I went to do one of my favorite run, Paria Canyon located halfway between Kanab and Page on the Utah/Arizona border. It is the scene of my first major backpack trip back in the mid 90s that hooked me on the outdoors. I came away from that with swollen ankles and could hardly walk for a week. I returned years later for my first long-distance “run” and also came away injured. This would be my sixth time in the canyon. End-to-end to Lees Ferry is around 42-45 miles depending on routes. This video tells much of the story:
This time, I wanted to experience the best parts of the canyon twice by doing an out and back to the 25 mile point and back for at least 50 miles. After the 25-mile point it turns into open desert, hotter and less scenic.
I spent the night in Kanab and was on the trail at dawn. This would be the toughest flat 50-miler I had ever attempted. What would make it tough would be the 600+ river crossings. The river was the highest of my visits, mostly ankle/calf deep, but in places up to the knees. Running across the river was out of the question because it would splash and get the shorts wet, so I would slow each time to walk across.
For the first 7 miles, the river water was frigid and the air temperature too. It was rough, but once I reached the confluence of Buckskin Gulch with the Paria, the water warmed and the sun started to peek down into the canyon a little. My spirits lifted and I enjoyed it much more.
The canyon is spectacular with very high cliffs on both side, rising at times to hundreds of feet. There is generally no trail so you pick your route and try to make use of the banks as much as possible to run. Back and forth as the river winds down the canyon. I passed backpackers who had been out the for 1-3 days. On the way back they would stop me and talk. They were very impressed.
I reached the 25-mile mark at about 6 hours or so. All went well and because of the cool weather in the canyon, I didn’t have to fill up very often from springs. The way back was tougher, crossing against the river flow. It took more effort. But wow, what an amazing run.
I reached the trailhead at 13:32, with the sun still up. Pretty good including at least 45 minutes of stops and one bad route through reeds that I had to back out of.
In past years that run would have wiped me out, but it was no big deal. My legs felt fine. The feet were wet for the entire time, but my road shoes drained well. I only had to clean out the sand once. I ended out with water-logged feet, but no blisters.