The first known descent of Poe was by Jenny (Hall) West and Mike Bogart in August of 1981. The tale of their exploration is truly impressive, and I highly recommend reading Jenny’s account which offers a glimpse into elements of that exploration.

For nearly 30 years after this descent, there were very few parties who descended the canyon. In 2007, Jason Pease went on a solo scouting trip to the area, and introduced his findings to Steve Ramras. With Tom Jones and Brian Hoffman, Ram descended the adjacent canyons Happy Dog and Baboon Laughs, surprised to find old bolts in the canyons. They were not able to squeeze Poe into their schedule (at that point, Poe was known as Smiling Cricket). With knowledge of two of the three canyons, Jason returned with partner Mark Fleck in Spring of 2008 hoping to descend the last of the three canyons: Poe. Their descent, including an overnight bivy, is detailed on the Summitpost page for “Smiling Cricket.”

The Name

“Originally called ‘L’ Canyon for the ‘L’ in ‘Fold’ on the map, it was later called ‘Poe’ Canyon because of its pits and pendulums …”

The Pit and the Pendulum*

A short story written by Edgar Allen Poe, in which a prisoner, during the Spanish Inquisition, finds himself in a dark room, with blade–like pendulum slowly descending towards his chest. Though he escapes the pendulum, the walls of the room close in on him, pushing him closer to falling into a deep pit in the middle of the room. (Source: Canyon Names Database, curated by Stefan Folias)

The name “Poe” was unknown to Jason when he returned in 2008, when he referred to it as “Smiling Cricket.”

Jason Pease wrote:
“I love the blank spots, the places I have heard nothing or next to nothing about. Last year I was getting tired of canyons and wanted to just wander somewhere. [The Waterpocket Fold] caught my eye somehow, as well as, 3 canyons along it. I walked the rim of all 3, getting into [the first canyon] in 2 different places (seeing bolts) and seeing both from the bottom of their final drops. [The third canyon] I walked the south rim, but I got no good view down in, only a chasm with no bottom. Once back at camp the final night, I was laying on the sand in my bag, wondering what to call them for my own personal record keeping: ‘That First Canyon South That Actually Starts Midway Up’ didn’t have much panache. Nor did ‘That Second Canyon South’ or ‘Third Canyon South’ have a nice ring to it.

So I’m laying there watching clouds shape–shift by and light upon one that looks just like a dog’s head, big floppy ears, tongue wagging—a ‘Happy Dog.’ So it was written so shall it be done. Then I decided to keep that theme for the trio—creatures and joyful emotion (at least in word). I thought ‘Baboon Laughs’ because, as anyone who ever has visited a zoo knows, those damn things sit up in their trees and laugh or howl or whatever it is they are doing, making a ruckus of it all, but you can’t always see them. You know they’re there, but only in furtive glimpses. And that was how that canyon seemed—furtive glimpses laughing at me and an element of danger in the broken, jointed landscape of its rim and head. And ‘Smiling Cricket’ cause you NEVER see those things, but you hear them, soft and steady and infuriatingly undiscoverable. Try as you might you can’t find it, until you get down and dirty and on its level and finally come eye to antennae. But, if you’re like me, even though it is only a little insect, it creeps me out and my hand jerks away even as it darts out to silence the bugger so i can sleep. But that’s only if I am in a room with a lone cricket; sleeping outside I love their cacophony.”

After a few more descents, the community became aware of the original 1981 descent, and an effort has been made to honor the first name “Poe.”

Poe is one of the most difficult canyons descended to date on the Colorado Pleateau, and carefully selecting a strong team is highly recommended.

Escaping the Pit of Despair