Member Trip Report



Paria Canyon/Buckskin Gulch Backpack, Arizona

April 15-16, 2011

Author and Trip Leader: Ron Morgan.

Participants: Momo Vuyisich, Robin Gurule, and Glen Burow, and Ron Morgan.

Momo's Photo Gallery: click here.

Four hardy mountaineers took a trip down Paria Canyon/Buckskin Gulch this last weekend. Momo, Robin, and Glen were foolish enough to accompany me on a quick (two-day) scouting adventure of these iconic slot canyons.

Momo, Robin, and Glen

Drove out Thursday April 14th and camped at the trailhead. The first stream crossing the next morning was a bit traumatic, even tho the silty icewater didn’t reach more than halfway to the knee. Momo quickly realized that he had a potentially trip-ending ‘cold feet problem.’ His feet remained cold and numb after a couple of crossings, and he was worried about permanent damage. He changed from boots to Crocs, and developed the patented “Jackie Chan Croc Drainage Maneuver” which allowed his feet to remain warm enough to continue the trip.

After what seemed to be only several hundred stream crossings (and was actually closer to several dozen) and about 7 ½ miles, we passed the mouth of Buckskin Gulch on our way to our camp about ¾ miles south of the confluence.

It turned out (despite published accounts to the contrary) to be a DRY camp on the WEST wall of Paria about ¾ mile downstream, but a VERY nice camp it was (water in Paria was almost universally un-pumpable due to silt…a couple of potholes had ‘settled clear’ and were the exceptions). After establishing camp and then exploring further south in Paria (where we found a good spring about a mile below camp), we reluctantly returned to camp and sat down to appetizers of cheese/crackers/olives, green salad, mashed potatoes, and filet mignon. It was tough, VERY tough, but sacrifices had to be made and SOMEBODY had to step up and do it.

Saturday morning we broke camp and headed to Buckskin for the dreaded icy slurpee pools. About three hundred meters up Buckskin in we found THREE very nice campsites, and the water in the bottom of Buckskin was clear and cold. Although our campsite was very nice, the sites just upstream in Buckskin are preferable.

Momo stayed behind in lower Buckskin to pursue the elusive Perfect Canyon Photo, and the remaining three of us continued up Buckskin.

The first 1 ½ miles was an easy, mostly dry stroll until the first rockjam, which was a bit of a struggle getting over (even with gear left by previous explorers). Glen turned around here and went back to keep Momo company with his quest, and Robin and I went on into the wilderness. The next ½ mile had us slog through three significant pools of icy mucky glutinous UURRGGggg. Fortunately, none of the three proved to be more than slightly higher than my knee (and THIS TIME I wasn’t quite clumsy enough to fall on my face). The canyon above the pools was entirely dry, and afforded us astonishing views at every pace.

Unfortunately, time constraints compelled us to turn around after about another 1 ½ miles, for a total of about 3 miles of Buckskin explored. Robin and I ate lunch at the confluence of Buckskin and Paria (Momo and Glen had already headed back to the truck), then headed back. About 7 ½ miles of sandy/rocky canyon bottom (roughly 85 degree F), against the flow of the water during the many crossings, was about as much of a hike as I wanted for one day. I COULD have gone further, say for example if there was a bear behind me. Robin, on the other hand, looked like she could have done it again without raising a sweat (or even a raised eyebrow).

Dinner that night was at the “Canyon King” sternwheeler pizzeria, which isn’t as bad as it sounds (although they need to work on their beer, and their waitresses could use a refresher course also). Then, after a night at the local Motel 6 (conservation of funds), and at the crack of dawn on Sunday (no, REALLY, at dawn, honest) we headed back. Great trip, GREAT company. All that remains are sore feet (in my case) and good photos (for the other three, cause as you can see from the attached photos I’m “pixel-atedly-challenged”).

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