By Robert Samuelsen
Many times I’ve driven past a small sign on the north side of the road just outside of Kanab, Utah that said nothing more than Peekaboo Canyon. In the desolation of southern Utah, a town like Kanab is a welcome gas, bathroom, and food stop and when you have a further destination in mind, a stop right after a stop is never in the schedule. Peekaboo Canyon thus remained a mystery to me even though each time I passed by it increased my curiosity. When Covid-19 hit the world and self-quarantine became the norm, I decided that a quick trip to explore an unknown place seemed like the right prescription for wanderlust deprivation.
This covert canyon is located on the edge of the fascinating Coral Pink sand dunes which means the powdery sand is unpassable for vehicles unless they have aired-down 4-wheel drive vehicles. I arrived early in the morning and the turnoff was void of quads, side-by-sides, sand rails, and dune buggies although there was significant evidence of them. As I drove on the Jeep road, I could feel the sinking, energy-absorbing sand grab at my tires and pull on my steering. I knew that I had to keep my RPMs up and the wheels moving; otherwise I’d find myself stuck in the sand dunes digging in pink dust.
The sun was low on the morning horizon and the coolness was welcome relief to the miserably hot summer, so I decided to park about halfway in and hike the rest of the way. Not only would I satisfy my curiosity, but I’d also get some welcome exercise. Hiking in sand also tugs at your propulsion but I was enjoying the refreshing dawn and it invigorated me. I soon came to the Peekaboo drainage and hiked upstream in the narrowing canyon for about a mile. From a distance, the creek bed seemed to disappear into nowhere at the end of an inescapable box canyon but as I drew closer, I could see a small slit on the left side of the solid wall of rock. I could also see centuries of sediment emerging from this slit filling the stream bed with rock and pebbles instead of pink sand.
Peekaboo Canyon isn’t very long or deep but it’s a classic slot canyon with fluted walls, carved out amphitheaters, and a sliver of sky. The morning light pierced the crack above creating a kaleidoscope of light beams. The coolness of the rock felt damp in its dryness and the cedar aroma was concentrated like a perfume atomizer. Even the quiet was disconcerting because there was no sound except for the steady cadence of my gait. Every sense of my being was working in concert making it a magical wonderland of sensory overload so much so even the hairs on my neck stiffened! It was spooky and spectacular. My little Peekaboo side trip was the harmonic chorus of nature hidden away from the world except those who followed an isolated sign on a remote lonely highway.
Rob Samuelsen is an executive and adventurer supported by his long-suffering but supportive wife!