Queen of the Walkabout
Joined: 15 Jan 2004
| Posted: 10/28/2005, 7:04 am
|9 days in southern utah---
A great trip and dodged the bad weather forecast. In fact, the weather was great the whole time. Some of the leaves were turning, although it seemed I was either early or late for peak color depending on where I was.
The first part was a little over two day trip down Upper Paria, entering at Willis Creek and exiting the Paria Box. Usually I hike solo so had a friend along for the car shuttle. The third person had just had 8 days of great hiking in the Moab area, and begged off to go home.
The hike is easy but you cross the ankle deep Paria about 100 times plus. A fair amount of "quicksand or mud", so trekking poles were handy, along with gaitors and neoprene socks for the cold water and wet boots. Willis Creek is gorgeous with nice narrows that open and close politely, and are softly lit in morning light. When we started barely past dawn a little ice was in the slower parts of the tiny creek bed, so it was a bit chilly at elevation around 5000 feet.
We entered Sheep Creek, supposedly dry but running too, beautiful big white walled canyon with wonderful scenery, but not confined like Willis Creek. As we approached the Paria suddenly the sandstone started to reveal wild red colors, so brilliant as to come across in photos as unreal. The Upper Paria is a big drainage, with no narrows really to speak of. The lower Paria is more famous, with permits and the usual hoops to jump through. Here, you get your free permit at the TH, then do the walk, taking as much or little time as you want. We saw no other hiker the approx 28-30 miles we covered, although some horseback riders near a spring.
We stopped at Lone Rock, and Crack Spring, to view the historic cowboy glyphs, and get water out of the pipe. If you put your head near the huge boulders, you can hear the rumbling of the water in some huge rock tank behind the boulders. Pretty neat.
The Paria is filterable if not in runoff, although due to agricultural use upstream it is not recommended.
We arrived early enough at our campsite, on a convienient ledge facing the eastern rising sun, to hike a sidecanyon containing Virgin Anasazi pictographs in unusual colors ( for this area). In fact the wall above our ledge had quite a few petroglyphs, very old looking and varnished. That evening wind came down both canyons and blew off and on all night, some dark clouds. Our tents didn't even get a gust. Can I pick a campsite or what??
Next day we put a burn on and hike down the canyon. We missed a side canyon we were looking for through poor map reading. I saw some peak maple trees in a side drainage so had to stop there. We were early by several hours to camp area two, but we had more than a couple of hours in the next side canyons.
These two canyons are gorgeous and narrow and intimate. Red, red walls, greenery, a little water, a small sheer dropped waterfall, some pothole wading in unusual Kayenta Narrows, looking for a cave, and there you have it. A nice way to spend the rest of the day unencumbered by packs.
Another good night on another ledge, a little windy, then out the next day. Canyon country rule one, in cooler weather camp high -off the canyon floor- to avoid cold air drainage and try to orient to the morning sun to get warmed up as you break camp.
We enjoyed the colorful Chinle formation that donned the foothills (made of the dreaded Bentonite clay), then on a large flat sought out the remnants of the town of old Pareah, and noted some mining activity, old buildings from the early 1900's, according to M. Kelsy's guidebook, courtesy of one Charles Spencer in his well known chase for gold in these parts.
We went through the Paria "box" the narrowest point of this upper canyon, then to our car park off Cottonwood Canyon road. I was glad it had not rained as this 40 or so mile long dirt road is a nightmare if really wet.
I dropped my partner in crime off at his car in Cannonville, then sought a car camp spot for myself off the Burr Trail. I found a great spot, aired out my backpacking clothes on a handy juniper tree, read some, and prepared for the next day. Excellent star watching.
My next hike was to Laminite Arch. This arch is accessed by either an overnight backpack or a long drive in on ranch roads then a 7.5 miles RT bushwack. I chose to drive in. I love it when guidebooks say, "this road is good for any car"; well rains and gully washing turned it into HC and 4wd at times. I have both. I made it to the drop in point at the Gulch, there is no formal TH, then made my way down this huge lovely canyon, backed by the Circle Cliffs. A use trail here and there, lots of blooming sage type plants which made me sneeze, some colorful cottonwood trees. The first sidecanyon down canyon is Indian Hollow canyon, where the arch resides. A big time bushwack up this thing. Years ago when I was here, there were some aquamarine small pools, the canyon bottom now torn by flooding, all the pretty pools gone.
At the arch I took lots of pics and just sat and watched the sun slowly creep across it, banishing the shadows I found it in. The day could not be more perfect, the sky such an unreal blue.
The hike back uneventful, drive out, then over Boulder mountain to get to Torrey to a hotel to get to a shower. The Aspens were mostly past peak on the mountain, but some good stands remained. Clear air so unreal views out toward the Henry mountains. The next day a day hike in Capitol Reef, a tourist trek, but a nice one. A 9 mile RT with aobut 1700 elevation gain, great views high over Capitol Reef visitor center, to the Navajo Knobs. Much of the hike on slickrock, which I love, and some bizarromundo rock formations. I did it in the morning early so had the trail to myself until coming back and met lots of people coming up. At the visitor center I had the luck to run into Michael Kelsy the guidebook writer again; I had met him in Grand Gulch in the spring. We talked a long time; he will have a 5th edition to the classic Colorado Plateau hiking book in the spring of 06.
I had planned a 4 day trek into the Dirty Devil River region, but the weather forecast was not good. I was nervous about it, lots of cold water deeper wading, and I did not want to get caught there if the temps went south. I went to Hanksville, checked water flow rates with the BLM, it was low (knee deep wading) so the hike was doable. After a night of indecision I blew it off and went south down hwy 95, to the south end of Capitol Reef. I decided to do an overnight at Hall Creek Narrows, a place I'd been wanting to visit, just never made the time. I saddled up at sunrise at the TH, decided on a bivy and tarp, not the tent, and unloaded the food. What a good choice, the view at the top of this remote TH just awesome along the Waterpocket fold, a crazy upwarp of slanted huge sandstone slabs. You drop down the trail along the cliff band, then hike in the large canyon bottom following either the dry streambed, or use trails. I took lots of pics, and started tracking a cougar who had used the trail. Looked pretty recent, the cat tracks overlaid some boot prints in spots. I have never been afraid of wild animals, I do have respect for them however. In most of the places I go animals have not been habituated to man, so seem to either ignore me or run like hell.
I reach the beginning of the narrows shortly after noon, about 9 miles of hiking. I locate a spot under a juniper tree, all soft with shedded bark and needles from the tree. And shade. It is rather warm in the sun, the elevation here lower and nearer Lake Powell. I change the backpack to daypack and go to the Narrows. WOW, gorgeous, not as narrow as Buckskin or Little Death Hollow, but spectacular carving of the sandstone, incredible light relecting in the stream, huge alcoves, you could park a lot of buses or passenger jets under the one overhang. If rain wasn't forecasted I would have camped there.
Serious wading in here, wall to wall water in spots, hip deep at times on me. You can go on through and make a loop, but as I didn't waterproof my pack I decided to do it as an in and out.
It was late back to camp, not a lot of sunlight to get to try to dry out wet clothes and shoes. I was snug in the bivy and bag however. It was a full moon, so I had some difficulty sleeping real well as it was so bright. I heard an animal cry, it sounded like a baby crying. I sat up and looked, about 200 yards away on a sandstone slope stood a cougar. Looked black, then kinda gray in the light. Stood there, then turned its back to me and vanished down the rock. So silent, as if had never been there. I lay back down, thought about that, then went back to sleep. I did keep one trekking pole handy at my side.
Next day the trek out, great views this way too. Sometimes I don't mind in and outs, you get to make sure you don't miss anything scenery wise. I saw no other hikers on this trip either.
Well the weather looked great and I was teed off I had postponed my other trek. I was at loose ends, and decided to go to the Cedar Mesa and see what was doing. I have hiked there a lot. I did another overnighter is a rough canyon not popular with the Grand Gulch crowd, did some rim walking and located some Anasazi ruins new to me. The last night I car camped on top, and did a half day hike to the Perfect Kiva. Its a great hike, with some scrambling and great views down a deep canyon. What a peaceful place. I had it to myself this day. Years ago more artifacts in the alcove, now only some pottery shards, remain.
When I hiked out, sort of sad to be heading home, another Jeep pulled up and they asked "how far to the Kiva" My answer "Not too far, but far enough"--and they smiled. They knew what I meant, said in this magical country of southern utah.