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Paria Hackberry Traverse 2008

We're Outta Here

Sunday, May 4   Before going to bed, we "did the math" concerning what time the shuttle drivers would have to leave camp, based on estimated car shuttling and driving times to Salt Lake, plus hiking time out of the canyon to our Highlander. The Highlander was parked at a pullout about 1.5 miles down a side road off the Cottonwood Wash road, at 12S, 417937 E, 4146820 N. We estimated that such was 2.5 - 3 miles of hiking from camp, but of course, had no idea if the hiking would be slow or fast. The bottom line was that the shuttle drivers and their first load of human and gear cargo would have to be out of camp by 7:15 am. Ugh. So Susie and I set the alarm for 5:30, acknowledging the sometimes glacial pace with which we often break camp in the morning.

We had deliberately planned an easy, quick breakfast: heat water for coffee, and eat some oatmeal bars (Oatmeal to go, I think Quaker calls those things). They were OK, but I would not want to make a steady diet of such. Surprisingly, we were packed up and hoisted at 6:50 am: 80 minutes to break camp is something of a record for us. So we took off at a leisurely pace, knowing that Andy and Sue would catch up quickly. Hiking in the cool of the morning, before sunrise, turned out to be quite pleasant. The canyon get's tighter, with more vegetation. We stopped and took quite a few photos, of fresh sunlight on high canyon walls. The walk is pretty straightforward: you just hike up the canyon. The walls get lower and eventually, perhaps a half mile short of the vehicle, the canyon opens up and bang: no more canyon. One interesting thing we saw on the way out was, as the canyon constricts down to perhaps 15 feet, a rockfall. There was a 13 year old "cowboy" signature on the rock, but faint in the rock was what appeared to be a real petroglyph. Since the male figure was well endowed, shall we say, and anatomically correct, my suspicion was that it was real.

We got to the Highlander at 8:15 am. Good progress. Now, things got complicated. Typically, what we would do on a normal shuttle is that only the shuttle drivers would get in the vehicle and leave packs and any other people that came out with them at the trailhead. But with Carol's Aerostar minvan in the repair shop, and Ray, (who had agreed to meet us on the Cottonwood Wash road) having a low clearance vehicle, we had to think thru all this stuff. (I know, this sorta thing gives a lot of folks headaches, and when I tried to explain this to most of the rest of the crew, they just shook their heads and said: "Whatever, just tell us where you want us to be when." So we emptied the back of the Highlander of a lot of the water we had cached, just to give us a bit more cargo room. Then, the four of us piled in, and took off for the trailhead from which we started at Willis Creek. I had warned worry-wart Susie that the mile and a half of track out to the Cottonwood Wash road would be bad, so she kept her eyes covered. We saw Ray, who had been touristifying for a week, driving toward us, once we got out on the Cottonwood Wash road (we were out to the road earlier than expected, and had left a note for him), and I tried to explain what we were doing, but eventually, just told him to wait at the junction and we would see him in a hundred minutes or so.

We headed off toward the Willis Creek trailhead, all four of us packed into the vehicle. We noted as we crossed the Paria River (on a bridge south of Cannonville) that there was vastly less water flowing in the river than there had been a week ago. I guess it was irrigation time in Southern Utah. We made it to the Willis Creek trailhead in less than an hour, repacked the vehicles A&S's Jeep and our Highlander. Then, it was time to turn around and head back to Hackberry. When we got to the final mile and a half of track leading down to the ending trailhead, we disgorged the gear and Sue and Susie, to maximize the amount of space to get everyone out. This way, Ray, who had been cooling his heels on the Cottonwood Wash road, had some company. Recall that there were still five people coming out of the canyon, and two drivers, so the two vehicles had to accommodate 7 people and five packs. Andy and I got down to the place we had marked about 10:15 am, which was pretty good time. Terri and Ron were waiting for us, so Andy, who was headed with Sue down Cottonwood Wash (CW) Road, and then Page, AZ, and ultimately to Pagosa Springs (where their new place is), volunteered to ferry them to the CW Road, so that he and Sue could get on their way. I waited, albeit less than completely patiently, for Carol, Barbara and Will. Will arrived at 10:38 and Carol and Barbara just a few minutes after that.

We got back to the CW, and reloaded the vehicles (Ray had been carrying some of Will's and Carol's stuff around for the entire week). Sue and Andy, understandably, had already left. So we were down to Ray's Chevy Cobalt and our Highlander. The plan was to get five people in our vehicle and Ray and Carol and lots of gear, in Ray's vehicle, as far as the service station at Ruby's Inn at the entrance to Bryce canyons. So we left Will, with he and Carol's gear and luggage, out in a field near the junction, and took off. Ultimately, Carol's minivan was all fixed, and so he took off to go pick up Will. (The two of them were heading south, to spend a few more days prowling around Southern Utah/Northern Arizona.) Lunch was at the Subway outside of Bryce Canyon. Then the road trip to Salt Lake. We did get back in time to hit the Red Iguana again for dinner. Exceptionally great food this evening. A good way to end a fine trip.

Hard to summarize a trip like this: Evidence of heavy ORV and ATV use in Paria Canyon was balanced by incredible solitude. Five days without seeing any other humans is pretty amazing these days in the Lower 48. Some nice petroglyphs and pictographs, and really nice narrows in Willis Creek. The crossing between Paria and Hackberry was challenging, simply because of the time and energy required to do it. Upper Hackberry was different from many canyons I have hiked in, perhaps because of the lack of water. It is clear that many of us are getting older, and in many cases, after 28 years of doing this kind of thing, just happy to be captured up by the zen of just being there. It is amazing country. Why all of Southern Utah is not a National Park may be a tribute to the short sightedness of many of its residents. Perhaps it is just due to an overabundance of their riches. We should all be so lucky.

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