View Full Version : Riding a slot canyon in Utah

Mar. 29, 2011, 01:51 AM
Had a very fun ride yesterday, about 17 miles north of Kanab, Utah. We rode into a slot canyon, at least as far as we could go til stopped by a wedged log. Video here:


Mar. 29, 2011, 02:17 AM
How fun! How far did you have to back your horses in order to turn around?

BTW someone needs to baby powder their new saddle :)

Mar. 29, 2011, 10:51 AM
Actually, at the dead end caused by the log there's room for one horse, even two, to turn around.

Those new saddle squeaks would've probably driven me nuts 40 years ago, but these days I take the expensive hearing aids out when riding so no worries!

Mar. 29, 2011, 11:04 AM
Had a very fun ride yesterday, about 17 miles north of Kanab, Utah. We rode into a slot canyon, at least as far as we could go til stopped by a wedged log.

Very cool! Amazing geology....all that sedimentary rock tilted on an angle like that and then the canyon cut down through it. What a good horse too, not the least bit claustrophobic!

PS...had my saddle for 19 years and it still squeaks a bit after probably thousands of hours...I kind of like it myself.

Mar. 29, 2011, 11:17 AM
Amazing video! Thanks so much for sharing!! Gad, I felt I was there. Loved the dog leading the way and making sure you were following!!!! But those canyon walls actually made me claustrophobic. I'd watch it again with the sound on this time to hear the saddle squeeks...but don't think I could take those closing-in walls again so soon. <shiver!>

Bank of Dad
Mar. 29, 2011, 11:19 AM
You ride in my favorite geological spot in the country. Someday, I am coming out to ride with you. Beautiful video. Were you at all claustrophobic or worried about rocks falling?

Mar. 29, 2011, 12:18 PM
Come on out any time, there are loads of wonderful trails down there- well, all over the state actually! And I do have a spare horse...

I didn't feel claustrophobic at all- though I can get uncomfortable in a crowded elevator, for example. And the pyramid in Chichen Itza was really, really uncomfortable, I can recall that even though it's been over 30 years! Falling rocks are another good reason to wear a hard hat, although in truth they can be a hazard pretty much anywhere in the mountains, not just slot canyons. The biggest hazard associated with the slots is, don't go in one during thunderstorm season. If there has been a cloudburst say 5 miles upstream of where you are riding (or hiking) you can encounter a fatal wall of water even if skies are blue where you are.

There were 7 horses and 1 mule in our party, and none was the least bit concerned about the tight spaces.

Mar. 29, 2011, 12:37 PM
Awesome place to ride, Beverly.Thanks for posting the video.

I was chanting "no rain, no rain" in time with your horse's footfalls. When is T-storm season?

Mar. 30, 2011, 12:27 AM
Thunderstorms can occur pretty much any time in summer. In that neighborhood, seems like July-August is peak season but they can happen in Sept-October as well.

Mar. 30, 2011, 10:59 AM
B - Can you take an I-phone with you with a weather app to show weather radar? Could you get reception in those canyons?? After watching some of the newest uploaded private videos of the tsunami in Japan (extremely frightening because you can see the helpless crews on the boats swirling around caught in the rip tide - and the water never.stopped.coming), I'd be frantic to know there were clear skies within 100 miles before I'd venture in a slot canyon.

Believe it or not - one of my driving pair does get claustrophobic. The one time I drove him in a parade in a small town down historic main street (where the streets were very narrow and the buildings at least 2 stories high - he looked up above his blinkers and said "WTF are those??!!"" He couldn't stop looking at the tall buildings on either side of the road (his partner wasn't bothered in the least while he kept twisting his head to look upwards) and by the time the parade had exited out of old town into the newer wider part of town - that pony was into a complete mental meltdown! We couldn't get him to calm (and I had two walkers with me to help sooth him) and after a 1/2 mile I finally had to peel off down a side street and just trot the pair for 2 miles to get that one pony's brain unfrazzled. Poor thing! He would just die if I rode him in those canyons.

Mar. 30, 2011, 11:11 AM
I suppose you could take an I phone or blackberry with weather apps...but indeed reception is spotty in that part of the world. The big thing is just checking the forecast night before/morning of and exercising appropriate caution and common sense. I have ridden a few other slot canyons, shorter and not dead-end, if I am going to go through one in summer time/t-storm season it would be in the morning before storms start building. Same with riding on exposed mountain ridges for that matter, I have twice been within a hundred yards of a lightning bolt and don't intend to see what the third time brings!

I understand what you mean about your driving horse. Oddly, this same horse I was riding is very vigilant when riding, say, on a mountain trail where there is a 'high side' that a cougar could drop down from- not alarmed, just keeps an eye and ear on that uphill side, but was perfectly comfy in those close confines, almost seemed like he had a sense of security. Now, a warmblood I used to have once had a Big Meltdown out hunting near Flagstaff, I finally figured out it was because it was his first time amongst tall pine trees, having been raised in a desert environment with scrub oak being The Tree. Same general reaction- tall thing where some predator could drop down on you. I made it a point to get him into forests that next summer and that solved that fear.

The gelding I rode Sunday thinks parades were Made For Him. The adoring crowds. The ability to admire his reflection in store windows. The option of chewing on the flag if I'm carrying it and it blows over his head. But then, mostly, he thinks he's a lap dog.

Mar. 30, 2011, 12:54 PM
Wow. Just keeps going and going and going. Looked pretty tight there a couple times too. Nice vid, thanks!

Mar. 30, 2011, 01:53 PM
Talk of slot canyons and rain always reminds me of the scene in The Missing (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UM8YRwelfEY - some quick flashes at 1:26 and 1:52).

Mar. 30, 2011, 06:13 PM
Never thought my pony might be thinking of mountain lions leaping off the early 1900's facades of that historic old town, prompting his melt-down. I thought it was just the tall buildings closing in on him. One never knows what goes on in those little pony minds. :lol::lol:

When I was out in Arizona in February, I did a lot of walking out in the brush. Never far from my mind was the mental caution about large predators lurking about. It was hilarious fun standing out under the stars and howling along with the coyote "bandstands" at night - I can really do an awesome realistic howl --, but.... walking during the daylight hours alone, on narrow trails, I always kept my eyes doing a 360 degree sweep every third stride. I had heard it was smart to wear a shirt with big eyes printed on the back - discouraging to cougars who won't attack from the rear without the element of surprise on their side. Next time I'm out there, I'm going to have a "big eyes" jacket! :lol:

Mar. 30, 2011, 11:09 PM
Cougars really aren't something I worry about, actually. Once in 15 years, I have had one sort of track me from above while riding- my horse made it plain that leaving quickly was desirable- but that one was really only after a deer. There is a high density of cougars in that same area- where I ride when going from the barn- four adults and two juveniles in a pretty small space due to development all around- but have heard of only one 'close call,' a cougar who jumped out in front of a mountain biker. Biker slammed on brakes, dismounted, and put bike between himself and the cat, and the cat apparently somewhat sheepishly concluded that meals on wheels wasn't really what he was after and moved on. That same summer- two summers ago- two hikers watched a cougar take down a deer, quite a rare sighting.

As I think about it, in group rides, 'other riders' tend to be the biggest hazard! But that's another thread, that we've probably done a few times by now...

Mar. 30, 2011, 11:20 PM
That's super fun, Beverly, thank you for posting that. The clarity of the video is outstanding.

You've got a good horse, btw, but I think you already knew that ;)

Painted Horse
Mar. 31, 2011, 12:45 AM
Nice Video Bev, I've never gotten the hang of holding the camera still so that every watching doesn't get seasick.

I love riding the slot canyons in the spring.



Mar. 31, 2011, 01:13 AM
Awesome video! I would probably get knocked off my horse trying to video and run into the rocks sticking out. I have only tried videoing a couple of times while riding and almost made myself seasick. Did you have a helmet cam or a handheld camera?

Mar. 31, 2011, 10:51 AM
It's a handheld camera, one of those new little Flip video cams. I bought it last week with an upcoming trip in mind, actually, going w/my Dad to visit family in Belgium and figured a little unobtrusive camera to record him with his cousin (now in his 90s) would be a good thing.

So this was the first horseback test, I haven't gotten around to capturing still photos off the video but hope to play with that over the weekend. On the ride the day before for example I captured a herd of deer on video but I'm going to have to zoom way in w/photos to actually see them I think. Some of the videos I took do have that 'seasick' effect though!

wylde sage
Mar. 31, 2011, 01:37 PM
Very cool! You talked about big cats, what about rattlers? We deal with them a lot out here....

Mar. 31, 2011, 01:53 PM
Beverly, my daughter works as a canyoneering guide over by Zion. We visit her at least once a year. I'll have to get your number and maybe we can meet up!

We do a lot of hiking and rappelling with her and like you said, keeping an eye on the forecast is the best precaution. I doubt you'd get much cell phone in those slots.

Does this canyon have a name?

She assures me that the cougars/mountain lions in your area do not see humans as prey like those in California, for example. Maybe because there are still plenty of deer for them around.

She led a trip one day over in Coalpits Wash near Rockville and they saw cat tracks, then when they came back, there were fresh cat tracks and scat on top of their footprints so a mountain lion must have been watching and come down to sniff their traces.

We hope to move out there in a few years so I'll get to see what my buddy thinks of canyon/desert riding. He grew up in Kansas so he likes wide open spaces.

If you ever want to try out canyoneering, contact Zion Mountain School, http://www.zionmountainschool.com/, it is a guide company a friend of her has just started.

Mar. 31, 2011, 03:29 PM
Wylde Sage, there are rattlers to be sure, but I'm generally a fan of snakes so perhaps not as bothered by the issue! In fact, can't tell you how many times I have seen fellow riders step right over a snake- I say nothing in such circumstances until we are well past, why alarm folks unnecessarily?:) If the rattler is actually rattling, well, the horse is going to let the rider know! It's a bigger issue for dogs along on rides, actually- for foxhunting for example, I know of huntsmen who carry the appropriate injectables in the event of snakebite to hound.

That said, I certainly do avoid areas, a couple of trails in particular, where I know they are likely to be out sunning themselves at certain times of day.

FatDinah, we certainly should hook up, I'm all for going to that neighborhood whenever I can. Yes, I see cougar tracks in my yard now and then as well- more than human attacks one sees hungry (often too old to successfully hunt) cougars going after, say, the labrador retriever in the back yard. Have to say that the other day, we saw no cougar tracks, fresh or old- I did see one set of old bobcat tracks. And we were looking- our guide for the day is a cougar hunter as well (though apparently not what you would call really, really serious since his hounds double as house dogs/couch potatoes).

I don't know whether that particular canyon has a name, I was told that the trailhead is generally referred to by locals as 'the Barracks.' It's just south of Mt. Carmel Junction.

Painted Horse
Mar. 31, 2011, 07:49 PM
We see cougar tracks all the time as we ride, I've found many a remains of deer that the cats have been feeding on. But it is really rare to actually see a cougar.

We tree'd this cougar with some dogs duing the winter
I wear a XXL glove to give you an idea of how big my hands are, Compare the cougar track to my hand

Last fall while Elk hunting I saw a tawny color slipping along the edge of the meadow. Looking through the Binos I realized it was a cougar that was slinking along the edge of the meadow. He as on the opposite side of the meadow but circling around that would bring him up behind us. I continued to look for elk, but kept and eye behind me . About 30 minutes later he came sneeking up behind us. Sat down about 15 yard away and was really trying to figure us out. We were in camo clothing and sitting really still. I assume he could smell us and knew we were there, But just couldn't place us. Finally the fellow with me couldn't stand being stared at any long and jumped up and ran at the cougar screaming. The cougar disappeard promptly. We spotted him 10-15 minutes later continuing his slink around the perimeter of the meadow.

As far as rattlesnakes, see 3-4 each summer. Usually stretched out on the trail sunning themselves. Give them a minute and they slither off into the brush.

Mar. 31, 2011, 08:29 PM
Count me as a jealous one!

We don't have anything like that kind of riding here in southwestern Ohio.


wylde sage
Apr. 1, 2011, 12:48 AM
Beverly, glad you are a fan of snakes! I generally feel my legs turn to jelly after an encounter. I'm not sure what to make of cats tracking a rider. Closest thing we have to your beautiful canyon around here is Garden of the Gods...I will someday make it out your way:)

Apr. 1, 2011, 01:18 PM
Now I know what Utah uses for guardrails on your tough trails :)

Apr. 2, 2011, 12:18 AM
Now I know what Utah uses for guardrails on your tough trails :)

Yeah but we aren't padding them, BYO kneepads.:cool:

Apr. 4, 2011, 01:07 PM
I'm not sure what to make of cats tracking a rider.

Most of the time it's just curiosity, they want to know who you are and why you're in their territory. :lol: Cats who haven't been acclimated to people and who have plenty of prey available aren't a very big threat to people, especially people on horseback because we look very large and are pretty noisy (with all that squeaky tack ;)). I've actually heard that mountain bikers are at the biggest risk because their speed and silence is similar to deer, but I don't know if that's true.

Great video, Beverly. I do lots of canyon riding here in NM and it's one of my favorite things to do. :)