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Finishing Slit Canyon | Left, Again #3

Camped at the mouth of Johnson Canyon on the alluvial fan, we were a little worried that the wind would pick up overnight, but thankfully it was a very calm, and temperatures were once again quite pleasant.

There were a few more clouds in the sky this morning, but they'd burn off by 8:30am.

I wandered around on the desert pavement waiting for sunrise, while my companion snuggled down under the covers for a few more minutes of warmth- her favorite time of the "night," I think.

Spring is coming.

First of the flowers.

Silly creosote, still decorated for Christmas - a situation that was remedied.

The previous evening, we'd postponed the decision on whether to go north or south on West Side Road, but as we'd discussed it during the tear-down of camp, we decided that heading north - towards a place we'd left behind on our last trip to the park - was probably the right call for the amount of time we had to explore on this, our last day of the trip.

Goodbye Panamints, you were wonderful once again!

Even speeding along at 50mph it took us more than an hour to reign in the remainder of West Side Road and the few miles of pavement along Badwater before we reached Furnace Creek. It's always amazing how big this place is - and it's something that those who don't spend time here have a hard time getting their head around.

Climbing out of the valley on CA-190, @mrs.turbodb commented that she'd never been to Zabriskie Point, though we've driven past it a couple times, at least. So, with plenty of time to take a short detour, we turned off the highway and took a stroll into the badlands. Or at least, onto their edge.

Colorful palette.

Telescope Peak wasn't quite done with us yet.


As always, Zabriskie Point delivered mightily on the "wow" factor, and we made a mental note that these badlands - and the peaks above Artist Palette - are some that we need to make time for on a future visit. For now, though, it was time to head up Hole in the Wall - for the second time in as many weeks - in an attempt to hike the three narrows of Slit Canyon.

Still aired down from our forays along West Side Road, we made quick work of the three miles to Hole in the Wall, and as is so often the case, we were easily distracted by the fact that the road continues past the hole - to somewhere.

The view from the end of the road.

In this case, somewhere, seems to be near - but not actually to - a place called "Red Ampitheater," which we knew nothing about. As such, we added a second mental note - and with only two of us present, reached our mental note capacity - to consider this one for a future hike as well.

A few minutes later we returned to Hole in the Wall and found a nice shady spot to park the Tacoma while we trekked seven - or if you believe Gaia, twelve - miles up and down Slit Canyon.

@mrs.turbodb heads up a familiar wash.

From the trailhead to the mouth of the canyon is about a mile, and it was fun to watch as the background compressed behind Hole in the Wall as the distance increased.

From 500 feet.

From a quarter mile.

From half a mile.

Finally, at three-quarters of a mile.

As always, I was hungry well before noon. As we neared the mouth of the canyon - and much like previous day in Johnson Canyon - I suggested that we eat lunch before we go too much farther. In fact, I suggested, "we could eat at the first set of dry falls that we had trouble climbing because they were too wet last time."

"You want me to climb that in order to eat lunch?" -@mrs.turbodb

Taking our own routes up - or around in the case of the one actually carrying our lunches - the first falls, we found a nice little spot in the shade and once again enjoyed delicious turkey sandwiches and did our duty as good Americans to polish off the remainder of the 8-serving bag of Lays that we'd opened for lunch the previous day. Then, we pushed on through the first narrows.

The dry falls were a lot of fun!

I'd noticed this chute - carved deep and smooth by water and rocks over the course of centuries - last time, but I hadn't snapped a photo. I was glad to get a second chance.

Soon, we reached the slit - the formation for which the canyon is named. Slanted and 70-feet long, this water-worn trench slices through a plug of smooth dolomite. No more than 4-to-5 feet wide and 50 feet deep, it's a tight squeeze, bounded on each end by relatively easy - if you're tall enough - 10-foot climbs.

Today, the lower entrance was guarded by a miniature dinogater.

Who goes there?

Looking back down the slit.

Unlike our previous attempt at the top of the slit - when rain slickened the rock, and just as the sun was setting - this time it was dry and just before noon when we quickly scaled the moderately-tricky dry fall in order to continue up through the first narrows.

Just less than a quarter mile later, the wash dead ended against one of the most fantastically-majestic dry fall chutes I've ever seen, a deep recessed channel polished to a brilliant shine and rising 50 vertical feet above the wash.

She can already see it as I snap the photo. (left) | Look at this! (right)

We weren't going to be climbing this one! (At least, not up; I hear coming down is a lot faster.)

I was reminded a bit of a dry fall I'd encountered in Saline Valley as I searched for the Marble Tub, but this one was much larger. It also reminded me of the Cathedral Caves at Cathedral Gorge State Park that I'd visited just a few weeks earlier. It really was a magical place.

I started inside the chute itself.

Then I thought it might be nice to get some of the reflected light.

Then I wondered: "why not both?"

Obviously getting around this fall was going to require a bypass, and soon enough we were scrambling up a steep talus slope - something my hiking companion was less than thrilled about - that would drop us off just above the fall.

Above the dry fall, the canyon walls were aglow as they rose gradually out of the wash.


It'd taken us a couple hours to reach this point - the narrows and dry falls slowing our progress dramatically as I tried to snap photos, and the talus bypass a slow nail-biter for @mrs.turbodb - so I was getting a bit worried that we might not have enough time to finish the second and third narrows, some two miles further upstream.

There was only one thing to do - turn on the hiking afterburners.

Go - go - go!

The remainder of the first - and the entirety of the second - narrows, were not particularly tight or knock-your-socks-off impressive, but even with the mid-day sun casting harsh shadows over many stretches of the canyon, there were still spots where light and rocks played well together.

Colors and light.

Cascading bedrock.

The third narrows - some 3.2 miles from the trailhead - once again upped the interest factor. At 12- to 18-feet tall, each of them required a bit of work to climb, but none were so difficult as to turn me around as I raced ahead of @mrs.turbodb in an attempt to reach the head of the canyon.

Cheater rocks always seem strange to me - the hard part is never at the bottom of the climb.

Light and dark.

Where the first mile of narrows had taken nearly two hours - including lunch, I suppose - we knocked out the final two miles in just under an hour. With two-and-a-half hours to get back - plenty of time - we were both able to relax as we headed back into the canyon to see it all again!

This brilliant green plant was growing out of the rock face.

I don't know what this cute cactus is, but I'd not seen one like it before.


One of the great things about canyons - they are never the same when you're going the other direction!

Travelling more than twice the speed of our upward journey, we zipped down the canyon at record speed. Downclimbing dry falls - no problem; talus bypasses - pfft, we got this. Of course, I took a whole lot fewer photos as well.

Now a couple hours later, light played off different walls than it had on our way up.

Back to the slit - we're almost done!

One last bypass around the grotto near the mouth of the canyon and we were back out on the alluvial fan - a mere mile between us and our ride to the airport.

The watchful gaze of Telescope Peak seemed to tag along for this entire trip!

It'd been a great trip - one where we'd actually managed to tick off several things that we'd left behind on previous trips to the park - made even more pleasurable by the airborne mode of travel that whisked us between Seattle and Las Vegas.

Of course, we'd also added several new destinations to our mental lists, so it's only a matter of time before we find ourselves in our home-away-from-home, again!



The Whole Story


  1. Kenny
    Kenny March 16, 2023

    Such beautiful sights to see, thanks for sharing your trips, I enjoy them very much. It appears that you can explore and explore and never see it all, such an expansive area and new sights around every corner.

    The pallets of God's hand are breathtaking.

    I hear Grasmere calling, hopefully within a month, I will be there again.


    • turbodb
      turbodb April 26, 2023

      Sorry for the slow response Kenny, I was down in Utah searching for ruins and rock art, and just returned to the PNW.

      Having had the Tacoma stored in Las Vegas for the last several months, I drove it home this time for some maintenance tasks. The side benefit of that - as you might have guessed already ? - is that I can more easily head over to Owyhee for a little spring green in the next month or so as well. In fact, my first foray into that wonderful place was Memorial May 2016, so it's a bit of an anniversary, I suppose!

      Stay safe and have fun out there!

    JEANNIE April 25, 2023

    Your photos were beautiful! Clear and beautiful and I NEVER tire of looking at stone!! Rocks and the beauty you've shown here are the reasons I love Calif so much! I thought I hated the desert 60 yrs ago when I moved here from S.C. But after a few trips through some of our deserts, mts and national parks, I AM ADDICTED to never getting enough. Thanks for the hikes you take us on as I'd not be able to do it myself as much anymore but I get out there every chance I get. I love your site, even when I have to save it for times i have to take time to read them all. ty ty ty Jeannie!! Btw, Just missed you at Joshua Tree when we took our australian friends there a couple wks ago.

    • turbodb
      turbodb April 26, 2023

      As always, I'm glad you enjoyed them Jeannie! Bummer we didn't run into each other at JT - it is always fun to run into folks who I've chatted with via the blog or who have seen a story or two, and then share a few in-person... even spending just a few minutes always seems really cool to me.

      Safe travels out there, it's starting to get hot!

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