Buckskin Gulch (c) ONeil Matlock
photo by ONeil Matlock

BuckSkin Gulch
Paria Canyon Hike
May 2001


by Vick

Sakhalkar
Intel Corporation

Buckskin Gulch (c) ONeil Matlock
photo by ONeil Matlock

Sunny day, warm breeze, and weekend, who wants to stay home?
Certainly not us ...


Some do gave excuse of 'Mothers day' but we were not planning on anything different ...

We were planning to celebrate Mother Nature's day in complete festivity.
The destination was 'Buckskin Gulch'. Some books say that Buckskin Gulch is the premier canyon in the world. One can easily get lost in its splendor, grandeur and delicate nature-work.

Aerial View of Buckskin Gulch (c) 1990 H. Kent Hendrick
Aerial view of Paria Canyon (photo by Kent Hendrick)

Saturday AM
Paria River at Dawn (c) ONeil MatlockAfter getting a good sleep at the White House ruins campground, our team headed for gulch entrance. We intended to start from Wire Pass but instead, feeling we need an extra 2 miles of hiking, started from Buckskin Gulch trailhead. Chances of rains were twenty percent. It was nice sunny, rather warm day. After two to three miles walk, we reached the entrance of the Gulch. It is approachable from other side (Wire Pass) also, which avoids extra walk.

A dead buffalo, at the entrance, welcomed us indicating that it's not a paradise for easy goers. Of course Bruce, O'Neil and myself wisely avoided the rotting beast, but Kent felt he need a close-up view.

Flash flood in these slot canyons can cause deaths. One should be very careful to have accurate weather information, before even thinking of entering canyon. (Bruce's First Rules of Gulch says 'Never enter canyon, if the T-storm chances are equal or more than 40%'). These canyons have no escapes for miles once you enter them.

Enough about all scary thoughts, we entered in the canyon happily with our optimistic 20% T-storm chances (which were proved wrong later on).

Overhead LogJam (c) ONeil MatlockThe canyon is amazing; it cannot be explained in words properly, because it can go beyond imagination, at least mine.

But technically, it has height ranging from 100 ft and above (estimates) and width from 50 ft to 2 ft. YES! 2 feet. It also has lots of puddles (we went through at least 20, beyond which my brain stopped counting) of red-saffron, cold, chilled ,f*^&$@ water which was 4 to 5 feet deep on sunny, dry day and they are REAL muddy. Luckily O'Neil and I are over 6 feet tall, but Kent and Bruce of the shorter variety, enjoyed chest deep water with packs balanced on their heads.
Buckskin Gulch narrows (c) ONeil MatlockOther than those quixotic (?) puddles the journey was very peaceful and eventful. Our nice odyssey came to an abrupt halt in the afternoon, when we realized that the slit leading to the sky was no longer blue, but filled with lots of dark and noisy clouds drifting over our head. I was actually surprised by the speed with which things changed. So we were forced to find shelter at high lands. Here we used Bruce's second law of Gulch which says 'try to find a place which is high and tough enough to give an unforgotten climbing experience to a beginner'. We ended up climbing 100 feet up a slant rocky face to a plateau where we learned that Bruce's free standing tent was not free standing and could not be set-up. Within minutes we were caught in sandstorm. The sand pelted our faces, at least Bruce's and mine. We later learned that Kent and O'Neil found a small cave that they took shelter in. Luckily the sandstorm ended as quickly as it started. Throughout the night we watched clouds roll in and out and even experienced some light rain on and off. That was for everyone except for me. Frankly speaking I liked the place, and slept bountifully, if not loudly. Apparently I kept everyone awake with snoring. But with beautiful canyon walls on all sides who could complain.
Sunday AM
Morning on Plateau (c) ONeil MatlockWe started our morning with lots of different power bars, some with sugar, some with fake sugar. We were planning to walk eleven miles that day. This part of canyon, from middle section to Paria River, is more interesting than the prior part. Walls are higher and canyon is narrower. In this section, if you are lucky you can eyewitness snakes falling just behind your back to catch a little mouse. O'Neil never thought himself lucky to experience this event, though I tried to convince him a lot.
At the confluence, Paria river can be nasty, is has lots of areas full of loose sand. One has to be careful while hiking through areas near confluence.

Aerial View of Paria and Buckskin Gulch (c) 1990 H. Kent Hendrick
Aerial view at confluence of Buckskin Gulch and Paria Canyon (photo by Kent Hendrick)

Seven Miles to go:
We were gaining height slowly towards our final destination, White House ruins, when we thought we should have bagels, jam, peachy gummy-O's and mints. By the way, Kent's theory of Mint says, 'you can use mint to keep away any kind of stink'. No one thought his theory was right. The first part of these six and half to seven miles go through narrows. Walking through these narrows can be a very pleasant experience, if you are not walking for too long and not sleeping with a person who snores a lot. That day we got enough sunshine, sufficient for most of us for the rest of the year. It took us six hours to cover last eleven miles of our classic hike, which I would say was very good timing considering we had to deal with loose sand, lots of stones, cold water puddles and various theories of Kent and Bruce.

Toast to SuccessLast part of this hike is also a wonder; River Paria has carved many different carvings in the cliff and boulders near its bed. After those carvings we had only one goal left, reach campground as fast as possible to have chilled beer, to celebrate our hike.

Overall this was very enchanting experience for me and everyone in the team.
--- Vick

Team Members:
  • Bruce Meister
  • Kent Hendrick
  • Vikrant Sakhalkar
  • O'Neil Matlock

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