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Paria Hackberry Traverse 2008


Friday, May 2   I'm not sure, that except for bodily function operations, there was much stirring in camp before 8:00 am. It was plenty cool (38 degrees overnight) and there were nine tired puppies in camp. We had planned a layover day for this day, but it looked more like a day of recovery. There were several stiffness moans as various members exited their tents. A lot of climbing in soft sand gets one to use muscles that may have not been used for a while. With us camped up hard against the east wall of the canyon, photos of us eating breakfast make us look like we were dressed for winter. Andy and Sue made hashbrowns this morning (they usually do that on layover days) and Ron cooked pancakes. Susie and I settled for oatmeal. Hey, I was happy with anything. We mostly sat around and chatted, figuring out the best way to approach the day. Our plan was generally to hike down to the mouth of Stone Donkey Canyon, take a hike, get some water out of the good but small spring we remembered from our trip in 1994, clean our clothes and our bodies, and generally, not engage in too much work.

I think it was likely 11 am before we loaded up our packs full of laundry and water containers and headed downstream to the mouth of Stone Donkey with Sue and Andy, a bit over a mile away. The morning was lovely, but cool. Hey, as long as I could take it easy, I was a happy camper. We were "greeted" at the entrance to Stone Donkey with an impressive cattle skull. Andy joked it was set up to send a message: "Cattle beware when you enter this canyon!" There was a goodly amount of water coming out of Stone Donkey, so we were optimistic that the spring that we had visited 14 years ago was running well. So we thrashed through the brush at the mouth of the canyon and headed up to the spring, perhaps 250 - 300 meters upstream. This particular spot in the canyon had been a godsend 14 years ago for George, Susie, and I. We had managed, stupidly, to miss the turn into the "official way" to get into Hackberry, (the route we had taken last evening) and instead trudged more than a half-mile south, luckily found a route into Stone Donkey, and then hiked down Stone Donkey nearly a mile, before seeing, in the waning light, the pour-off and a blessedly wet pool below it. We were pretty thirsty when we got to that point, having run out of water hours before.

Like they say: Things change. Boy, do they ever in canyon country. We got to the area of the spring, just a few tens of meters below the pour-off with the hole in it, and things felt different. First, there was no spring trickling out of the north wall of the canyon. The sand was wet, and clearly, water was seeping out, but there was no definable course of water. Secondly, you had to almost duck to get under the pour-off. There must have been one-two more feet of sand in the floor of the canyon at this spot than there was 14 years ago. Essentially, the spring had been covered up with sand!

We climbed up and around the pour-off to the left (more vegetation now), and took photos of the famous hole in it. It is kind of neat, but no where near the climb up that it used to be. We shook our heads and moved on. There is a lot of soft sand in the bottom of Stone Donkey, which made the going slow. But there was lovely Paintbrush as well, which was distracting. Before long, our stomachs got distracting and we decided to stop for lunch. We stopped near a little spot where the canyon floor tightens up and you have to do a bit of scrambling to get up and move forward on the floor. OK, HAD to do a bit of scrambling. We had arrived at a spot where I had photographed Susie on a day hike 14 years ago having to jam her legs to descend this tight spot. Now, with so much sand added to the floor of the canyon, it was an easy step down.

Susie and I decided this made a good turn around point. Ron and Terri passed us, and kept going as far as the slot further up the canyon. He and Terri both mentioned to Susie and I later in the day that they were looking, as they came back down to the canyon, on the north wall (canyon left as one goes downstream) to try to figure out where she and I might have descended into the canyon back in 94. They reported that we were lucky, since there only seemed one or two places that were even practical to attempt a descent with a full backpack on. I guess you do what you have to. Anyway, Susie and I got back to the mouth of Hackberry, and decided it made for a reasonably good place to handle clean up chores. It had been nearly 48 hours since I had bathed, and already, I was not liking the odors emanating from my body. Andy and Sue headed downstream to get some more privacy. I changed into my Crocs for clean up. Susie and I have been carrying Crocs for camp shoes for a year now. Their primary advantage is that they are about the lightest things one can carry for "camp shoes." (Even with my size feet, they weigh 13.6 oz, about half the weight of the pair of racing flats I used to carry.) They also have the advantage that they can get wet and dry very easily. Theoretically, they should be easy to slip on in the evenings when you have to leave the tent to take care of bodily functions. Maybe I am more than a bit uncoordinated when I get up in the middle of the night, but it is hard for me to slip most anything on. Anyway, it felt good to get cleaned up, but we would have to appreciate this bath for a while as well. Since tomorrow night would be a waterless camp, no bath until we reached the motel Sunday evening.

Susie and I had a leisurely walk back to camp. However, we noted a fair number of very fresh rockfalls along the streambed. A bit disconcerting. When we got back, we hung our wet clothing up on a clothes line, since the number and appropriateness of the local vegetation for doing such was limited. I spent the late afternoon looking at maps, doing some water pumping, etc, while Susie read or snoozed, depending what you call that which she does with her head hung down but with an open book in her lap.... One of the interesting things we noted this afternoon was some inscriptions (and petroglyphs) near our campsite. Perhaps the most interesting was the insrcription: Art Chynoweth, Dec.19.1900. Kelsey mentions Samson Chynoweth developing the Upper Trail, after settling in this region in 1892. We also noted that the inscription scratch into the rock was way above arm's reach. Could it be that the inscription was really done over 100 years ago, and that there was less sand in the canyon than there used to be? We will never know for sure.

Full shade finally hit camp around 6 pm, and the temperature plummeted. Ron fixed salami and tortilla pizzas, and Susie and I fixed Lipton Cheddar Broccoli with a bit of dried tuna. It is a simple dinner, and not too heavy. Not too filling either, but I would survive. The remainder of the evening was spent chatting and pumping water for the next 1.5 days. (Susie broke our pump's handle, but fortunately, Sue and Andy had brought their pump, and others had them as well. Everyone was gracious to loan us theirs.) I mentioned the fact that maybe we all ought to write mini-reviews of gear that did not work too well and that which worked great. For example, Will noted that his new Crazy Creek lightweight chair had one of the support rods push through the end of the sleeve after only seven nights. The same one that he got for his girlfriend, Kim, did the same thing after being used only one night. In contrast, my new lightweight Big Agnes Cyclone SL Chair Kit (only weighs 5.7 oz), which is a chair-forming sleeve for one's sleeping pad, worked great and held up well. Maybe that is why it earned an Editor's Choice 2008 award from Backpacker magazine.

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To view supplemental photos of this trip, go to our TwoHikers SmugMug gallery.

To view additional and different photos of the trip, go to Will's SmugMug photo gallery.

Roger A. Jenkins, Suzanne A. McDonald, 2008, 2016