06-05-2007, 11:24 PM
Dick, Val and I are back from an amazing adventure to southern Utah where we backpacked into slot canyons Buckskin Gulch/Paria Canyon, hiked in Zion National Park, toured Glen Canyon Dam, visited Pipe Spring National Monument, explored an old town called Phareah and the remains of an old movie set, hiked a portion of the South Kaibab Trail from the North Rim of the Grand Canyon, investigated coral sand dunes in Coral Sand Dunes State Park, and took many pictures. Dick will write a more detailed report soon, but I wanted to post some of the pics. They are arranged by Days 1 - 11.
We flew from Newark to Las Vegas, rented a car, and ......... our adventure began:
06-06-2007, 09:06 PM
A lot of pictures, but well worth the time to view them. It makes me want to go back there again.
06-07-2007, 08:57 AM
Great Pictures! Sounds like an awesome trip.
06-07-2007, 02:17 PM
Thanks for taking the time to look at all of those pics! Digital technology makes it possible to take as many shots as the memory card allows with no guilt about the $$ spent for developing and duplicating prints. Love it! We definitely want to go back!
(Below is a description of our first two days of hiking, written before my recent hand surgery. I’ll finish when my hand is less sore. Val and Jo, please jump in any time)
After driving from Las Vegas to Utah the first night, we made our way to our first campground – nice enough, if rather non-descript). Then followed our first adventure: two days of backpacking in Buckskin Gulch and the Paria River canyon of southern Utah. We first checked into the ranger outpost to sign in, get our weather update (slot canyons can be lethal in rainy weather), and pick up our poop pouches (gotta pack EVERYTHING out!), we set up camp at the nearby campsite. The next morning we drove our car to Whitehouse (end of the trip), and there we connected with our shuttle ride to Wire Pass, the start of our 14-mile dayhike of Buckskin Gulch. Buckskin is a 14-mile long slot canyon, reportedly the longest in the world. The shuttle service drove us to what seemed like one of the most remote places on earth to begin the hike. The Bureau of Land Management allows only 20 permits per day in the entire Buckskin/Paria River area, but we were not alone. We passed and were passed by several people, leading me to wonder if all were “legal.” The hike begins in an open wash, but quickly narrows to a few feet, and from that point onward we were in another world of amazing, indescribable canyon wall formations, sometimes a mere couple of feet wide, sometimes opening up into cavernous “rooms” with walls several hundred feet high. The experience was often dark and cave-like, though at all times there was “daylight” above. Because so little sun gets through, temperatures were 15 degrees cooler than on the surface, which was generally in the mid-90s. The hike was not difficult, and gains only about 200 feet over the course of 14 miles, but it was not without some challenges. We wore trail running shoes rather than our leather hiking boots. The “floor” was frequently either rocky or sandy (more of a fine powder) which we were to learn gets onto and into almost everything. Early on we encountered the “cesspool” – a series of a dozen or so pools that never dry up. These ranged from calf-high to crotch-high (last year’s reports were neck high!). The water is a murky gray color, filled with the carcasses of dead bats, mice, squirrels, lizards, birds, what looked like a fox, and heaven knows what else that fell into the canyon. Totally unfit to drink, of course, so we carried the recommended three to four quarts of water per person. A few rock falls created momentary climbing obstacles, with one or two to crawl through. The largest challenge was to keep from stopping too long to take pictures of the incredible canyon walls and petroglyphs one finds along the way. Our final challenge, near the end, was a climb down a 12-foot ledge, created by huge boulders that had caved in. We negotiated this obstacle in a matter of minutes, but not before waiting about a half hour or more to ponder the move! Joanne was exhausted. Not the heat exhaustion she experienced in the Grand Canyon last year (http://adkhighpeaks.com/forums/showthread.php?t=1540), just very tired. None of us was totally confident in our ability to judge what the rock face was like (we couldn’t see the side, due to the angle, and the edge was slippery with sand). We did notice that another rock was below, possibly shortening our descent, but we couldn’t accurately judge its angle. A climbing rope was left installed by a previous hiker for our use. It appeared to be in good condition. After considering spending the night there to regain strength (and courage?), we realized there was no way out but forward, and the sooner the better. Mind you, we’ve experienced ledges such as this before, but this one somehow had a more unknown quality to it. Once we decided to go, it was a simple procedure for Val and Jo to climb down, and for me to lower the packs (with our own rope) and to follow. Elated, energized, and somewhat embarrassed by the simple maneuver, we moved on to the end of the gulch. Here the canyon opens up, with obvious campsites on both sides. Shortly beyond was the confluence with the Paria River. We went back and picked a campsite up on a hill, overlooking a second (occupied) site. “Book time” for the entire trip was supposed to be 9-12 hours, depending upon conditions. The trip took us about 10 hours. Delicious dehydrated food awaited us. We sat enthralled by the immensity of the canyon walls, the birds, the echoes, and incredible stars.
In the morning we relaxed, then walked a couple of miles down the Paria River canyon, mostly following a worn path in the sand, but often walking in the river, being careful to watch out for frequent patches of mud and quicksand. The canyon is not unlike Buckskin, but more open and thus more majestic. Lots of flowers, lizards, birds, and a few passing hikers. We found a nice campsite to have lunch under a huge cottonwood tree, occupied only by someone’s pack. It was sad indeed to see that fairly recently someone had built a campfire (forbidden) out of limbs from the tree. Though we felt we wanted to wander the canyon forever, we honored our turn-around time. On the way back we encountered two men who thought they were still in Buckskin Gulch and were looking for the Paria River! I showed them the map, and they realized that I had just saved them approximately 30 miles of walking! Admittedly the confluence can be deceiving, as the walls tend to blend in, and the gulch and river are mostly dry at that point. Back at our campsite, we spent another peaceful evening, with new campers below us – a trio of recent grads from the University of Indiana, who were going to similar locations, but as rock climbers. A fourth person in their party had to back out at the last minute, and they were left without a ride back to their car from Whitehouse (our “take out” point up the Paria) back to Wire Pass. I offered to drive them the two miles to the ranger station to call our shuttle service for a ride, and if that didn’t work, to drive them to our nearby campground (with the shuttle service near that).
The next morning, six of us began the 7+ mile hike upstream to our parked car at Whitehouse. This was a fairly straightforward hike, though slightly uphill, and gradually opened up wider and wider, eventually into a wash of several hundred yards wide, with very little shade. We stopped frequently for breaks and pics. The “take-out” point was supposed to be a marked sign near a striated band of rock cliffs to the right, but we saw no sign, other than several places where hikers had obviously tried unsuccessfully to climb out. I was concerned, not about finding our way out (I knew the main road was a couple of miles ahead), but that it was noon, and the heat was starting to become a real issue. Fortunately someone had placed a semi-permanent rock cairn in the shape of an arrow pointing the correct path out to the car. We met up with the climbers and shuttled one of them, first to the ranger station (no phone), then to the shuttle service near the campground. The shuttle service was able to give him a ride to their car. Unfortunately she found out at the end that they had no money, so she was out $30 for the service!
06-08-2007, 10:26 PM
One of my favorite states to hike in. I love it there Great report and pics. Sounds like a great time.
06-10-2007, 08:12 AM
Nice report and wonderful pics, guys!:tup: Glad it was such a nice trip. I have only been to Utah to ski, so I was excited to see a new area.
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