Gap, Trek: Paria + Grand Canyon Adventures

by Eliot Nebolsine & Katie Loomis-Adams

Section 1: Paria Canyon

After finishing up a lovely transition in Blanding, Utah, we packed up the bus and drove to White House trailhead ready to hike the Paria Canyon!  Permitting in Paria is a little tricky- because of how fragile the ecosystem is–groups are limited to groups of 10. Trek is a bussin’ group of 12… so, on November 14th we separated into 2 groups of 6. The mysterious squad with Mike, Annika, Agnes, Mack, Carter & Noah departed first for a lovely 5 nights in the canyon. The amazing folks with Maddie, Eliot, Katie, Nina, Ben & Devin left the day after. Paria was unlike anything we had imagined. The rocks were so red, the walls were so high, the trees were so green, and our feet were so wet. The thing about Paria canyon is that it is obviously a canyon, which means there is one path down. Through the center of that path is a river. A river we got very familiar with as we splashed through it every few steps. We took our first step into the river together, and never looked back.

We embraced all of the challenges that met us, from having 1 functioning whisper light stove per group to sinking in some quicksand. We learned how to use wag bags, and how much fun it is to have a sleeping bag full of sand. We found natural springs with maidenhair ferns hanging down and dripping clear water (which we got to make even better with some aquamira water purification!), and explored everywhere we could. One of these explorations was to a special little arch called wrather arch- which you can only access from the canyon. It felt like a secret spot and was beyond words to describe its beauty.

 We crammed all of this amazing-ness into a pretty short expedition! We finished out our final day with a 13 mile hike straight to our campground where we were met by the other group. 

Best reunion ever. 

We had been following notes group A left at our campgrounds, and couldn’t wait to see them. They met us with hugs and smiles and new stories and the shocking news that Taylor Swift was pregnant (not true). We spent the night cooking a scrumptious meal of cheesy potatoes and brownie scramble while listening to the beauty of Red (Taylor’s version). Next stop, Grand Canyon for some rafting!

The above photo:

“Roses are red

Violets are blue

F-TREK for life

We miss you!

Love,

Carter”

Following our backpacking expedition in Paria Canyon, we spent one night camping at Lee’s Ferry, the geographic beginning of the Grand Canyon in Arizona. We were all a little nervous to rejoin as a collective group but within a few hours we found that the time apart only made it feel better to be back together again as a whole. 

On our drive to the Diamond Creek we loaded up at a grocery store with carts full of kale, yogurt, fruits, and the many bulky, heavy foods that the backpacking lifestyle cannot sustain. Little did we know what these wild, once-in-a-lifetime, next days were going to bring. Our guides from Prescott College met us with warm smiles as we oriented and made final preparations for five days of rafting in the Grand Canyon. Meanwhile, the rapids looked a little daunting from the shoreline. As soon as we set off onto the water, however, every other thought was washed away as we cheered with the rise and fall of each wave. 

It was easy to appreciate the luxuries of this river life – stoves that boiled water in a few mere minutes, the absence of heavy backpacks, large tables, hand-washing stations, and the ‘groover’ (a backcountry toilet) which, following the use of wag bags in Paria Canyon, were appreciated at another level. 

Day three on the river brought something else to think about – a route full of rapids including the ultimate “Killer Fang,” known for its powerful current that flows toward a prominent fang-like rock formation. We pulled the boats off to shore and scouted the scene, learning about the methods and considerations to make when planning the best route to take on a rapid. Once back in the boats, the adrenaline running through us served its purpose and we cheered and whooped through the waves and whitecaps. We came through the other side to the calm water so triumphantly that many of us joyfully leapt into the river in celebration.

Our last night brought something new and exciting – the prospect of a night float. We pulled to the shore and made dinner as usual, but this time, after dinner, we packed up all the gear and headed back onto the rafts. With our bags serving as cushions beneath us, we laid our pads and sleeping bags down and laid in rows like sardines in a can. The night brought its magic with the full moon illuminating the canyon walls. The soft sound of the paddles in the water carried us off into our sleepy dreams. 

Our time in the Grand Canyon was awe-filled and unlike anything many of us had ever done before. We savored the cozy nighttime campfires, lazy days of riddles on the river, the presence of our passionate guides, the refreshing river dips, the nourishing meals and a new appreciation for the land and its history. 

We left feeling grateful and eager to make the most of our last few weeks together as we ventured onward for our last expedition in the Kofa National Wildlife Refuge. Until next time!