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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Oct 2006
    Location
    Bellevue
    Posts
    4,894

    NSR TR: Packrafting in Southern Utah

    Non skiing related, but it was still a trip and we need more TR's in general.

    Things have been busy and less than ideal for me in the first half of the year, I posted a bit about it once or twice but there's not much to do about it. I still got good days of skiing in to cope so things aren't all bad. But I haven't been hiking or running this year, just skiing and bouldering. Inactivity is never an excuse not to go on a backpacking trip though. As ski season faded away I found myself replacing my ski time with working and didn't get out for any touring but too much work for too long isn't sustainable. I got a text from a good buddy in Utah saying he had a free week and asking if I wanted to make up for cancelled backpacking trip earlier in May. Of course my answer was yes, so with a few days notice I had a ticket to Utah and we had a plan to spend time walking in the desert.

    That was the extent of the plan until packrafting came up. Neither of us had done it, but effectively backpacking with a raft sounds like fun, lets do it. With two days left before I got to SLC we had to find a place to go, we found some TRs and mentions of canyons of the Hole in the Rock road and figured we could make a decent trip out of it. I put up a post and got an offer to borrow a guide from alias_rice (thanks man!) so we couldn't get too lost down there. Nothing to do but jump in

    Some music from the drive down:


    I'll never be a desert rat, but it still feels like A home and after a couple years away it felt good to roll south out of the valley, up over Boulder mountain and see that crazy plateau full of ridiculous geology
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    This isn't the PNW anymore.

    It turns out finding the correct trailhead in the dark is kinda hard on that road if you forget to set the odometer at the beginning and you don't use a GPS. We missed the first two intended starting point but eventually we found a pullout by a spring. As we pulled in we saw a shadow moving around:
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    This guy was about the length of my phone. Biggest scorpion I've seen in the wild

    We cooked some food, killed a couple beers and pulled out the sleeping bags, each us using a wheel of the car as shelter from the winds coming down off the Straight Cliffs all night.

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    There are worse places to wake up

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    Our spring full of nasty greenish cow water

    I was the first up so I wandered down the road to see if I could tell why the Sheriff was out last night saving some Boy Scouts. They were camped at a spring at the base of the cliffs. Never found out the story but the views didn't suck.
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    Moki Steps ascending the red rock

    Time to Pack!
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    We have no idea what we're doing. But everything gets crammed in or tied to the packs.

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    We started down the wash, the edges of our path getting taller and taller around us as we hiked down, down and it got hotter and hotter.
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    Signs of people long before us

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    A siesta break in a stunning alcove

    The walls get higher still and we start to find water
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  2. #2
    Join Date
    Oct 2006
    Location
    Bellevue
    Posts
    4,894
    Ahhhh pictures are sideways. I'll try to fix it in the morning.
    I can't? Not sure why, sorry some are tilted one way and some are tilted the other way

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    After wading through beaver dams and more of the slots we finally got to the bathtub ring, where Lake Powell comes up and swallows the canyons. It's completely strange, I'm not a hardcore drain the lake person but as we floated through it was hard to avoid imagining what we were missing under all that water. Of course this trip would have been much harder without the lake so I can't disapprove too much.

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    Cliffs loom where we run into the lake and struggle to inflate the packrafts for the first time. Yes we should have tried before.

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    Right around the bend was our first sign of people other than the lake, a red solo cup lodged in the mud.

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    Taking in views

    We paddled for a while, passed a promising slot canyon but there was a houseboat, a water slide, and a party in there. We didn't need to put up with that so we kept paddling to a bend where the lake gets cut off when it drops enough. 15 feet lower and we would have had the first part of the paddling to ourselves.

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    Camp. This alcove was trashed by boaters, trash, bottles, fireworks, burned bushes from fireworks, broken glass. But it was good enough to sleep for night as we passed through. We took some trash in our packs but we'd need a real boat to clean it all up right after memorial day weekend. You can seem my friend in there for scale

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    Dinner, half a beer each and pass out until the sun comes up

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    What we came for
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    Fiftymile gulch marker

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    Lunch break on an island just before Davis gulch.

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    Not all the boats thought we were worth slowing for, and without any real shore we got rocked by the wake, and the reflections of the wake, and the reflections of reflections

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    The rafts are super suscpetible to temperature, after a while in the lake my buddy's raft was less inflated than before. I helped push him up onto the rocks for a chance to inflate up a bit more.

    The whole time we were on the water we talked about how great a cold beer from one of the boats would be. I came around a corner and saw a couple on a boat moving slowly through the canyon, and they asked what I was doing. I explained the trip, which horrified the woman, and asked about the fishing. Then I mentioned how great a cold beer would be. Dude on the boat cut the engine, grabbed three beers and said he'd have a beer with me, then my buddy showed up so we floated around and enjoyed the benefits of civilization

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    Thanks random old fisher dude! And we're really glad to hear your new girlfriend fucks.

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    Found an arch

    And an awesome family that had been camping by the arch every summer for years. They also had cold beer. And advice about going up the canyon.
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    How did all this fit??


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    Davis gulch started out pleasant, then I assume we must have lost the good trail. So we followed the creek and it turned into hell.

    Just before hell
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    He's in there

    After a while we found a way up onto the silt bench at the corral and the old trail out. We had planned on camping in the canyon and day hiking up then paddling back up past Fiftymile to Willow gulch and exiting to the road. Between the wind and wakes while paddling and the bushwhacking we decided walking slickrock back to the car was a much more pleasant idea even though we didn't know what was in between.

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    We failed to find Nemo, but maybe his bones are still down there


    I've seen bighorn sheep 4 times in the desert down here, twice in Capitol Reef and we saw a young one run past us in the canyon on the first day. As we came up out of the canyon we saw one on the skyline it seemed to be looking at us and we just sat for a while, enjoying the experience. Then it got bored and we watched it walk off along the skyline. For twenty or thirty minutes we heard them calling over towards the mesa

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    Barely visible on the skyline

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    Navajo Mountain comes into view. That massive pimple of lava and sandstone that looms over the Lake

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    Camp

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    Idiots in the desert

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    Back to the car


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    Tired, hiding from the sun, enjoying a slightly cool morning beer.
    Last edited by abraham; 06-21-2018 at 03:15 AM.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Nov 2006
    Location
    NCW
    Posts
    1,605
    Boulder Mountain and Escalante are some of my favorite places. Were you in Coyote Gulch or some other canyon?

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Jun 2006
    Location
    Ventura Highway in the Sunshine
    Posts
    21,096
    This thread is for TR's, it does not specify anything about skiing, so keep on posting, this is great so far. I love that region and it looks like you guys picked a great route.

    Looking forward to more...

    I agree it is a constitutional right for Americans to be assholes...its just too bad that so many take the opportunity...
    iscariot

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Oct 2006
    Location
    Bellevue
    Posts
    4,894
    Quote Originally Posted by jackattack View Post
    Boulder Mountain and Escalante are some of my favorite places. Were you in Coyote Gulch or some other canyon?
    All this is from Fiftymile. Mid week + the heat wave + way at the end of the road meant we saw nobody except on the lake

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Aug 2011
    Location
    Der Town
    Posts
    5,826
    Quote Originally Posted by abraham View Post

    Reserved for more pictures and words
    looking forward to it

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