March 25, 2011

Trekking to the edge of Paria Canyon, Utah

Last week, when we were away from the blog, we did a trip back up to the old stomping grounds of Southern Utah. Our friend Kathleen (from the Egypt Series Fame) was visiting and we wanted to show her the amazing features of the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument. We tried to take her out to the spectacular Buckskin Gulch-Cobra Arch area, but the road was washed out. So, instead we drove out across the landscape until we were about 1.5 miles from the edge of the Paria Canyon and then headed out on foot.

When you are going across rugged terrain, one of the best ways to get there is often following washes and drainages. That CAN be the best way. But, sometimes you end up arriving at cliffs and dry waterfalls that are impassable and you need to come up with a new plan.

Upon arriving at the edge of the Paria Canyon, you notice that the cliffs are a couple of hundred feet high and the water is always a milky/muddy brown in the river. This is just a couple of miles downstream from the official trail access point near US-89. In the image above, you can make out the official trail on the far side of the river.

Further down the canyon, it is a different story, where the drop is measured in the thousands of feet! But, that is for another post.

Trekking in Grand Staircase-Escalante is an amazing experience because it is 1.9 million acres of mostly unroaded wildlands. Yes, you will see cows grazing in many areas and ATV tracks across the landscape. But, it also means you can wander, without trails, for miles. Trails are not necessary due to the open landscape, but orienteering skills and/or a GPS are valuable since you will be dropping into ravines, washes, and around hills and need to find you way back.

It also helps to have a sense of humor and be prepared to butt-scoot down steep slickrock slopes.

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