Paria Canyon Backpack cliff notes:
1 last minute invitation (to me! wahoo!)
2 backpacking greats (Glen Van Peski and Read Miller)
3 days of hiking (two full days plus a short morning)
4 new friends hiking with an amazing backdrop – swirled red canyon walls so high we couldn’t capture the rim and floor in a single photo
5 pounds was the average pack baseweight
8 pounds was the total WAG bag weight at the end of the trip (c:
20-something was the number of PROBARs that fueled us
30-something was the number of frigid pools we waded through in tight Buckskin Gulch where we looked up 60 ft to see debris from past floods
33 degrees was the temperature our first night
40-something was the number of miles hiked
100s was the number of river crossings
Early on our first morning Jeremy McAllister, Read Miller, Glen Van Peski and I lowered into Buckskin Gulch like we were headed to the Earth’s core. At one point the gulch was so tight we had to remove our packs to squeeze through. We continuously waded through the stagnant, frigid pools left from last season’s floods – one was waist deep. With cold feet and shaded hiking, we cherished each moment kissed by the sun (I believe there were only three) and squelched the fears of flash floods as we gazed up at debris lodged 50ft above. When we exited the gulch into the main Paria canyon 13 miles later, we stared up at the high red canyon walls, in disbelief of their immensity. The riverbed balanced the enormity of the canyon- an opaque knee-deep stream meandered unassertively between its walls. We had budgeted an extra day to explore the canyon, so we headed downstream (instead of upstream to our exit trailhead, Whitehouse) and took in all this canyon had to offer – concert-hall sized concavities in the canyon walls, singing swallows nesting in the cliffs, drinking from a gushing freshwater spring, ogling at rocks that fell and shattered from cliffs above. At noon of the second day, we halted at our turn around point and trudged back upstream to the trailhead. To our surprise, we saw the canyon in a whole new way – different ways the sunlight played on the canyon walls, different carvings that faced downstream, entire new amphitheaters. As the sun was setting, the canyon slowly widened, the wind picked up and the walls lowered. We cowboy camped four miles from the trailhead, excited about the native American wall paintings we would explore the next day on our hike out. We dozed warmly under the vast desert sky, listening as the wind rolled in from the distance and gently swept over our bodies with care not to whip up any sand.
As much as I love to be in the great outdoors, it’s always magnified by the connections to the people you are hiking with. The simplicity and wideness of the riverbed trail on this hike accommodated lots of great conversation. I loved to hear how Glen and Read began lightening their packs, the history of Gossamer Gear, and their kind-hearted banter awarding the other with the credit for all the clever ways they have lightened their (and a whole community’s) packs. I listened intently to Jeremy’s fountain of information on backpacking gear, albeit a newcomer to the sport, Jeremy has done more research than a girl with a crush on Facebook – he spawned so many great gear discussions for the group with his questions. And I, in turn, talked their ears off with stories of vagabond hiking in South America and the scintillating tax-exempt bond market. Overall, we laughed a lot. At the conclusion of the trip, after weighing our WAG bags (is that going too far?), we recognized what we were thankful for – good scenery, good people and good weather! Can’t ask for much more.
By: Trinity Ludwig