Monday, May 07, 2012

Scott's Travelogue: Buckskin Gulch

I debated writing about my trip on a separate blog, but because Emily's worrying last week created general interest, I thought it might be worth a post here.

I decided to take this trip on a whim; I had a few clear months in my schedule before starting internship and flights were relatively cheap. I have always wanted to do some desert hiking and decided on a week of canyons in southern Utah. The trip far exceeded my expectations, but more on that later.

Monday morning, I met my father in Orem and we drove together down to Kanab, UT and then on to a fabulous campsite at the White House campground on the Paria river. This is the end-point of a standard ~ 21 mile hike through Buckskin Gulch, a popular slot canyon with almost 15 miles of narrows.
White House Campground and Paria River as seen from bluff to the NE

The next morning, we drove about 30 minutes to the Wire Pass trailhead and arrived for an early start 6:45 AM. The trail followed a dry wash for about 3/4 of a mile and then entered the Wire Pass narrows which quickly met up with Buckskin Gulch proper.

I hiked with my father for ~ a mile down Buckskin and then he turned around to pick up the car and take it back to the campground. It was nice of him to come with me for the beginning, and as an added bonus, I could use him for perspective in the pics. The canyon floor was almost completely dry with just 2 puddles encountered in the upper section that could be skirted by hopping from stone to stone.
Petroglyphs on the R canyon wall immediately after confluence with Buckskin

The narrows continued from the Wirepass confluence for ~ 12 miles with shades of sandstone from black to red to gray. From Wire Pass to the confluence with the Paria, I only saw one other person, a woman hiking up canyon, who came up suddenly around a bend a mile or two before the Middle Trail and said a brief hello before continuing on her way. The canyon was very narrow, almost cave-like, at times, but then would open up to long tall corridors and amphitheaters. There was debris, including trees and boulders, wedged between the canyon walls, sometimes as high as 50 ft up, from flash floods. Initially, there was a thin cloud cover, making for gray / white lighting that didn't bring out the red sandstone, but as the day wore on, the sun burned through providing bluebird skies and better light.

The hiking was easy and fast, over packed sand and crushed stone, with a few sections of fallen rocks. There was one large rock fall, the notorious rock jam, that was rigged with ropes to allow an easy decent. I ended up scrambling down a rabbit hole ~ 2 ft high to avoid the drop off before I realized that the ropes were there.

Down canyon from the rock jam there was a small amount of flowing water, no more than a few inches deep that must have come from a spring or seep.

After the rock jam, I kept looking for the confluence with the Paria. Having camped on the Paria the night before, I expected to see a stream coming in from the left, but when I got to the first narrow side canyon, there was no flowing water, only a set of narrow, tall canyon walls. At the time, I had a faint memory of reading about another canyon (Warther? which turns out to be much farther down Paria canyon) and assumed that this must not be the Paria. I hiked ~ 1 mile past the confluence and the nature of the canyon changed dramatically, opening up to allow large meanderings of the muddy stream and tall red sandstone walls. This change in character convinced me that I must be off course and I booked it back to the confluence, arriving exactly 1 hour after initially passing the Paria confluence. A quick 10 minutes up the Paria narrows, I encountered a pair of hikers at the slide arch who had hiked down from White House and confirmed that I was now on the right course.
Looking up Paria Canyon just downstream from the confluence with Buckskin

Paria narrows

After a few miles of narrows, the canyon quickly opened up and became a sandy, dry wash with gradually receding walls and a few interesting hoodoos. I slogged up canyon for 7 miles and was exhausted by the time I spotted the White House campground and my dad sitting on the bluff under a juniper tree, watching for my arrival. The total hike was 10 hrs, including the 1 hr trip down Paria canyon after the confluence with Buckskin. My dad made a super tasty chicken caeser, which I gratefully devoured.


Blogger Doc said...

Sounds amazing!!! So great that your dad had dinner ready for you - that's my idea of a good hike!

9:42 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

looks awesome Scott! Wish I could have been there.

11:10 AM  
Blogger ellen said...

What an experience -- and the photos are awesome.

4:45 PM  
Blogger Taylor said...

super awesome man. I love Paria.

6:26 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Hey Scott, My family owns Jacob Lake, AZ and has a ranch that is about five miles from the trail head. It is an amazing hike. Thanks for the photos. I'm headed down there on Thursday for cattle round up, but will not be able to visit Buckskin.

6:43 PM  

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