Packrafting Escalante, Part 3: Fifty Mile Canyon

piper01

Member
Joined
Oct 27, 2013
Messages
179
Oct 13-14, 2016

Part 1 here
Part 2 here

***
With the "rafting" part of my trip over, the "packing" part recommenced. After all the great things I'd heard about this canyon, my plan was to take it slowly and savor it over 2 days. Morning at my camp near the Lake Powell end was already off to a stunning start.
IMG_7980_crop.jpg


I briefly retraced yesterday's steps back toward the lake to enjoy the walls glowing in the morning sun.
IMG_7987_vs7900.JPG


I wondered how fast the water would have to flow to move this rock.
IMG_7992.JPG


After stopping back at camp to collect my backpack and fill my water bottle at the natural spring pouring out of the rock, my hike upcanyon began.
IMG_7996.JPG

IMG_8003.JPG


Soon, I reached the entrance to the narrows.
IMG_8010.JPG


Glorious morning light.
IMG_8014.JPG


I took a few steps further, then looked up.
IMG_8015_edit_crop.jpg

IMG_8023_edit.jpg


Looking back.
IMG_8026_edit.jpg


IMG_8035_edit.jpg


Somebody else had come up from the lake recently.
IMG_8042.JPG


Taking advantage of the low lake level to do some growing.
IMG_8043.JPG

IMG_8045_edit.jpg


IMG_8049.JPG


The water was mainly ankle- to knee-deep, though a few places were a bit deeper. I was the first one through in a while, so the water was clear to see where to place my feet until I stirred up the sediment.
IMG_8052_edit.jpg


IMG_8055.JPG

IMG_8062_edit.jpg


Thick, gloopy mud.
IMG_8076.JPG


Gorgeous walls with natural seeps.
IMG_8077_edit.jpg

IMG_8080.JPG


Other than the owner of the bare footprints and me, someone else had also traveled this way.
IMG_8082.JPG


I came across this guy in the narrows. I thought about helping him out, but decided to let nature take its course.
IMG_8096.JPG


IMG_8103.JPG


One last photo as the walls began to open back up.
IMG_8109_edit.jpg


Waterfall above the top entrance to the narrows.
IMG_8114_edit.jpg


Looking back toward the narrows from the top of the waterfall.
IMG_8122.JPG


I continued my hike upcanyon. The cobbles required some careful foot placement, but after my earlier thrash through the vegetation in Davis Canyon, I was grateful for the wide-open stream-bed.
IMG_8124.JPG


The narrowest the stream bed became at one point.
IMG_8127.JPG


Towering sandstone walls.
IMG_8135.JPG


A small petroglyph on the wall caught my eye, so I clambered up to check it out; lo and behold, there was the "E. Ruess Hunters" inscription next to it! I knew the inscription was somewhere in the canyon but hadn't remembered to actively look for it, so I counted myself fortunate to have stumbled across it.
IMG_8138.JPG


Canyon view from the ledge bearing the inscription.
IMG_8140_edit.jpg


Soon after, a side canyon branched off. I dropped my pack at the entrance, had a snack break, then grabbed my camera to go explore it. The sand was pristine, with no other human prints marring it. I wondered how many people had walked right past this branch without stopping to explore it.
IMG_8148.JPG


Pothole filled with muddy water.
IMG_8147.JPG


Mini-narrows, easily bypassed in the wider canyon above.
IMG_8150.JPG


The strata changed into this awesome red and white patterned rock.
IMG_8154.JPG



IMG_8156.JPG


Close-up of the rock flooring the canyon here.
IMG_8159.JPG


No flowing water in the side canyon, but I came across this greenery bounding a seep just large enough to keep the sand wet.
IMG_8160.JPG


Yet another change in the rock flooring the canyon. I was in a time machine, walking up though geologic time!
IMG_8161.JPG


This boulder field impeded my easy walking, but of course I had to climb up to see what was on the other side.
IMG_8163.JPG


What was on the other side, you ask? Why, this lovely short slot canyon.
IMG_8174_edit.jpg


IMG_8176_edit.jpg


Chokestone above the canyon floor, shortly before the large dryfall at the end. The walls were narrow enough to chimney my way up and see what was above....but five feet off the ground I reevaluated the wisdom of that idea. Being solo, I reverted to my "play it safe" mentality and reluctantly came back down.
IMG_8177_edit.jpg


Tenacious tree, growing out the steep canyon wall high above.
IMG_8186.JPG


After shimmying back though the boulder field (I discovered an easier path to go under it, rather than over), I encountered this geologic contact where the middle bed was tapering out. It appeared to be the three strata that progressively floored the canyon on my walk up! I love putting my finger on the contact between beds, imagining just that one moment frozen in time.
IMG_8189_edit.jpg


The three strata, looking downcanyon. Look how quickly the middle bed thickens from mere inches to several feet thick.
IMG_8190_edit.jpg


After geeking out over the interesting geology, I resumed retracing my steps back to my pack.
IMG_8192.JPG


IMG_8198.JPG


Soon, I was back at the main canyon.
IMG_8200_crop.jpg


A few trees held a hint of autumn color.
IMG_8204.JPG


After a bit more walking, the walls opened up into a wide sandy bend. As I dropped my pack and stood contemplating setting up camp early, I heard voices, the first all day. A group of 3 canyoneers was passing though, from Mumbai Canyon one of them mentioned, on their way back to town that night. After a few minutes chatting, they continued on their way, and I again had the canyon to myself.
IMG_8218_edit.jpg


I had made such slow time earlier in the day with my many stops, sidetracks, and lingerings, that I calculated I was only 2 or 3 miles from last night's camp. With several hours of light remaining, I had plenty of time to hightail it down to see the narrows again, this time in a different light, then make back to camp before dark. So, leaving my heavy pack behind, I set off at a brisk pace. Well worth it!

Back at camp. There was a lovely spring-fed pool along the canyon wall, with the accompanying "drip....drip...drip" as droplets fell from the wall to the pool below, while frogs serenaded me with their croaking.
IMG_8299_edit.jpg


Cool channel cuts in the sandstone wall, as viewed from my camp.
IMG_8275_edit.jpg


I squeezed the last bits out of the light and explored around one more bend upcanyon. This interesting layer in the center of the picture paralleled the beds above for about a hundred feet, then abruptly dived nearly 90 degrees at either end.
IMG_8294_edit.jpg


I turned around just before the sand dune, leaving just enough time (with a little more poking around on the way back to camp) to start dinner cooking before darkness fell.
IMG_8309.JPG


Once again, the next day dawned slightly cool and sunny. Another perfect day for hiking. After packing up camp, I shouldered my pack and started my hike out the canyon. My goal was to return to my car by early evening, then meet some friends with whom I had recently reconnected who just so happened to have an overlapping trip.

Patterns in the wall.
IMG_8323_edit.jpg


Channel.
IMG_8329_edit.jpg


Alcove off to the side. Fairly small compared to many of the other ones I'd seen so far on my trip.
IMG_8336.JPG


Inside, looking out.
IMG_8337_edit.jpg


Further along. Most of the water had dried up by this point, except for a few isolated areas.
IMG_8347.JPG


I spotted another alcove off to the side, so of course I had to go explore it. Not far away, I stumbled on this petroglyph panel. As with the "Ruess Hunters" inscription, I was aware of its existence but I hadn't been actively looking for landmarks to find it, especially since my canyon descriptions were written coming from the other direction. This canyon was being good to me!
IMG_8356_edit.jpg


IMG_8377_edit.jpg

IMG_8395_edit.jpg


The arch.
IMG_8416.JPG


Flowers in bloom.
IMG_8426.JPG


Busy bee.
IMG_8420_crop.jpg


Rain drop impressions on the mud curls.
IMG_8427.JPG


Squiggly bits.
IMG_8439.JPG


As the canyon continued to shallow, I reached the cairned route out to bypass a dead-end at a dryfall. Of course I had to detour to see the dryfall, especially since the pristine mud curls indicated that no one else had passed that way recently.
IMG_8445.JPG


The route out.
IMG_8456.JPG


Looking down into Fifty Mile Canyon.
IMG_8458.JPG


My landmark- Fifty Mile Point.
IMG_8459.JPG


More cool geology!
IMG_8464.JPG


Almost back to the road.
IMG_8469.JPG


I made it back to Hole in the Rock Road, and the long walk back to Willow Trailhead to retrieve my vehicle. I debated whether to leave my big pack and just travel fast and light with my small daypack, or whether I should carry everything with me so I wouldn't have to drive back to get it. Being a Friday afternoon, I was mildly hopeful that I might encounter someone to give me a ride, so I opted to carry everything. I must say, this down-and-up part was not fun with a big pack.
IMG_8482.JPG


After the second big wash crossing with another 2 miles or so to go, I decided I had had enough. I ditched my pack on a large rock on the side of the road, grabbed my last remaining water and my car keys (would have been bad to forget those!), and set off again. Not 2 minutes later, a truck rounded the bend. I must have freaked them out standing in the road with no pack and looking half crazed, but they generously gave me a ride back to my car. I didn't want to take too much of their time, so I just had them drop me off at the trailhead turnoff and walked the remaining half mile to my car. Thanks friendly people!

Finally, the end is in sight.
IMG_8487.JPG


I headed off to meet my friends for one more night of camping, then one more easy half day of puttering around before my return home.

Continued in one more (much shorter) part 4...
 
Last edited:

Ross

Member
Joined
May 18, 2012
Messages
291
Hi @piper01 Did you hike up Fiftymile from your camp, then return to it that night, then hike back up it again the next day to Hole in the Rock Road, or have I misunderstood? Another trip report from I think last year says a massive sand dune blocks access up Fiftymile from the lake, even though the water continues on the other side of the dune. Did you encounter this? The walls look too sheer to exit to the rim there, so unless a team carried a boat over the dune, or had an inflatable packraft, the only alternative is a long tough cold swim. Actually as you had a packrafit maybe that's what you did, just carried it over
 

piper01

Member
Joined
Oct 27, 2013
Messages
179
@Ross
The sand dune wasn't there on my trip, so I had a clear route to packraft through the canyon. I have some pictures near the end of my part 2 trip report that show the canyon as it was in mid-October 2016. There was a smaller dune forming further upcanyon that still had a small passageway on one side at that water level (3610'), but it may have been too narrow for a bigger boat, especially at a lower water level.

I camped near the lake the first night, then the next day hiked up through the narrows and halfway up Fifty Mile Canyon where I picked a campsite. I ran back down to see the narrows again and then returned to my camp halfway up the canyon to spend the second night. The next day I finished hiking the canyon out to the road.
 
Similar threads
Thread starter Title Forum Replies Date
piper01 Packrafting Escalante, Part 2: Davis to Fifty Mile Backpacking 12
piper01 Packrafting Escalante, Part 1: Willow to Davis Backpacking 10
Duketogo13 Questions about packrafting the Escalante/Lake Powell in September. Need help! Trip Planning 5
S Packrafting Escalante - FiftyMile Creek and low water level Lake Powell Trip Planning 8
J Escalante Packrafting Backpacking 4
dug When things don't go just as planned. Bikepacking, backpacking, packrafting Escalante. On The Water 0
Outdoors24 Willow/Davis Gulch Packrafting Backpacking 6
Mikjik86 Short Video: Backpacking/Packrafting Dark Canyon Wilderness, Utah. April 2019 Backpacking 0
regehr Dirty Devil Packrafting in March General Discussion 4
dug Lake Mead Bikepacking/Packrafting Everything Else 5
Mikjik86 Waterproof backpack bag for packrafting? On The Water 6
smscheick Packrafting Willow/Davis/50 mile Backpacking 22
K I am hoping to do a 6-8 day packrafting trip on the Dirty Devil in early April. Noobs: Introduce yourself! 0
George_Washington_Hayduke Twilight Canyon- Cottonwood Gulch- Llewellyn Gulch- 8 Days Backpacking/Packrafting Backpacking 15
LizardAZ Verde River/Mazatzal Wilderness packrafting On The Water 8
LizardAZ Packrafting Black Canyon On The Water 3
wsp_scott Packrafting the Big South Fork (KY) On The Water 7
J Invite Packrafting the Thorofare area Meet Up (Members Only) 5
George_Washington_Hayduke Packrafting and Bikepacking from the San Rafael River to Muddy Creek On The Water 0
George_Washington_Hayduke Price River (Utah) Packrafting @200cfs From Woodside to Swasey Beach On The Water 4
George_Washington_Hayduke Canyonlands Figure 8: Packrafting Loop through the Needles and Maze District Backpacking 2
George_Washington_Hayduke Packrafting Cataract Canyon @17000cfs On The Water 0
Aldaron Packrafting Alaska Trip Planning 35
Nick Best Packrafting Paddle Gear 8
steve Invite Dirty Devil Packrafting/Float Trip April 11 Meet Up (Members Only) 14
Parma Canyonlands Packrafting Trip Backpacking 43
steve Invite Last-minute Maze Figure 8 packrafting trip this weekend Meet Up (Members Only) 3
steve 2015 packrafting trips Meet Up (Members Only) 41
steve Planning a packrafting trip to Hole in the Rock Trail - April 10-12 Meet Up (Members Only) 74
Bob Packrafting the Little Colorado River Gorge On The Water 1
mattvogt7 Packrafting the Dirty Devil, March 2014 On The Water 12
BJett Packrafting the Red River Gorge On The Water 11
BJett Packrafting the Rockcastle River On The Water 14
BJett Packrafting Guide - Southern Utah General Discussion 3
Kullaberg63 Packrafting the Colorado River Daily run at 6000 cfs On The Water 2
mattvogt7 Packrafting? Trip Planning 2
Janice Cosmic Ashtray via Wolverine/Little Death Hollow & Escalante River? Trip Planning 16
priz1234 The Gulch Escalante 4/17-4/18 Backpacking 2
RyanP Conditions (water/bugs) for Escalante/Death Hollow Trip Planning 27
J Escalante Natl. Mon. to Bryce N.P. the (unknown) Final Dayhikes April 15-16, 2021 Hiking & Camping 9
Bob Lost in the Escalante .......... Blast from the Past Backpacking 6
Bob A short Escalante trip end of April Backpacking 5
swmalone Restaurant Suggestions for Escalante or Boulder General Discussion 11
swmalone Camping suggestions for Escalante in May Trip Planning 2
Muddy Waters Stevens, Fold, Escalante River, Fools, Kings Mesa Trip Reports 3
W 9 Days Solo Escalante Loop in October (water advice) - Stevens Canyon, Baker Route over Waterpocket fold, Halls Narrows to Moody Canyons Trip Planning 11
T Status of Traffic - Hole in the rock road - Escalante - September? Trip Planning 2
ramblinman Boulder Creek Day Hike, Escalante National Monument Hiking & Camping 5
M Ideas for 4 nights in Escalante Trip Planning 30
M Non-technical 1-2 night backpacking w dogs and kids - Escalante-ish area in April? Trip Planning 14

Similar threads

Don't like ads? Become a BCP Supporting Member and kiss them all goodbye. Click here for more info.

Top