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November/December 2005

Utah Hikes: The Case For Glen Canyon

Drought is giving Glen Canyon--and those who love it--a second chance. Here are four spectacular reasons why we should protect this Southwest wilderness by making it America's next national park.

Twilight Canyon

A hands-on journey to the center of the earth

This canyon, it squeezes me. The fluted walls, now 3 feet apart and 400 feet tall, press in. Close and then closer. I pad my sandals over the white cobblestone floor, simultaneously exhilarated and intimidated by this intimate encounter with towering slickrock. Today, we’re exploring a place that 5 years ago was buried under more than 70 feet of lake water and 30 feet of sediment. Tomorrow and the next day, we will visit other recovered slots, all stubbornly alive and incredibly scenic.

Glen Canyon harbors dozens of labyrinthine narrows like this one, many still unnamed and uncharted. Each slot has its own personality, peculiar to the texture and angle of its walls and how the light plays between them. In Twilight, the light is yellow and descends in heavenly shafts; it swirls and dances and turns the tan walls orange and our pink skin violet. We stumble as we walk, eyes fixed on the narrow sliver of sky hundreds of feet above.

There is something irresistible about these slots that lures us up their ever-narrower passages. I imagine myself an ant in a sidewalk crack, so vulnerable yet always driven to a distant exit. My body learns new moves to get around obstacles. A deep pool or giant chockstone–I stem and crawl and wade and smear. Occasionally, we spot streaks of paint high above where jet-skiers were once wedged. It’s the only sign the lake was once here.

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