This time around, we were going to do the whole 9 mile round trip, up Little Wild Horse and back down through Bell Canyon. I had only seen a mile or so last time as we had gone slowly trying never to step on the sandy bottom. This time we powered through the slots while still admiring the views, hoping to get in and out before the wind became fierce at midday. And those dark clouds, where did THOSE come from...there was no rain in the forecast!?!
These are popular slots for a reason...not too tight, beautiful scenery, easy access, easy route finding, and a nice dry sandy floor. Oh, wait, WHAT? After about a mile and a half into Little Wild Horse, murky water suddenly blocked our way. This was new, but slot canyons are known for surprises, and each year they change in odd and sometimes not so nice ways. The power of water is unbelievably fierce in flood.
Luckily ahead of us a family was already wading through the pool, showing us it was about thigh deep for an adult...the kids didn't have it so lucky! (Or the dog). Perhaps if they weren't there, we might have turned around not knowing what was ahead (swimming, anyone)! As it was, if a guy in blue jeans could wade through undeterred, we could make it too. We took off our shoes and socks, rolled up our shorts, and waded in. Jeez, the water was beyond freezing....hypothermia was going to set in soon. Tied to my small pack were two pairs of shoes, two cells phones, some socks and a pair of shorts. I managed to drop Jim's shoe in the water but was very happy to catch it before it got totally soaked and submerged. Jim wasn't terribly happy about the damp but at least he still had a shoe!
Continuing on was a crapshoot...would there be longer deeper pools up ahead, or could we finish the circle staying dry? Just that 100-foot wade through freezing water had made my feet numb...I wasn't excited about any more of it. We continued on. The scenery continued to be so amazing that we almost got numb to it...too much beauty. Or it could be that I was getting tired...we had hiked the day before, and oh yeah I have Mono. I knew I need to keep my heartbeat low, but walking slowly meant taking a longer hike, and that wind, and those clouds....!
Luckily about halfway through the canyon we met a guy coming the other way, who said the trail was dry the rest of the way. Phew. Worst case scenarios in my mind were finding horrible deep pools about 7 miles around the loop and having to retrace our path all the back again. Not so.
After 4 miles we popped out of Little Wild Horse and followed a big rock arrow onto a jeep road. We had made it all the way through the San Rafael Swell, and after a couple of miles on the jeep trail, we would walk through it again. Bell Canyon was a little straighter, less "slotty" and less meandering, so it went a little quicker. As it was, the wind started to fire up (gusts of 40 mph, anyone?), and the skies looked foreboding. Nowhere you want to be is in a slot canyon with rain threatening...we could see how high the debris had gotten in the trees during recent floods. We ate our delicious sandwiches on the go, and enjoyed the scenery at about 3 mph.
Families were still flooding into the canyons as we went out...oh, to be that ignorant of the ramifications of rain. There were rain showers around (we looked after we got back to a place with any phone signal), but fairly minor so I'm sure it was ok. The parking lot was beyond crowded...we hadn't seen too many people in the canyons but most of them just go in a little ways. Our time for the whole 9 mile loop was 3:20, and now the wind was really kicking up. We had covered our faces from blowing sand to get back to the truck! I was asleep in minutes and managed the rest of the drive back to Moab examining the backs of my eyelids.