Gap: Dispatches from Paria Canyon

Group 1.) Written by Georgia Stewart

Standing at the Lee’s Ferry campground, overlooking the beginnings of the Grand Canyon and our next journey, I’m inspired to reflect on our past experience through the Paria Canyon to reach this gorgeous place.

The expedition began at White House Campground–at the top of the canyons. It seemed counterintuitive at the time, to spend two and a half weeks getting to know each other in the KOFA and in Friendly Pines only to split into smaller groups for a week that our permits required. We were the first group that entered the canyons. A low river flows through various parts of the canyons–requiring humans to traverse back and forth across it. Very soon, our boots were soaked with river water and we laughed at our future selves for the damp boots that we would be putting on each morning. We arrived at our first campsite, Buckskin Gulch, that afternoon and set about making camp for the night, marveling at the canyon walls rising above us and the echos bouncing around us. The 6 of us sat around our two pots of boiling water, chatting about dinner plans and plans for the next few days, creating new jokes and ruses, and leaving messages for the group behind us. On especially hot days, walking through the cold river was refreshing. However, our group came together in the mornings, when it was raining or frozen and we warmed our feet up in our cold boots. It would become a tradition to dance and promptly leave for the hike. 

The KOFA showcased our ability to learn in and adapt to a new environment. The Paria showcased our ability to apply our skills so far in a new, relatively different environment, and take control of our days.

Group 2.) Written by Jena Utaski

On March 15th at about 11:00 AM, the minute my feet had begun to thaw, we entered the narrows of the Paria Canyons. 800 feet of red rock towered above me as my seemingly ant-sized group of six trudged forward through the freezing river. Hours later we found ourselves lost in a side canyon, Buckskin’s Gulch. We knew we had passed our campsite but we couldn’t help but continue down the canyon that had become only an arms-length wide with winding walls and rocks that took on the shape of waves. 

When we finally got to the campsite, my 60 pound pack hit the ground in an instant. A few of us mustered up enough energy to climb up a nearby bluff to read and nap. In the middle of the canyon, a grassy hill with a small yellow tent stood surrounded by pools of neon green water and towering canyon walls: a view straight out of a fairytale. When dinner time hit, I woke my snoring cooking partner and we descended the bluff. The cheesy pasta and roasted cauliflower we made had never tasted so good. After dinner and some reading aloud, we mindlessly climbed into our sleeping bags under the stars, just as we’ve done nearly every night for the past 3 weeks. Although, tonight our view of the stars was limited. Only a sliver of the sky was visible due to the canyon walls, and the stars were dimmer thanks to the rain clouds that would soon, to our surprise at three in the morning, pour out its icy contents.