Twig Adventures

HayDay 24: Yellow Rock, Paria River and Bonus Stuff

Monday, April 24th, 2023, 0650-1945
Lower Hackberry Trailhead \ Yellow Rock alt. to Paria River 0.5 mile south of Sheep River
20.5 miles, elevation 5230′

It rained quite a bit more overnight, but it didn’t worry me. It was light rain but the wind really picked up several times. Luckily all the trees kept us sheltered. Everything was pretty damp and covered in sand in the morning. Still, we’d been extremely lucky with hardly any precipitation during the days, mostly just when we’re already in our tents. I’m not complaining! We got ready early and immediately started up an alternate trail to Yellow Rock. It’s a giant dome of yellowish and orange sandstone. Its rise is gentle enough that one can easily summit. We arrived the top under perfect light conditions, with the sun just warming the brilliant colors…reds, pinks, and whites too. It was a beautiful slab of sandstone, that’s for sure!

Pictures can’t do this rock justice, unfortunately

Amazing all the colors, textures and wavy lines. Plus all the potholes were full from the recent rain, reflecting the sunlight like so many mirrors. I was also very excited because I could see all the way into Arizona, including the Vermilion Cliffs, Kaibab Plateau and parts of the North Rim of the Grand Canyon, still covered in snow. Just to think, it hadn’t been that long ago that we were in Moab!

We stayed on top for awhile, playing with our phones (service!). I also looked at my peak finder app, trying to note significant points. There are a lot of “nipples” in Utah. We finally came down, going cross country across several drainages until we came to an old cattle trail leading to the Paria River. We’d followed Hackberry Canyon south for 20 some miles, now it was time to follow this river upstream the same. The Hayduke doesn’t go in a direct manner but rather loves to follow canyons up and down, like in a V or W-pattern. We could have walked the road from Grosvenor Arch straight into the town of Tropic, missing the canyons and saving 30 some miles, but where’s the fun in that?

Chef’s Chocolate Salty Balls… actually Moqui marbles, iron oxide conglomerates that precipitate out of the sandstones and collect in basins. The desert is full of wonders.

The Paria drains portions of Bryce and the mountains to the north, so we were afraid it might be running high from the snow melt. It sure was silty, a light chocolate brown, much like the Dirty Devil. But the water was pretty shallow and the bottom firm. The river also was frequently braided, making the crossings even easier. We needed to cross so many times, I didn’t bother keeping count. Probably something like 50 or 60. Even though there wasn’t much quick mud, I still managed to find a spot or two that got me worse than any canyon yet. I sunk almost up to my knees once but it was kind of fun. I just lunged forward and crawled out, laughing. It’s not like how you see in the movies where it sucks a whole body under. But it is fascinating, the way it’s so hard to tell where it is and how it reverberates like jello when you touch it with a trekking pole. We’ve encountered it so much, it’s just another thing that comes up but doesn’t worry me.

Chinle hills of the Paria valley, site of an old movie set and township
The verdant floodplain and red walls of the Paria canyon

We did a ton of side trips in the afternoon. First we searched for evidence of the old Pariah townsite, but found none. Nearby was also an old movie set where they filmed tons of westerns, but the set is no longer there. We passed a hiker sitting near the river while we were walking up high along a bench. He looked like Mac but we didn’t see how it was possible that he caught up to us, given our shorter alternate days before. We waved and he waved back. We kept going since we planned to take a lunch break just around the bend, figuring whoever it was would come by us then. Of course it was Mac, hiking fast like a man possessed. It’s been funny that whenever we pulled ahead, he always came surging back. Our whole bubble had been keeping pretty much the same pace since Moab.

We took our lunch break at Hogeye creek, collecting clear water from the sidestream. Mac continued on, hopeful he could get to town by night. We had more side trips planned. The first was a petroglyph panel at the mouth of Deer creek. They were really cool, with various intricate designs we could only guess at. They must have been spectacular 1000 years ago. These special places usually also come with cowboyglyphs or graffiti: white male names and dates from the late 1800s and early 1900s. Depending on how old the native art is, it can often be out of reach as the cliff sides erode away. But sadly some of the cowboy stuff is carved right over the top of the ancient artwork, as if the white settlers’ egos needed to be reassured even more. Ergo, some mormon dudes boring name is more important than a fantastical design of an eagle or snake by our early ancestors. Dick swinging is what it was. I wonder how much artwork was lost due to such misguided mindsets?

It’s hard to see the shapes in pictures but they are there, speaking from the past

Our next stop was at Crack Pipe spring, whereby there is a crack in the canyon wall where water spurts out. Some genius stuck a PVC pipe a ways into the crack and voila, water spigot! It was absolutely gushing and since the area was miraculously also free of cow pies, we decided to have our dinners there. It was a really nice spot, long known by evidence of all the cowboy graffiti. We pushed on, still having 2 side trips on our agenda and it being nearly 7 pm. At Lone Rock (big isolated rock pillar in the river), we climbed the hill a ways to a balanced rock formation. It was cool but our late arrival didn’t allow for much time to be spent there. I did note more cowboy graffiti etched on the rock…of course.

Crossing the Paria with a series of alcoves high in the cliffs, almost ready to become arches.

Our last stop was Asay (ACDC) canyon. We went a very quick distance up to see the slot portion. It was short and sweet, very fun and worth a side trip. But oh man the quicksand in there was kind of crazy. We got into a few patches where I wondered if we might get stuck. It felt like we were walking on jello, then a foot would sink in, and it was time to start spinning to get free. At least it was all sand and not mud. I don’t know why that’s better, it just is somehow.

Tourist Missions accomplished and sunset only half an hour away, we began an earnest search for a campsite. We found a nice place under some cottonwoods, sheltered well from the wind that had picked up. The frogs were really loud as I settled in for bed. A mosquito also came buzzing by but never even landed. They are such a joke in the desert…so far. Even with this wet year, I think the cold temps overnight keep them in check. It’s nice to be able to keep my screen door open until I go to bed. But I make sure to zip it and lock the door soon after. For many miles we’d been pondering what kind of ROUS’s might lurk in these canyons. We’d come up with Hackberry Armadillos and Paria Meerkats. Yes, I know about half these things aren’t actually rodents but they are still quite dangerous to hikers. They have glowing red eyes and are just waiting to pull a hiker under water or swarm them next to a side gully. You always have to be on the lookout and hope that your tent holds them off overnight.


  1. Sky’s dad here, really enjoying this blog, completely caught up now. Thanks for doing it…it helps me ‘see’ what Sky and Leah have been doing.

    1. Sky’s Dad! Thank you! I feel so honored. They have spoken so highly of you 🙂 Parents are probably 90% of my followers, ????

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