Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Utah Fun

Little Wild Horse Canyon, Bell Canyon, Dang/Ding Canyons, Crack Canyon
March 20-23rd, 2009
Jeff and Allison Valliere, Dave and Emily Hale, Sierra, Shep and Kiefer

We had been planning to head to the desert for over a month. Looking for canyons that were doggy friendly and did not require gear, we settled on the Goblin Valley area, as I had gone there with my Dad and Sierra back in October and knew it would fit the bill.

Saturday morning, 3/21/09, LWH/Bell Canyons

After a peaceful night in our quiet campsite, we arose to a nice calm morning. It was great to get up, have it be reasonably warm and not be in a big hurry. One of the reasons I picked this general area was because I assumed it to be not too popular, but it being Spring break, the entire area was teeming with scouts and families. I could not believe how many people were driving in the previous evening and finding a camp spot took a bit more searching than I had anticipated.

We got on the trail at 8:45am and headed up LWH canyon first. The morning was sunny, calm and warm and we were all taking it easy and having a great time. The dogs were having as good or better of a time than we were and it was fun watching them cavort and explore.

We passed the occasional large group of scouts, but fortunately, most of them seemed to be heading in the opposite direction and exposure was minimal. Many of the scouts looked a bit worn out and I was surprised that many seemed to be under prepared.

All of the obstacles (though minimal) seemed to be much easier on this trip. Sierra seemed to remember all the moves and cruised it all with ease. Shep followed Sierra, but little Kiefer was very new to exposure and jumping off rocks, so he needed a bit of assistance from time to time. It was fun to watch him try to overcome his fears and learn new tricks.

Saturday afternoon, 3/21/09 Dang/Ding Canyons

We had a leisurely lunch back at camp and then mobilized for a bit of Ding/Dang exploration. It was advertised as being difficult enough to keep the riff raff at bay, but not on this day. There were about 25+ cars at the TH, more scouts of course, people with dogs, kids etc….

We decided to take the route in reverse, as it was the quickest way to encounter the more difficult obstacles. The canyon narrowed significantly and after a bit of work, we got the dogs past the first chockstone, but this was still not one of the significant obstacles. A huge crowd passed and we made a quick preview of the first significant obstacles and as expected, it would be too much to get the dogs up.

Dave and Allison volunteered to continue the loop in the opposite direction, while Emily and I continued up Dang Canyon and we would meet in the middle. The climbing up Dang Canyon turned out to be one of the highlights of the trip, as it was a great time working our way through these problems.

Emily and I helped one another through each of the cruxes and this generally worked great, except for one large overhanging chockstone that I just could not make it past. I boosted Emily up, her using my extended hands as a step, but with nobody below me, I could not quite make it. As I was doing my best to solve the problem and on the verge of admitting defeat, a couple approached on their descent and the guy hopped down and helped me up as I had helped Emily. I returned the favor by assisting his dog and wife over the drop. A perfect trade.

After the hardest obstacles, there were a few more interesting spots, but they either had a bypass or a rope and we were having an awesome time. All too soon, the canyon ended, we made the short crossover to Ding and soon met up with Dave, Allison and the dogs.
We took our time descending, helping Kiefer down over the drops, while Sierra and Shep made easy work of the rocks.

The walk back out to the trailhead seemed long through the stinking desert (I think the smells originated from Dave and I) and we were the last car there for the day.

Sunday, 3/22/09, Crack Canyon

Headed to Crack Canyon on our way to Moab and spent a few hours exploring. It was windy as a weather front was moving through and we all had our eyes pasted with dirt. When we got to the drop that thwarted our efforts back in October with my dad, I went back up canyon for a ways and investigated some cairns we spotted earlier, and sure enough, there was a nice bypass for the dogs. We were able to head down canyon for another mile or so through some interesting rocks on the canyon floor and another great section of deep narrows before the canyon opened back up again.

Heading into the last set of narrows, Allison and Emily were a bit ahead as Dave and I were taking our time for photos. I heard some crashing rocks and in a split second, Dave and I were in full sprint yelling to the wives to “RUNNN!!!!!!” We both saw the same cloud of dust high on the wall in sync with the racket of falling rock and were not sure how big the rocks were or how much was coming down. React first, assess later is my motto. Fortunately, the rocks landed on a bench and did not make it to the valley floor. If they had gone all the way, they would have landed very near where we had just passed seconds earlier. As Roach says, “Geologic time is now”. This was a bit spooky and really got the adrenaline spiked.

The trip back was uneventful, aside from the dark clouds up-drainage, but it was not yet producing any precipitation.

Monday, 3/23/09, Moab

After a restful night sleep at La Quinta in Moab and an awesome pizza buffet at Zax, we decided to go our separate ways before we headed home. Dave and Emily headed to Arches, while Allison and I left Sierra in the room and spent the morning running (she was tired and her paws were a little sore from the sandstone canyons).

We went down Kane Creek road and parked in the large lot where people gear up for Amassa Back, Hurrah Pass and Prichett Canyon. We took Jackson’s Trail along the Colorado river and up to the top of the mesa to intersect with the Amassa Back trail. The views here were awesome and we had the place to ourselves.

After returning to the car, we had a bit of time to spare and headed into Pritchett Canyon. Tight on time, we again jogged, stopping often to take pictures and take in the scenery. It was so tough to turn around, as I was itching to peek around every corner, but checkout time at the hotel was looming and we had a long drive ahead to get home.

The trip home was complicated by a Spring storm that had closed Vail Pass. Dave and Emily gave us a heads up and we decided to take Tennessee Pass to Leadville. This worked great and we debated heading South to BV on dry roads, or heading over Fremont and back into the storm. From Fremont Pass to Bakerville, the roads were terrible, but there was no traffic on I-70 which made things less stressful. We were happy to make it home by 8:30pm, after 8:15 in the car.



  1. Nice little, active vacation. Sierra looks like the older proud sister in charge of the other dogs, "Just jump down here like this guys, it's easy."

    You forgot to mention that after the pizza buffet you destroyed the motel bathtub by giving Sierra a bath.

  2. "React first, assess later is my motto." ???

    I thought your motto was, "Shoot'em all; let God sort 'em out."

    Nice write up of classic places I don't see nearly enough.