PARIA RIVER, CONCLUDING THE HIKE
I photographed till twilight only breaking for dinner, but I felt strangely tired and a little paranoid. The emotional acceptance that this was my last full day on the river was sinking in. Four days of hiking had also taken it's toll on my body. My back ached and twinged from my heavy pack. The soles of my feet were irritated beyond anything I've experienced before. Finally, by nighttime, the overexertion, pain, and adrenalin had pushed me to a state of near hallucination. Though physically exhausted I knew it would be a while till I could sleep in the state I was in. My minded raced and played new scenes in my head, picturesthat were idealizations of what I had seen the last few days
We were only several feet above water level, I packed my camera and unrolled my sleeping bag on the smooth sand near the other campers. Everyone seemed to be asleep but me, my mind awake and alert to the changing environment. Cued by the dark and coolness, frogs and crickets began singing to their potential mates. The echo in this wider section of the Paria transformed the night sounds in to a truly magical carpet of sound. A blackening sky revealed a thin crescent moon and bright planet were setting over the canyon rim. Light from distant thunderstorms periodically illuminated the starry sky. The storms clouds were probably a hundred miles away or more, even their tops were not visible on the horizon.
My brain wanted to sleep and I kept slipping into a light dream state, but my body was too adrenalin pumped by exhaustion to sleep yet. I got up again and walked around the river in the dim starlight. Sound and smell were the dominating senses once the moonlight was gone. I started to fall asleep in the third or fourth place where I sat down and finally wandered back to my sleeping bag.
All of the sudden Xronda starts sceaming at me as I get in my sleeping bag, "Get to bed and stop making so much noise!" she frothed, "Everyone else has been asleep for hours!" I couldn't see her in the faint starlight, but in my fuzzed mind I imagined a lotus positioned Xronda, in some twisted meditation, self annointing in her own farts. The mental image made me giggle, especially so in the delerious state I was in, that only ticked her off more. "G**dammit Bob, it's not funny, now get to bed and quit making so much noise" her barking changed my mental picture of her to a Cher-like walrus. At that point Xronda was the only one making any noise so I left it at that and went to sleep without saying a word.
In my dreams the far away storms sent floods of water that caught us unaware. I awoke from the dream a half dozen times, but every time, the roar of floodwaters I heard in my dream was only the soft voice of the Paria at night, it sounded like rain or wind in the aspen leaves.
In the morning I was still tired but no longer felt so trippy, I wasn't too worried about my hallucinations the night before, I had figured rest was all my body needed. I still felt subdued as this was the day we were returning to civilization - if you can call it that. We rose, ate breakfast, broke camp, and began a blistering pace, all before sunrise.
The group decided we would try to make Lee's Ferry by noon. Well, no problem unless your pack weighs around sixty pounds, I was really just dragging along trying to keep up. Keep some sympathy for Xronda, Kent and I, who were were carrying packs twice as heavy as everyone elses. No one in the else in the group showed signs of tiring or slowing their pace. These so called "old people" in our group, retired and semi-retired from LANL, were in astonishingly good condition.
A few miles out from Lee's Ferry we saw the first day hikers coming up the Paria River. When we reached the parking lot, the end of our hike, I just sat without moving for a long time, too tired even to eat yet. I'll be posting more pictures and a summation of the trip, for now, happy trails. Note: Some of the names and characters in my story have been fictionalized and composited for artistic and other reasons, however, all descriptions of the Paria River itself are as truthful and factual as I can remember. Robert Luis Chavez