Playing the Slots in Utah

We were on the road this morning before 7am, headed forty miles back the way we came yesterday. The reason: Slots. Not the gambling kind. The canyon kind.

Arizona is still fairly locked down under Covid restrictions. McDonalds are drive-thru only. Mask or no mask, vaccinated or not, old guys like me can’t even use the restroom there, as the lobbies are locked. Likewise, Antelope Canyon, just south of Page, is shut down to tourists. It was strange to see the large parking lots, typically filled with tour buses and mobs of tourists, completely empty.

Just across the border in Utah, the outdoor attractions are open and doing brisk business. I had tried since January to get passes to hike to The Wave, a spectacular geological formation. Each month I lost the Wave Lottery; only 66 people a day get to do this hike, and my name never came up. However, in the Vermillion Cliffs area — the same area as The Wave — is Buckskin Gulch, and Wire Pass, which have some good slot canyons. And no lottery. So we decided that the earlier in the morning we arrived, the better chance of beating the crowds and the heat.

And we were right. It’s about seven miles down a somewhat rough dirt road to get to the Wire Pass Trailhead parking area. When we arrived there were already several cars there, but no crowds. This is the same trailhead that feeds The Wave, so I expected more people.

The hike down Wire Pass is primarily a creek wash, at least until you get to the first slot canyon.

“Are you sure this is the right way?”

“Yep, this is it. Cool.”

Even highly claustrophobic people enjoy slot canyons, eventually. Within the canyons it was like air conditioning. A nice breeze and temperatures in the low 70s. Outside the canyons in the wash it was already in the low 90s by 10am.

Some elevation change within the canyon.

We were there early enough that we had the canyon to ourselves for a while. I even made a comment about how nice it was and less crowded than I had expected.

In the shade along the canyon walls, we saw these flowers blooming. Diana identified them using her iNaturalist app as Thorn Apples, which are apparently highly poisonous.

Wire Pass Trail tees into Buckskin Gulch, and there are more slot canyons in both directions. We turned left towards the Buckskin Gulch Trailhead and hiked up another slot canyon to the end, then turned around and headed back to the bike.

On our hike out, the people started arriving. We probably passed fifty or more people headed down Wire Pass on our way up the wash. And that feeling of “this is a small percentage of what Zion will be like” began to haunt me.

3 thoughts on “Playing the Slots in Utah

  1. Love, Love, Love the epic tale. The arches and slots are beautiful, must visit them. But the best surprise is the basement!!!! Nice and cool in the heat. Keep the great pictures and wonderful narrative coming our way. Can’t wait for next post.

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