Awash in the Canyonlands


There are no designated campgrounds in the Paria Canyon. We spent our first night camped high above the river, in a large grotto. No tent was necessary. The moonlight formed shadow figures on the canyon walls, bats flashing through like beams of darkness.

We were out of camp and back in the river soon after first light. Our days were long. H. J., who is 39 years old, is strong and lean — a climber's physique — and is somewhat of a perpetual motion machine:"Resting," in his vocabulary, means removing his pack and taking a two- or three-mile side-hike down one of Paria's minor tributaries. He is also annoyingly coordinated, which is why I was startled to see him fall to his knees while walking along the muddy banks of the river, early on the second day's hike. It wasn't until he looked back at me and quietly said "help" that I realized he hadn't slipped at all but was rapidly sinking in quicksand. In canyons, quicksand is an ever present hazard. I reached out and grabbed his hand, and H. J. was able to wriggle free. From there on we were both a little more cautious about where we walked.

All went smoothly until late in the afternoon, when the sky suddenly turned the color of a bad bruise. Not a good sign. Fortunately, we were in a wider part of the canyon, and we pitched camp on a high bank, one with no sign of previous flood damage. We secured the tent fly, ate a quick pasta supper, and sat in the tent playing chess, waiting for the storm to come.

Published: 28 Apr 2002 | Last Updated: 15 Sep 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication


Sign up to Away's Travel Insider

Preview newsletter »