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May 16, 2004

The slot canyon is a channel worn through solid rock and is between five and ten feet wide and has walls that are vertical and ten to twenty feet high topped by the steep slopes of the surrounding ravine. Its floor is u-shaped, slick, and worn smooth by the waters of the creek that flows through it, and it proceeds in a series of level, straight passages alternating with chutes that turn and drop.

I was in a chamber a level above and beyond Junie and was about to try to make my way up to the next level when Junie suddenly let me know that she would have none of that, barking and whining and yipping, clearly in distress at being separated and yet unwilling to have a go at the chute between us. Later as we worked our way back down and out of the canyon, I could see how difficult a time she had had getting up one of the earlier chutes by the long scratch marks in the algae lining the stream bed. So to calm her down I decided to leave the upper passages for another day and come back down to the chamber she was in, and although I had made it up the chute without major mishap, going down was a far different, and riskier, proposition. I figured the best way would be on my rear end, like in a water slide. So I sent my stick down first, and then plopped down and shoved off. The chute was essentially two drops with a turn in the middle, and my trip down very quickly transformed from a controlled descent into an uncontrolled one as I came roaring around the bend and splashing to a halt at the bottom, but luckily no serious damage was done, and Junie and I were reunited.

Still, she was not a happy doggy in that wet and rocky hole with nary a trace of squirrel nor any other fun thing, as perhaps you can tell from the photo below, in which she is parked in maybe the only relatively dry and level spot in that chamber, and very shockingly sitting still long enough for me to take exposures of a half second to a second long! But she put up with the old man's silly preoccupations long enough for me to snap a few photos in that very unusual place, with its strange beauty and high potential for cracked heads and broken bones and busted equipment.

The day before I had taken advantage of the cloudy weather and recent rains to burn a few hours vacation time and head out for a Friday afternoon hike. Unfortunately, there really hadn't been much to the rain; so the creek levels were down. But there had been enough that the stone banks of the creek and the bedrock of the overhanging bluff that was our destination had water seeping and dripping from their cracks and seams. The last time I had been to this spot was in January to shoot ice formations, and now instead of icicles hanging off the rock ledges, there were ferns, and the water was in a decidedly liquid state. I also caught a big break when the air proved so calm that I was even able to take 30-second exposures of the ferns without a singe leaf rustling in the slightest.

This is a place I've also visited several other times over the past couple of years and have photographed a time or two, including a shot of a waterfall and ferns, and this one of a mossy boulder in the creek. It is quite simply one of the most scenic and photogenic spots I know of, and not only due to the picturesque creek and the stone formations and the lush vegetation, but also because of the fine light you get here in the afternoon, when, because of the tall bluff you're next to, the primary source of light is a bit of an opening in the forest canopy over the creek to the north, meaning that the light is both directional and diffuse, and the backlighting on the ferns and leaves, as well as the highlighting it lends to the wet creek banks, are so delicious you can almost taste it.