Down the Colorado and up the canyons

In the past few years, I’ve grown to enjoy packrafting as another way to see the Colorado Plateau. The canyons and rivers form a travel system, and to “just” hike or to “just” paddle means missing the connection of this landscape in many ways.

Semi-obligatory packraft launch photo

It’s a natural outgrowth of backpacking in this area, and it allows me to see places in a way that did not previously cross my mind.

With Joan doing some archaeology survey work and using the truck, I wanted to find a Honda Civic-friendly trip.

And I went to the well for a trip I had planned for a while now – park at a well-known trailhead, put into the Colorado River, float to a canyon mouth, and make my way back to the car via unmaintained route, jeep rack, and then single track. 

I was looking at the Colorado River and where I floated the previous day.

It would make a weekend of about sixteen river miles and perhaps twenty-two backpacking miles.

I lucked out with the weather. Frida was sunny and without a breeze in the morning, making it a perfect paddling day.

Though I kept a consistent pace, it was leisurely enough to take photos, take in the sights, and notice the residents.

When I reached the canyon mouth, I saw the last people three miles before the trailhead. I would have the canyons to myself for twenty-four hours.

The wide mouth of the canyon area would not last long, and I’d soon find myself in a narrow, lightly-used canyon. But one with memorable views and more residents

As mentioned, the canyon narrowed and made for slower going, especially as I neared the exit point. But I did manage to find a rocky and flat ledge above the flowing water. 

I fell asleep with the stars above me and woke to the distinctive and beautiful sound of a canyon wren making its morning calls.

I made my way out of the canyon via some steep climbing and minor scrambling. 

With bulky packrafting gear, the climb posed some challenges but was easy enough to mitigate with some cordage I brought.

The weather also held, and the potential rain later in the day presented itself with graying skies and a steadily increasing breeze.

I soon made it out of the canyon proper and then walked jeep roads to get back to the single track not far from my waiting car. I could see where I had floated the previous day.

Soon, I made my way to the single-track system. Though there was still some climbing up and down into the canyon, the way went quicker than the canyon I had hiked through the day before.

Amazingly,  I still had it to myself. Only when within an hour or so of the car did I see anyone.

I eventually made it back to the car, and within twenty minutes of leaving the trailhead, I found myself on a bar stool, draft beer in hand and a burger on the way.

It was an excellent and satisfying trip, all within ninety minutes of home. I’d like to take Joan on a somewhat similar and shorter trip in the fall that I think she’d enjoy. I know we’ll return.

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