June 3-5, 2004
Buckskin Gulch, a tributary of lower Paria Canyon, is the prototype slot canyon, the slot by which all other slot canyons are judged. No other canyon on the Colorado Plateau combines beauty, length, and narrowness the way the mighty Buckskin does. Buckskin Gulch is 12 sinuous miles of relentlessly narrow canyon, a serpentine corridor of stone that averages between 5 and 10 feet in width. Buckskin joins Paria Canyon. Paria Canyon is a famous and popular hike in the Paria Canyon-Vermillion Cliffs Wilderness. It is approximately 38 miles long and can take between three and six days. The special attractions are the high, sculpted red-rock walls in Paria Canyon
A couple years ago I had hiked the entire length of Buckskin with my two young sons. It was a grueling hike as we had to wade through about 40 bitter cold muddy pools. Twice before I had hiked/run the entire 38-mile length of Paria Canyon. It is stunning!
For this adventure run, I planned to do a Buckskin adventure with friend Brady Wycherly and then do the entire Paria Canyon additionally with brother Bob and his son, Rob.
Thursday evening, Brady and I hiked nearly all of Buckskin Gulch. We started at the Buckskin trail head at 6 p.m. and nearly reached the rock jam (about a mile or so from Paria Canyon) at 11 p.m. The muddy pools were only knee deep, but still a challenging obstacle. We then headed back to the “middle trail” exit point and did a fairly challenging rock climb by head lamp to get out. We then used my GPS to go cross country back to the trail head, arriving back at 3:00 a.m. The total was 22 miles that night. I pushed Brady too hard and he struggled on the cross-country back. But we survived. We then tried to get some sleep for a couple hours before driving around to Lees Ferry to pick up Bob and Rob.
With a car at Lees, we drove back around to the Paria Canyon trailhead to begin a 39-mile adventure. We started at 4 p.m. on Friday and ended on 1:30 p.m. on Saturday. It took us 21.5 hours including five hours for rest/sleep during the night. Many backpackers just gave us a stunned look as we jogged by.
The greatest challenge was the last ten miles in 100 degrees….very brutal. Added excitement included discovering that we left the car keys to our shuttle car, back at the Paria trail head. We decided to continue and have faith that we could get back OK. We ended up hiring a shuttle.
The heat really affected me and I had symptoms of heat stroke. I didn’t know what electrolytes were and hadn’t been taking them in. On the shuttle ride back, I got very sick and we had to pull over to let me barf. I learned a good lesson about taking in the right things during a long run.
This turned out to be an amazing adventure!