Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Backpacking Buckskin Gulch and Paria Canyon

Buckskin Gulch, photo by Christopher Brothers

Photo by Christopher Brothers
While attending Northern Arizona University in the 1990's, my friends and I explored the surrounding wilderness almost every weekend. Backpacking the Mogollon Rim, Sycamore Canyon and the Grand Canyon provided an escape from the collegiate workload and nurtured my love of the outdoors. When I was asked to spearhead a research project in a tributary of the Colorado River just East of the Grand Canyon National Park, I jumped at the opportunity.

The Paria River had been classified as "impaired" due to high beryllium concentrations. I was to hike the canyon and collect water and sediment samples ten times over the course of two years. A rag-tag group of students would accompany me on three day blitzes of the 40 mile long stretch of remote canyon. Paria quickly became a special place for me; my own place of worship. Towering canyon walls, hanging gardens, narrow slots and hundreds of river crossings made for a surreal experience.
Stranded owl hunkers near pool, photo by Christopher Brothers

Given our short time-tables for each trip, I was never able to explore some of the more interesting side canyons of the Paria. Buckskin Gulch, the longest slot canyon in North America, would beckon as we collected samples from its confluence with the Paria. We would explore the lower mile or so before hurrying down the Paria. Years later, in 2006, I was able to hike the gulch with Twirly. We spent two days in Buckskin before hiking out to White House.

Last year, my father told me Buckskin and Paria were on his bucket list. I rounded up the boys for a five day trip from Buckskin Gulch to the end of the Paria at Lee's Ferry. I had not realized how long it had been since I saw the length of the Paria. I won't let it be that long again!

The confluence of Buckskin and Paria

We camped at the Wire Pass Trail Head on Monday night after dropping cars at Lee's Ferry and White House. Two of our five would be replicating the trip Twirly and I did in 2006, exiting via White House on the third day. My friend Jason, my father and I would head down Paria Canyon for the last three days, covering 44 miles.

No comments:

Post a Comment