Hayduke trail day 31: Paria river of wonderment

April 17
Mileage: 25
437 miles hiked

I hike out of Hackberry canyon as if in a dream- wearing all my layers, waiting for the sun to crest the high canyon walls, mesmerized by the patterns and swirls and scuffmarks and divots and colors on the rock, and then the sun does crest the high canyon wall making the green cottonwoods all aglow, and Hackberry canyon is full of birdsong, birdsong echoing in the alcoves, and the shallow clear water glitters in the sunlight. We walk up the canyon, splash splash splash. We take an early lunch break just before the end of it and I sit in the sand, eating salami slices wrapped around gf hot buffalo pretzel sticks and watching tiny bits of matter bob by on the water, mesmerized. This is definitely one of those “if I had a book, I could triple zero here” Hayduke places. I never want to leave.

We walk up the Paria river, and I fall in love again. Chocolate milk river that laps at my ankles and spreads in braids across the broad silt wash, leaves alkaline crusts on the confetti-colored pebbles. Soft fat hills striped in pale pink, white, and burnt red, buttressed with redrock abatements. I wander towards these hills, enchanted. Through the tamarisk and sagebrush in the wide river valley I wander, towards these trippy fucking hills. Must capture hills in photo. How do this? I realize that I’ve lost Dan. There are a hundred ways to make one’s way up this river valley. I call his name, but the wind and the open space and the water noise carry it away. I walk back to the sandy wash. There is no “trail” up the Paria. One just walks. And we didn’t make a plan on where to camp. We each have our own gear, save the shelter, which he’s carrying- I look at the tumultuous sky- I could always find a cave if I need to, there are so many caves, I would be fine camping alone- but still. Fuck!

Almost immediately I break one of my trekking poles, by setting my pack onto it, on the ground. I got these delicate little Black Diamond Ultra Distance Z-Poles at mile 700 of the PCT, in 2013. The first person I showed them to was Mehap, on the porch of the Kennedy Meadows store, and he told me they would break. I’ve put 5,000 miles on them since then. I’ve only had to replace the tips once. Well dang.

Then one of my platypus bladders springs a leak. I’ve never gotten a hole in one of my platypus bladders. Dan where are you?

I walk the wash in all sorts of ways, until I feel like I’ve seen all the footprints. Probably Dan is behind me. Probably he waited for me somewhere. A few hours later the canyon finally narrows enough to be canyonlike, tall sheer redrock catching the light, full of secrets, and there is enough of a bottleneck that I can sit in the sand and know that if Dan appears, I’ll see him. And after twenty minutes, he does. Danfriend!

Thus reunited, everything begins to go right again. We find a side stream that’s probably only alkaline enough to give us mild diarrhea. The sinking sun does wild stuff with the stormclouds. My feet have been wet all day, crossing the Paria a hundred times, my shoes are full of rocks but I don’t care. I’ve transcended the need to have shoes that aren’t full of rocks. I love my boyfriend/hiking partner/Danfriend. I love this river canyon.

We camp on a sandy little island full of cottonwoods and I cook my hot dinner and all the muscles in my body ping and twang. Ibuprofen tonight.

Photos on instagram