Canyon Tales
My Dinner with
Slog King

by Mike Dallin

Several years ago I found myself camping on the Escalante River, just upstream from the mouth of Neon Canyon. That morning my group descended Neon but, because of business and home commitments, my partners had to hike out immediately after and return to Salt Lake City. My vacation wasn’t quite over. I wanted to visit Ringtail Canyon and a few other hole–in–the–wall slots before meeting up with Kip in Zion the next evening. My friends departed around 6:00 pm. I wasn’t envious of the late hour they would arrive home.

After their departure, the silence one can only experience in the desert enveloped me. Sure, the sloshing and babbling noises of the Escalante reflected off of the sandstone canyon walls, and the occasional gusty breeze rattled the nearby cottonwoods a bit, but no more.

After a long day in the canyon, I was pretty lazy. Instead of cooking dinner, I curled up with a book; a tattered copy of The Secret Knowledge of Water by Craig Childs. I was reading, for the hundredth time, the chapters about flash floods. Twilight came down, and soon the pink and orange tinted clouds were replaced by stars. Time to cook dinner.

The only food I had was Ramen noodles. I fired up my mini rocket stove and put a pot full of filtered Escalante water on top. The blue and red flames licked around the bottom of the pot. The light of the fire danced on the slickrock wall above me. Petroglyphs, common in this area, were illuminated by the flame of my stove. I dumped the noodles into the boiling water.


“Macha?” Who said that? What? I heard rustling near the cottonwoods.

“Macha!” A finger reached out of the darkness and pointed to the faint pictures on the slickrock.

I let my eyes adjust to the darkness and soon made out the form attached to the finger. A well built man, scantily clad and looking somewhat haggard, had stumbled into my camp. He wore a leopard skin pelt across his waist, and an old pair of yucca leaf sandals. He pointed at one petroglyph in particular and repeated, “Macha!” The petroglyph looked like a bighorn.

“Ma smell ool. See haraka. Come to picture of macha.”

Ah, so ‘macha’ is the petroglyph. The picture obviously had a deep meaning for him.

“Ma Slog.” He pounded his chest.

Slowly recognition dawned on me; this was the Slog King, perhaps the most technically gifted canyoneer in the desert southwest. I had heard the harrowing tales of encounters with him on an internet chat group but, until now, thought he was legend rather than reality.

Without missing a beat, he said, ”Ool. When ool ready?”


He pointed at my ramen noodles.

“The ramen! Thanks for the reminder!”

I had nearly forgotten about the ramen. I quickly tore open a package of the ramen seasoning—sesame chicken this time—dumped it into the pot, and stirred.

“Please, sit!”

Slog obliged. He dropped a tattered burlap bag. The top spilled open and I could see rudimentary canyoneering gear inside; a short rope, seemingly woven with blades of grass, a second pair of battered sandals, and what looked like a few scraps of dried meat.

Slog seemed antsy, and after a few seconds was up again, breaking twigs and small branches from a nearby grove of tamarisk.

“Me find big haraka. Burn bad trees.”

It seemed that my lonely night in the Escalante basin had gotten a little less lonely. Fine, burn the invading tree species. I could use the company.

“So you are the Slog King. I’ve heard of your adventures. You’ve canyoneered with Rich and the Shear brothers, right?”

Slog grunted. He was looking at the ramen, which was about to boil over. I rescued it just in time.

“And the slog queen, right? How is she doing?”

A smiled crossed his face. “Slog queen! Sherry, Stef-a-nee. Bar-bar-a!”

I corrected myself. “Sorry, Slog Queens.”

Slog grinned. I handed him a small bowl full of ramen.

“Queens good. Better canyoneerers than Slog. Alooooooonda. Queen good. Slog like zug-zug!”

He grunted, hit his chest, and then quickly devoured the ramen. I put a second pot of water on the stove.

“So Slog, any recent adventures?”

Sadness crossed his face. “Me find canyon of music. Big water there now.” He pointed generally south. “One day. Me and Bo-bo of Slog find canyon. Bo-bo use rope, but Slog jump.”

Sadness turned to a grin as he recalled long stored memories.

“Slog mostly jump. Rope hurt hands. Then ma and Bo-bo at big drop. Throw rock down, it never hit bottom. Bo-bo slide down rope. But Slog.”

He grinned. I could count all 32 teeth.

“Bo-bo yell, “Use rope!” Nya! Slog no use rope.”

I pointed at the rope in his partially open burlap sack.

“What about that rope?”

“That for haraka.”

He reached in the bag and pulled out a length of rope. He placed it on a rock, picked up a sharp rock nearby and hammered the rope. He then lit the rope on fire using the stove and threw it on the pile of sticks from the tamarisk. In no time he had a small fire going. I put more ramen into the boiling pot of water.

“So Slog no use rope. Slog gwee. Run and Aieeeeeeeee!” Slog’s exclamation echoed on the canyon walls.

“Slog fall, fly! Bo-bo look scared! Slog fall in deep water. Smell like ca-ca. But Slog no pooka. Slog wish do again!”

He grabbed a piece of dried meat from his sack and gnawed on it. He handed me a second piece.

My ramen was cooked. I stirred in another pouch of seasoning.

Slog stood up. “Slog go, find Slog Queen.” He grabbed my shoulder. “You Bo-bo for Slog.”

And with that he turned around, grabbed his burlap sack, and was gone, into the darkness.

I let the fire die out slowly and, exhausted, fell asleep shortly after. I woke with a start the next morning. In my newly–woken stupor, I faintly made out sounds coming from the direction of Neon canyon.


Obviously a feminine voice—followed by a faint splash.

A few seconds later, another “Aieeeeeee!”

This time a deep male voice—and another splash. Then joyous laughter.

I explored Ringtail that morning, and even hiked up the bottom of Neon to the Golden Cathedral. I didn’t see the Slog King, but I did find two sets of hours–old sandal footprints leaving the canyon. I looked up, and saw Slog’s rope tied off. The end was still fifty feet above the pool and waved lazily in the light breeze.


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© 2002 Mike Dallin