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

Hellhole Canyon

Hiking into Hellhole

Hiking into Hellhole

©Bert Gildart: Words evolve with time and often begin with two separate thoughts, such as, “That canyon is sure one ‘hell’ of a ‘hole.’”

That could be what happened here. Years ago ranchers used the canyon that can sometimes funnel roaring and damaging winds from the mountains and toward our campground–and did so in the summer when still-air hung thick and sent temperatures soaring. Then, when they had to retrieve their cattle amidst the cholla, ocotillo, fishhook cactus, beavertail cactus, their impression deteriorated further–and can’t you just hear an hear an old cowboy saying, “Man, that hole is sure hell on me and my hoss’.”

With time someone would recall again the potential conditions and say, “Got to go to Hell-hole today, the cattle are still there. Eventually, the hyphen was dropped until the concept became a single thought as in, “Drive the cattle into Hellhole for the spring. We’ll hope they stay in that God-forsaken canyon and don’t wander down into Mexico.”

After the last three days, I can add my own thoughts, which are conflicting. First are those associated with a wonderful hike to a palm oasis, made in this canyon with its evolving name.


But then, yesterday, my impression changed. It did so when winds of 60 miles per hour pounded down Hellhole Canyon, and then caught the lip of the window guard on my Airstream that I had foolishly left up. The wind was so powerful that it tore the four-foot wide cover from its moorings.

But we were lucky. Camped adjacent to us was a retired aircraft mechanic who has owned Airstreams and said he had a rivet gun with him and that it would be a simple manner to replace. “Won’t be able to tell what happened,” said Manfred, the mechanic, whose reputation with me soared even more when he said he had also been an aircraft inspector.


That leaves me now with my first impression of Hellhole Canyon, which is of a kinder and much more gentle canyon. Historically, that image is also appropriate for cowboys who established a trail through the canyon also referred to it as the Palm Creek Trail.

Until yesterday’s wind, that’s more what we recall.

We recall a short hike of about one mile with Polly, the lady in the campsite next to us. She had an interest in natural history and the three of us spent most of the day admiring the cactus and wondering about the animals that seem to negotiate this maze of spines and thorns with impunity. Along the way we saw several of the huge-eared desert hares as well as the sign of coyotes, and probably a bobcat.

Hellhole or an oasis of water and palms

Hellhole, or an oasis of water and palms?

And then, finally, there was the oasis of palms and maidenhair fern, with the stream that flowed quietly through them, and we all concluded that on a hot summer day, this could be anything but a hell hole. In fact, after Manfred helps me remount the rock shield, I’ll probably forget the harsh winds that can roar down out of Hellhole and think more of a hike through a canyon of much enlightenment, taken along the Palm Creek Trail.

One Response to “Hellhole Canyon”

  1. Kimmy Says:

    What a beautiful place! Just goes to show you can’t always go by a name. God Bless Manfred! (he’s the man)