Favorite Travel Quotes

"Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts."
-- Mark Twain
Innocents Abroad

"Stop worrying about the potholes in the road and celebrate the journey." -- Fitzhugh Mullan

"A good traveler has no fixed plans and is not intent on arriving." -- Lao Tzu

Slot Canyon and Kangaroo Rats

Slot Canyon Overlook

Kangaroo Rat

©Bert Gildart: Two days ago Janie and I stood at Font’s Point and peered down and into the Borrego Badlands. In the shadow of such overwhelming beauty, it seems natural to wonder what the maze of land might contain.

If you don’t mind doing a bit of hiking, Slot Canyon provides answers, and with that goal in mind we drove along another sandy wash, once again using information in Lowell and Diana Lindsay’s book to get us to the trailhead.


From the trailhead, also a canyon overlook, we dropped down a path created by use and were soon enveloped by steep walls. We began threading our way through a narrow defile the authors’ caution is not a hike for big people.

They quote Mark Jorgensen, the park’s superintendent and a man whom I remember as being a stout person. Jorgensen says he had to “walk sideways and often stand on his tip toes.”

Though neither Janie nor I are large people, nevertheless we had to do a bit of squeezing ourselves. In places the walls squeezed in so tightly we had to remove our day packs and camera packs and swing them ahead.

The canyon meanders and the walls rise

The canyon meanders and the walls rise

The walk through the slot proceeds through yellow sandstone that rises abruptly on each side to heights of more than 50 feet. In places we saw swallow nests, but other than that no evidence of wildlife. The walk required about an hour.

On the way back, however, there was evidence of mammalian life all around. At the base of creosote bushes the holes of kangaroo rats were everywhere, and in places were so dense that the ground caved in beneath us as we strolled across the desert.

The canyon squeezes

The canyon squeezes

At one place we stopped for a few moments to test the advice of a park naturalist who said that if we patted holes used by kangaroo rats, “and if you pat enough of them,” we’d hear a response.


The response is described as having a churring or fluttering quality, similar to the noise of a flying quail. Edmund Jaeger in his book The California Deserts writes that it is “probably a signal of alarm or note of challenge made with the hind feet striking repeatedly and rhythmically against the sands.”

Patting hoping for a response

Patting, hoping for a response

Janie said she was glad that no one was around, but she still craned her head hoping to hear some response. In years past we’ve seen kangaroo rats, hopping around, and know that the biology of their desert adaptations is interesting. For instance, they seldom drink free water, relying rather on the moisture in the plants they consume.

We patted half a dozen holes but never heard a response. But we’ll keep trying, for out here in the desert it’s just one of the things sane people do to occupy themselves. Just imagine our response when something responds.

We’ll let you know.

One Response to “Slot Canyon and Kangaroo Rats”

  1. Kimmy Says:

    lol! I’m imagining the kangaroo rat down below wondering what the heck was going on up above his hole. Very cool Bert!