Hole-in-the-Rock Road, Part 2: Spooky and Peek-a-Boo Slot Canyons
Our adventures in Spooky and Peek-a-Boo Slot Canyons – coincidentally timed on Halloween – were ridiculously fun. I had expected really tight narrows (10-11 inches wide in Spooky) and some climbing (though not the 12 foot drop we encountered which was also in Spooky) but we were really not prepared overall. Lucky for us, we met a fantastic woman named Sarah at the trailhead who provided us with the third person needed for dog hand-offs and we arrived at the mouth of Peek-a-Boo Canyon just as two tall guys with a rope and previous experience in these canyons were there. Our trio remarked on our good luck multiple times during the day since had we had not joined forces or met the smart guys with the rope at that exact moment, we would have been unable to complete the hike.
Not bringing anything longer than a 6 foot dog rope was a pretty stupid mistake on our part, but we were saved from another mistake when we met the two guys who told us that going up Peek-a-Boo and down Spooky was the way to do it. This was really lucky since everything I had read online directed hikers to go in the opposite direction. At first it seemed that going up the 12 foot dryfall into Peek-a-Boo with the dog was not going to work, and we again questioned the route after we reached the level of the canyon and saw the next required large step up with a large 2 foot deep slippery, mud pool. We had used a combination of coercing Abby to scramble while pushing her from bottom and pulling her from the rope attached to the collar to get her up the first drop, but with a wide slippery pool at the bottom of the next lip, it was nearly impossible to pass her from person to person and then push her up above our heads to the next level. Sarah and I waded through first, sliding and nearly falling in, and were assisted up again by the guys with the rope since the mud made it impossible to grip with our feet. This left Tom to pick up Abbs, carry her across the slick pool and then push her up above his head to us which was a remarkable feat. I’m not exaggerating when I say I couldn’t stay upright in the pool because it was so slippery. Nevermind carry a 50 pound dog without using my hands to prevent myself from falling and then shoulder-press her overhead. As difficult as it sounds dog-wise (well, and human-wise), it was these two obstacles that made us thankful we hadn’t attempted going the route down the canyon which would have left us sliding into the pool of muddy water then dropping the 12 feet at the mouth of the canyon.
At that point our two tall canyon angels went on ahead while we began exploring the arches and twists of the slot canyon. Tom, Sarah, and I had all been in slot canyons before, but Peek-a-Boo was really impressive – beautiful, wide-ranging in color, fun, and full of surprises at each turn. There were a few more places we had to hand off packs to each other, climb over choke stones, and coerce the dog, but most of it was easy walking and I managed to get in a few decent pictures along the way. Soon enough however we found the canyon walls dropping as the ground rose up, and we emerged onto the slickrock plains. Following the cairns we crossed a half mile of open ground, entered a sandy wash, and then hiked down the dry stream bed as it became embedded in the sandstone walls. Very suddenly we were in the midst of the purple, twisting sandstone of Spooky, navigating tightening turns and narrowing narrows. The canyon then opened slightly – and briefly – by an arch but closed in again until we reached a cluster of boulder-sized choke stones, suspended in the air.
From this point on, navigating the canyon became trickier and my camera mostly stayed in it’s bag. We spent about 20 minutes at the cluster of boulders pondering where we should attempt to drop down. Our options were an approximately 15 foot drop that might be mitigated by the ability to do part of it as a steep slide, or a 12 foot drop that might offer a few foot holds. Again, due to poor planning we had no decent length of rope, plus we had Abby with us who, despite her athleticism, would not willingly jump down that distance. After group negotiations we all took slightly different routes but Tom went first, providing literal support as Sarah and I had to drop backwards into an uneven section of canyon floor that wasn’t visible from above. We also had to hand the dog down which we did without major injuries to any of us though Sarah got the brunt of the scratches when Abbs panicked while I was lowering her into the hole.
After the drop we traversed the narrowest sections of the canyon which required handing off packs – and also Abby when the floor of the canyon disappeared leaving us to balance on the twisted ledges. All this may sound like complaining but I assure you this was the most fun I’ve had on a hike in a long time. The challenges of negotiating the canyons combined with the beauty and uniqueness of the formations made it truly awesome. I hope to return some day to not only re-experience it, but also take better photos.