6th May Hackberry Canyon to Paria River – Kitchen Canyon 21 miles
We had a nice campsite under a steep striped wall in Hackberry Canyon and we were off hiking at 8am down canyon. We followed the now running river, sometimes down the water itself with some trails on either side and willow bashing. It was pretty easy going though amidst lovely green lush riparian scenery and varied colorful walls of deep red along with yellow/grey/blue bands (probably Chinle?).
As the canyon narrowed further down we met some day hikers coming up from the Cottonwood Wash trailhead we were nearing. Seeing people is a good sure sign that there is road access nearby!
We popped out of the canyon at the trailhead and wandered down about 300m into a small ‘box canyon’ for some lunch. This is where we wanted to head away from the Hayduke route again for a 2-3 hour longer alternate up above the canyons past some colorful rock features (described in our Notes for Hikers website as the ‘Yellow Rock’ alternate).
‘Yellow Rock’ really does not do it justice! It should be called “orange and pink and yellow swirly rock” and is a splendid surreal landscape of stunning vibrant colors. The wind was wild up there though- maybe 40 mph- so it was difficult to linger to long.
Looking back up Hackberry Canyon from Yellow Rock
|At the natural cairn below Yellow Rock|
After Yellow Rock itself we crossed a rugged plateau full of white sandstone lumps and pumps with some cross country and faint trails before finding a better trail that took us to an overlook above the wide valley of the Paria river. The Paria is a Paiute word for ” muddy river ” and it really was – like orange milk – the early European settlers said it was….
“too thin to plough and too thick to drink”
By the time we had descended to the Paria, the regular afternoon wind had started up kicking up dust storms mixed with alkaline white salts that coat the ground. Not a welcoming place!
|Overlooking the Paria from the Yellow Rock route|
|Paria dust storms|
|Melted rock shapes in the upper Paria|
|Water pocket heading up Bull Valley Gorge|
Continuing up valley rain started to fall. It was still raining and the skies were foreboding when we arrived at the start of the two mile slot canyon section of Bull Valley Gorge. Wary of the risk of flash floods and the lack of escape routes once in the slot canyon, we were a bit nervous but decided to go for it anyway- we were committed!
The gorge narrowed impressively, but the rain poured down more heavily and water started running off the walls and puddled in the floor of the slot. We took shelter a few meters up on a ledge in case a flood came through and waited for half an hour or so. But with no change in weather we decided just to keep going as fast as we could through the remainder of the slot. A few sections of scrabbling up boulders and tree branches that blocked the canyon and slowed us down, but eventually we escaped out and were grateful to climb up onto the canyon rim rather soaked and bedraggled!
We set up camp next to a jeep road in cold, still wet conditions. We saw Bryce Canyon, our next destination ahead, but covered in fresh snow!