Before us golden walls leaned back, thousands of feet high, dotted with hoodoos and jagged spires. The canyon floor was wide, and barren. No shadows touched the floor of the wide expanse, and the midday sun baked down mercilessly. A lone hawk circled in thermals overhead. In a few steps, it felt as if we had stepped from the sub arctic northlands straight into a scene from the American Southwest.
Halfway down the baking canyon lay Pumpstation #2, tucked amidst a grove of poplars on the outside of a wide bend. We almost trudged straight past, our shirts soaked with sweat, bandanas draped over our heads, having lost all sense of our position in the vast, snaking gorge. Only a family of Dall’s sheep, scrabbling across the talus slopes above, caused us to pause and notice the concealed buildings. Our maps showed a small slot canyon joining the Dodo just downstream from the barracks, and after setting a kettle on to boil in the embers of a fire, we ambled off to explore.
As the last golden rays of sun shot over the canyon rims, we approached a portal in the high walls. Echo Creek had carved a precipitously sheer slot leading straight back into Dodo’s shale walls. Shadows obscured the entrance, and a cool wind blew from the darkness beyond. With wide-eyed wonder, we entered. Echo creek meandered back and forth across the boulder strewn floor, emerald green, whispering with ripples. Pushing deeper and deeper into the silent and dark real, we waded through its shallow waters time and again. The walls pressed closer together, until the sky was but a tiny strip of blue silver high above. Waterfalls cascaded down, kissing us with spray. Each corner brought a new surprise. Although others has surely been here before, there was no sign of their passing, and there was great joy in stumbling upon such a spectacle unexpectedly. After almost an hour we turned and reluctantly retreated from the magic slot, the call of supper too strong for our hungry stomachs to ignore.
Beyond Pumpstation #2, the scale of the Dodo Canyon continued to grow. The walls, still perfectly parallel, ran almost a kilometer apart. Huge fans of scree and talus had washed down from gullies leading upwards. It was clear that huge floods regularly scoured this land, and hardly a single trace of the road remained. Travel slow and tedious, the canyon floor filled with loose boulders that regularly twisted ankles