Part 5: The Upper Paria
May 2, 2018
Day 15 (continued)
Now at the confluence of Sheep Creek and the Paria River — it was time to head downstream as the rain continued to come down. But that didn’t dampen my spirits too much as I hiked through one of my favorite areas where there is a clear delineation between the white and red geological layers.
Despite the rain, I took a break from walking to shoot some video to bring awareness to the fact the Paria “corridor” was removed from the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument as part of the reduction in 2017. This extraction is commonly overlooked as on new maps it merely appears as a line dividing two new sections of the monument. The monument boundaries continue to be a contentious issue 20 years after GSENM was established. See my video for more on this topic.
Continuing down the river it wasn’t too long before I passed Lone Rock — an iconic “guidepost marker” of the upper Paria along with nearby Paria Arch just to the south.
The rain picked up again not too much later so I took a break under an alcove. After the short break I continued in the rain and soon got to Crack/Pipe Spring — a great place to fill up on water coming out of… you guessed it… a pipe from a crack in the wall. The historical rock art here shows how people have been using this spot for a long time.
I noticed nearby that there was a small patch of dry land. A slight overhang to the canyon wall was providing protection from the rain. Even though it was only about 4pm I decided to call it quits for the day and camp in this inviting spot. It was nice to have a spot to unpack my gear and set up camp while out of the rain. I enjoyed a relaxing evening of studying maps and reading and then a freeze-dried meal of Pineapple Orange Chicken w/ rice as I listened to the rain continue to come down before falling asleep relatively early.
Wait… what is that bright light?! Wow… it’s sunshine! 🙂
With the sun out is seemed like a whole new environment. I’d already decided that if it was a better day I was going to go back somewhat to do a side-hike to a few nearby landmarks. So… I put all my wet gear out into the direct sunshine and then went off for my diversion.
<rant> Many through-hikers preach a principle of “Constant Forward Progress” — ie never deviate from the big-picture goal. They believe if one is not chipping away at that goal, one is wasting time. I strongly disagree! In the end it’s up to each hiker to “hike their own hike”, but I personally think it’s crazy to be near amazing spots and not make the minimal extra effort to check them out. </rant>
Headed back UP the Paria I got a better look at Paria Arch and Lone Rock now that the sun was out.
From here I scrambled up from the river to the east. I was headed toward a balanced rock and slot canyon that I’d read about long ago via guidebook author Kelsey. After a short scramble up some slickrock I was up in soft sand with a cool view back down over the river.
I was headed toward the balanced rock first. I noticed a few rock cairns along the way, but there was not enough of them to establish an official route. I knew the general area, but not a precise location so it was a bit of a hunt. But, in no time at all I rounded a bend and there it was! Such a cool formation.
After many different photos from various angles (see gallery) I headed north from the balanced rock toward the slot canyon. Along the way I noticed a group of people on horseback way up on a ridge in the distance. They were the first people I’d seen since leaving Rainbow Point in Bryce several days prior.
Soon I was down in wash which leads to the slot canyon known as Red Slot. Then within a few minutes… there it was ahead of me:
Once inside the slot it was a cool walk — both figuratively and literally. I’d read there are some cowboyglphs along the walls, but I didn’t see them. After about 5 minutes of walking through the sinuous canyon one comes to an opening — the end chamber if you will.
Retreating the way I came in (no other choice!), soon I was back out in the daylight which almost seemed blinding now. I headed back to the Paria.
Note: the wash coming out of Red Slot ends at a dryfall where it meets the river — thus one must backtrack to the area near Lone Rock to get back down. Read more detail in my Balanced Rock and Red Slot Guide.
Once back to where I left my stuff I packed up my gear which was mostly dry by this point. Before heading downriver, I took a closer look at the historical rock at near Crack/Pipe Spring now that the sun was lighting it up:
About 1.5 miles south of Lone Rock the Paria passes some interesting rock formations along its eastern side. I refer to this scenic area as “Alcoves Bend” and an eagle-eyed observer will spot several arches high up on the walls.
Soon Deer Creek enters from the west. I took a while here to check out petroglyphs near the canyon’s opening and then walked up a short distance to see the rock art at the first alcove. More pictographs exist farther up, but I’d seen them before and know they take a bit more work so I opted to pass this time around.
Continuing down canyon I passed where the old public works project trail enters from one side of the canyon and crosses near Snake Creek. There is really no indication that a route is there — so one will really have to track it down if interested exploring the area (I did the western portion on my 2009 big hike).
Farther down the Paria the red canyon walls begin to soar even higher and then widen some.
I stopped across from the opening to Kitchen Canyon to try and track down some rock arts that I’d missed before. I found some, but nothing too great. I also stopped at he confluence of Kitchen Canyon and the Paria where is was cool to observe the mixing from the two differently-colored water sources.
Farther down the river the canyon really begins to open up more before the Chinle formation begins to appear. These stripped hills are amazing and really give the area a unique look.
I’ve said it before, but… the bentonite and other clays in this area make for some extremely slippery walking along the river. It’s crazy how slick it can be and showcases why one should always avoid a similar type of road after a rain.
I was greeted with an amazing sundown as I approached the Pahreah Townsite area. As it got dark I found a decent place to camp on a bank above the river.
I was happy to wake to sunny skies again. I packed up and continued south. Instead of following the river I actually took a short-cut across some high banks for a ways. To my surprise I soon spotted some hikers below along the river. I yelled down “Hello!”
They stopped and said hello back. I asked if they were “Haydukers” and they said yes. Then, again to my surprise, the guy yelled back “Are you Jamal?” I laughed and said “yeah!” They all laughed. Evidently they were familiar with my website and reference materials for the area. It was such a cool encounter. We yelled back and forth a bit more and then wished each other well as we headed in opposite directions.
Soon I was at the old Pahreah Townsite. I always enjoy checking out the ruins from the bygone era. Technically speaking what one still sees in this area are from the Spencer Mining Camp. This mining effort took over just as the homesteaders gave up on the area over 100 years ago.
Note the names Pahreah and Paria refer to the same place — the spelling was just changed later in the townsite’s existence. And… both rhyme with “Maria” and should not be confused with the word “Pariah” (no matter how they pronounce it on HBO’s Westworld!)
Headed south from the townsite I continued along the river as it cuts through the the Cockscomb formation. The spot where the canyon walls close in the most is known at “The Box”.
It’s here that I left the river and climbed up to continue north along an overland route toward Yellow Rock. But… we’ll leave that for the next segment… Part 6: Yellow Rock to the Wahweap Hoodoos.