Happy New Year everyone!  I hope the new year is treating you all well so far.  It’s been super cold here in East Tennessee, so I wanted to start the year off sharing images that will hopefully make you warm (or they at least make me warm!).  Just imagine, the hot desert of southern Utah (which is actually cold right now… but never mind that unfortunate detail), baking in the summer sun!

While traveling out west late this past summer I had some free time to do a little exploring, and I’ve been dying to get back to the slot canyons, so I made it all happen.  You may recall some of my posts about Antelope Canyon (I did a black and white series on it here, and just a photo from there here), without a doubt the most famous slot canyon in America (perhaps even the world), and those images are what got me hooked on the canyons.  They really do yield some very interesting images.  There is one problem though, when Holly and I visited Paige, Arizona back in 2011, the town was a dusty little desert town with a Denny’s.  That town has now exploded, mostly due to the popularity of Antelope Canyon and Horseshoe Bend, and those two areas are literally being loved to death now by tourists.  My friends Hannah and Kyle Bubp visited this summer and I was shocked to see their pictures.  If you look at her pictures and see all the people, that’s the exact same canyon that Holly and I had, virtually to ourselves (you can see my pictures of the same ladder here)!  Even still, I remember thinking then, surely there were slot canyons all over Arizona and Utah, and you just had to go looking for them.  Turns out there are, and they’re easy enough to locate… getting there can be a different story.

All this led me to Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument in southern Utah.  Now, if that name rings a bell, it’s because this is one of the two national monuments that have been in the news recently because President Trump drastically reduced their size (this is still tied up in legal battles), which is an absolute travesty… but I’ll talk more about that next week.  As it turns out, there are LOTS of slot canyons in Grand Staircase, and the two easiest ones to get to are Spooky Canyon and Peek-a-boo Canyon… though I would offer that they are relatively easy to get to, as compared to the other ones in the park.  Getting there still involved driving over 20 miles down an unpaved, and in many cases very rough road, hiking down into an unmarked gorge, and then for Peek-a-boo, scaling a 15 or so foot cliff… with wet feet (in my case).  Good times!  As you can see below, the canyons are stunning.  Spooky is SUPER tight in places (as in there were places where I could just inhale, let go with my feet and hands, and I wouldn’t move at all) and Peek-a-boo involves getting pretty wet… but the adventure of it all was totally worth it.  Get ready to get dirty (I think my tripod still has sand falling out of it), and enjoy the hues of orange (and tones of black and white)!

–Dan Thompson

P.S. I’ve recently published an article on how I rank my images so that I can easily generate my 5 Favorite Images posts each year.  Whether you do a post or not, this is a GREAT learning experience, and one that I recommend every photographer do.  If you’re interested in learning how I do it, check out the article here.

Title Address Description
Grand Staircase Escalante
Hole in the Rock Rd, Escalante, UT 84726, USA

Inside Spooky Gulch Slot Canyon

The Arches of Peek-A-Boo

Just Before the Deadend

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