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The hillsides are really drying out quickly this year. Mud season usually seems to last weeks but this year it has been short. My favorite vernal pond isn’t a pond. I’ve seen salamanders and spadefoot toads there some years. I wonder how long they can stay dormant underground til the water returns?

Dry hillsides make for good hiking so the girls and I are enjoying it while we can. It won’t be long til we will be able to get up into the mountains!

It was our final day in Utah and I started with breakfast at the Eklectica Cafe and then the girls and I went to the Moab Barkery and I went to the Back of the Beyond Bookstore. No doubt there are many other highlights in Moab but we really needed to get out and walk again. At an outdoor store, Grandstaff Canyon was recommended. It was a short distance from town so there were a few cars in the parking lot but not too many. A sign at the trailhead warned of poison ivy and said the dogs might brush up against it and not be affected, however a person could get it from her dogs. Great. Well, I already knew that but hadn’t considered I’d be running into poison ivy on trails in Utah.

We went anyway and were rewarded with a delightful canyon with a clear creek running through it. Also lots of fall colors. And at the end of the canyon was Morning Glory Bridge. It was another good hike.

We woke the next morning to even colder weather. It was 11 degrees Fahrenheit. 11. In a tent trailer. And the forecast said it was not going to get warmer. So I fed the dogs, made a quick cup of coffee and some tea in a thermos and two PBJ sandwiches and quickly folded up the camper. In near record time. I looked at weather forecasts for other parts of New Mexico, SW Colorado and into Utah. The warmest place was Moab so we headed north. It took much of the day but we pulled into the sprawling tourist town around 4:30 and found a dog-friendly hotel and settled in for a warm night.

In the morning we drove to Fisher Towers for a wonderful hike in the red rock country. It was a great hike with panoramic views over the Colorado River and into the rugged Onion Creek area to the south. The towers themselves are incredible pinnacles of red rock, attractive to rock climbers.

Have you ever seen photos of slot canyons in the southwest? The beautiful rock and narrow passageways are beyond belief. These tunnels through the rock are formed by erosion over the eons. And during a rain event, you certainly would not want to be in one. I was lucky with the weather. During October, southeast Utah received over four inches of rain! While I was there, there was not one drop of precipitation. However, the dogs were lucky to find puddles or small streams of water on most of our hikes, left over from the previous month’s rainfall. I did always carry water for them but they seldom needed it.

The two slot canyons featured here are near the Goblin Valley State Park (more on that later) where we camped for two nights. The canyons, Bell and Little Wild Horse form a loop. They are located on Bureau of Land Management (BLM) lands and dogs are allowed. In fact, these were rated as dog-friendly. And I suppose if I had smaller dogs or if I had a human hiking partner, maybe we would have gone further and made the entire loop. As it was, we came across obstacles that were four feet or more and I had to assist Luna a couple of times and catch Sky once before she fell backwards. But what really stopped us in Little Wild Horse Canyon was a rock wedged in the slot. I would have had to go under it or clamber over it and who knows what other obstacles I might find past that one. You can see Sky crouch to get under it and the photo is deceptive and doesn’t really show how high it was. Oh well. We had gone quite a ways and turned back to explore Bell Canyon. Again, there were four-foot obstacles but then we came to one that was five feet or so and I could not imagine lifting both of my 63 pound dogs over it and then hefting myself over it too. Later I found out that were obstacles as high as eight feet!

Slot canyons are a test of my claustrophobic inclinations. I generally avoid closed-in areas. I was mostly ok with these canyons since I could often see the sky above me. However, near that wedged rock, the canyon was very narrow and dark. It was fun and stunningly beautiful. And the cottonwood trees were so beautiful.

My friend Cindy came to visit from Grant County and she really likes to hike the Maple Pass trail so on Monday, that’s what we did. Us and over 100 other hikers. The place has become overrun with visitors. The restrooms were strewn with trash from the weekend. It was pretty appalling. I heard that someone else estimated 500 hikers on a weekend day. Egads. While this place is over-the-top beautiful, I may take it off of my list of places to hike. Cindy agreed and said she is ready to explore new trails next time.

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