Canyon Tales
Foolin’ Around
by Tom Jones

— October, 2003 —

The Butler Did It ...

Victory in Shenanigans leads to a swelled head, which is a distinct disadvantage in the Butler Canyon system. The next day dawned bright and beautiful, and Foolin’ Around was the chosen objective for the day. Miguel calls this the East Fork of Butler’s West Fork, and careful reading of his tome reveals that he and Nat had not completed the EF of WF, walking around the last set of narrows. Cool—we get to complete another Kelsey project.

Our team was smaller today, Shenanigans having scared off the less–game. Ram and I, Kari Moe and Christina. A strong team, with an adequate supply of little people. Quality over quantity.

We drove as far as my little car would go, then hiked the seismic road to where it crossed the drainage. Since MK skipped the top of the drainage, we absolutely could not. So we did not.

’Tis a friendly canyon, far less continuous than its brother to the west. Sections of interesting narrows alternate with more open areas, where one could presumably escape. Four distinct sets of narrows present themselves. Since I remember little of the first three narrows, they must have been not too bad.

The fourth one MK looked down into and thought was maybe too tight. We worked our way through some nice narrows, then the canyon dropped into the darkness.

“Looks like there’s water down there!” someone said.

This must be it.

I pushed my way to the front, not an easy task in a 2–foot wide canyon. It looked narrow and wet down there, but chimneying at our level was pretty easy and a series of chockstones provided places to rest. I scurried out to the furthest chockstone. Hmmm, still looks narrow and wet down there.

Ram was in a cautious mood. “Let’s send the Moe ahead, as a probe, see if she comes back.”

Sounded like a good idea to me, being that I had no desire to try to upclimb the 8–foot slide down into a narrow slot in front of me. So we brought up the probe and sent her on down the canyon. She slipped down the slot, and the water was ankle deep. A few feet downcanyon she had to work to squeeze through the slot. (“Glad I didn’t go down there,” I think).

We hear Moe slosh downcanyon. Remarkable how sound carries in narrow slots. Slosh slosh slosh, quieter and quieter. A minute or two of silence, then slosh slosh slosh coming back.

“Uh, there’s a little drop, I’m not sure I can climb back up it.”

I stifle my impatience, admitting that caution is in order, if not my style. Heel–toeing over the really tight spot, I soon find a convenient place to drop into the canyon bottom. We slosh forward in the slot a couple hundred yards. We are looking for a swim slot that MK scouted from the lower end. Moe had stopped at a 4–foot downclimb into a pool of unknown depth, a bit wide to stem. Despite the 90 degree air temperature ‘out there,’ it was cold and damp in the slot and we were both shivering. Moe stemmed down the slot and lowered gingerly into the pool. By careful use of rocks in the pool and holds on the sides, she crossed the pool without getting her shorts wet. Slosh slosh slosh (a few minutes of silence) slosh slosh slosh back.

“Uh, another downclimb into a bigger pool, and it looks like it opens up from there.”

We discuss briefly, decide to declare victory, and bring the team up. Moe goes on, I go back and fetch the team. Shuffle shuffle shuffle. Christina’s having trouble with her shoulder so she goes around.

With the Ram in tow, we shuffle down the corridor, climb into the first little pool, shuffle, swim the second pool, then run for the sun. The canyon opens to a BIG open area, and the sun is nice and warm. Christina comes around on the slickrock, but finding the correct spot to get the last 10 feet takes a bit of work.

Below the BIG open area the canyon drops to the land of the living. We rig a sling on the obvious flake and rap a bit less than 100 feet to the wonderful alcove below. The canyon is gorgeous—narrow, big walls, interesting alcoves, willows rather than tamarisks. We hiked, got back to camp, drank beer and ate food.

A wonderful day Foolin’ Around in the canyons.


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© 2003 Nolan Thomas Jones