Day Thirty-Four: Back to the Slots

Map Miles: Today: 14.5/ Total: 557.7

GPS Miles: Today: 14.7/ Total: 587.7

Today’s Miles Sponsored By: Bridget, Bri, Sara, Katherine, and Victoria

The first night here in Kanab was one of my best nights sleep in a hotel. Last night was one of the worst. I’m not really sure what the difference was, but I didn’t actually fall asleep for real until almost 5am. 

I packed slowly and made my way back over to the BLM office to give the lottery for The Wave another go, but alas, no luck again. It went faster this time with larger groups winning the permits. It just gives me a reason to come back!

I then lazily made my way back across town and spent a little time sipping coffee at the gear shop before finally feeling ready to head out of town at about noon. I caught a hitch almost instantly from James and Christine. They actually drove by and then turned around to pick me up! They were on their way from their home in Springdale (near Zion) to a 3 day backpacking trip in the Grand Canyon. Thanks!

They dropped me back off at the spot Helen picked me up and I was back at it, even if I wasn’t totally mentally prepared to be back on trail. I’ve been struggling to stop worrying about what’s going on at work back in Seattle and just let go. Since I’ll have a few short days coming up I bought a small book at the gear store- How to Walk by Thich Nhat Hanh, a zen Buddhist philosopher. I’m hoping it will help me clear my head a bit. 

I swung my heavy pack (with 8 gallons of water!) onto my back and trucked down to Buckskin Wash which started right underneath Highway 89.

Highway 89 crossing over the start of Buckskin Gulch

The first eight miles were pretty standard Hayduke Miles. Sandy wash bottom, maybe some cattle trails to follow here and there. And cowpies. Lots of cowpies.

So much of this landscape has been used at some point for cattle grazing. I was surprised at how far into the Gulch I found signs of cattle.


The walls around the wash kept getting steeper and steeper, but just as the excitement began to build it backed off and opened up into a much wider canyon where the road crossed over.

Open canyon south of the Buckskin Gulch Trailhead


From here I entered the Vermillion Cliffs- Paria Wilderness, an area strictly controlled and permitted if you plan on camping overnight. Since I forgot to order my permit online three months ago, my camping situation is a little creative for the next three nights. There are a couple places where I can legally camp, but it involves a little backtracking and super short/super long days.

For a few miles the trail continued in the wide open canyon and there were cattle trails to mostly keep you out of the washes. The surrounding mountains the wash was cutting through are part of The Cockscomb- a Waterpocket Fold like North – South range with lots of wavy jaggedy peaks.

Some of the swirly peaks of the Cockscomb. This is the same ridge that I crossed before Grosvenor Arch.


And then just after stopping to admire some globemallow, the slot begins. Buckskin Gulch! At 13 miles the longest slot canyon in the US, and one of the longest in the world.

Globemallow along the bench just before the canyon slotted up


Some of the walls held gardens.

One of the greener hanging gardens I’ve found.


But mostly they just kept getting steeper and steeper.

I love how the rocks glow in the light. It’s like it emanates from inside.


Then again a sudden small widening with lush green Benches and I’m at the junction with the Wire Pass Trail! 

The way to Wire Pass. There is a huge petroglyph panel on the south wall. (More on that tomorrow)


I caught a glimpse of some petroglyphs adorning the walls and figured I’d check them out tomorrow. So that I could legally camp tonight I followed the guidebook route the 1.6 miles to Wire Pass. I’ll then retrace those steps tomorrow morning and continue down Buckskin Gulch. 

The slot canyon leading out of Wire Pass is even more narrow and the walls even higher than the part of Buckskin I saw.

Lydia’s Geopet was excited for the tight passages.

My pack barely fit sometimes.

Super narrow stretch.


I could usually just make it through. It was pretty fantastic walking.

Walking through Wired Pass


I made it to the busy (and windy) Wire Pass Trailhead and poked around for a bit before finding a relatively secluded campsite. I can hear my neighbors and can smell their roasting s’mores but can’t see them.

Excited to see the stars again tonight!!


Happy to be back cowboying tonight and can’t wait for more slot canyon action tomorrow!

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