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Sixteen kilometres and 7 hours in, we reached the second major obstacle in Buckskin Gulch - the lower Boulder Jam. The guidebooks all describe a twenty-foot section of foothold-chopped cliff that must be downclimbed, but today an alternative was available. Apparently some recent flood activity had carved out an opening through the massive boulders, creating a tunnel section that could be used to bypass the short cliff. A short stretch of rope (presumably used as an aid for the cliff, but also close enough to have been redirected into the tunnel opening) showed the way.
Lower Boulder Jam
Lowering into Passage
Boulder jam downclimb
Arn took the lead, and went down into the tunnel section to explore. The way was clear and easy, he reported. We passed our backpacks down into the hole, then went down ourselves. A three-foot high short passageway led to the base of the footsteps-chopped cliff. We ferried the packs through the tunnel and we were soon ready to continue our hike down-canyon. Arn felt he was deprived of a climbing experience, so he climbed up the old route for kicks, and then back down through the tunnel.

It is unclear how long this tunnel route will last, but as of fall 2011, it is a trivially easy alternative to the downclimb.
Completing the jam
Below the jam
Big Alcove
courtesy AHyndman
Hiking in Lower Buckskin
A curvy slice of sky
Canyon Denizen
A few more kilometres of deep scenic narrows hiking brought us to a noticeably wider curve in the canyon, with thick trees on the left (and further down, on the right). We could see earthy terrain rising up to obviously flat and cleared out spots -- meaning that we had likely reached the lower campsites near the confluence with the Paria.
Undercut walls
Final Pools
FInal Pools
We dropped our packs and did a little bit of reconnoitering, confirming that indeed this was our intended campsite location. And happily, there was once again no one else around. We picked the choicest of spots at the high point on the left-hand side of the canyon and set up camp. A wonderful spot with soft ground, green trees, and soaring walls above.

Our day's hike through the [allegedly] longest slot canyon in the world was over. And even though it had been a hot and clear day in the Vermillion Cliffs region, for us it had been almost entirely cool, dark and shady.
Arriving, confluence campsites
We had once again arrived at camp at an early time (before 5pm), so we still had a bit of the exploring bug in us. We were interested in seeing what the Paria Confluence was like, so we took a short stroll downcanyon. Five minutes of walking and we reached the intersection with the Paria.
Lower Buckskin Campsite
The canyon of the Paria is as deep as Buckskin Gulch at this point, meaning this intersection is deeply entrenched. The walls of the confluence soar many hundreds of feet into the sky.

Unlike Buckskin, the Paria has a perennial flow of water. That water, though, is full of fine silt and clay, turning the water an light, milk-colored opaque color. It was quite warm when we stepped into it, and was about a foot deep. Although going upstream against the current would be an additional increment of effort, it was clear it would not be too much of a hindrance to our exit hike the next day.
Paria-Buckskin Confluence
Just for fun, we hiked a few minutes down Paria Canyon to the Arizona state line (the confluence of Buckskin and the Paria is literally only a 100 yards or so from the border, on the Utah side), then returned to camp.
Brief Paria Exploration
Not being at all rushed time-wise, dinner at camp was another leisurely affair, and afterwards we once again stayed up to watch the night sky gradually appear through the narrow slit of canyon-framed sky we could see from our campsite. The shape of the slice of sky we could see was appropriately vaguely bat-shaped - appropriate since there were many bats flitting about after sunset, globbling up their evening meals.
Bat-like opening
Milky Way between Darkened Walls
Dreaming of Meat
We had some fun experimenting with some long-exposure 'light painting'. Have a look at some of the cool effects we managed to achieve.
Missing Mr. Hatko
1800s-like ghostly shot
Interactive Trackmap, Day 2 of Buckskin Gulch Backpack - click map to view
Hike Data - Buckskin Gulch, Day 2
Start Time: 7:15a.m.
End Time: 3:41p.m.
Duration: 8h25m
Distance: 18.61 km (11.56 mi)
Average Speed: 2.2 km/hr (1.4 mph)
Start Elevation: 4534ft (1382m) *
Max Elevation: 4675ft (1425m) *
Min Elevation: 4262ft (1299m) *
End Elevation: 4283ft (1306m) *
* : +/- 75 feet
Total Elevation Gain: 112ft (34m) *
Total Elevation Loss: 447ft (136m) *
* : +/- 75 feet
Elevation Graph
Walk to Confluence
Start Time: 4:44p.m.
End Time: 5:12p.m.
Duration: 0h27m
Distance: 1.12 km (0.69 mi)
Average Speed: 2.5 km/hr (1.5 mph)
Start Elevation: 4469ft (1362m) *
Max Elevation: 4499ft (1371m) *
Min Elevation: 4397ft (1340m) *
End Elevation: 4438ft (1353m) *
* : +/- 75 feet
Total Elevation Gain: 22ft (7m) *
Total Elevation Loss: 88ft (27m) *
* : +/- 75 feet
Elevation Graph
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[ Return to "2011 Vacation Burnup Trip" Home page | Introduction | To the Sierra Nevada | Attempt on University Peak | Drive through Death Valley | Spring Mountains Drive | Rimrock Hoodoos | The Nautilus | Buckskin Gulch Backpack, Day 1 | Ed Maiers Secret | Buckskin Gulch Backpack, Day 2 | Buckskin Gulch Backpack, Day 3 | Peekaboo & Spooky Slots | J.E.M. Trail Mountain Biking | Angel's Landing | Virgin River Narrows | Las Vegas Loungings | Video Clip Index | GPS Data ]

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