I could make this my shortest triplog and just leave it at that but there a few stories that have to be told. First off this hike is beautiful through out. Every turn holds new wonderment and/or puzzlements. You really got to love boulder-hopping because that is throughout too. You also got to be prepared to get wet too.
With regard to getting wet, Wendi really showed her metal. The water was so cold that my body tried to mutiny when my stomach made such a strong effort not comply that it caused my diaphragm to not be able to inhale, and my floaty made a strange pop sound as the air inside began to condense, Wendi's would too later on but neither seemed to have leaks. Her turn came sooner rather than later, because if I was having this much trouble there was gonna be a war if I got all the gear across and then Wendi refused to cross. So Wendi was the first to go. I was sure she would break and save us both the pain of swimming these waters. Now there are a few things that need to be said about the pool we needed to cross: 1) Cold, probably low 60's, 2)Cloudy, couldn't see the bottom, potential crawdads, or the tiny fish that nibble at your toe-jam, 3)Buggy, Wendi hates any bugs that get near her face. Any of these afflictions have individually have ruled out ,for her going near water in the past much less put a toe, or worse her whole body in there. We had already stared at the buggy hole for 45 minutes trying to get up the courage before I made my attempt, imagine my shock when she boldly took the plunge, diving on to her floaty. Then even more shocking that there was no about-face, she just kept going. !@#$%, now I had to go!
The first crossing ended up being three trips back and forth trying to get all the gear across. But once a system developed, we were able to get everything across in pretty much on trip. A couple of sticks or later my trekking poles over the floaty's hole that it stabilized our gear high and dry. By the time I was on the other side once and for all my body was so cold it felt like it was on fire, kind a like when your arm falls asleep but only from the neck down. Being ex-Navy, I've been in cold water but this was the coldest water I have ever been in. When we regrouped, Wendi was gleaming, you could tell she was proud of herself and rightfully so. We both celebrated ourselves a little but being still in heavy shade we quickly started for the closest sunshine we could find, but that required some boulder hopping. It was a clumsy affair with wet cloths that stuck to our skin and muscles still numb but we made it safely to a place where we could warm up. Wendi's pack had no way to attach her floaty so they both got tethered to mine, I was reminded of my niece's role as the flower girl in my sisters wedding and they had made her little pixie wings to wear, not necessarily the look but more how clumsy it must feel wearing them.
We got ourselves into the sunshine and in no time we were drying out. Our clothes just about dry when we got to the second pool. This one was 3-4 times longer than the first with a ledge that ran along the right side of the pool. It got us almost to the other side but for a 3' gap. Not comfortable putting Wendi in that type of exposure we opted to do the swim. We staged all our gear on the ledge and then Wendi took the first swim again and I handed the gear down using the end of my trekking poles to extend our reach. By now too I was convinced that I could make it across the ledge but Wendi would have killed me if I skipped the swim after she had to do it so I took one for the team.
The next challenge was a 5 foot water fall. We thought there was a work around but that turned out to be a 20' drop in addition to being 10' above our heads. I ended up saying to my self "WWJBD?" Dragging a log over we put together an Indian Ladder which we were able to easily climb to the next level. The next 10 feet of travel involved leveraging our arms against the tightened walls and swinging over submerged pits that had crayfish hovering below, pincers at the ready like a game of pitfall. You do have to get a little wet but not to bad. Right here is where we had lunch, though another hundred feet would have been a prettier spot we didn't know it a the time, so we just admired what we had which like everywhere in this canyon was beautiful.
The slot canyon came next, luckily there was a work around cause I am not sure our floaties would have fit. For this an for all the work-arounds in this canyon the right/east side is your best bet. Eventually it looks like this dead ends but a short trip through the trees, around a big boulder and down a drainage that detours before hitting bottom and you are through, no swimming. Yay! The water never did seem to really warm up so we were glad for that.
We wanted to make it to James Canyon but only made it as far into the Pumphouse as where it cuts the west. We'll definitely be back to make up this fail.
Wendi had a scare while in a knee deep crossing. She saw 10" cray, lobster sized (she says) and it turned on her, daring her to come closer (she says). By the time I turned around and could handle all the "Chick" screams and splashing it was gone (like it never was).
Even scarier was the fall she took while stepping off a log to get up to the next bench. Her feet were still wet and the log was tilted causing her to slip backwards. Her lower back came down right over the log. I was certain that she broke her back but she says the only pain was a stubbed toe. I told her it looked she was getting an adjustment at one of those Asian chiro's where they throw your body at stuff.
The only wildlife we saw was a couple frogs, a fat squirrel, one bird that was a very aggressive hunter. On the way back, above the slot canyon we could hear some kind of animal making some kind of noise, very hard to describe but somewhere between a frog and gremlin... I am thinking a bird but we really couldn't tell. It would have had to have been in the water or just above it hanging on the wall of the canyon unless the echoes were playing tricks.
Cool hike, highly recommended but be ready for some swimming.