Tracy S. Morris

Quirky Mysteries, Screwball Fantasy and Sassy History

In which there is more hiking, and some scrambiling.

Written By: Tracy - Jun• 24•09

6-16-09 (Tuesday)

Today’s hike is supposed to be easier, because everyone is tired and muscle sore from yesterday’s hike.  If I sit still for very long, I stiffen up, but the worst aches are in my hips and calves.  Not surprising because the hike was steep in some parts, and there was a lot of uphill sand to slog through.

But I’m moving better than the rest of the party.  So much so that while some of them are Frankeinstein waddling, I’m getting the soreness walked out and walking normally.  I credit both the treadmill and good vitamins. 

The plant today is to walk through Wire Pass and part of Buckskin Gulch.  Both trails run along creek beds and through slot canyons.  In the rainy seasons, water runs through the creek beds and gets forced through the slot canyons at high speed.  They’re very similar to Antelope canyon, just wider apart.  Antelope is more of a corkscrew canyon. 


The photo on the right has a tree lodged between the rocks over my sister’s head.  At one point, this was the high water mark. 

We hadn’t gone very far into wire pass when a couple of hikers passed us the other way with a warning that we wouldn’t get very far.  Apparently, the water had washed a couple of steep drops into the trail.  If we wanted to keep going, we were going to have to either scramble over the embankment around the pass, or carefully drop over the 6-food drop-offs on the trail. 

This is the part where I was reminded that we’re family.  My sister decided to find a way around.  Now when she sets her mind to do something, she kind of gets tunnel vision.  Which was the case here.  She got ahead of us, and left her backpack on the side of the trail to signal us to wait.  Then before my mother could catch up to stop her, she left the trail and went over the side of the pass.  

And three minutes later, my mom (who is still our mom, no matter how old her kids are, and has always been a worrywort and a little overdramatic) was convinced that she’d fallen to her death, or gotten a boulder rolled over a limb, or was possibly eaten by a bear or a velociraptor or something. 

For two more minutes she alternated between taking drags on a cigarette and yelling my sister’s name.  Then she took off after her.  I followed, because I could just see this becoming like one of those canary in a mine kind of situations in which my sister becomes injured, then my mother and finally me because we all went one at a time. 

But my sister returned unharmed before we could go very far.  This led to a round of ‘you worried your mother,’ guilt trip.  Of course, I had to put my two cents in.  (Mom, you knew she was fine.  Stop overreacting.  Sister, you know not to worry mom, because you know how she gets. And going off on your own is stupid.)  At which point, they both decided that I was the biggest drama queen of the bunch.  And I guess i am.

And just to give you an idea, this is what we scrambled over.  

The only way to find the trail was that a couple of nice hikers had stacked stone cairns to mark it. 

It didn’t take us long to rejoin the path, and then we finished hiking Wire Pass where it meets Buckskin Gulch at a point they call the Confluence.  We stopped for lunch there, because there is a lot to see. 

The confluence widens out, and there are bands of mud that have been deposited by the rainy seasons.  At one point, hikers who came before us have pressed their hands in the mud underneath the semi-arch.  And they’re not the only one to leave their marks.  At a spot int he rock just beyond, there are  petroglyphs that look like antelope.  

Two extremely visible high water marks. 

Hand prints left in soft, wet clay by hikers. 


We hiked about 30 minutes into Buckskin Gulch.  Right as we were going to turn around, we came to a pool of water so deep that we didn’t think we could go any further without taking off our shoes and rolling up our shorts.  And the water is cold and muddy, since no light gets down to the bottom of the Gulch.  There are a lot of spots like this, which is why we decided to hike in from Wire Pass, rather than take the Buckskin Gulch hike from it’s trailhead. 

The hike out time was a lot shorter than then hike in time.  I discovered that my sister is kind of afraid of flash floods. (A real possibility in a desert.  Especially once the summer monsoon season hits. In 1997, 11 tourists were killed in an August flash flood in Antelope Canyon.  Some of them were staying at the campground where we’re staying on this trip.) 

We were all a little nervous.  June is the driest (and safest) month to hike the slot canyons, but the area is having unseasonably cool weather, and there had been a lot of clouds and thunder earlier.  A short downpour that happens miles away can send a flash flood through those canyons.  And even though we checked in with the ranger station, the most they had to say was: Don’t hike in Buckskin Gulch late in the afternoon and you should be fine.  

So when a plane passes overhead and the sound that echoes through the slot canyon sounds a lot like the rumblings of floodwaters, we all pick up the pace a little, and I try to remember what I was taught to do if I fall out of the raft while white water rafting.  

We slowed down once we reached the confluence again.  And except for a little trouble getting back over the side-path at Wire pass, we were fine.  The total miles hiked today was around 4.  This was supposed to be an easy, restful hike.  But the scramble and the flash flood panic nixed that.

Tomorrow, i’ll try and post the trip report for our next leg of the trip, which was Chaco Canyon. 

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  1. Oh man, those two canyon shots are inspiring. *chants to self, must finish art for Gods and Monsters first…*

    • Tracy says:

      I’ve got years and years of photos of inspiring desert scenery if you ever need reference material. BTW, as I was walking through those Canyons, I kept thinking “And around this corner, the T-Rex lay in wait to devour unsuspecting hikers. There was very much a lost world feel to the environs.

  2. Wow, cool. And petroglyphs!!

  3. muses_circle says:

    Got some beautiful pictures there!

  4. betgirl says:

    That place looks gorgeous!

  5. sophiedb says:

    GORGEOUS! I’m so jealous 🙂

    ..and yay, Chaco canyon! I’ve hardly spent any time in the US. let lone in the middle of nowhere, but I have actually been to Chaco :))) *boing*

    • Tracy says:

      It was pretty great. Although after going through 5 sites, the information started to get a little repetitive. (I’m a history junkie, so I slow the whole group down while I study things.)