Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Buckskin Gulch & Paria River Canyon Hike, AZ

Lafayette, CO - I finally made it through all my Buckskin Gulch photos! Granted, I took a ton of photos for 4 days of hiking. However, on top of that, I also recently upgraded to Photoshop CS4. Between trying to figure out what the heck I am doing, and playing with all the new bells and whistles, my processing speed has noticeably dropped. That said, I'm pretty happy with some of the results. Although, I'm probably still over-processing quite a bit. But enough of that, let's talk about Buckskin.

On September 29th, 2009 a rental car full of friends pulled up to The Bean in Page, Arizona. Suwei and I were reorganizing the truck and packing for the weekend. Being well into my 4th cup of coffee, I was probably making more of a mess than actually accomplishing anything. We had just struck out two days in a row, trying to get permits to see the Wave again, so we had a day to kill before starting our hike. I tried to explain to folks, that what we were planning to see down in Buckskin Gulch, blows the doors off the Wave any day.

I had hiked through Buckskin Gulch back in 2002 with Shosh, a good friend who loves the desert. Since that time I had been wanting to do the full hike through the gulch and down the Paria River all the way to Lee's ferry. Suwei probably got tired of hearing me go on and on about it, and put together this trip.  As always, she did a ton of research and put together a fantastic plan.  I have posted it here for anyone interested planning a trip of their own:

Buckskin Gulch/Paria Canyon Canyoneering/Backpacking Trip, Sept 29-Oct 4, 2009

This is a trip I've wanted to do for years: Buckskin Gulch to the Paria River and then follow the river down to Lee's Ferry (near Page), AZ. Buckskin Gulch from what I read is the longest and deepest slot canyon in the United States (though in this trip we are doing only 12 of 21 miles of it). Anyways, if you haven't heard of it, just try googling Buckskin Gulch and you'll see tons of pics.

A quick note...I've read that Buckskin Gulch requires basic canyoneering skills. "Experienced hikers, those that have experience canyoneering, and rock climbers will have no problems." In particular there are 2 spots that require scrambling. I plan to bring a rope to help lower packs and aid in going down but if you are scared of heights or don't feel comfortable doing a little class 3 scrambling, this may not be the trip for you.

I currently have a permit for 6 but have checked and 5 more slots are available. Maximum group size is 10 though for a single applicant.

Suwei, Karl & Eng-Shien Hiking in Buckskin Gulch

Quick Stats
Total Distance: 43 miles, not incl. some side trips sans pack
Number of Days: 5
Average Mileage per Day: 8.6 miles

Quick Links
Jennifer in Buckskin Gulch
Day 1: Tuesday, Sept 29
  • Noon: Meet at Glen NRA, Lee's Ferry Ranger Station parking area.
  • Take hired shuttle to Wire Pass Trailhead.
  • If I can get walk-in permits for The Wave, then we'll do the 6-mile round-trip day hike out there. What is The Wave? Check it out:
  • Camp at Wire Pass Trailhead for the night.
Day 2: Wednesday, Sept 30
Start: Wire Pass Trailhead
Trail: Buckskin Gulch
End: Middle Trail Exit to the North Rim
Distance: ~7 miles
  • 2 miles: Entrance to Buckskin Gulch
  • 7 miles: Petroglyphs and a 100-ft scramble up the Middle Trail to the North Rim
Notes: No water available on the trail for this first day. Near the confluence of the Buckskin and Paria are springs (day 2), but it is recommended that you bring a gallon of water/per day/per person; so that would be 2 gallons of water to start.

First Day in Buckskin Gulch
Day 3: Thursday, Oct 1
Start: Middle Trail Exit
Trail: Buckskin Gulch
End: Confluence of Buckskin Gulch & the Paria River
Distance: 6-7 miles not incl. an optional 1.5 mile detour to Slide Arch
  • 3 miles: Large log and boulder-jam; next 2 miles to the Paria River are suppose to be the most stunning of the trail
  • 5 miles: Confluence with the Paria River
  • Slide Arch: 3/4 miles north from the confluence of Buckskin Gulch and Paria Canyon; "The much photographed landmark is actually a huge rockfall which formed a bridge over the river."
  • Camping: 1-2 miles south of the confluence
Notes: The first possible available water source is at the camping areas, a spring 1 mile south of the confluence and another 2 miles south of the confluence.

Second Day in Buckskin Gulch
Day 4: Friday, Oct 2
Start: 1-2 miles south of the confluence of Buckskin Gulch & Paria Canyon
Trail: Paria River End: Confluence of Wrather Canyon and Paria Canyon
Distance: 10-11 miles
  • 1-2 miles: Wall Spring
  • 5-6 miles: Big Spring
  • 7-8 miles: Short slot canyon named The Hole and the remains of Adams Pump (no longer working)
  • 10-11 miles: Wrather Canyon
Notes: The water from the spring can be filtered/treated for drinking. The water from the Paria River can also be filtered but is very silty. Probably better for jumping in and cooling off.

The Paria River Canyon
Day 5: Saturday, Oct 3
Start: Confluence of Wrather Canyon and Paria Canyon
Trail: Paria River to Highwater Trail
End: 1 mile down the Highwater Trail
Distance: ~8 miles not incl. a side trip to Wrather Arch
  • Side trip up Wrather Cranyon to the base of Wrather Arch and a view down the canyon
  • 2 miles: Shower Springs
  • 5 miles: Last Springs
  • 7 miles: Highwater Trail
  • 8 miles: Highwater Trail turns back toward Paria River and there is stand of Cottonwood trees to camp underneath
Notes: Last Springs at mile 5 for the day is the last spring water source.
Day 6: Sunday, Oct 4
Start: 1 mile down the Highwater Trail
Trail: Highwater Trail
End: Lee's Ferry, Glen NRA
Distance: ~10 miles (early start as there is no shade for these last 10 miles!)
  • 1 mile: View of Echo Peaks
  • 2 miles: Trail drops back down to the Paria River bed
  • 9.5 miles: Preserved John D. Lee homestead

Last Day out to Lee's Ferry
  • The closest major airport is Flagstaff, AZ. Flagstaff to Lee's Ferry, Glen NRA, is almost 3 hrs according to Google maps. The next one is Las Vegas, at 5.5 hrs.
  • The Wave requires a permit. 20 permits/day, half of which are walk-in and the remainder can be obtained online beforehand. Online permits are obtained via a lottery system which needs to be entered 4 months in advance. Least to say, I didn't apply in time for the lottery. The 10 walk-in permits are available 24 hrs in advance. So I am going to try to get to the Paria Ranger Station Tuesday morning to try to get permits. I am limited to a group of 6 people.
  • In either case, I would suggest flying out Monday evening after work, stay the night in whatever town you fly to, and then get up early and drive to Lee's Ferry. Trying to fly, rent a car, drive to Lee's Ferry and shuttle to Wire Pass Trailhead starting on Wednesday, might mean no Wave for you.
  • If you are not interested in going to The Wave, then you can show up later. I will give you the numbers for the shuttle services and let you work out the details. Just be bright-eyed, bushy-tailed and ready to start hiking at Wire Pass by 8am Wednesday morning.
  • The last day is 10 miles and I would like to get an early start: ~7am. Therefore I'm hoping to be at our cars no later than 1pm. That would give you enough time to catch a flight out that night.
  • Average temperatures for the week of Sept 21-27, 2008 (from Max - 86 F, Mean - 74 F, Low - 62 F
  • Of course, we'll be checking the weather reports beforehand. If there is a chance for rain in the region, especially upstream, we will have to postpone or cancel this trip.

Our group Finishes up at the Lonely Dell Ranch near Lee's Ferry
We only made a few small changes to this itinerary.
  1. As I mentioned above, we were unable to get permits to see the Wave. Instead, we took a short hike to Horseshoe Bend and then spent the afternoon swimming in Lake Powell.
  2. On our 3rd day of hiking we overshot the last spring and ended up hiking further than we expected.  We felt at the time that the published distances were a little over exaggerated.  In any case we were hiking much further and faster than planned.  So, on the 4th day of hiking, day 5 on the itinerary, we found it quite easy to make it all the way out to Lee's Ferry, completing the hike a day early.
Both Buckskin Gulch and the Paria River Canyon are mind blowingly beautiful.  If you ever get the chance to do this hike, take it!  As I said before I took tons and tons of photos.  There are about 85 of them in the slide show.  And although my camera was acting a little wonky down there, I was very happy with how many of the shots turned out.  Much, much better than in 2002 when I was still using my film camera and had no idea what I was doing.
Click the link below for the slide show:
Buckskin Gulch & Paria River Canyon Hike, AZ
And here are some links to other slide shows of the same trip:
Eng-Shien's: Buckskin Gulch Suwei's: 2009-09-30 CA to Buckskin Gulch & Paria Canyon Arturo's: Buckskin Gulch and Paria Canyon

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Bristlecone Pines, Glen Canyon, & Lake Powell

Lafayette, CO - Hot Damn! 2010 and I'm still struggling to get through all my pictures. Good thing I'm still out of work, otherwise I'd have to get a bigger digital shoebox. On the other hand, not working makes it much easier to get out there and take more pictures. Like last weekend, Suwei and I were invited up to Casper Wyoming to do a hut trip with friends from both coasts. I took a few snaps there... and will post them about the time it starts getting warm again.

For this set of photos we go back to the last week in September. I had just finished up my stint with Suntrek and met Suwei in San Francisco just in time to celebrate our one year anniversary. To celebrate we decided to (you guessed it!) do a road trip. That's right. After driving a van 17990 miles from coast to coast to coast and back again, I couldn't think of anything I'd rather do than spend some time with my wife on the road.

We started off with hot springing on the backside of the Sierras. We took a hike to check out the oldest trees on the planet in the Ancient Bristle-cone Pine Forest in the White Mountains of California. We went to see "LOVE", a Cirque du Soleil show in Las Vegas. We took a 4 hour float down the Colorado river to see Glen Canyon from the bottom. And we washed off the dust collected along the way in the cooling waters of Lake Powell. By that time we had met up with a few of our hiking buddies for a 4 day backpacking trip through Buckskin Gulch... but that is another post altogether.

Hope you enjoy the photos. Stick around for the hike... coming soon.

Hot Spring near Mammoth, CA / Suwei doing her best bristle-cone pine impression

Ancient Bristle-cone Pine Forest, The White Mountians, CA

Floating down the Colorado River though Glen Canyon

Horseshoe Bend, Arizona / Lake Powell, Utah

So, Suwei tells me that most people reading this blog won't or don't bother to check out the slide show. She says I should put more of the stories in the actual blog. I think she is probably right. However, I hate to give up the slide shows. I think it is by far the best way to view the pictures and I think spending time telling stories in that format make it worth it. So, that said... I'd highly suggest checking out the slide show. I think you will find it worth your time. Here is the link:

Bristlecone Pines, Glen Canyon, & Lake Powell