|It was the grandest of adventures, to a place finally knocked off the bucket list after at least ten years near the top. The adventure was happening on the Grand Staircase, in case you didn't know. And the place, Parunuweap Canyon.|
Parunuweap canyon was named by John Wesley Powell after his exploration of the canyon and means "roaring water" in the Paiute language. That makes me wonder if Whazoonuweap would mean "roaring Whazoo?" (dream on Whazoo) The East Fork of the Virgin River courses through the canyon carving some very nice canyon walls that we sought that day. The larger main fork of the Virgin River was called Mukuntuweap and in fact Zion started off as Mukuntuweap National Monument before being renamed in 1918. How about that?!
Dadwolf, Mike to his friends, met me just outside the east entrance to Zion National Park where we drove down a dirt road to a camp spot in the cedars. Being late evening only a couple of pictures were taken that didn't show much landscape. The ridge we camped on dropped away to the south giving a peek-a-boo view of Coral Pink Sand Dunes in the distance. Really, the main reason pictures were taken that evening was to introduce my brother from another mother. I think Mike was Dodging the picture yet we both had Outfitters making us half brothers.
Mrs. Whazoo couldn't make this trip so I invited my friend Mike from the Las Vegas area. There was no hesitation from Mike even when I mentioned there might be a need to cancel last minute. Something about money for fuel has become an issue as of late, with work in a service industry drying up as fast as water in Death Valley on a summer day. Let's just call it what it is, evaporating.
The main hike was to a canyon little known to the general public, so I'll trust you to keep it secret. I'll send everyone a miniature subcutaneous detonating device programmed to explode on the word "Parunuweap." You can implement the device as you see fit, I won't tell you where to put it.
The hike starts just inside the east entrance to Zion along the east flank of Checkerboard Mesa. Be sure to bring your checker pieces for a quick game. Between Checkerboard and another un-named mesa is a real nice narrow canyon to start off the day's walk. The colors were not eye popping yet the pastels from fall colors made for some nice pictures. If I could make myself use a tripod these pictures could be better.
The lichen on rock looked to be doodle art left from ancient aliens.
And a small pond with leaves looked to be where elves brew their special "Elfin Tea."
Checkerboard Mesa has distinct rectangular creases covering it's surface. Kind of like the back of my neck from too many days in the Arizona sun...
We started the hike just after sun-up knowing it was going to be a long day of walking.
Topping out on the saddle between Zion and the "back range" gave us another view.
The hike alternated between rock and sand. In sand the trail was clearly visible as it dropped in altitude yet on sandstone was virtually undetectable, leaving me to guess at times where we were going. (Don't tell Mike, he thought I knew where I was)
Walking on sandstone I felt sedimentary at times, and not the igneous person I seem to be.
After about four hours of walking we could see where Parunuweap dropped off. It was exciting as the sound of cascading water made our walk a bit more rapid. A bit more rapid, a bit...(ok sorry, it was the best I could do.) It's not much of a picture given the depth of the canyon but maybe shows how the land lays around it. There are only three or four ways into the canyon in it's twenty-five mile length.
There was a total elevation drop of 1500 feet with the last 500 being straight down. Reading about it and seeing it are two different things, and seeing it brought a frown to our faces. This climb wouldn't be for the haint of fart, I mean faint of heart. The river blends in with the shadow in the canyon deep.
Mike showed his climbing prowess by giving this tree a hug on his way down.
Even this close, the bottom of Parunuweap is unseen in the depths as little sun makes it's way into the canyon.
I love it. Here's a guy having a fine day hiking my boots off and nary a complaint on how physical it has been so far. Which is why I hid behind a rock to swallow my next two Ibuprofen.
I decided right then and there to rename Mike and call him Cliff. And when I asked him if he was feeling boulder all he gave me was a stony silence. (Was that bad? I thought it was pretty bad.)
Our first glimpse of the magical canyon was titillating and we couldn't wait to see more.
I zoomed in for a closer look at dark passages carved by the "roaring water" of Parunuweap, the East Virgin River.
It was quite funny, reaching the bottom. I mentioned to Mike that there was a plaque imbedded in rock somewhere in the canyon to commemorate Powell's efforts of exploration. He walked around a corner and there it was.
Desert streams and rivers are a challenge to cross. Not being able to see the bottom it could be two inches or two feet, making you stumble along as you fight the quick sand for possession of your Tevas.
Even in this canyon of seldom seen sun there were fall colors.
Looking close at the right side of the river, Mike gives scale to the canyon walls while I try not to fall in while taking the current picture.
While not a good place to nap, it was a good place for a picture.
It seemed that Mike had a new spring to his feet...and his hand, as it sprang from the rock in a carpet of green. What a fantastic place this was.
Just below the waters surface the springs added their bubbling joy to the river main.
Green grasses, yellow leaves and red rocks. How do things grow in this Parunuweap Canyon with so little sun? Yet my spirit grew in weaps and bounds.
Eventually we came to an area of closed walls and deep waters.
First I checked the depth with my hiking stick...
Then I checked the water temperature with my onboard temp gauge. Which is not all that it's cracked up to be and does not work in really cold water.
This was to be our turnaround point, not wanting to swim on this cool fall day. Well anymore than I had already.
I had fallen in the water mere minutes before, yet the sun was already departing leaving me cold and clammy.
On the way downstream I decided to hoop it up. And I wondered, "Is this really an old wagon wheel rim?"
A parting shot of the River and Parunuweap Canyon. And as the WHAZN8R would say, "Ah'll be bach." And I'll bring a backpack!
As wet and cold as I was, I knew that soon I'd wish for more as we had to climb out of the canyon under hard sun. Now I know we go up here somewhere.
A glance down into Parunuweap where darkness had been an hour and a half before gave us a new light on this wonderful place of roaring water.
"What ever you do Mike, don't look down."
Hiking north gave me better light for pictures of the area. And what an area it was! If the canyon had been the main dish, the surrounding landscape was our just dessert, I mean just desert.
Thank you God, for such an outstanding place. (And the new hip, I really appreciate that too, so I can walk here without pain.) Now if I could just get rid of the bow legs...
More random shots of the hike back...
I don't know what this plant is called, but it was another of the days glories.
I thought immediately of the Roadrunner when I saw this remnant of a tree. Insert Beep beep where applicable...
The last view of the "backside" before hiking along Checkerboard Mesa
Elvin Tea looks to be done...
Would you like a cup?
Sunset had come to this neck of the canyon, in all it's glory...
Hiking along I found what my family and I have long called "Donkey Balls." Surely there is a scientific name but I choose not to google it, preferring our name instead. Heehaw...
Not geodes but made of sandstone and somehow compressed into near perfect balls of hardened sand, broken open they reveal a mineral surprise.
A quick picture of camp was taken the next morning before leaving for another excellent adventure.
We left camp and drove east into the heart of the Grand Staircase. Going through the small town of Glendale to access Skutumpah Road that would take us to Bull Valley Gorge.
While taking a break I saw this cowboy giving me a mean look. I told him if he didn't stop I was going to tan his hide, knowing full well that was a bunch of bull.
The entrance to Bull Valley Gorge is deceiving...
It gives way to giant rock slides,
giant lincoln logs,
and mud holes. What else could a big kid want?
Well the mud hole stopped us. I didn't have a dry bag for my camera and neither of us wanted to be knee deep in the hoopla. So we turned around.
Mike's truck is visible in the trees above the gorge that should be hearing our footsteps down below. Way down.
Not one to lick wounds very long we drove down the road a bit, glancing at the south side of Bryce Canyon as we went.
About a mile and a half to the east was Willis Creek. Another slot canyon on the Staircase this little gem has a perennial stream and several short sections of slot. It has always been a favorite of my family. In the dead of winter the shallow stream freezes over making for good sliding while you see the water running underneath.
Each section of narrow walls has a different look to it, different rock.
This was not the first bike I've ridden into ground. Nor will it be the last.
I see a blindfolded girl.
After Willis Creek there was another drive to make. When stopped for a breather I asked Mike...
"Caution, objects in the rear view mirror may appear closer, and farther than they are, at exactly the same time."
The last night we would spend in Round Valley and hike into Round Valley Draw in the morning.
During the walk we decided to draw straws to see who would go first down the Draw.
Looking into the Draw I saw the Hall of Commons, with Democrats on the right and Republicans on the left. Is that George Washington's nose on the Republican side? I thought he was a Federalist.
The fun starts right away with a little stemming action.
This is one nice slot canyon. I think Mikeee likes it.
What a magnificent place we were in, and only fifty miles from Parunuweap.
We reached the time limit we had slotted for the climb and turned to go back. Now having to fight gravity with our efforts.
There was no way around the "slide", this large rock being covered with sand. I asked Mike if he was feeling boulder, wait, I used that one already.
Pretending to be a chuckwalla we used as much of our bodies as possible to keep in contact with rock and squirmed our way up the chute.
Coming back into light we enjoyed it both above and below ground.
I had the feeling Mike liked it a little too much, being the fun guy that he was.
The three day trip was over, Dadwolf on his way back to Vegas.
I stopped for a quick picture showing the two main reasons the west was opened up in the early days, cattle and mining. Many of the existing roads we get to enjoy in our truck campers were made for those two reasons. I for one am grateful of the efforts these men put into this land, and can only pray that these roads are still open when I come back.
Climbing the North Kaibab Plateau to a higher altitude shows just a sample of the Grand Staircase, and what a Staircase it is.
We had the best of times, thank you for reading,
Dave and Mike
Originally posted on rv.net 1/13/12