It is the last day of 2020, and I find myself on a long and desolate dirt road in Grand Staircase – Escalante down in Southern Utah. It’s an epic sunrise as I make my way through the snow covered hills and onto the open desert landscape, searching for the slot canyons known as PeekaBoo and Spooky.
Eventually I come to the trailhead parking area. There are a few other cars already here, but no people that I can see. The trail is pretty visible even though snow is covering the area, making the red rock landscape pop in brilliance with the contrast of white on red.
Along the lip of the rim I go, enjoying the silence. Eventually I come to a descent that is covered in snow and ice. A group of hikers are struggling to come up the trail, as they keep slipping and sliding, but since they have each other, the group works together to make sure each person in their party makes it up the slippery ascent.
I wonder if I will be so lucky as a solo hiker? I seriously contemplate not going down further as I do not want to become trapped out here. Yet adventure overcomes fear, and I slide on my butt down the snowy trail, soon finding myself at the entrance to PeekaBoo gulch.
My goal was to hike through PeekABoo, then traverse over to Spooky canyon to finish the loop. I enter the slot canyon excitedly, and squeeze, weave and climb through narrow passages of smooth sandstone.
As I exit PeekaBoo canyon, I can barely see the cairns or the trail that I believed would lead one into Spooky canyon. The snow is much deeper out here. I try several different paths, but none have an easy descent into the Spooky slot, only with ropes would one try to enter the canyon, ropes I did not have.
So along the rim I go, sometimes finding a trail, more often than not I was just bushwhacking it through the desert, hoping that at some point I would find either the entrance or at the very least an exit point that would take me back to the original trailhead.
After a spell, I see cairns that lead downward, and in following them I come back to where I had started. I notice that the entrance to Spooky canyon is a mere 600 feet or so from the entrance to PeekaBoo.
I laugh, but with low water levels and night coming, I decide to forego a hike into the Spooky slot until next year.