Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Buckskin Gulch/ Paria Canyon

Our next epic hike was to Paria Canyon and the slot canyon Buckskin Gulch. Over the border into Utah from Arizona, just after Big Water is a little ranger station on the left. If you plan on doing anything including day hiking in the area you must get a permit at the ranger station. Not only do they have to monitor the amount of backpackers that enter the canyon, they have to educate you on water sources, flash floods, and packing out your waste. All your waste. They give you a special plastic bag with a seal and some odor control inside that you have to use to go potty in. And pack it out. Our plan was to hike in Buckskin Gulch and down to the confluence of the Paria river, then back up the river to the ranger station called White House. The only problem was the enterance to the gulch was five miles up the road, and another five miles down a dirt road. If we were going to hike out to the ranger station we had to find our way to the trail head. Our plan was to hitch hike. We arrived at the ranger station before they opened, got our permit and hung aroung until another tourist asked for a permit for Buckskin Gulch. After a couple of tries we found an older couple with room to spare in the back of thier one ton dually pickup. Kristi and I piled our packs in the back of the truck and hopped in.

Into the Gulch The dirt road was pretty rough, and the dually with it's stiff suspension jolted us around for the five mile dirt road. The deal was we had to get there early enough so we could get to the confluence before dark, being that there was no real place to camp in the gulch. As it was there were only a hand full of camping spots to be had that weren't wet. It was twelve miles to the first camping sand bar through wet sand and boulders. We knew the situation, and when we incountered another couple we knew we had to pass them and hustle to the first available spot before they did. The slot canyon was really spooky. It continued straight up for a couple of hundred feet, and rarely did we see the light of day. There were animals at the bottom that had fallen and died, which we had to walk over. One buck had fallen and broken all his horns and twisted his neck. At times we had to remove our packs to squeeze through the narrow passage way. Other times we had to lower our packs down ropes to get to the bottom of huge rock falls. Finally after twelve miles of hiking through soft sand we arrived at the first available camping spot, only large enough for a couple of people. We crashed about that time, and fumbled trying to cook dinner. Just about the time we were cooking the other couple came along, and we could tell they were exhausted too. Thier dissapointment to find the next camping spot about a half mile away must have been tough. Not to mention it was getting dark. We packed up early and headed toward the confluence. We came upon the couple after a few hundred feet around the corner on a little dry spot in the canyon. I guess they couldn't go any farther. At the confluence, the Paria river picked up more moisture and filled the canyon with a shallow amount of water.

Paria Canyon This made for some interesting hiking with the occasional quick sand pools. If you were to incounter the quick sand by yourself and were foolish enough to get into it, there would be a real concern of getting back out agian. Not that you would sink down below your head, but the more struggling you did the deeper you got, and the harder it would be to free yourself. If you had another person with you it wouldn't take much to get out. We played in the quick sand for a while, at least for the experience. We planned to hike down the Paria for the next couple of days. Armed with a map of the natural springs, we found large sand bars to camp close by. The river opened up the farther away from the confluence that we hiked. Some people hike the whole river, but we chose to day hike about half of it and then back up stream to the ranger station, mostly for the ease of vehicle shuttling or hitchhiking. We found some broken down water pumps along the river, but mostly the canyon continued opening up, and the sand got drier. The most interesting was the slot canyons, so we camped nearby the next two nights, and hiked back out up the river back to the ranger station. On the way out we found some trash that other campers left, an old bag of salmon. Our conscience got the best of us and we packed it out. I strapped it to the back of the pack with our potty bag, and had the pleasure of smelling fish and poo for the remainder of the day. Our spirits were high, though and we made the best of it. We even coined a song: "Fish and poo and vinegar, fish and poo and vinegar, pepper pepper pepper salt..."

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