I have never had a bad experience in the Black Hole. Ok I lied. Once upon a time, I took 11 out of shape (or you could say in shape, cause round is a shape), people through the black hole. They were all friends and at this moment in time I was equally round. Anyway what normally is a 6 hour romp of fun and adventure turned into a 11 hour trudge broken up into periods of 15 minute breaks every five minutes. It was one of two times I have almost got hypothermia. But that is a different blog post I will never get around to.
The Black Hole has been my friend’s, Dawn unicorn. Thrice she had tried to do it and thrice she was denied. The most recent denial was last year. A slight rain had passed over us the day before as we camped at Lake Powell ,some 8 miles away. It shouldn’t have been enough to cause any problems but the Black Hole was one small segment of the canyon, in the greater White Canyon system. White Canyon itself is huge, spanning east and west for 60 miles. In addition to its reach, almost every canyon in the Cedar Mesa area, drains into White Canyon. if it rains , the day before, anywhere in the area, can make the canyon deadly and flowing water means you shouldn’t do it at all. The last time when we got to the canyon bottom, the light sprinkle the day before had created enough water that it was flowing. For me it was the first year since I started canyoneering that I missed it.
This year was going to be different. The weekend temperatures were so hot, that we were hoped there would be some water in the canyon. The Black Hole, like most Cedar Mesa canyons, is only fun when there is a lot of water. They will always have water in them, but like naked chics, the more the merrier. Plus it was a friend of mine, Sandy’s, birthday. So after we all put some birthday hats on, pulled up our shorts to show some thigh, we headed to where light dies.
A lot of canyons have a great attraction because their names sound awesome. If you name a canyon “Temporal Fugue” everyone will run to it, because it sounds cool. The canyon could be lame but it will always have a bunch of people lined up for miles to try it. In all honesty saying that I did, “Voodoo Canyon” sounds better than I did “Happy Canyon”. Voodoo Canyon rocks by the way and Happy Canyon is miserable. The Black Hole sounds cool, but it is just a lot of fun. For first timers, the name sounds a little spooky and is reinforced by a plaque that warns of impossible rescue or imminent death. This plaque is here because on rare occasions, flash floods can deposit unstable log jams that can be more than a hundred feet high. Passing under or over the log jams, is highly dangerous and in some situations ‘search and rescue’ may not be able to reach you. That being said, hikers always continue.
The canyon is pretty much a lot of cobblestone and boulder- hopping for the first half an hour. Eventually you get to a spot where you can downclimb about 15 feet into the water. Many people pass this on the right, which I don’t understand because without water ,the canyon is no fun, and you will be forced into the water eventually. After a little stroll through dark wavy narrows, the canyon opens back up for a little while before collapsing back down.
One section in here has the potential to hold a lot of logs. The first time we did this section, the logs were so thick and we had a hard swiming through them.They had been in the water for a while and the water had the oily film on top of it. It was hard to breathe because of the gases that were released over time ,as the logs were decaying. Add in the fact, there were dead animals and it was like swimming through a pit toilet. The water was so nasty you couldn’t help but laugh. Now laughing while you are swimming is a bad idea, worse than betting on Wrestlemania. So you start laughing, you get ass water in your mouth, then you start gagging. After the gagging comes the puking, in the same water where everyone is swimming. Then comes harder laughing.arder. The cycle repeats itself, then comes the Good Times.
Since that 1st time, I now kindly push everyone into the shit soup, and then use the bypass to the left. The best part about it is: You can’t see the shit -soup part until you swim through a couple bottle necks and around a couple corners. So I just use the bypass, wait at the end and kindly remind the others that I am the only one who knows where the exit is. If you don’t know where the cess pool is or the bypass, HAVE FUN! On this particular trip, I was nice and encouraged everyone to use the bypass, unfortunately flash floods earlier in the year cleaned out all of the log soup and dead animals.
The rest of the canyon continues this pattern, minus the cess pool. With each downclimb and wet section , it becomes more fun than the previous downclimb. It’s one canyon where you can just have a lot of fun without too much worry. During the early parts of the year or later in the season, a wet suit may be needed. During the summer months of July and August, skipping a wet- suit be would be wise, unless you get cold really easy.