It was well after dark and I was heading east out of Kanab after a long day out on the north rim of the Grand Canyon. The short winter days sure are frustrating-- there's just not enough light in the day. Seeing the Wahweap hoodoos by flashlight wasn't appealing so I began to mentally prepare for the epic hike through Hackberry Canyon that I had planned for the next day. My plans, again, would have to change.
I was supposed to drop off my mountain bike at the mouth of Hackberry Canyon and then drive up Cottonwood Wash Road to the Slickrock Bench trailhead above Round Valley Draw. I was to camp at the trailhead and then get an early start on the 16-17 mile hike down Round Valley, to Hackberry, retrieve my bike, and then pedal the 20+ miles back to my car at Slickrock Bench. A long day for sure. I expected to finish well past sunset, but I was confident I could do it.
My plans were seemingly thwarted as soon as I turned of US89 onto Cottonwood Wash Road. Immediately, I was faced with a sign in the middle of the road claiming that the road was blocked 14 miles ahead by a massive rock slide. Well, 14 miles would get me awfully close to the mouth of Hackberry, but with Cottonwood Road blocked, there was no way to drive to Slickrock Bench without driving on highways all the way through Kanab, Orderville, Bryce Canyon etc. I wasn't up for all that driving so I started scheming up a plan B. In the meantime, I was curious about this rock slide and decided to trip my odometer, go around the sign, and drive until I'd come upon it.
As I headed up the road, I figured if I could make it to the Hackberry trailhead, I could camp there for the night and then the next morning, dayhike up canyon to see the best parts. Then I'd have the rest of the day to dayhike into the Paria Box, and still make it out to the Wahweap Hoodoos in the evening, which I had really been looking forward to.
As I plotted out the day, I watched the miles go by on the odometer-- 13, 14, 15 -- and still no sign of the rock slide. Hmmm... had the BLM messed up on the mileage? Had local ranchers, tired of waiting for the government to clear the road, and bulldozed the slide themselves? Judging from the amount of traffic it appeared the road was getting, I assumed the rock debris had been cleared and the road was indeed open. This of course, meant I could go back to plan A. Except, my legs were feeling some fatigue after the day's adventures, and plan B had really started to sound like the better plan. Besides, there was still a chance a huge boulder was blocking the road somewhere up ahead.
And so I pulled into the Hackberry trailhead, laid back the seat in my Montero, opened the sunroof, and dozed off.
It being early February, I knew Hackberry's stream would be cold. I didn't, however, expect it to be frozen solid!
After walking upstream a 100 yards or so, I realized the stream wasn't quite solid as I could hear flowing water below my feet.
As the sun came up, ice began to melt and it became a game of whether the ice would support each step, or if my foot would crash through the ice and into the frigid water below. My neoprene socks really saved me on this one.
After a couple of miles, the canyon opened up and was bathed in sunlight. The tall and narrow walls of Navajo Sandstone were replaced by rolling hills of colorful Chinle, Moenave, and Kayenta strata.
Above: dinosaur tracks cover this boulder along Hackberry Canyon.
I decided my turn-around point would be the 100-year-old Frank Watson cabin.
Above: water cascades over an ice dam in lower Hackberry Canyon.
I was very impressed with Hackberry Canyon. I still want to do the full loop which includes a few spurs up Stone Donkey Canyon, to Pollock Arch, and to the "Moki house". This lower part of the canyon would also be ideal with small kids, in warmer weather.
Above: looking west toward the mouth of the Paria River where it emerges from the Cockscomb Ridge. This is also known as "The Box".
Next up, was short drive to "The Box" trailhead on the Paria.
It's a short stroll along the sandy banks of the Paria before you enter into a moderately deep canyon carved into the Cockscomb.
Above: The upturned ridge of rock called the Cockscomb is a constant companion along the Cottonwood Wash Road. The Paria Box is a good place for an intimate look at the interior of this fold. There, a thrust fault confirms the fold's origins as a compressional structure.
I have to say I was a little underwhelmed by the Paria Box. If you only have time for one short hike in the area, I'd Recommend lower Hackberry.
There is an interesting side trip out of The Box though. A steep climb to the northern rim of The Box leads to the Hidden Cache. Here a hermit, or perhaps a German Spy according to some locals, lived in a couple of metal boxes and a cave back in the late 40s and early 50s. It's a fascinating bit of history and I highly recommend picking up Michael Kelsey's Hiking and Exploring the Paria River guidebook for more details if you plan to visit the area.
It was late afternoon by the time I had returned to my car after visiting the hidden cache. This left just enough time to get out to the mysteriouos Wahweap Hoodoos. Those photos are coming up next...
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