Tuesday, October 9, 2007

"We choose to do these things, ...

... not because they are easy, but because they are hard." So says Dale. And John Kennedy.

Although my trip was ten days long, we are just going to talk about the 5 days of serious hiking, and specifically now -- the first two days. We are not going to mention the flat tire in Lovelock, NV. Or mention how many "No Smoking" rooms there are in Utah that smell like smoke, despite a decidedly religous population and the Utah Clean Air Act. Or how difficult it can be to find a meal on Sunday, much less a beer.

We are not going to mention that I entered a raffle for a varmint rifle in Nevada (that den of despair, vice and immorality.) Or that I spent a lot of time with two people who speak metric. "It can't possibly be zero out?" Says I. We are not going to yak on about the broken camera.

So the first night went well in the campground at the trailhead for Paria. Reports from other hikers and the rangers encouraged us to skip our plan to hike Buckskin Gulch. It had water running in it the previous day forcing one group of hikers to bivy at the middle route. It was allegedly muddy down the length and had deep water in places.

So instead we hiked the Paria Narrows to camp at the bottom of Buckskin Gulch just up from the confluence. Right before the start of the hike my camera fell from the picnic bench and required that I change lenses just before leaving . The extent of the damage isn't quite known yet, especially after enlisting the hardware store guy to help me fix it with a pair of channel locks.

The first day was nine miles plus down the Paria River to the confluence with Buckskin. We all put on our boots to head downstream a few hundred feet and then change into our river shoes. We met a pair of hikers from GB who had ridden bicycles from Jasper to the Mexican Border this past summer. They vanished immediately when I fell the first of several times that day. I fell several times that day.

It was like snot -- the mud. "It's really just a choice between grey and brown mud," said one of the upstream hikers.

I fell about six times actually, the pain of which has finally reached its zenith. My ego is bruised, mainly.

The trip down the river becomes progressively narrower and more wet, as the canyon width decreases. The wetter it got the less I fell. The initial crossing was a bit comic. We debated for some time the best way to cross, changed shoes, nervously stepped in. We crossed the Paria about 300,000 times after that, and by the end of the trip down we were in the water all the time.

We camped in a site above Buckskin 50 ft or so. A little platform in the sky.

In the morning there was no dew and it was warm. My weather radar was working overtime telling me it was going to rain. I told "the boys" what my grandfather had always said -- "if there isn't any dew, it is going to rain." We were three or four miles down from where that narrows of the Paria opened up much. We immediately broke camp and left.

I led the charge upstream against the unchanging trickle of the Paria, the threat of rain spurning us on -- done in two hours and forty-five minutes. Dale passing us all at the first break. That's three miles an hour with 300.000 crossings and packs. Not bad, imagine the rate if it really were raining.

Eighteen miles in my river shoes with a full pack and mud. It's pretty amazing to me. At the last crossing there were a couple of people standing there debating how to get across; we just charged in and went across.

"--We choose to do these things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard." -- John F. Kennedy, Address given at Rice University, September 12, 1962 -- I believe he was inspiring us to take the moon.

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