Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument
After our brief brush with civilization, we headed back out the wilds along Hole-in-the-Rock Road. We had our eye on another slot canyon hike in the area, Spooky Canyon, for the following day.
Even though Hole-in-the-Rock road is a dirt road with a nasty washboard surface, it's still highly traveled — and so not the most secluded spot to camp. For some privacy, we tried a smaller side track heading west (Left Hand Collet Road), and then took a little fork off to the right, camping near a large sandstone rock face.
We clambered all around the surrounding rocks, enjoying the smoothness and bulbous shapes. After watching the sunset, we visited a nearby trailhead sign, and found there were supposed to be dinosaur prints in the sandstone! Excited, we decided to check them out the next morning.
As we really had no idea what we were looking for, we closely examined the rock surface for an hour or so. We never were really sure if we saw any. This site has some great photos of what the tracks look like.
In the morning, we headed over to Dry Fork Coyote Gulch for another slot canyon hike. There we found numerous parked cars that had managed to travel the rocky washboarded road to the trailhead.
There are three different canyons to explore along this hike - Peek-a-boo, Spooky and Brimstone Gulches. The trail first passes the easiest canyon, Peek-a-boo, then Spooky, and finally the most challenging, Brimstone. We decided to do just one canyon, and picked Spooky. For about two miles, we squeezed our way through this stunning canyon. It was so tight that most of the time we couldn't even wear our backpacks. We found no puddles like in our earlier slot canyon hike, but also there was comparatively little variation in this trail. There were several times in which we had to climb up (or down) using our hands and feet, but we had little respite from the high and tight canyon walls. However, the lighting and the coloring of the rock made this a gorgeous canyon to photograph. As we exited the gully into the wash at the head of the canyon, we were shocked to see how large the wash was — imagining how much water could flow through it. It's very clear why the canyon would be an incredibly unsafe place to be in a rainstorm, as the gully would be completely filled with water.
After finishing this hike, our next goal was to make our way towards Romana Mesa — a lookout point over Lake Powell. To get there, we needed to drive back along the Hole-in-the-Rock road, and return to Left Hand Collet Road. As we were driving along, we saw this great snake in the road. It was unclear as to whether it had been already hit by a car, but there was a hawk in the tree (see 2nd photo) that seemed mighty excited for us to leave so it could enjoy a snack.
After passing our camping spot from the night before, we traveled southwest on Left Hand Collet Road, the only pass through the Fiftymile Mountains which line the southwest side of Hole-in-the-Rock Road. Geoff hadn't remembered this section being too challenging on previous trip. It was — at least it was pretty slow going. Let's just say there was lots of driving in washes, lots of big rocks to avoid, and it took quite some time considering how few miles the drive was.