Farther up the river I found a hiking stick in the river on a sandbar. I picked it up and used it to probe river bottom as I made my way down river through the ever narrowing section of the Paria River Canyon. Finally I got tired of handling the wet, slick, sandy hiking stick and trying to keep sand off my camera so I leaned it up against a canyon wall (seen here), so somebody else might benefit from it.
It was a mistake to leave it, since when I reached the point I decided to turn around on this hike, it would have been very handy to probe water depth, and river bottom contour. Next time I take hike with so much wading in opaque water, I will remember to add my trekking poles to my hiking and road trip list.
I began my Paria River hike from the White House trailhead, where I had camped, at 7:15 am. I saw the couple from Bellingham, Washington, who had camped near me, preparing breakfast as I started for the river for my hike. I was the first one hiking that cool crisp morning. I wouldn’t see another hiker except a youth backpacking group, coming the other way, late into my hike. They were from Salt Lake City and had backpacked down Buckskin Gulch, camped, and were now heading out to their dropped off vehicles at White House trailhead.
I started to count the number of times I crossed the cold knee deep at most, Paria River, but quit counting, when I got to 14 within the first minutes of the hike. Clearly I would be spending a lot of time crossing and recrossing the Paria on this hike. My feet quickly became numb as the sun wasn’t reaching the canyon floor and the river yet.
The scenery improved as I headed downstream. There were some fine narrows, interesting rock formations, and the solitude of hiking a desert canyon all to yourself. When the canyon (and river) narrowed it was important to pick your line to cross so you didn’t step in deeper water. The water was opaque and judging from the shoreline high water mark, had dropped a little after yesterday’s snow in the higher regions of the area.
I kept up a quick hiking pace, partly to stay warm, though I could have put on the primaloft jacket I had in my day pack, I found the quick pace and the increasing temperatures of the morning air, kept me warm…all but my feet.
I reached a narrow winding channel next to a large pyramid rock (blocking the right bank) at around 9:15 am. I had picked up a hiking stick that had floated to shore further up the river but quit using it to probe the water depth when I found it left my hand wet and sandy all the time and I was constantly drying off my hands to take photographs. I had left it leaning up against a canyon wall. So as I stepped forward at the narrowest channel, which the constriction of rocks would force me to travel, the bottom dropped off quickly. I would likely need to travel at least a short section in waist deep water, which at that point I decided didn’t sound life fun.
It would keep me cold for quite awhile and I was carrying both my Canon Powershot G15 and my old G10 as a backup camera, and I didn’t like the idea of a slip, where I met get a short swim opportunity and two cameras dunked. So I made the right decision for me, and turned around. I took a GPS reading a little ways up the river where I could get a good enough signal and found I was about 5.4 miles, as the raven flies, from the GPS reading I had taken at my pickup truck, when I had left on the hike two hours earlier
The hike back out was fun. The sun reached the river and the air warmed enough where I started looking forward to the river wading instead of clinching my teeth at each, as I had at times on the way down river.
I overtook the SLC group and hiked along chatting with the group leader for quite awhile, then the Bellingham, Washington couple came hiking down the river and wanted some Beta on the hike, so I told them my story. They too said that knee deep was "good enough for them" and told me that they would hike to the slide pillar rock I had told them about, just upriver from the likely "deep hole", by the pyramid rock.
I met about three other pairs of hikes, coming down the river on my way back. I was at my truck by 11:30 am, changing into dry jeans, cotton socks, and running shoes. It had been an enjoyable and worthwhile hike. Had a gone another couple of miles at most down the canyon, I would have reached the confluence of the Paria River with Buckskin Gulch. Perhaps another day on a little warmer day, and with my trekking poles for balance and depth probing the river.
It was a quality wade/hike but in all honesty for the 11 miles of hiking involved it didn’t come close to other canyon hikes I have taken in the past, which involved a lot of wading. Two in particular come to mind. The Aravaipa in Northern Arizona which my wife and I day hiked several times from both the east and west end, and backpacked with our youngest son and his wife on one occasion. Lots of wildlife in that canyon including big horn sheep, one Bobcat, and some Coati. Clear cool creek, with a nice pebble bottom.
The other wading backpack my wife and I took with the highest quality desert scenery of most hikes we have taken was the Coyote Gulch backpack off the Hole In The Rock Road in the Escalante River Canyon country. A classic and popular for good reason:
Backpacking Coyote Gulch:
Backpacking the Aravaipa River Canyon in Northern Arizona:
CAPITOL REEF ROAD TRIP APR 2015
I left our home in Eastern Washington on 5:30 am, Thursday April 16th. It was earlier than I had long planned, but with the weather forecast for the places I wanted to camp, hike, and visit on this two week road trip – – and the need to make my plans mesh with the plans of others, it was the right time to go.
I had my bed made up in the pickup truck canopy. As it turned out I would sleep in the back of my pickup truck 7 nights. I can honestly say I much enjoy sleeping in my pickup truck with the protection from weather and bugs (screened windows) a custom and comfortable mattress, and an old down mummy sleeping bag to keep me warm should I end up camping where it was cold (which I did a couple of times). Making camp consists of parking and climbing in the back. Breaking camp, consists of getting out of my comfortable bed in the back, getting in the cab of the truck and … driving away.
Traveling through Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Nevada, Utah, and Colorado – – I covered 3,600 miles on this road trip. I took hikes down the Paria River; through Grand Gulch and in Upper Muley Twist Canyon; to Upper Calf Creek Falls and a half dozen short "hikes" thrown in for good measure.
The desert wildflowers were in bloom on this trip and I enjoyed their beauty, fragrance (most of them), and variety as they changed from location to location and with elevation and environment. Trailing desert four o’clocks and yellow Utah sego lilies were among my favorites on this trip.
Stories will often accompany the photographs I post of this road trip. I hope you enjoy some of the photos and some of the stories. I post them for that reason for kith, kin, and Flickr friends.
Here is an outline of the day to day travel and activities.
DAY ONE: TH 4.16.15. Leave home in Eastern Washington 5:30 am 4.16.15. Stop by Nampa, Idaho to meet a long time Flickr contact; see his fiddle shop; and hopefully score some of the home made bread he often posts photos of on his Flickr site. Drive down Nevada highway 93 through Ely to Panaca, Nevada. Catch a couple hours of sleep in the back of the truck. Urge to move on. Drive into the night to a "camp" near Cedar City, Utah. Sleep.
DAY TWO: FR 4.17.15. Drive Utah highway 9 through Zion National Park (snow falling on the east side of the park down from Mt. Carmel Junction to Kanab). Since I arrived at Kanab at 8:45 am, I thought what the heck. Joined and failed once again to win a hiking spot to The Wave. 62 of us present for the attempt. Few winners. No problem. Grab a Subway sandwich and head on through the snow toward the Paria River country. I was told by the Kanab rangers that the back roads would almost for certain be dry enough for travel by the next day, when the good warm weather was forecast to arrive. ALMOST for certain, is the operative phrase here. First road I checked out was to slippery to walk on. Move on. Checked out the House Rock road to Wire Pass – – passable. A surprise. Spent the rest of the day checking out trailheads for future hikes in the area. A scenic 4WD trip made up Long Canyon, then returned to the White House trailhead and campground, where I reserved a camping spot for the night. Took a wonderful impromptu, storm clouds swirling about, hike in a side canyon of the Paria River. Slept well that night.
DAY THREE: SA 4.18.15. Up and ready for a day hike before dawn. Started what turned out to be an eleven mile round trip hike down (often IN), the Paria River from the White House TH to just short of the confluence of the Paria River and Buckskin Gulch. Feet absolutely numb on the early morning hike down the Paria, felt refreshingly wonderful on the warm to hot hike back up and out of the Paria River to the trailhead and my pickup truck. Mostly knee deep water. Opaque flow, so you had to check the depth and bottom configuration with care at times. I turned around when I reached a narrow spot, where it appeared I was going to have to go at least waste deep in the cold water, and how much deeper, I didn’t know. So, I called it a turn around point (5.4 miles as the raven flies from my pickup truck at the trailhead) according to my Garmin Oregon 600 GPS. Decided to "move on" after this hike up to the Escalante country on my way to Colorado. Lower Calf Creek CG was full, as I expected to I spent the night camped under the stars, on BLM land near the Upper Calf Creek Falls trailhead area. Slept well.
DAY FOUR: SU 4.19.15. Got and early start and headed to Boulder, then the Burr Trail route to Notom, checking out possible hikes I might take the following week with a Flickr hiking friend from Washington state, who planned to meet me at Capitol Reef NP the following Sunday. I back tracked from Notom to the Capitol Reef visitor center to discuss some of the trails and roads with the rangers there. Off to Hanksville then Green River, Utah where I drove the interstate to near Denver, Colorado. There I drove up into the foothills of the Rocky Mountains to where my wife and granddaughter were waiting, and where our kids now live. Up high, and still in snow, but a lovely house in a great environment. No mowing when the snow melts, the deer and elk, who visit their place daily, take care of keeping the natural grasses trimmed properly. Even with snow broad-tailed hummingbirds were paying visits to their feeder, and the pygmy nuthatch, downy woodpecker, mountain chickadee took shifts at the kids’ suet feeder. Magpies and a gorgeous all black Abert’s squirrel made futile attempts to reach the suet, but the design of the feeder thwarted their persistent and creative efforts. I stayed at the kids’ place for a week. Lucky them!. This was night one of the visit.
DAYS: FIVE, SIX, SEVEN, EIGHT, NINE, & TEN: MO-SAT (4.20.15 – 4.25.15). I stayed at our kids’ place. We took our granddaughter shopping (REI flagship store in Denver); to playgrounds; to Lookout Mt.; and shopping. We walked the roads and trails in the area of the house and on one day, my wife, oldest son, and I made a dual purpose trip to Capital City and Blackhawk, Colorado. Old historic mining towns and two of the three Colorado towns that since the late 1990s (add Cripple Creek to make the third) to allow casinos. So, my wife and son got some quality penny slot investment time in at the Monarch casino in Blackhawk, while I took our son’s Jeep up to explore dirt roads, old mines, old cemeteries, and the scenery about Central City (via downtown Nevadaville). It was a great week with wife, kids, and our "charm your socks off" two and half year old, talk your socks off, granddaughter: Sierra McKenzie. I am now up to date on all the young kids’ TV shows and have regained some of my coloring book skills. Every evening Sierra would bring her Candyland game to us, and we would play a game. Can’t believe it is the same game that my brother and I once played with the family, when we were young children. Good things last.
DAY 11: SU 4.26.15. Having packed most of my stuff in my pickup truck the night before, I got an early morning start to meet up with a Washington hiking friend at Capitol Reef National Park. It was a miserable drive over the Colorado Rockies. Fog at first, then rain, then ice and snow, then fog, then rain. Ice and snow on the highway at times caused cautious slow driving at times. I spent a lot of time with the pickup truck in 4WD for safety’s sake. Finally around Grand Junction, Colorado – – the bad driving conditions eased and I found myself enjoying the trip. Storm clouds over the San Rafael swell provided interesting scenery and photo ops as I drove south from Green River, Utah to Hanksville. Then on to the Capitol Reef visitor center where I found that the campground one mile south of the visitor center had a few openings, So I rushed off to sign in for a camping spot for the night. Early afternoon Jim showed up from Washington State. Our plan was to do some hikes together over a several days in Central Utah. We wasted no time. We thought about the Cathedral Valley loop but rangers told us that the clay sections of both sides of the loop road would be impassable until they dried out more. Instead Jim parked his rig at the bottom of Grand Wash, and we took my pickup back to the upper trailhead. It is only a two mile hike down Grand Wash, but I had never hiked it and this was Jim’s first visit to Utah. Turned out to be a "grand" hike (pun intended). A really quality hike and having two vehicles available to shuttle made it a perfect target for a lead off hike. After we finished that hike we drove up to Panama Point at the west end of the park off highway 24. There we would both be able to get cell phone reception and make some calls "back home". I had never been to the Goosenecks Overlook (Jim had already hiked it on his way to the visitor center earlier in the day), so I took that short hike to get some sunset at Capitol Reef NP photographs. A great way to end the day. Slept really well. Good books to read by LED headlamps help!
DAY 12: MO 4.27.15.Left camp by 6:30 am. Drove to Notom then slowly down the Notom – Burr Trail road to the switchback climb out. The wildflowers were at their best. Jim is much more knowledgeable with wildflowers than I am, so we both had a great time, enjoying the fresh desert air, slow travel, scenic landscapes of the east side of the Waterpocket Fold and the oyster shell reef. It is a drive I have made at least a half a dozen times in many seasons but remains one of my favorites. The desert wildflowers were out in force. It was here we saw a sego lily, that I didn’t know existed. It was yellow and it was bright and beautiful. I had never seen or heard of a yellow sego lily but a nice lady ranger at Escalante, Utah – – the next day, confirmed it was indeed a Utah yellow sego lily.
Jim and I both had lunch at the top of the Burr Trail switchbacks. It was a bit windy by then but the views out over the desert to the snow covered Henry Mountains was as spectacular as ever. Next we went to the trailhead at Peek-A-Boo rock for Upper Muley Twist Canyon. I had been to the trailhead a couple times with my wife, but for one reason or another, we had never taken the time to hike (or take the 4WD trip) to the Strike Valley Overlook trailhead. When Jim and I arrived, we walked the first hundred yards of the Jeep trail (wash) route, and decided to give it a go. Jim left his rig at the trailhead and the two of us started the three mile "up the creek wash" 4WD route in my pickup truck. There were only a couple of "extreme caution required" places on the drive, where care had to be taken not to damage the underside (the non-shiny side) of the pickup truck. The rest was fun and interesting driving. There were two other 4WD vehicles at the end of the route, at the trailhead for the Strike Valley Overlook hike. One a Jeep Wrangler with Washington plates and two sea kayaks on top. We never did see the owner of that vehicle. The other a Toyota off road SUV with Texas plates. We would run into the owner of that rig at the end of our hiking. Jim and I grabbed cameras and day packs and made the scenic and short, slickrock and sand, hike up to the striking Strike Valley Overlook. About a one mile hike up. The views were tremendous and gave a geological look at the earth folds of the area, that would be difficult to beat. We returned to the trailhead and decide to hike a couple miles up Upper Muley Twist Canyon to see some of the arches and the lay of the land. We turned around just above the "rim route" and saddle arch.
On the way back a young fit solo hiker overtook us and we talked with her for awhile. She was from Houston and was the owner of the Toyota. She had completed the entire Upper Muley Twist loop hike and gave us the beta on that. When we got to my pickup truck the young Texas gal, smiled at us and said "you know I enjoyed the Strike Valley overlook so much, I think I will hike it again.". With that, she shouldered her day pack and disappeared up through the juniper trees. We returned to Jim’s rig then took off in convoy fashion to Long Canyon and then Boulder, Utah. We stopped often for photo ops, meals, and conversation. With the day ending, we made an executive decision to camp near the Upper Calf Creek falls, trailhead (as I had done the previous Sunday), and hike to the Upper falls, early the next day (which we did).
DAY 13:TU 4.28.15. We drove both rigs from our BLM land camps the short distance to the Upper Calf Creek falls trailhead (new – – some guide books now have it wrong. It is no longer a rough road and it is no longer between mp 18 and 82). No other hikers there. Shouldered are day packs and with morning light just arriving, dropped down over the wonderful slickrock then sand then slickrock hiking route into Calf Creek Canyon. This isn’t a long hike but test your legs and wind on the way back up. Not much water going over the falls but what a place. A swallows in the air alcove down the stream from the falls, had dense lush vegetation along the walls and the valley floor. Beaver dams provided ponds and quality habitat for many critters. Wildflowers were in bloom (desert verbena with its sweet perfume and bright globe while blossom heads – hid along the cliff base). Evening primrose in blossom were ubiquitous everywhere in Utah and they graced the trailside of this hike as well. Also, as guide books warned, poison ivy is present. We first hiked to the top of the falls where a succession of lovely water pools and tanks in the slickrock bed make an idyllic scene. Add to that a male and female cinnamon teal were cautiously paddling about above the falls. Only one man made sign at the site and it was interesting to say the least (especially given all the poison ivy in the nearby vicinity). After a relaxed visit to the top of the falls, we retraced our route and took the lower trail to the base of the falls. Lighting conditions (half the falls in bright sun and the other half in shade) made getting quality photos of the fall difficult to impossible (for me), but the hike and the visit were high on my list of hikes enjoyed on this road trip. The hike back out of the canyon was made at a more moderate and conservative "old men’s" pace. Both Jim and I are about the same age. From Upper Calf Creek we drove on to a Subway sandwich lunch and then the visitor center at Escalante, Utah. It was here Jim and I agreed to head different directions. I introduced Jim to "Robert" the manager at the Circle D motel there, and Jim got a room for the night. He thought he might hike Lower Calf Creek and visit the Devil’s Garden out the hole-in-the-rock road before heading for Arches and the Islands in the Sky section of Canyonlands around Moab, Utah. I shared thoughts of places he might enjoy on his road map of Utah. I knew I was headed home, but hadn’t made up my mind by which route. I must have changed my mind a dozen times by the time I stopped at the tiny post office building at Henrieville, Utah to mail postcards to my wife and granddaughter. I had stopped to do the same the previous Sunday. Old habits die hard. On a spur of the moment I decided to check if there just might be one campsite open at Kodachrome State Park. I had read on the internet they would close down the entire month of June to expand and improve. It is a now popular campground with excellent scenery and hikes in the area. They also have HOT SHOWERS! So I pulled up and waited 20 minutes while a ranger hopped in his ATV and double checked to see if camp site number 11 had indeed vacated and opened up. The last camp site available. I got it! First order of business was a long hot shower and change of clothes. Can’t tell you how good that felt. I was tired of hiking, getting lazy, so decided to drive some of the roads I had never driven and perhaps take an 11 mile drive out south to a favorite arch (Grosvenor Arch – – Butler Arch to the locals). So first drive was to Chimney Rock then over to the short easy hike to Shakespeare Arch (which I took). Back to my campsite for a bite to eat and then a drive down the Cottonwood Road to Grosvenor Arch, where I was happy to find that the ravens were still raising a family in a nest near the top of the this arch. I slept really well that night.
DAY 14:WE 4.29.15. I hate it when I do this. After getting up early, the "homing" instinct took hold. I always promise myself I won’t give in to it, but I usually do. Over to Panguitch, Utah – – highway 20 to the Interstate and off this shun piker drove on automatic pilot on the multilane, 80 mph, congested in the cities, interstate. Headed for home. Windy and dusty all the way from Salt Lake City to La Grande, Oregon. Not fun driving. BUT at La Grande I filled the gas tank of the pickup truck, grabbed a toasted Subway sandwich and drove the short distance west to a campsite right on the Grand Ronde River. The wind had died down, it was getting dark, it was cold, but when I climbed into my down sleeping bag in the back of the truck for the 7th and final time on this trip…I was comfortable, content, and happy. I read a book for a half an hour by LED headlamp light, and dozed off. I slept the best I had done so on this entire trip.
DAY 15:TH 4.30.15. On the way by 6 am. Stopped above Pendleton to see if any of the yellow lupine were yet in bloom at the top of the Emigrant Road. They were. Home by mid-morning. 3,600 miles on my pickup truck’s trip odometer. A lot of smiles, wildflowers, and great hiking along the way. An excellent and enjoyable visit (and more than a few take home Panda Express meals) with the kids, wife, and granddaughter in Colorado. Good to be back home. Glad I did it. Now, thinking ahead to the next "road trip" or "hike". Oldmantravels 1 May 2015
Tagged: , Grand Staircase – Escalante National Monument , Paria River , Southern Utah , River Canyon hiking Utah , White House trailhead and campground , day hikes , road trip