DAY 1 - LEE'S FERRY AND PARIA RIVER HIKE

October 23, 2019
Bianca Milione

 

 

Dean and I set out from Grand Canyon Village around 7:30 am heading to Leeís Ferry.  Dean is on a patrol trip as part of his work as a Backcountry Ranger at Grand Canyon National Park and I am accompanying him as a volunteer.  We make our way through Cameron, cross the Navajo Bridge, and arrive at Leeís Ferry at 10:45 am.  Although it is outside of the park, Dean is including a day of patrol on the Paria River Trail since he does get a number of visitor inquiries about it.  He tells me that the full length of the trail is a five day backpacking trip, passing through some very pretty narrow sections of the Paria River Canyon.

 

Our first stop is to check on the orchard at Lonely Dell, the historic ranch at Leeís Ferry.  Last year we picked lots of apples and pears there, but unfortunately this year the orchard is already picked out earlier than usual.  We chat to a volunteer working there who tells us that there have been a lot of visitors and the only fruit left are a few quinces.  We decide to pass on those and make our way through the ranch towards the Paria River Trail. 

 

Entrance to Lonely Dell Ranch Pear trees turning colors at Lonely Dell

 

The walking is easy for the first two miles.  We pass a number of historic relics such as the small graveyard where some of the past inhabitants of the ranch are buried, an old corral, and what might have been a Native American kiva that was repurposed by the settlers. 

 

First glimpse of the Paria River Historic graveyard
   
The old corral Remains of a small stone house Utensils in an old Kiva

 

We are now moving away from flat river plains to seeing the canyon walls rising up on either side of us.  The next section of trail involves many crossings of the Paria River, which is fairly easy since the river bed is sandy rather than rocky and not any deeper than knee high.  Iím glad I am wearing my Chacos sandals and a loose dress.  I can just hitch up the skirt and charge on through.  Dean takes his shoes off and puts them back on about three times before giving up and walking barefoot, which works since the trail is soft and sandy.  The trail is meandering and gives the impression that hikers might take different routes at different times of year, depending on the conditions.  We look for the easiest way to keep walking upstream, but have to do some minor backtracking a few times.  We are enjoying the very pretty views of the canyon walls and the red rocks on both sides of the river.  Dean points out the extremely steep and difficult stage coach routes that the early Mormon settlers had to take to travel anywhere, so it makes sense how Leeís Ferry remained isolated for so long.

 

 

   
  A muddy crossing point  
     

Tracks, maybe a bobcat or coyote

The meandering trail Pretty colors

 

After a total of four miles, we find a shady spot for our lunch break.  Itís very pretty here under the cottonwood trees that are changing colors, so we end up resting and chatting for some time.  By the time we start our hike back to Leeís Ferry, there are some shadows on the trail, but we are out by 5 pm.  We head over to the shade structure near the river and cook dinner while weíre entertained by watching a rafting group preparing their boats and gear for their journey down the Colorado River. 

 

 

   
  Rafters preparing to launch. 
They seem to be loading plenty of beer.
 

 

Now itís time to drive to our campsite at the South Canyon trailhead, which takes about an hour and a half.  Thatís 22 miles of dirt road to negotiate, and by the time we get to the end, itís pitch dark and cold.  In that moment, it seems to me like it might be the most forsaken place in all of Arizona.  We sleep out under the stars that night. 

 

 

FORWARD TO DAY 2