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Sept 28, 2012
Near 11 AM, Griff and I pulled into the parking lot at the Little Wild Horse/Bell Canyon trailhead. In contrast to the other hikes in the area, this was an actual parking lot with an outhouse and plenty of cars. Apparently, this is the most popular hike in the area. Griff backed into the shade of a few cottonwood trees near the creekbed, and we slid the cooler under the tailgate, trying to preserve the last remnants of ice inside. We started up the trail that initially leads up a dry wash, passing by a massive cottonwood, and finally entering the mouth of the canyon. Very abruptly, we walked into a slot and within 20 feet, came to a chokestone. While it certainly appeared possible to surmount this obstacle, it was much easier to backtrack and cliff-walk around it. Shortly after, the canyon forked, and the right fork lead up Little Wild Horse Canyon. There is a sign that notes the split, but itís also very obvious.
Almost immediately, the canyon slotted up, and the blue sky overhead disappeared. The sandstone was cool to the touch, and all the many-colored layers of sandstone were tilted, with the tilt rising towards the down-canyon end, a product of the natural uplift of the San Rafael Swell. In effect, we were on a historical tour of the rock strata, starting with the oldest and walking through ever-newer layers laid down over the last 200 million years. The narrows went on and on, winding through a crack of smooth sandstone that is among the longest Iíve ever seen. The bottom of the canyon was dry and sandy, and though there were a few spots where we had to climb up using our hands, they were nothing serious. The canyon gradually opened up, and we were back in the sunshine before too long. A wooden sign on the west side of the wash indicated the turn-off for the trail to Bell Canyon, and we took it. By 1:00, we were near the Behind the Reef Trail, and we stopped in the shade of the mesa among junipers to have a relaxing lunch. The temperature was in the mid- 60ís, but even so, the sunshine made for a pretty warm hike.
We road-walked for about 1.5 miles until we reached the upper end of Bell Canyon. Heading down Bell Canyon was much the same as Little Wild Horse, only the narrows at the lower end were not as long or as narrow. We encountered lots of people hiking up Bell Canyon, but given the lack of hikers in the upper reaches of either canyon, Iíd gues most people head up the narrows of both slots and then back down, skipping the loop trip.
Back at the truck at 3:00,
ice still in the cooler. We packed it up and headed for another canyon
to fill out the day. As it happened, the nearest canyon that looked appealing
to us on the map was a nice little slot called Ding Canyon.
|LITTLE WILD HORSE CANYON: