Pic of the Week 2/14/20
Location: Caprock Canyons State Park, TX
Date taken: 2/9/20
Fern SlotA deep, wide, and stunning slot canyon far in the Caprock Canyons State Park backcountry.
Well, another weekend by and another slot in the Llano Estacado under my belt. Fern slot was the first of the Texas slots I had seen. I was researching locations and ideas for Caprock Canyons State Park and I came across a blog that had images of slot canyons. I was enthralled with this idea and started looking around the internet to find these hidden treasures. Fern slot was the most obvious and easily spotted through Google Earth. A yellow pin on My Places file lied dormant for a few years before I made it to the slot.
Fast forward to 2017, and my friend Jaden Corbin and I are in Caprock Canyons State Park searching out the Fern slot. Our journey took us the edge of the park looking for the canyon and after a few attempts we finally had the right path. We followed the stream to the head of the slot, and I was finally there. Unfortunately, we did not have a rope and the descent looked to be a 25ft dry waterfall. Even if we got in there how would we get back up? Sadly, we had to admire Fern slot from the rim and shoot only a few images looking into the depths of the slot. What we did see looked to be quite impressive, however.
After almost another three years I finally made it back to Fern slot and this time I was able to find a way in (though still quite hazardous). My beautiful and wonderful girlfriend Ashlee, and my now roommate Jaden joined me on this adventure. We were scheduled with an ambitious hike to inspect a feature that resembled a slot canyon. We started the day fairly early around 9:30am and we were on the trail and searching out our specific side canyon to our target. The ascent up to our target was sketchy. We were constantly on all our fours climbing up the crumbling hill sides, a feat that proves challenging with no extra weight, but we had all our camera/hiking gear with us. We made it to the “slot” and while it was deep and stair-stepped its way through the rock, it wasn’t that photogenic. After we got back on the trail, we decided to hike up Haynes Ridge and make our way to the Fern slot.
We followed the Fern Cave trail for a short while before turning off and following another game trail. As we walked along the canyon rim everything started to become more familiar and I could feel the excitement welling up inside me. Just a short distance from our deviation we could start to see the structure of the slot canyon. The depth, width, and snake-like twisting of the slot did little to curb my excitement. We eventually reached the specific side arroyo we would use to descend into the slot. It was lined with large boulders and dead trees giving us a natural staircase to take down. Just a few dozen feet away from the floor of the slot and we had to find a way to negotiate down. I won’t go into the details of how we got down, but I will say a rope is recommended. Finally, I was in Fern slot!
Super smooth sandstone walls towered 30 feet above our heads. Undulating wave-like patterns lined the walls creating pockets and cavities in the rock. It was a photographer’s paradise. So many subjects to shoot, but sadly no light. I was not going to let a trip like this go to waste, so I pulled out my camera and began searching out compositions. I came across the beautiful striated sandstone wall that narrowed and wrapped around the slot. The natural leading lines of the sandstone led the eye to the distant canyon walls that were ever so slightly being illuminated by a soft reflected light. Above us a blue sky and wispy clouds gave the scene a sense of enchantment. I shot several different compositions and different images while exploring the 400ft long canyon before it was time to head back home. Although, I could have used better light, I was more than happy that I finally got to explore Fern slot after several years of waiting. I’ll be heading back to Caprock in a couple of weeks and maybe I’ll get the golden reflected light in Fern slot.