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Paria Canyon 1994

A perfect layover

Wednesday, April 23   There are layover days, and then there are layover days. This one has got to be in the top ten. Everything just seemed to come together. The unexpected finds, the opportunity for Susie and I to spend a bit of time by ourselves, the great weather, and the sharing of experiences at the end of the day with good friends. It is hard to imagine it getting any better than this, as the beer commercial goes. All the vibes from the morning breakfast were that folks were going to do their own thing. Such was fine with me. I enjoy the time with my friends. In fact, I treasure it. I also like to do what we want to do, when we want to do it. That seemed to be everyone's sentiment today. (I also think that in the back of everyone's mind, there was the sense that tomorrow would be a day of "togetherness," due to the challenges of the terrain we would be crossing.) After breakfast, Susie and I set things up to leave for what amounts to the rest of the day. Get the tent tightened up, make sure that the packs and gear are covered, and that we knew where the rest of the stuff had been left, in case a wind blew up. We took off sometime after 9 am, and were set to learn what the day would show us.

We were not a half mile above Lone Rock (I like the name "Standing Rock" better, but I did not get there first) when Susie needed to make a quick commune with nature. I took the opportunity to take a look around, and noticed a little stream entering the river from the west side of the canyon. I poked around a bit, and yelled back to Susie that I was going to go into this little tiny side canyon (located at 4140039 Northing, 408688 Easting). All I can say is "Wow." (I am so articulate at these times.) The little slot narrowed on down, to the point that you could touch both walls with your outstretched arms. The bottom of the creek bed was approaching the consistency of quicksand. It was really neat. Susie came on in to check things out, and took a few photos of me swimming in the deep narrow pools, but the light was so dim it was tough to make out what was going on (in the photos). I went back a ways, getting perhaps 200 meters from the mouth. Will showed up and took a bunch of photos of me trying to negotiate the water and the quicksand and keep the camera dry. I think that the thing we liked about the experience so much is that it was totally unexpected. For it to be so neat, and not having been written up in the guidebook was like discovering it ourselves for the first time. After playing around for awhile, it was apparent that I could become quickly hypothermic, because there was very little sun reaching the floor of the slot. I came out of the water, and into the welcome sunshine. Susie had only gotten wet up to her knees, so she did not need a lot of drying out.

Susie and I continued upstream, leaving Will to explore the narrows on his own. Barbara was with him, but did not seem interested in getting cold and wet. I tried to point out that in another hour or so, she would be warm and dry, but my arguments were not convincing. Susie and I hiked up to where the canyon forks: Paria river is coming in from the right, and Sheep Creek from the left. We looked at the map, and decided that the latter offered - potentially - something different. So we hung a left. We stopped after a bit and munched on lunch, but decided that we had time to go a bit further up. Good move. A little less than a mile above the fork, we noticed a small cleft in the canyon wall on the left, and proceeded to investigate (4142697 Northing 407379 Easting). Another jewel!! The opening was a sandy floor, which went back, and the little canyon tightened right up. It was one of the canyons that you seem to see only in photos, where the walls swirl above you, and the softened sunlight makes the glow unreal. We got about 200 meters in from the mouth of the slot, and were absolutely blown away: another real "find" that was not written up. It is really hard to describe the experience, but we will let some of the photos speak for us. Just a delight. As we headed out, we were hoping that we would see part of our crew, to tell them about this wonderful find, but no such luck.

We headed back down Sheep Creek to the River, and then back toward camp. On our way up, we had noticed an interesting "crack canyon" on the east side of the main canyon. (4140778 Northing, 408959 Easting) A look at the topo map reveals dozens of these features in the region. ( Click here for an interactive topographical map of the area. ) It seems as though the rock has split open, and then weather has taken over to enlarge the fissure. The one that we had noticed on our way upstream had an additional feature: A huge slab or rock, perhaps 10 feet thick and at least 50 x 100 feet, had exfoliated from the north wall of the fissure, and was resting on its side in the crack. Just the kind of thing that you want to explore. Susie and I climbed up into the crack, and spent perhaps a half hour there. Noticing that it was clouding up a bit, we decided to head back to camp. However, by the time we got down river a half mile or so, the clouds began to break up. I decided I would check out the exit route near Lone Rock, just to be personally familiar with it in the daylight on the chance that the crew might get spread out in the early morning hours tomorrow. Susie headed on back to camp.

Back in camp, we started hearing about everyone's adventures. Each person seemed bent on topping the last person's experience. It was clear it had been another great day in canyon country. In addition, four folks (Will, the two Barbaras, and Lance) announced that they would not be spending the evening with us in camp. Instead, they were going to move camp for this evening a mile or so above the exit point. They would break camp after dinner, and pack a load of water. This would obviate the need for a very early wake-up. I imagine Will, who hates to get up early, but has no problem hiking at night, was the instigator. This was fine with me, although I thought it was not something which appealed to me personally: breaking camp twice in 12 hours or so did not seem like a lot of fun, and having to carry the load of water might limit what you could take the next morning. However, it is true that camping up on the slickrock with the long views can be a beautiful experience. So things were a bit quieter this evening. We had a small fire, but folks went to bed early, as the plan was to be up, packed up, and underway by 7 am.

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Roger A. Jenkins, 1994, 2000