Oh man. I was almost killed by a doughnut on my last hike. Or stupidity. I haven’t decided which. Okay, I know deep down it was the stupidity. The doughnut was just waiting there patiently to TAKE. ME. DOWN.
But let’s rewind to the beginning.
Doughnut Falls. (wait, did you think I meant a real doughnut? Not while this flabby-gutted blogger still jiggles in the wind). This…
…is Doughnut Falls.
This summer Fabulous Wendy and I are finding new hikes nearly every weekend to places one or both of us have never been (which is easy for me since I’ve always enjoyed sitting in an air-conditioned house eating corn dogs over ever joining people when they went hiking). Thanks to the incredible Wasatch Mountains that surround us, along with the aftermath of a few keystrokes into Google, we found “one of Salt Lake City’s most popular hikes”… Doughnut Falls.
It was an easier hike. Only about a mile each way from the trail head and not very steep at all, but an image search hooked me on the need to go see it. Basically, it was a place up one of the big canyons here in Utah where the entire river flows through a hole in the top of a cave (the doughnut).
When we got there, we didn’t realize that due to a recent avalanche, we’d have to hike up the river, over giant boulders, and over many other dastardly obstacles to actually see Doughnut Falls close-up. This was our view at the end of the trail…
If you look up at the very tippity-top there, you’ll see the falls spilling down into the doughnut hole.
Well, not to be outdone by a bunch of random people who were already starting to scale the river and the rocks, we decided to hoof it up the river as well.
Now, I feel like this is a good place to tell you that I wasn’t expecting anything like this, so instead of anything grippy or hike-worthy at all, I wore a pair of Etnies shoes (cool, but not made for tough terrain). There was pretty much NO traction on the things.
We somehow made our way to the bottom of the falls (a place that only about 30% of the hikers were making it to), and I snapped a quick photo of Fabulous Wendy and of the falls…
It was spectacular, and very much worth soaking our shoes in the river for. But, it wasn’t enough. Not for this crazy blogger. I wanted a picture from above, looking down into the doughnut. I wanted a perspective that I hadn’t really seen before in my image searches.
And this is where I got stupid.
Like, really stupid.
Like stupider than just about anything stupid you could think of.
And, unfortunately, I don’t have photos of this stupidity because a) I had stashed my camera into my backpack so that I wouldn’t ruin it, and b) because (as you are about to understand), I had no way to pull my camera out again.
But up I went. Scaling the slipper wet rock for my chance of the photo of a lifetime.
Now, to help you understand just what happened next, let me see if I can use a few photographs with funny doodles on them to get your brain connecting to the story…
Okay. Remember this picture?
Now, allow me to show you the path I took trying to get the shot that I wanted.
And then… right as I got to that part with the last X, I was stuck. Now, perhaps this doesn’t look super difficult, but let me draw a little person on there so that you can see about how big I was compared to these falls.
You see that teeny tiny person there? That would have been me. At that point I had crawled down over a ledge, and couldn’t go back the way I came. Moving forward seemed like certain death. And the only thing I had was a 1″ lip on the rock below me, which was hanging precariously over this giant doughnut. ONE. LITTLE. SLIP. and I would have fallen in.
Only, it wouldn’t have looked like such a beautiful swan dive. It would have been more of a dramatic display of human head smashing on rock, breaking backs, and probably drowning.
Needless to say, I was scared. Wendy stood above me terrified as she watched my body shake in its effort to hold on. I kept glancing at the gaping hole below me, trying to decide how I should fall in to possibly survive. I was very close to throwing my camera bag and monopod into the hole to lighten my load. I looked back to where I came. There was no way. I looked forward to where I could go. There was one, even tinier lip.
I said a silent prayer and kicked off of the ledge I was on, hoping to land solidly on the next one. I couldn’t believe that I was still standing on that rock when I opened my eyes again. I then found another ledge. And another.
And, before I knew it I was safe.
But, then I quickly forgot what a miracle it was, and I looked down once again. The hole had moved from my view and I wouldn’t be able to get a photo of it. So, I did something stupid. Very stupid. REALLY stupid. And I decided to cross the river right above the hole to get a photo of that damned doughnut hole. And I did. And I got stuck on the other side.
And when I wiggled across the cliff face toward the hole, my heart sank. The view of the hole was completely obscured from that angle. And so, realizing that I’d risked my own life horribly and ridiculously for nothing, I wriggled my way back and once again crossed the river.
I’m an idiot.
Once back across, thank goodness there was another way down that was a tad bit safer.
I took a few photos from above (cool, but not the angle I was hoping for)…
And this one, which showed just how high we were…
Now, I understand that when taking photos like this, it’s difficult to see depth. Let’s try it this way. Did you notice these guys in the photo?
Yeah, probably not. They’re so tiny they kind of disappeared. But they’re real people. Want proof?
Anyway, enough trying to prove that I’m some kind of tough-guy idiot. I hiked back down to the cave part of the falls.
I took a few photos from below…
But I wanted to be in the cave. So, I did. And it was waste-deep. And it was ice-cold. And it was splashing my camera like crazy. But I got some great shots.
Of course, Wendy (besides the part when I was about to be sucked into the Doughnut) was getting a kick out of watching my stupidity, all in the name of some pictures. She snapped a few of her own with her iPhone.
When all was said and done, it was amazing. Spectacular. Wondrous even. To see an entire river pouring through a hole in a rock and down into a cave was something else. I’d recommend the hike to anybody, even if all you do is stand at the base of the avalanche and look from a distance.
Oh, and I know a lot of you are experiencing severe drought this year. Utah is the opposite. We’re experiencing moisture like we haven’t seen in a long, long time. This river, apparently, is usually more of a fast stream. The cave often has ample walking room around the perimeter. Just not this year. If you want to get in there, you’re gonna have to get wet. Really, really wet.
Just don’t do what I did. Any of it.
Dan Pearce, Single Dad Laughing
PS. I’d love to hear your comments on today’s post and also your stories. When have you done something that seemed fine to begin with but suddenly became horribly dangerous?
PPS. I’m planning to take my family here next month some time, so hopefully I’ll have learned my lesson. I’ll also be doing it in the winter because apparently it’s breathtaking when surrounded by ice.