big spring canyon packraft loop

March 2014: We started at the end of the road by the Confluence trailhead. After a few minuutes we veered off the trail right into Big Spring Canyon. Crisp morning air and abundant water made for pleasant hiking, with the odd minor obstacle thrown in now and then.

This slimy little descent on polished wet limestone was tricky. No anchors above, but also without huge consequences if one slipped (which some of us did), except getting soaked as the landing was a deep pothole.

A little downstream of the confluence between Big Spring and Salt Creek was the only halfway serious hinderance to reaching the Colorado River: a 40′ pour off. Here Sonja is rigging the anchor, a couple of rusty 1/4″ bolts, with a backup piece of fresh webbing.

The serene pool below the rap.
Lower Salt is deep and scoured clean by the huge floods coming down this long drainage. Here we are less than a mile from the river.

Getting to water’s edge was simple with no impenetrable tamarisk thickets or expansive mudflats. Rigging our packrafts at this sunny open beach was a joy compared to the typical fare.

The float in the frigid runoff was about 4 miles and featured the Slide, probably the only ripple between Moab and Spanish Bottom. Not pictured, but it was pretty exciting.

At a spot just upstream of the confluence between the Green and the Colorado we scoped out a break in the canyon walls the we hoped would lead to the top. We landed here, packed up and started scrambling up.

The route was steep and scenic. It lead up talus, exposed ramps and little walls. Here Sonja is grappling with one of the little problems.

This was a pretty good view of the Confluence. Bjorn posing.

Up higher we encountered hard to follow cairns leading us on a circuitous route around a multitude of buttresses and benches before getting us safely deposited on the maintained Confluence trail, which in turn took us back to the start.

Near the finish.

bikepacking/packraft loop in the canyons

Circling Horseshoe/Millard via bike and packraft

3 day solo trip from mid March, 2015. 175 miles of mostly dirt roads; some well known to my readers, others nearly extinct. I also encountered a section of difficult moto track at the north end. The packraft portions were merely river crossings from one road head to another. As is usual with these off-the-chart river activities the tamarisks posed the greatest challenge.
Upon arrival at Hans Flat ranger station I learned the Flint trail was closed due to snow. They did not, however, have a problem with me pushing my bike down. On previous occasions involving Elephant Hill and the Schafer Trail rangers have turned me back from biking on closed roads. Overall I find the long time Maze rangers a chill and laid back bunch compared to the rest of CANY.
Water on this loop worked out pretty good. I was equipped to deal with silty river water, but didn’t have to. Recent snow followed by warmer conditions had filled potholes; that plus a few small springs provided what I needed. In drier times the only reliable sources would be the river, the springs near the Great Gallery (4 mile round trip hike) and the springs below the Maze Overlook (3 mile round trip hike).
Met a group of internet friends on the last tiring miles. One offered me an ice cold Odwalla smoothie from their leftover White Rim supplies. Won’t forget the taste of that one!
Lonely roads
Interesting riding
Going with the flow. My wife’s Alpacka Yukon Yak, technically a little too small for me but ounces lighter than my Llama.
On the west rim of Horseshoe Canyon. My old Integral Designs solo shelter held up with parts of a paddle.
Getting the last minute beta from our friends at Hans Flat.
Laying down first wheel tracks on the Flint Trail.
Stocking up on solid water before dropping below snow level. Bagpipe and Elaterite Butte in the background.
Maze Overlook.
Not much going on between Ekker and Millard Bottom. A favorite place of mine to bike. Buttes of the Cross behind.