"Abandoned Car in the Desert"
September 2012, Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument, Utah
I had spent the morning exploring the slot canyons of the Grand Staircase, specifically Peekaboo and Spooky. These two popular slots are located only about 20 minutes apart from each other, so it's common for hikers to explore both canyons on the same day. I emerged from Peekaboo just after noon and then headed east to Spooky's rear entrance. By now storm clouds were beginning to form overhead. The cardinal rule of hiking any slot canyon is to avoid them at all costs if storms are anywhere in the area. The storm doesn't even need to be overhead to pose a threat - it can be miles away. The problem is that slot canyons are nature's storm drains, providing the only pathway for rainfall to flow through as it travels from higher elevations to the desert floor below.
I had some difficulty finding the entrance to Spooky coming in from the backside. The trail is pretty much non-existent and essentially involves cross country scrambling . Coming in from the front side is much easier, but that would have meant that I would have had to hike Peekaboo in reverse, emerging from the front and then heading to Spooky. This would require valuable extra time, time which I did not feel that I had given the rapidly changing weather conditions. By the time I finally found the rear entrance to Spooky the weather was simply too dicey to risk entering a slot that I was totally unfamiliar with. I had a large camera backpack on and I had heard that Spooky was so narrow at points that I could possibly get stuck. The risk was simply too high given the weather. My only choice was to hurry back to Peekaboo, hike it in reverse as quickly as possible, and beat the rapidly forming storm. At least I knew that I could successfully negotiate Peekaboo. After a tension-filled 45 minutes I finally emerged from the front entrance of Peekaboo, and I then hiked back to my Xterra, relieved to have escaped danger.
Plan B was to head to the Batty Pass Caves which were only 2 miles away on a relatively easy dirt road. I reached the caves at about 2:30 and had them all to myself. The "caves" are actually 3 separate rooms which were blasted into a giant sandstone rock formation by brothers Bill and Cliff Lichtenhahn in the 1950's. I shot this particular image looking due east to the slot canyons that I had just come from. I could clearly see that rainfall was now descending upon the area, confirming that I had made the right choice in abandoning my attempt at Spooky. The car in the foreground has numerous bullet holes in it. I don't know the history behind the vehicle, or whether or not it belonged to the Lichtenhahn brothers. There is something about shooting abandoned cars in the desert that has always appealed to me.
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