Over the past year or so, Joan and I have dabbled in packrafting. Some day use and a couple of trips floating across the Colorado River to get into The Maze District of Canyonlands.
But we wanted longer trips. Trips that involved more than a quick float. And would let us see more of the Colorado Plateau from what many people refer to as river trails. Walking along or above the river gives one experience. Paddling the river? A completely different immersion in an environment.
So we planned out a trip. An out-of-print guidebook from the library clued us into a canyon that would lead to us a well-known ATV track. And from there, down to the river. From near that river bank, we’d camp, paddle the river, land near another ATV route for a brief period and then walk out via another obscure canyon once used for cattle. And then pop out of the canyon, walk cross-country, and then back to our truck.
That’s the plan. And, perhaps only mildly surprising, it went well. And made for one incredible weekend.
After parking our truck, we headed down a jeep road, spied an old cattle chute, and made our descent into an easily accessible canyon.
A subtle canyon with water and lots of spring wildflowers.
We knew we reached the canyon’s end and about to join the main canyon with an ATV track when we saw a concrete cattle guard/ATV guard.
And though an ATV track, we had the canyon to ourselves on a surprisingly quiet Friday.
And, as always, seeing signs of others who came this way before.
Towards dusk, we made it to the river. The soft evening light reflected on the canyon wall.
We contemplated our route for the following day and anticipated the sites for tomorrow’s portion of the journey.
Joan also found amusement in how I seem to trek just fine with a smidge of sand accumulated during the day. 🙂
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The following morning gave us some brisk weather to paddle downriver. But we knew sunlight would soon greet us.
With a slow current, we paddled more than floated. But still made the time we hoped for overall.
And though a long day on the river, we did manage to get in a few smiles here and there.
At one point, an alcove looked promising to contain some potential images. The nook above did not include images but gave an impressive view of the river below.
By later afternoon we reached the mouth of a canyon where we’d hike up. After a brief jaunt on another ATV track, we entered the canyon proper. Amazingly lush with lots of flowing water and green with abundant plant life.
In the 1940s, a rancher dynamited a cattle trail through the Wingate layer and up the cliff to get out of the canyon. We had little information to go on overall. But, sure enough, in a prominent area, we spied an old cairn and followed the very eroded path up the rim. The remnants of wooden fences, wire, and a switchback wall took us up the cliff face and out the canyon.
Old cattle prints lead us up a dirt ramp of sorts where we then headed cross country to the jeep road where we parked our waiting truck.
The evening light proved as stunning as the early morning light. With minutes left of daylight, we reached the truck. Joan set up camp while I got dinner going. We gratefully sat in our camp chairs, enjoyed dinner with some adult beverages, and equally enjoyed the night sky above. A long day, but an excellent one. Slumber came quickly that evening.
Not ready to head home, we spent a leisurely Sunday in camp with a hearty breakfast paired with coffee (for me) overlooking the quiet desert landscape. A perfect way to spend the morning.
We took a leisurely hike that overlooked where we spent part of the previous day:
And enjoy some other sights all to ourselves.
Including a small arch:
We hiked back to camp, sat in the shade of some junipers, and simply relaxed. At some point in time, we felt ready to head home. We had no rush, no place to be at all—another jaunt in our backyard.
We followed our typical Sunday routine at home – Gear sorted, dried, cleaned, and placed away. Ready for another weekend. And some more fantastic time spent in the place we call home.
Definitely a cool trip, Paul! Thanks for sharing! Any possibility you might write a future post on packraft recommendations? (As in, preferred equipment, not where to go do it.)
I’m still fairly new to packrafting myself and will hold off writing anything extensive yet. But I did give some info on my Maze trip that may be of interest – https://pmags.com/into-the-maze-via-packraft
Thanks, Paul! Very helpful! I’ll look forward to future posts as you feel able and compelled to give a more extensive overview of packrafting. In the meantime, you’ve provided some helpful links to start exploring the topic in the “maze-via-packraft” post.