check out Four Corners, USA

fourcorners-us.jpgThe Four Corners is the wild convergence of Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico and Utah.

It’s mostly Indian land.

Last year I hiked out of Page, Arizona. This year Moab, Utah.

In Utah, the best site I’ve found on hiking is Utah.com — concise, well organized, easy-to-read.

If you’ve never been to the Four Corners, the best reference is Moon Handbooks Four Corners

Including Navajo and Hopi Country, Moab, and Lake Powell (Moon Handbooks)

I’m a Lonely Planet guidebook fanatic. But, for some parts of the world, Moon is better.

In the Moon guide, check their Suggested Reading section on Hiking. This will help you narrow the many choices of hiking guidebooks available.

There are dozens of good hiking guidebooks for the region. But no GREAT ones. At least none I’ve found yet. (And I write from Moab Public Library.)

Almost inevitably you’ll end up as I did with one of the Falcon Hiking Guides: Exploring Canyonlands and Arches National Parks by Schneider.

I’ll head first for Arches:

Taking its name from the hundreds of naturally formed sandstone arches scattered here, Arches National Park is the most feature-packed of southern Utah’s national parks.

Ranging in size from around three feet to nearly 300 feet in span, the arches are the result of erosion over millions of years, the same agent that formed the thousands of brilliantly colored spires, pinnacles, and canyons that cover southeast Utah.

Piñon pines and junipers add a splash of green to the red and brown backdrop, but mostly what you see are red stone and blue sky—lots and lots of both.

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Road Trip USA

dangerous Hayduke Trail, Colorado Plateau

ht.jpgClick on the thumbnail for a larger version of the map.

I’m not sure I’m man enough for this monster, invented and laid out by Joe Mitchell and Mike Coronella over an 8-year span.

It starts in Arches National Park. Finishes in Zion.

Named after a character from Edward Abbey’s The Monkey Wrench Gang, The Hayduke trail is an 800 mile long backcountry route that travels through some of the most scenic and remote terrain in the United States.

It showcases some of the natural wonders of the Colorado Plateau region of the American southwest, linking together six national parks, as well as national monuments and recreation areas, state parks, wilderness areas, and wilderness study areas. Exclusively on public lands in southern Utah and northern Arizona, this out-of-the-way route will lead you through deep desert canyons, over high mountains, across rivers and ridges, always revealing pieces of the personality of this unique region.

Beware! The Hayduke Trail is made up of pre-existing trails, routes, unpaved roads, cattle and game trails, ridges and drainages. The trail is not always apparent or obvious; strong navigational skills are necessary to safely and happily complete a trek in this beautiful, rugged region.

This is a backcountry trail. It is not a beaten trail like the Appalachian Trail. There are no towns ahead to find supplies in; there are no shelters. The trail involves hiking and wading through rivers, often dealing with quicksand and tight brush. It involves scrambling over or around rock falls, and climbing up, down, and across steep talus slopes. There will likely be no one around, perhaps for days at a time. This is a desolate region, and care must be taken to enjoy (and survive) trekking through this occasionally harsh land. This is not “beginner” terrain: getting in over your head in this region can easily end your life.

Deep Desert

A Guide to the Backcountry Hiking Trail on the Colorado Plateau

The Hayduke Trail: A Guide to the Backcountry Hiking Trail on the Colorado Plateau

video – “Introduction to Technical Canyoneering”

So you want to start getting into the sport of Canyoneering? Well this month I’d like to give you some info to point you in the right direction. I’ll include links to websites with lots of detailed information about starting in the sport, but this should give you a place to start. I’ve also included a 10 minute compilation of various canyons in Utah to give you an idea of what kinds of canyons you can explore there.

Backcountry Blog: Introduction to Technical Canyoneering.

Buckskin and Paria Canyon, Utah

My legs ached with cold, like a swarm of angry hornets had stung me with freezing venom they throbbed. Jen sobbed as our weary group of five sloshed through the turbid Paria River on the start of day 3. I stretched a nervous hand behind to feel how much the holes abraded by the red sandstone in my pack had grown since the day before. I swallowed hard when I felt my gear poking through.

“Once the sun gets into the canyon it is going to be a beautiful day,” I said almost convincingly. In truth, it was the lowest point of our five-day hike in the S. Utah and N. Arizona Paria Wilderness.

Paria – VenturingOutdoors.com

Wow.

Now this is a trip report!

Certainly the best we’ve seen for Paria Canyon.

They detail problems with JetBoil stoves. and critique the rest of their gear. A new GoLite Infinity pack (made of lightweight silicone impregnated fabric) get holes in it the first day from rubbing against canyon walls and has a large tear by the end of the hike.

 Hiking Trip-Reports Paria-Trip-Report 2

Paul Grube’s Buckskin and Paria trip report is a fascinating, honest look at the challenges and rewards of canyon hiking.

We’ve linked to the report in a number of places from Paria Canyon – on besthike.

 Hiking Trip-Reports Paria-Trip-Report 17

Paria – the best canyon walk in the world

Of the long list of the world’s best hikes, Paria Canyon was close to the top of my personal to-do list.

I finally got there though I needed to rent a car for a week. Public transport is terrible in the SW USA.

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Paria is a river walk, normally 37.5mi (60.4km) from White House trailhead near Page, Arizona to Lees Ferry, Arizona. This is the easiest and safest route.

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Much is made of the risk of flash flood. But the standard route staying in the Paria is fairly safe. Escape to higher ground is possible almost everywhere. And you cannot get lost as the cliffs are impassable.

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I loved hiking through the canyon though footwear is a big issue. I wore neoprene booties in 5-10 Canyoneers, a water walking shoe. And I was much happier than those wading in socks and approach shoes.

There are a surprising number of animals living in the canyon (you know because of the footprints) but they have learned to be elusive. The only critters I saw live were rodents, including one that somehow got into my tent as I was just falling asleep.

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I also spotted just once one of the reintroduced California Condors.

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Hardcore hikers & mountaineers would prefer connecting Buckskin Gulch. I hiked a couple of miles up Buckskin from the confluence with the Paria. It is much narrower and more dangerous. If a flash flood hits, you are almost certainly swimming.

bgmap.gifIn Buckskin I ran into a couple of Colorado hikers with full canyoning gear. They were very happy to see me as dayhiking Buckskin had taken far longer than they expected. I was able to fill them in on just how much time it would take them to exit via Paria. They walked out in the dark.

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My biggest problem on the hike was … water. Sounds crazy, I know. But filtering the Paria river is not a good idea. It’s not only silty but also very polluted. Cows drown in it on a regular basis.

I filled up in tiny trickle springs coming directly out of the mountain.

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These canyons are colourful, tranquil and mysterious. The play of light and dark is amazing.

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It was Fall. There is a great variety of trees and bushes in the canyon micro-climate. Many were changing colour.

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An important side-trip for me was up a flood devastated side canyon to Wrather Arch, with a span of 246ft (75m) it’s the least accessible of the largest 10 natural arches in the world.

I met 2 local hikers who somehow scrambled down the canyon walls to dayhike Wrather. That route was harsh and exposed they told me. Not recommended.

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I did try to climb up as high as I could to get some photos from above.

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After 3 nights in Paria canyon, I decided to backtrack to my parked vehicle. That was 18.5mi in one long day. Though the river is flat, I found it difficult to hike quickly. Four days, three nights is minimum for this hike.

If you might want to hike Paria Canyon someday, check our Paria information page – besthike.com

And if you want to see high resolution pics of the canyon, I posted 137 Paria photos on flickr. (click SLIDESHOW and set time to 1sec)

Certainly I recommend Paria as an ideal hike for all levels of ability. Children and dogs will do well on this hike. In fact, it’s my favourite hike in the region and one of my top 10 hikes anywhere.

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problems hiking “The Wave”

I was surprised and happy to get one of 10 available hiking permits available through an in-person lottery for the famous day hike in southern Utah known as The Wave.

I slept in my car at the BLM (not BoweL Movement, rather Bureau of Land Management) office that distributes hiking permits so I would not miss the 8:30AM random draw.

Surprisingly, there were only 9 hikers there for 10 permits. Score! (Some days 50 apply for the 10 spots.)

The SW USA is one of the very best hiking destinations in the world — unless it rains. Flooding, even drowning, is a severe risk in arid slot canyons.

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the morning-of-the-hike sky

It did not look good. But I decided come Hell or High Water, I would hike The Wave.

At 2:30PM the drizzle seemed to abate. I jumped in the car and sped to the trailhead, now short of time to finish the 6mi (9.7km) return trip by dark. On the other hand, I felt the best photos would be available in the dying light.

Of the 10 essentials I carried only the 11th — a can of Diet Coke.

Jogging the slip rock (no real trail) and attempting to short-cut, I quickly became lost. Easy to do in this part of the world.

When I finally got to The Wave, I was very happy to bump into some other hikers who had braved the rain and hail. Included was the Mountain Artist, Elizabeth Wiltzen, who has seen her share of misadventure in the wilderness. She worked many years for a heli-skiing outfit in Banff. Needless to say, she want not much impressed with my preparedness as a hiker.

How was The Wave?

Fantastic. Well worth the hassle. The unusual sandstone formation is wonderful from every direction.

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larger image – Wikipedia

There is a “second Wave” and other terrific geology nearby. The more time you have, the better.

27 Wave photos – Flickr

I hiked back with several others arriving at the trailhead parking lot right at dark. Doh! In my rush to get here I had forgotten to fuel the vehicle. Others had to follow me to the closest service station. I rolled in on fumes.

If you want to be better prepared than I, check details on how to get to The Wave – besthike.com

drowning in a slot canyon

That is the big hazard with a hike through Paria Canyon on the Utah – Arizona border.

Just organizing for Paria, I’m going end of October as there is a lower risk of flash flood.

Yikes!

I just learned that Utah suffered a massive rain storm already this season. Two hikers survived flooding on the Escalante river to post a fantastic trip report and photos.

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(via Backcountry blog and Adventure blog)

CanyonWiki – canyoneering information

Wow. A wiki dedicated to the wonderful but still somewhat obscure sport of canyoneering … or canyoning. (The use of these words and what they mean is still being debated.)

The best trips involves abseiling down through waterfalls.

But canyoning can also involve hiking, scrambling, climbing, jumping, swimming and “li-loing” (using an inflatable air mattress).

Check out CanyonWiki.com

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