Forum Index > Trip Reports > Canyonlands March 20-24, 2019
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Silas
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PostWed Sep 16, 2020 12:14 pm 
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Like most of you, the smoke has us locked in our apartment. We have already gone to Uwajimaya twice in the last three days, so our options for what to do during this weather window has dwindled. Anyway, I thought I would write a trip report to help us get through these smoky times and see some pictures of blue sky. Last year we did a five-day trip in Canyonlands that encompassed hiking, some scrambling, and a little bit of packrafting. It was a pretty swell lollipop loop. The report is below.

Day 1: We stayed the night at Needles Outpost, right outside the Needles District on the east side of Canyonlands. It was a great place to stay and they let us store some of our climbing and biking gear there while we were on this portion of the trip. We got up early because the day was going to be a big one. We drove out to the Confluence Overlook trailhead as the sun rose between the Henrys and the La Sals. Our packs were heavy with paddles, rafts, a fire pan, and 5 days of gear. The Confluence Overlook trail intersects a road before coming to Cyclone Canyon. We headed south through Cyclone, a wide, grassy canyon where it looked like ruins could potentially be around any corner. Towering walls kept us cool in the shade. Next we headed down Lower Red Lake Canyon. A dusty, steep descent led to the Colorado where we (unfortunately) filled up on water and packrafted across to Spanish Bottom and the Maze. This was our fourth year in a row heading into the Maze. A spectacular locale of vastness. Ascending past the Dollhouse our path went through high grassland with ruins towards Ernie’s Country. Water was hope. Thirst was reality. The sun sent a purple and orange glow stretching onto the Needles to the east. We saw Lou’s Spring on the map, but it was too far away. We headed up a canyon east of the Fins. A few hundred meters up canyon we came across a cesspool that would have to do. What a day.


Day 2: Heavy rain woke us up. A small flashflood in a wide canyon. Our original plan for the day was to explore the Fins and then head up the canyon we had camped in and scramble up past Muffin Arch to the Land of the Standing Rocks. We quickly moved our tent to a protected alcove up canyon, donned our rain gear, and headed towards the Fins. The Fins. A place of legend. The location for the climax of Monkey Wrench Gang where Hayduke escapes Bishop Love’s anti environmental grasp. Even in the rain, it did not disappoint. It is that odd feeling where you finally make it to a place that you have dreamt about for years and its beauty is just overwhelming. An adult’s playground.


Day 3: The next day started and we were still in the middle of nowhere. A great feeling. The color and the definition of the rock formation invited more exploring. On our way towards the Land of the Standing Rocks we saw some Doctor-Seuss-esc arches. We weren’t totally sure how to get out of the canyon or if it would even go. Some fun scrambling and a little bit of smearing with heavy packs lead to flat ground. Island in the Sky welcomed us to a new geographic landscape. Rock formations aptly named--The Wall, Standing Rock, Chimney Rock, and The Plug--would guide us towards Slot Canyon. We had descended this stretch three years prior. Some great rock stairs lead to the canyon floor where water flowed in abundance. We set up camp with a 360-degree view of Slot Canyon and went to explore some “Natural Arches” labelled on our maps. Were the footprints in the cryptobiotic soil 1 week old or 1 decade? Stargazing and whiskey made for a swell evening.


Day 4: Finally we get to use our rafts! The “pass” between Shot and Water Canyon involved a beautiful purple canyon. We descended loose rock to the Green River to a camp we had stayed at the year before on a canoe trip down the Green. The flatwater made for an easy float. Canyon walls stretched thousands of feet into oblivion, unchanged since Powell and crew had floated 150 years ago. We camped below Spanish Bottom on the Needles side.


Day 5: A dry end to the trip. Up Lower Red Lake Canyon was a slog comparable to Big Beaver. You just want it to be over. With more time, we explored Cyclone Canyon on the way back and found some ruins and pictographs. Back at the car we drank some Aslan Beer we had in our cooler. A great trip.

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geyer
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PostWed Sep 16, 2020 1:13 pm 
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Thanks for posting! As someone with a semi-functional DIY packraft I really want to get out on something like this. A lazy flat water float like this one would be a good primer for me but I'm still learning the ropes and I still need a packable paddle... Do you get out on your rafts in the northwest too? With wetsuits? Looks like you had a great time!
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Silas
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PostThu Sep 17, 2020 1:52 pm 
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Geyer- we've only done a few floats in this area, mostly lakes. The Canyonlands trip made me realize just how heavy a pack could get. A flatwater trip on the Green or Colorado in Canyonlands is classic. Great camps and great opportunity for exploring.
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Sculpin
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PostThu Sep 17, 2020 1:58 pm 
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up.gif  Wow, what a wacky idea for a route!  eek.gif

I've never heard of anyone attempting something like that.  There is only one way up/down to the Green from in there, right?  All the other canyons end in pour-offs AFAIK.

Silas wrote:
The “pass” between Shot and Water Canyon involved a beautiful purple canyon.

I'm pretty sure we crossed this pass, only we were almost out of water and hopelessly confused on which direction to go to get back to Water Canyon.  We had tried to retrace our steps to get back to the river but lost the route somewhere.  Following the cairns over the pass saved us.

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Between every two pines is a doorway to the new world. - John Muir
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Forum Index > Trip Reports > Canyonlands March 20-24, 2019
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