While the slot canyons in Southern Utah are a bit too far of a drive from my home in Pasadena for a day trip, fortunately California’s Southern deserts have their own version of these incredible places. Last friday Ali, my girlfriend, and I drove out to the Mecca Hills Wilderness, across the valley from Palm Springs. This place is an incredible wasteland of sand and stone that has been carved into eerie and sensational shapes over thousands of years by the occasional rainstorm. I wasn’t feeling great on the way down, and woke up with a slight fever, but what was I to do, drive home without even going for a short hike?! Fortunately the ibuprofen helped make me feel a bit better, and Ali and I went out to do the short ladder canyon/black canyon loop off the end of painted canyon road. I would have thought such a place would be relatively devoid of other people, but to our astonishment there were over 20 cars parked in the lot when we left around noon! Ladder canyon gets its name from the many ladders that have been put into place to facilitate hiking; without them you would need a good deal of technical equipment to make it through.
Shortly after the main dryfall the narrows started in earnest. The canyon was about 3-4 feet wide and about 50-100 feet deep, so a respectable slot even by Utah standards! The walls were rough and sandy with interesting twists, carvings, and stones cemented in – very different from the smooth sandstone canyons I was used to from Utah. As the sun started to strike the walls near the entrance and exit of the slot, reflected light created incredible and bizarre hues and color transitions, moving from warm tones to cool blues in the shadows deeper in the canyon. I added very little saturation to these images, and while it may be hard to believe, those bizarre colors are natural!
I certainly plan to return to this place, hopefully before it gets too hot! There are bound to be more strange canyons and weird shapes that are waiting to be discovered (without the company of 20 car loads of people). That’s it for now.. back to making myself feel better and learning differential geometry..