Labyrinth Canyon

Nick

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Joined
Aug 9, 2007
Messages
12,927
Sometime around 8 years ago, I saw some photos of canoes pulled up on a sandy beach with the golden, glowing walls of Labyrinth Canyon in the background. That is when I decided I must do this. Since then, I've travelled along the rim of the canyon, doing hikes and enjoying some fine campsites high above the river. I'd look down there and think 'someday soon' but I just kept pushing it off. Boats are expensive and I didn't even really know where to start.

Earlier this year I was sitting on the shore of Lake Powell. We had stopped by on a little road trip to take a swim and relax a bit. After cooling off in the lake, we sat there for a while enjoying the sunshine. My knee was still feeling pretty rough from surgery over the winter so as I watched a woman paddle by in a kayak, I thought to myself "now is the time". As we drove away I told Nate that there were no more excuses, no more delays. Time to get a boat.

Fast forward to this fall and this incredible trip report by @gnwatts. By this point I had my boat and I had a little experience. But that trip report pushed me over the edge. My fall schedule was pretty stacked up, but it had to happen. Time to do Labyrinth. Finally.

October was a busy month. Three days hunting cheemicowbras, one day at home, then a week in Mexico sweltering in the humidity and all-inclusive booziness followed by just a few days before it was time to hit the river. I was to the point where I almost needed a vacation from my vacations.

@Ndheiner and I loaded up our yaks and met @baltocharlie the night before the trip. Nate and I are old friends and we'd never met Charlie so we were happy to find out that we all got along splendidly. So much so that we somehow didn't realize it was nearly 3am before hitting the sack that night. That 7am wake up call was not the best feeling but we crawled out of out bags and went down to Ruby Ranch to drop off gear, boats and Nate while Charlie and I ran the long shuttle to Mineral Bottom to drop off my truck. While we were out, @gnwatts arrived with his canoe and made final preparations for the float.

Canoes can handle some weight, but I was seriously concerned about the weight of our yaks going into this. I know mine was pushing 100 pounds over the weight limit and I'm pretty sure I saw Nate load at least THREE 30-packs of PBR into his on top of all of his drinking water, food, etc. As I pushed off I literally felt like it was a 50/50 chance that my boat would actually float.
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But once on the water, I was pleased to find I was floating just fine!
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Not far down the river we found ourselves drifting through large numbers of geese and various other waterfowl. Then we see a coyote on the shore. It walked right into the water and appeared to be heading right for the geese but instead it just kept swimming and crossed the river. It was so close I could have paddled a little extra and hit it in the water. Totally amazing experience. Check out the pic Nate posted in Greg's trip report for another view.
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It didn't take long before the walls started to grow.
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Battleship!
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The closest thing I got to a group shot. Drifting...
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Camp 1 at June Bottom
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The next day I really settled in and found my river groove. At first it was almost hard to just relax. I'm so used to go go go when I'm out backpacking. This was just too easy. We didn't even need to paddle.
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A nice undercut wall that Nate wedged himself under.
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We took a pit stop for a day hike this day. We didn't know what we were hiking to but we saw a nice little pull out which just happened to be on the bend that one of my favorite rim campsites is on. This is looking up at it across the river as we hiked up the other side. Notice the high point just to the right of the lowest point on the horizon.
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This is taken from that spot mentioned above, looking down on where we were. (from an earlier trip)
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We ended up climbing pretty high up onto the opposite rim to a point where we could get some nice views of the river.
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Charlie taking it all in.
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And then it was back to the boats. Good thing too because I was getting thirsty. :)
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We were hoping to find a spot near Keg Spring Canyon that night but it wasn't ideal so we kept going a bit further to a really great sand bar. The water was glassing up nicely.
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Our night 2 camp with magnificent reflections all around.
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The mud treatment. Ahhhh....
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We were sitting there in awe of the scenery, totally satisfied with everything around us, when all of a sudden a rather large Great Blue Heron landed not 50 feet away from us. At first it was weary of us. It checked us out and we did the same. But after a few minutes, we were deemed acceptable by this creature and it proceeded to spend the rest of the night (and the next morning), walking through the small channel behind camp, eating fish after fish after fish.
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A cropped shot of the heron with a fish in its mouth.
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And a 90 second clip of the action. Be patient, it's worth it.

After watching our friend the heron eat dozens of fish, we turned our heads the other direction. That evening, was just so...
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A little fun with our full moon after dark.
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The rest of the crew enjoying eggs and bacon in the morning.
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Not more than 100 yards down river we found this interesting spot where river runners over the years have left their mark.
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And then we entered Bowknot Bend. You can see the low point of the bend on the right side of this photo. 7 miles later, we'd be back in basically the same spot, but on the other side.
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Drifting lazily down the other side of the narrow point of Bowknot Bend. Notice the rock formation on the ridge that matches the earlier photo.
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Another late evening, more killer light and scenery. We ended up with a slightly less than ideal campsite that night. It was an island sandbar but it was a bit small and had a pretty active mouse population. Nothing to complain about though.
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The next morning we woke up and started the paddle out. We were only 6 or so miles from Mineral Bottom but we still had to load all of the boats onto my truck and drive back to Ruby Ranch to pickup the car. We passed a couple loading up on our way out that had said they weren't leaving until the next day. I thought it was odd as they were only a mile or so from the takeout. And then even more odd as they started to pass us. I ended up paddling alongside them for a little bit. They had paddled this river 20 some odd times. Amazing! When we got to chatting about the outdoors, the subject of backcountrypost came up and it turns out they follow the site closely and knew who I was. We had a good time chatting for that last stretch. It was great to meet you @stevej2! I hope we meet again.

And with the Mineral Bottom takeout in our sites, one of the best trips of my life comes to a close. I will most definitely be back.
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For more pics and an alternate angle, check out Greg's trip report from this adventure.

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BJett

Member
Joined
May 3, 2013
Messages
528
3 30-packs? I can only imagine the scene at the put-in at Lees Ferry if you ever get a chance to float the Grand Canyon :)
Great report and pics. River trips rule.
 

Dave

Broadcaster, formerly "ashergrey"
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Joined
May 5, 2012
Messages
1,722
Awesome @Nick. My desire to float Labyrinth again is only offset by my need to do Desolation, Stillwater the San Juan and someday Lodore.

This is a seriously great stretch of river, partly because of its remoteness and the lack of red tape required to float it. Where did you guys grab your permit?
 

slc_dan

Desert Rat-Weekend Warrior
Joined
Jun 7, 2012
Messages
1,686
Looks excellent. I'd love to do a simple trip like this.
 

Nick

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Joined
Aug 9, 2007
Messages
12,927
3 30-packs? I can only imagine the scene at the put-in at Lees Ferry if you ever get a chance to float the Grand Canyon :)
Great report and pics. River trips rule.


And that was just his personal beer supply! I won't mention what was in my kayak....
 

gnwatts

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May 19, 2012
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Beautiful shots Nick. The video is very cool. You forget how quiet things are out there.
 

Britt Runyon

New Member
Joined
Dec 4, 2012
Messages
2
Thanks for sharing! I did Labyrinth, Stillwater & Cataract, over 20 days, a few years ago, & now looking through your report, I want to go back......
 

Ndheiner

Member
Joined
Jan 17, 2012
Messages
60
Next summer, when we go all the way to the confluence, we should bring Nicks flat bottomed aluminum boat "Tinnay" and bbq on the bow while floating down. Yeah.
 

Nick

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Joined
Aug 9, 2007
Messages
12,927
Next summer, when we go all the way to the confluence, we should bring Nicks flat bottomed aluminum boat "Tinnay" and bbq on the bow while floating down. Yeah.



Haha! I wonder how the jet boat guys would feel about tossing a jon boat up onto their racks! Tinnay might be trickay for that one.
 

Ndheiner

Member
Joined
Jan 17, 2012
Messages
60
its flat bottomed, they could tow it right? i'm sure it is lighter than the bananayak with 3 30's. he he
 

baltocharlie

Member
Joined
Dec 21, 2012
Messages
324
Great report, pictures and especially a superb time. I've been crazy busy since our trip. Just re-lived it through your report. I'm ready to return, let's start planning another one. Retirement is on the horizon. Looking to be finished end of March or April. After I go to Chile and burn a bunch of vacation:) I still must post a trip report form my 11 day Utah trip. I promise I will. Plus I gotta buy a new camera. Friggin' Utah grit. Merry Christmas all..
 
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