“In the Grand Canyon, Arizona has a natural wonder which is in kind absolutely unparalleled throughout the rest of the world. I want to ask you to keep this great wonder of nature as it now is. … The ages have been at work on it, and man can only mar it.” ~ Theodore Roosevelt
In 2014, loose talk among my brother-in-law (Russ), nephew (Bart), and myself about “getting together to go hiking sometime” finally coalesced into a successful trip to Big Bend National Park in Texas. Nothing came together in 2015, but this year we planned a “warm-up” backpack for March (to fit into my nephew’s Spring break from teaching high school) and a backpack of the North Lake – South Lake Loop in the Sierra Nevada in August. We’d initially thought about backpacking into the increasingly famous Coyote Gulch feature of the Glen Canyon National Recreation Area but were dissuaded by both the number of other backpackers attracted to the gulch plus the 66 miles (round trip) of gravel/washboard/high-clearance road leading to the trailhead. So, as an alternative, we chose the Upper Paria River in Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, just south of Cannonville, Utah. We sketched out a loop going down Sheep Creek, up the Paria River, and then cross-country back to the trailhead. This loop is not endowed with many slot canyons (unlike previous backpacks of the Virgin River Narrows and Buckskin Gulch) but does offer classic southwest vistas and towering walls of colorful sandstone.