Ever heard of Ding Dang Canyons or Ding Dang Dome? Neither had we until Friday morning. I’d heard my Uncle Harold refer to someone as a ding dang dummy, but that was about the extent of it. We were talking to the camping neighbors on Friday morning and one of the guys asked if we’d ever hiked Ding Dang Canyons. “Oh, you got to hike them,” he said. “They are two of the best slot canyons in the area,” Steve told us. Steve was one of eight guys that came in and set up camp next to us at 12:30 in the morning on Friday.
We were camped out Thursday night by the San Rafael Reef on BLM land (Bureau of Land Management; not Black Lives Matter) off the Behind-The-Reef Road. We took a four-wheel drive spur toward the trailhead for Crack Canyon and drove as far as our rented Hyundai Santa Fe would take us. Camping is more informal on BLM land. Generally speaking, you go wherever you want, find a spot, and make camp. We found a nice spot over-looking a couple of washes. We set up camp, ate supper, played a game of tick, and headed off to bed. Sometime around 12:20 am headlights shone through the tent, car doors slammed, and men’s voices echoed through the canyon. We were only slightly disconcerted as they began to stomp around. But it soon became obvious that they were making camp just up the ravine from us and I drifted off to sleep to sound of one of the guys reenacting Monte Python in a falsetto voice. Things finally grew quiet around 2:00 am and everyone was down for the night.
We met the guys the next morning and they apologized profusely for camping “on top of us,” even though they were 100 yards or more from our campsite. Distances can be very deceiving in the dark and they thought we were much farther down canyon from them. Once we met them, we talked them out of moving because we would rather have them camping there than whoever else might have ventured down in there on Friday night. They were a bunch of good-natured, fun-loving guys from Boulder, CO. They ended up being a lot of fun and a source of some good information for hiking in the area.
We followed their advice yesterday and did the Ding Dang Canyons. They were a couple of glorious, wide ravines which a required a lot of bouldering and scrambling to ascend and descend. Both canyons had numerous locations that required climbing around or wading through water-filled potholes. It is recommended to ascend Ding and descend Dang; a one-way route up Ding, passed Ding Dang Dome, and down Dang. The reason for this became blatantly clear during our descent of Dang.
In Dang, there is a series of three slots in quick succession around three feet wide and about 60 yards long in total. You can traverse these spots by wading in the waist-deep water or spider-crawling the walls above the water. There are only small landings between the three slots to rest. At the end of each of these landings the slot descends 10 to 12 feet and continues down canyon. On the second of these three landings, we ran into other hikers ascending. Our view down canyon was blocked by a large boulder and we couldn’t see how many hikers were coming. A couple of hikers would have been manageable but their number continued to grow beyond 15 and they were still coming. The landing was full and a large group was descending from above creating an impossible situation for both groups. I finally had to tell the ascending group they were going the wrong way and the only solution was for them to return down canyon. Fortunately, they let us squeeze through ahead of them and exit what was turning into a very claustrophobic situation.
Not to brag, but Randi was the only one that got wet. Apart from that little bit of frustration and uncertainty, the hike was immensely fulfilling. After the hike we headed south to Hanksville, UT, where we had an amazingly satisfying burger at Stan’s Burger Shak. We caught the brilliant colors of sunset in Capitol Reef National Park and settled in for the night at a hotel just outside Torrey, UT.
Off to find some adventure. Go find an adventure of your own.