Paria Canyon 1994
Reunited with friends
Friday, April 25 Susie and I heard George stirring early. Our tents were not far away from each other. I have noticed that the tent spacing is usually proportional to the number of folks hiking together. Lots of folks, lots of spacing. Few folks, tents close together. I think it must have something to do with how comfortable we all feel in the wild. As it started to get light, he gently called to us, testing to see if we were awake. We acknowledged, and he replied that he was heading up Hackberry to see if our friends were down off the plateau. He also wanted to head off their going out looking for us. He figured if he rolled early, he could prevent us getting even more scattered. Susie and I told him to take off, and that we would be maybe a half hour behind him. We did not bother to eat breakfast, instead just handling our communing chores. It was over a mile up canyon to the spot were we figured that they would have come down. But we hauled ass, to try to see if everyone was alright.
If the remaining hikers were worried about our well being, the activity in their camp surely did not suggest such. Susie and I arrived in their camp by 7:30 am, and George reported that no one had been even stirring when he arrived. So much for a high level of concern. In reality, the group was concerned, but decided that trying to run off at first light looking for us was hardly a thorough plan. The remaining 8 were safely camped together on a narrow strip of sand immediately across from the short indentation in the wall where they had descended into Hackberry. Here is what had happened. Yesterday, Barb A caught up to Will and the other Barbara. She rested for a bit, while the other two finished lunch. The three of them took off, but lost our foot prints as we crossed some slickrock. So they decided to set out on their own route. While we were waiting for them, they were hiking on the other side of a draw, just perhaps a quarter mile to the east of us. They followed the drainage down, and got up on the highlands east of Cottonwood Butte, until they decided to turn to the east and head for the descent canyon. They had not trouble finding it, and were down by 5 pm or so. Meanwhile, the party of five waited its requisite hour, and then headed down the drainage, but stayed in it all the way until the got near the rim of Hackberry. (I would consider that the recommended route.) They traversed south about a mile until they came to the little side canyon, and followed the cow trail down into Hackberry. They were blown away to find the other three, but not the three of us. Sue felt like perhaps George had gotten exhausted (he was 5 years past his coronary bypass, and although he is a very strong hiker, there is always the small chance that something would go wrong), and we had opted for a dry camp somewhere up on the plateau. Of course, we had to admit that, as their advance party, we had been miserable failures. The only thing positive to report was that we had "discovered" Stone Donkey Canyon, and that it was sufficiently interesting to justify a major side trip for everyone that day.
Susie and I decided that we would climb up out of Hackberry on the cow trail, back to the highlands east of Cottonwood Butte, to see if we could figure out what we had done wrong. The cow trail leading out was definite and easy to follow. We threaded our way up along the wall, until we were into the flatlands. As we headed up the wash that we were supposed to have used to lead us to the cow trail, it was evident as to where we had errored: the wash becomes virtually indistinguishable as it gets up on the highlands. No distinct walls, no gravel bottom. It is a wash in name only. No wonder we had not detected it as we had moved in a direction perpendicular to it: there was nothing to detect. We felt pretty stupid as we turned around, realizing that all this grief could have been avoided with a simple compass reading. As Susie and I got back in their camp, the rest of the group was having breakfast, and breaking camp. They indicated that they would be down to join us for a guided tour into Stone Donkey in a while. We had plenty of time, since we were not hiking all that far on this, our last full day of the trip. Susie and I headed back down to our camp, getting all this additional, unplanned exercise as part of the bargain. We broke camp, and waited for the rest of the crew to appear.
They did so soon, and all of us, except the still-really-sick Barbara M and the relaxing George, who waited for us, resting in the shade at the mouth of Stone Donkey, took off up the side canyon. We used Will's tent pole section to get water coming out of the spring just down from Doughnut Falls. We were a bit taken aback when we looked at the pool which had provided us with the wonderful elixir last night: Lordy, it was just filled with all these squiggling larvae. While the water had been flowing, it was clearly not enough to keep some insect moma from depositing her eggs in the pool. We were just a bit grossed out, but blotted out any fears by thinking of the old maxim that if you can see it in the water, it probably will not hurt you. We all took a look at Doughnut Falls. I really shook my head with the realization that I had probably been a foot or two from this four foot diameter hole in the rock, into which I could have easily fallen, and never realized it last night. Several folks took turns trying to crawl up through it. Will successfully breached the top of the hole from the bottom, relying on some rock climbing techniques. We continued up the canyon, taking time to appreciate all of this great stuff, including long rock slabs on the canyon floor, that we had missed the previous evening.
We lunched back at the mouth of Stone Donkey, and headed for our next nights camp. We did not have a specific goal in mind, just a general area. George was out in front, and he knew the plans, so it was his job to find a site. Hackberry, from Stone Donkey down to the spot where we would camp, is pretty nice. Lots of red sandstone. There was one particularly interesting spot. A few years ago (like two or three) there had been a big rock slide in a relatively narrow part of the canyon. It had dammed the creek up, and perhaps for a quarter mile behind the slide, there was almost a mini-lake. By the time we got there, the lake had matured to a long mire of quicksand, where one has to be particularly careful to avoid getting stuck. The falls proper was not too hard to get around, but it seemed like the drop was maybe 25 feet. It was getting warm on this day, and sooner, rather than later, seemed to be a good spot to camp. George had found us a pretty good one, (UTM Coordinates: 418,084 Easting, 4,129,027 Northing) trading amenities for guaranteed afternoon shade. I think we all were a bit wiped out after yesterday. We lounged around in the shade, swatting a few gnats. The camp was in an interesting spot. We were on the north side of a bend in the creek, and the opposite wall was heavily undercut, so it was nearly over our heads. Many of us took lots of pictures, bent mostly on expending as little energy as possible. After dinner, we made the ceremonial transfer of shuttle car keys to the fastest hikers. It this case, the youngsters, Sam and Kevin, got the nod. However, it was not much of a deal, as the car shuttle was only a couple of miles. We watched the stars come out and listened to the frogs croak, and dragged ourselves off to bed.
© Roger A. Jenkins, 1994, 2000