The VERO Workhorse Canyon in its Natural Habitat - By Thomas Calara
"It’s only been a couple of hours since the sun has risen, but I could already feel the heat steadily building as the early morning rays hit the base of my neck. It was going to be a hot one.
Indigo bushes, desert willows and all sorts of cacti pepper the baron landscape. In the distance, a modest mountain range to the north and off to the west, an endless stretch of rolling sand dunes. The Anza Borrego Desert is always quite the scene to soak in. The massive state park spans more than 935 square miles and is home to a wide range of animals such as mountain lions, tarantulas, antelope squirrels and the elusive big horn sheep. Temperatures here can reach up to 110 degrees in the dead of Summer and if you come unprepared, it can be an unforgiving environment.
Posted at the edge of my trunk, staring off into the distance and my Columbia hiking boots at the base of my feet waiting to be donned, my gaze was suddenly interrupted by several cactus bees curiously swarming the new intruder close to their surrounding nests. Dodging the pesky insects, I laced up my boots and gathered the handful of things necessary for the trek. A camera, my Hydro Flask bottle and a small backpack.
Light and fast was the approach. A heavy pack will only feel heavier when trudging through the desert in the summer heat. Just beyond the sandy lot, completely out of nowhere, there laid a crack in the Earth.
From afar the natural wonder could easily be missed, but from where I stood, the gaping cracks were unmistakable and somewhat imposing. The cut in the terra firma in front of me, tucked away in the Anza Borrego Desert and notable for its unique geology, eroding walls and very narrow passages was the ravine known as Slot Canyon.
Slot Canyon has been more than a million years in the making. Thanks to coastal rains over that span of time carrying torrents of water, rocks and other debris through the area, the narrow siltstone canyon filled with formations of all shapes and sizes is what it is today. At certain points, Slot Canyon reaches over 100 feet tall on each side, and the trail itself at times provides less than a foot of space to squeeze through.
Strapped to my left wrist and appropriately named given my location, was the Vero Workhorse Canyon. There’s no doubt, with its robust tan cerakote case, sturdy tan fabric velcro strap and orange-yellow accents on the dial, that the Vero Workhorse Chrono Canyon looks the part for a trek into Slot Canyon. Functionality and reliability are traits to be expected with the name Vero reading across the dial. Vero watches has developed a solid reputation for testing their watches out in the field themselves to make sure they’re ready for any adventure you throw at it. Bold sports watches are deeply rooted in their brand DNA; from their distinct ergonomically designed Sport Watch (SW) series to more recently their Open Water divers.
The Workhorse Chrono Canyon is just another addition to that line up. Keeping track of how long we were going to spend out in the desert was a good excuse to play around with the Workhorse Canyon chronograph feature. The push action and feel of the start/stop and reset buttons are akin to that of an actual stopwatch. The push buttons are beefy and the ridged grip adds to the tactile feel. It’s sportier looking than the traditional and refined look of a chronograph with piston-like pushers.
Using the Workhorse Canyon chronograph is simple, straightforward and there’s good feedback from actually pushing the button. The orange start/stop button activates the orange chrono seconds and minutes hand. Its color matched, easily legible and just makes sense. The reset button returns the chronograph back to zero, and watching the seconds hand make a smooth sweep around the dial and back to zero makes you want to use the feature over and over again. (I’m not a chronograph guy, so pardon my amusement).
The white numerals against the black sunken dial make for a legible watch, especially in harsh desert sunlight. The Vero Workhorse Chronograph also features a count up internal bezel which allows for additional elapsed time tracking. The multiple timing features are something that I appreciate in watch for their practicality during outdoor ventures.
The trek started as a sandy pathway that wraps around the front portion of the canyon and then descends into the canyon on the far backside. A slight detour off the trail in search of what we thought was a way into the canyon led us to an impasse. The view from here was a sheer drop directly into the canyon.
As we navigated the edge, each step was deliberate, one hand maintaining contact on the vertical rock wall, eyes forward concentrating on the next move. Backtracking to the top of, we continued on towards the opposite side of the canyon. Walking on desert sand, no two steps are the same. The muted squish our boots made as we trudge along matched the quietness of the Anza Borrego. The rolling sand dunes came into clearer view and we noticed the fascinating horizontal striations on some of the rock formations within the canyon. They are markers of time passing but to us they looked like strips of bacon lining the canyon (Earth’s bacon if you will).
Being exposed at the top, the heat started to sneak up on us and the shade in the canyon below was looking more and more appealing. Despite the perspiration building, the Vero Workhorse strap stayed dry. It’s one of my favorite parts about the watch. There’s a well made quality about the Workhorse strap. It’s thick, absorbs moisture but doesn’t get to the point where it feels soaked like a normal NATO would get.
The trail widened and then descended into the vast base of the canyon. Much like the desert in general, the wide open area looked uninhabited. It’s as if you’re transported to another world, and exploring a new planet. Divers say this all the time whenever they go below the surface. That sense of wonder is truly a feeling to experience at least once in a lifetime.
As we made our way into Slot Canyon, the trail narrowed and occasionally split off into different directions which led to a series of traversing over rock formations. Moving up, over and around the rock walls requires maintaining three points of contact at all times for balance and stability. This means two feet and one hand, or two hands and one foot as you move through steeper terrain.
After getting to the top of multiple faces, and a bit of backtracking (again), we found ourselves meandering through as the canyon started to reveal itself. The canyon walls progressively got taller. I couldn’t help but think that it looked like a scene out of Indiana Jones where Harrison Ford is of course searching for an ancient artifact and all of a sudden he sees a tower of rushing water tumbling towards him.
Another turn displayed a scepter-shaped block that appeared to have broken off one wall, creating a precarious rock bridge overhead. The trail got so narrow at one point where we had to take our packs off in order to side step through. I most certainly felt the presence of the Vero Workhorse here, coming into a couple of close calls with the watch scraping against the rock wall.
Arising from the canyon was somewhat disorienting, being that we were now on the other side of the canyon, and although the car was still a ways away, it was a welcomed sight. Greeted again by the bees, I threw my pack into the back and jumped in to start the engine. Sitting in the front seat, I poured the sand out of my boots and dusted off of my socks. The car dash read 105 degrees. The AC blasting from the vents felt heavenly. Glancing down at the Vero Workhorse Canyon, the chronograph read an elapsed time of two hours.
Although it took two hours to get to Slot Canyon from home base, the trip was totally worth it to see something new. I’m grateful to be living in an area where a two hour drive can transport you to a totally different place, whether that’s into another country to the south, the mountains to the north or the desert. But adventure doesn’t have to be that far at all. It could be a twenty minute drive, or just around the corner.
That’s what being Out Of Office is all about. So gather up some gear, throw a watch on and go somewhere. Have an end destination, or not. The important thing is that you get out there, because you’ll never know what you’ll stumble upon and the stories you’ll come back with."
Article courtesy of Worn&Wound, Written by Thomas Calara, Photos by Thomas Calara and Payton Tengan