Moab graced us with a final glorious sunrise as Suzanne and I prepared to pack up our Winnies and head off to separate canyons.
Suzanne was headed back to her special place, Snow Canyon, near St. George. While I had my compass pointed towards Bryce Canyon National Park before cold would make it unbearable. But on the way, I was determined to visit a little canyon that Box Canyon Mark had once described as “a trip to Disneyland” (with the exception of their most recent ill-timed visit). I had never hiked a slot canyon before, and was “chomping at the bit” to give Little Wild Horse a ride!
Little Wild Horse and Bell Canyons are part of the San Rafael Swell near Goblin Valley State Park in central Utah (just north of Hanksville). I knew I would not have time to do the full 8-mile loop of both canyons, so Suzanne recommended I just try Little Wild Horse, the narrower and prettier slot of the two.
Not knowing how crowded the trailhead might be, I parked the Winnie at the turnoff to the State Park, and left Millie to take a nice long afternoon nap as I packed up my camera gear and drove the Tracker down to the trailhead.
It was a gorgeous, sunny, slightly cool Fall day, and the cottonwoods were starting to turn vibrant gold.
After a 1/2 mile walk, the gravel wash looked as though it was starting into a slot canyon, but after a few turns I discovered huge boulders blocking any further progress. Hmm. Looks like you’ve got to really WANT to get to these canyons! I headed back out and found a new path up and over one of the canyon walls, and then finally arrived at the junction of the Bell and Little Wild Horse trails.
As I started down Little Wild Horse, I could tell right away that this would be a very special day.
The canyon even shared a few heart-shaped rocks and heart-shaped alcoves with me. Little Wild Horse was certainly love at first sight!
Soon, it was abundantly clear -- I would not be hiking the full length of this 3+ mile canyon.
I was too mesmerized by the glow, warmth, and smooth touch of the narrow canyon walls. As the walls came closer and closer, I finally had to just give in and let the canyon suck me up and halt my tracks.
Now too spellbound and entranced to stop photographing every single inch of the warm, inviting stone that enveloped me. Here, in this special place, I was “at one” with nature.
What glory to experience such a wild and meandering river of rock!
“Where something strange and more beautiful and more full of wonder than your deepest dreams waits for you - beyond that next turning of the canyon walls” – Edward Abbey
The day was now fleeting. A retreat back to the wider open places was finally unavoidable.
Yet…though my steps were retraced, my perspective now seemed forever changed. While the magnificent vistas of the National Parks seen the past couple of weeks had certainly impressed me, it took this short, intimate walk in a small slot canyon in the middle of Utah to remind me--
“All good things are wild and free.”
― Henry David Thoreau
I bid farewell to the San Rafael Swell as the sun was setting on the golden cottonwoods. A no more lovely end to quite a restorative day.