kill ourselves in the hot, stinking desert, where giant obstacles block our path and we curse ourselves for not bringing ropes, and the 55 mph gusts of wind sandblast our lovely complexions.

We had technical difficulties getting out to Utah. Our pop-up camper blew a tire on a windy section of I-70, with little shoulder. It was a hair-raising event just to change out the tire. The old tire smoked, bits of rubber went flying, the camper was slightly damaged, and we had to replace the entire wheel, rim and all.

All was not lost. We had a fabulous lunch with Gigi in Grand Junction which is a charming little oasis on the edge of the desert. Thanks, Gigi!

For Father's Day, we went out into the hot, windy desert, past miles of all-terrain vehicle (those loud, smelly and pesky gas-powered four-wheelers) trails, to Crack Canyon where we hoped to do a big loop back through Chute Canyon. We ended up hiking about 10 miles up and back Crack Canyon. We left at 9:30a and got back around 4pm. It was a nice, tall canyon, not too tight, like Spooky and Peekaboo. We were so happy to be back in the slots, dancing around on the slick rock and climbing the layers of hardened sediment. It was hot and sunny and Leo got tired and needed a lot of breaks.

Leo was jumping for joy:

There's one particularly nice part of Crack that has overhanging canyons:

The next day we thought we'd try a more technical canyon, the Ding and Dang loop. It was  supposedly a half day hike but took us from 10a to 5p. It was a great slot, the type we love, twisty, surprising, lots of obstacles. I think Leo counted 19 obstacles. What is an obstacle? 

Some obstacles are chockstones that are stuck in the slots, that you have to climb over. Here's Leo bridging up over one:

Then it's my turn:

Nothing graceful about my climbing abilities or lack thereof:

Here's one where we had to squeeze our bodies into this tiny wedge to get through. We drop our packs and then down climb:

Another obstacle is a pool of water. 

Here's some green icky pools that we could chimney over. Leo's legs are still pretty short so it got difficult for him in some spots. While we all successfully made it over the pools, Paul managed to drop his camera right into the middle of the drink and had to wade in after it!

Looking down on a green pool:

OK, here Leo is actually doing a reasonable chimney. At some points where it got wide, only his head and neck were in contact with one wall and his feet with the other.

Stemming when your back gets tired:

This obstacle had a line to help folks past difficult spots that were pretty high and exposed or above high chock stones. The webbing is just long enough for you to get a good foothold on a ledge underneath but not long enough to take you to the bottom.

We went down Dang which is easier, but it was still challenging. And of course, we had no rope. The most difficult chock stone to descend involved us taking my two pieces of sleeping bag strap, and fashioning hand loops so that the descender could just hold on while someone at top lowered them. Paul managed to do the descent by bridging or stemming over the chock stone and then down some ten feet. Leo was too short to bridge this and I was too chicken to bridge down ten feet.

We also hiked Little Wild Horse Canyon, up to near the end. 
Little Wild Horse is curvy and twisty like our favorite Escalante slots: Peekaboo and Spooky. We had originally planned to do the loop through Bell canyon but the wind was horrific and the sun too, and the connection between the canyons is 1.6-2 miles of open desert. We hiked 9:20a to 3:50p. We went through the first third or so pretty fast but it is long. The narrow slots which are 1/3-1/2 of the way through are gorgeous. Unfortunately, it was a 55mph gust windy day. The wind got worse during the day and by the end it was sandblasting our faces. Free dermabrasion. Leo fell at the end and we turned around. At the beginning of the hike is a big chock stone that required a little skill to get over. Near the end was a big pool that we had to walk along the edge of. Leo found a bomber handhold and helped the rest of us through. 


Leo and I had a great time walking sideways on the rock. The holes are called taffoni and they can make really nice handholds:

Our last hike was through Goblin Valley State Park. The slots are all near the park but outside the park boundaries. In the park itself are these great goblin features. In Bryce, they call them hoodoos. Here they are more like mushrooms:


and ducks:

We hiked to Goblin's Lair, leaving around 10-ish. It took us about 35-40 min to get there on a nice morning hike, whilst scouting the tracks of various people and creatures. The lair was huge and the upper rocks that you can rappel down from were probably 70-100 feet or so high. You can turn this into a loop hike if you enter from the valley and rappel down into the cave and return the way we walked.

We kept going around the goblin valley reef, til we hit another valley with more caverns. We explored one and looked down into another but could not see the bottom. Around 1 we headed back to goblin valley and spent a couple hours climbing and playing on the goblins, finding another cave (which leo documented in a video as our rock house), and looking for geocaches. We ended the hike around 3:20p. You can view the video below or at

Then we drove to Green River for dinner where we had steaks and burgers and beer. Yum! We also scouted out Eardsley Canyon for a future trip, which looks like a long canyon hike.

The end of a long day of hiking:

We risked a fire despite the winds. Can't really call it camping if there aren't any s'mores!