Buckskin Gulch Backpack, Day 2
Deep and Dark in Buckskin Gulch
Tuesday, September 27
Our objective for today was simple and quite straightforward: hike from our current spot in Wire Pass, down the entire remaining length of Buckskin Gulch. There, just before the confluence of Buckskin Gulch and the Paria River, was the next camp location.
After a quick breakfast, we packed up and made ready to head off. Based on our last experience in Buckskin, we were expecting several sections with unavoidable pools, so we decided to wear our water footwear right from the get-go.
The walls immediately closed-in a soon as we left Wire Pass. It was dark, the walls were high, and the footing rocky. Unlike 2008, it took a few tens of minutes before we got to the first pool of water. And also unlike 2008, it was not frigidly cold water -- just mildly cool.
Enough people had hiked down Buckskin since the last major flooding that a distinct footpath had emerged. The footpath often bisected areas of wetness and mud, and our feet were dry for long stretches of time.
Up above, Buckskin Gulch's architecture amazed us. Some sections had sculpted, scalloped walls, and some had walls that were ruler straight. Ocassionally we would come to a spot where the canyon would widen a bit, allowing us to better see the multi-hundred foot high walls above us. In other spots, we would see jams of flood material fifty or more feet above us: a sobering reminder of what would happen to you if you ever had the misfortune of being in here during a raging flash flood.
They day stretched on, and we walked. And walked. Buckskin Gulch seems endless, and soon you forget that there is even a world outside the two walls, the shady light, and the echoes and reverberations of sounds and speech. Navigation becomes trivial and two-dimensional: you go forward, or you go backwards. There is no other way.
After about two hours of hiking, we arrived at the first real obstacle: a large jumble of boulders that blocks the floor of the canyon. A careful bit of scrambling brought us up and over the boulders. This was the spot where, in 2008, Brian Connell had an unfortunate encounter with a muddy pool (link
After the boulder jam, there was a long stretch of uncomplicated -- but very scenic -- hiking. More stretchs of sculpted narrows were interspersed with sections where the watercourse of Buckskin followed huge existing joints in the bedrock, resulting in perfectly straight-walled sections. The sections would often end suddenly, with a break to the right or left into more sculpted, organic sections. It was fun to try and guess which way the canyon went when approaching these spots.
There seemed to be far fewer pools than we had encountered in 2008, and the pools we did encounter were only about half as deep.