After exploring the beauty of 'Ed Maiers Secret', we descended back into Buckskin Gulch and retrieved our packs. It was time to cover the remaining 2 kilometers (1.2 miles) to our planned camp spot.
We encountered a few other hikers in Buckskin Gulch around this time. Many if not most seemed quite unprepared for hot desert hiking. Case in point: A German couple came up and asked us in halting english if the narrows were very far ahead. I told them another kilometer or so (not knowing precisely myself), and off they went. They had no map, no GPS, no pack, no headwear to shade them from the hot sun, and seemingly no water. We hoped they did not linger in the area too long before heading back up to the trailhead, or we would probably be donating some of our water!
Not long after continuing on, the narrows of Buckskin Gulch started to appear. Rounded Navajo sandstone walls soon bounded the stream course, and there were no longer any flat earthy benches upon which to hike. We were now walking directly in Buckskin Gulch. A few patches of mud could be seen here and there.
After about a kilometer (half mile) of hiking down an increasingly deeper canyon, the walls of Buckskin narrow down to just a few feet wide: the beginning of the Buckskin Gulch slot canyon. In the now echo-y confines of the canyon, we continued downstream. There were patches of gooey silty mud here and there, but the footprints of other hikers had created dry spots that allowed us to step through without coating our hiking boots in goo. We knew, however, that at some point the water shoes would probably have to come out.
The sight of day-hikers coming back up-canyon with slimy mud-coated hiking boots told us that the switchover time was near. And indeed, around the corner, we came to a stretch of soupy mud that stretched from wall-to-wall. We switched to our water sandals and strapped our hiking boots to our packs.
After the deep mud-pool, the floor was reasonably dry all the way until we reached the junction with Wire Pass. Wire Pass is a narrow side canyon that joins with Buckskin Gulch. It is an alternate way to get into Buckskin Gulch's upper end (in fact, the Wire Pass trailhead -- a few kilometres to the west -- is where we started our Buckskin Gulch backpack back in 2008). The Wire Pass junction was also our intended camping spot for the night.
Campsite, Wire Pass Confluence
At the Wire Pass junction, Buckskin Gulch briefly widens out. The walls are still high and prevent any exit, but two high benches provide safe spots to camp, away from the dangers of any flash flooding. We were pleased to see that there were no other campers around, and we walked up a herd path to the best of the campspots atop the high benches.
We had arrived to our campsite at about 3pm -- a fairly early time. After setting up our camp, we wandered around the vicinity, walking a short ways downstream in Buckskin's narrows, then visiting the big alcove just inside Wire Pass, and locating the streambed-level pictographs nearby.
Looking up Gulch from Confluence
As the narrow canyon became shady in the late-afternoon light, we sat down for our usual meals of dehydrated food. A skeptical Arn was impressed with his double-sized dinner of Mountain House Lasagna.
We stayed up to watch the stars appear overhead, silhouetted against the hoodoo-topped walls of the canyon. I took a few 30-second exposures to try and capture the beauty of the desert sky at night. Then it was off to bed for the night. The temperature was nearly perfect, cooling down only to the low 20-degrees C range (low 70s F). In fact, I found it a tad warm, and would have preferred it to be a few degrees cooler.
Interactive Trackmap, Day 1 of Buckskin Gulch Backpack - click map to view
Hike Data - Buckskin Gulch, Day 1 (including side trip to Ed Maiers Secret)
* : +/- 75 feet
Total Elevation Gain:
Total Elevation Loss:
* : +/- 75 feet