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Packraft Day 2 - Onward from Twenty-five Mile Wash
Monday, May 13

A clear morning greeted us at our spacious campsite along the lower end of Twentyfive-mile wash. Gino had once again given an edict, this time to be "on the water" by 8am, and mostly we got close to that, with our group-of-nine doing final attachments and adjustments at the confluence of the Escalante and Twentyfive-mile wash at about 8:10 a.m, with everybody fresh and ready for a day solely dedicated to to making progress against our river mileage goals.
courtesy BConnell
courtesy JInnes
Morning, 25mi Wash Camp
Back to the Escalante
Ready for Day 2
The condition of the river continued much as it had the day before: very placid, with long stretches of quiet, unruffled flow. And again, as yesterday, the main challenge was to locate the section of the river with the main flow, in order to float unimpeded (i.e. without grounding out). This was a skill we all realized we had to improve, as from time to time we would read the water wrong and have to get out and reposition our raft. Despite this occasional annoyance, we were able to float through most sections (say, 8 or 9 times out of 10 we would manage to float through a section rather than ground out). Frequently, after finding the right channel and with no turn to negotiate, we would lazily lean back and float for a few seconds looking straight up at the sky and the orange walls on either side of us. It was these moments that most aligned with the lazy experience that we had envisioned when this trip had first been pitched.
courtesy JInnes
courtesy JInnes
Casual Gino
To the right
A Happy Waddington
Our lazy floats were usually ended by the inevitable spin-round that the packrafts were prone to do, which would require some paddling corrections and other navigational inputs.

Our occasional groundings meant that our speed wasn't as high as it could have been, but nevertheless by the time noon-hour approached we had managed to cover just over six miles (10km), putting us only slightly behind the pace to reach Gino's daily goal of 16 miles.

Our ears pricked up as a new sound (beyond the chirping of birds and the rustling of vegetation) began to register: a slowly growing white noise.

We quickly realized that that sound was our first bit of actual rapids, something we had so far had none of, other than the most minor of riffles. Being a new thing to us (and especially those without much whitewater experience), and still being unfamiliar with the river, this induced a bit of caution. I myself recall propping myself up as high as I could in my raft, trying to get a better angle on this potentially scary thing ahead. Soon we could see the rapid ahead - a much more lively run of water where the river was concentrated off to the left and visibly dropped a few feet over the course of perhaps thirty feet. To our untrained neophyte eyes, it seemed daunting. Fortunately, there was a sandy shoreline on the right with a handy little ledge to sit on, and lots of space. We decided to stop here for lunch and to get a closer look at this concerning obstacle.

As we sat in the warm sun for our lunch break, we noticed that we had arrived at the junction with a large side canyon coming in from the north. This was Moody Canyon (which had been Gino's aspirational first day ending point).
courtesy SWard
Waiting Mode
A Moody Lunchtime
After lunch, we made ready to continue on. For the unexperienced among us (basically, everybody but Gino and Chris W), the rapid section seemed tricky and hard, so we carefully walked our boats down alongside it. Gino and Chris W were unfazed and both soon easily dispatched the rapids, expertly stick-handling their way down in short order. We clapped and were duly impressed. But we all couldn't do that kind of thing... could we?
The First Rapid
Back in our rafts, we continued floating downstream beyond Moody Canyon. While the going was still mostly easy, we did notice a small uptick in slightly rougher sections - minor rapids, if you will, but not as big as that more prominent one at the mouth of Moody Canyon. They weren't too hard, and our comfort level with faster water was improving, and we handled them with little problem. Soon the mouth of East Moodie canyon glided by, and we started down an increasingly sinuous stretch of the Escalante towards Scorpion Gulch. Other obstacles started appearing in the river's flow - large boulders and chunks of cliff from above. Often they would cause the river to find a creative way through, causing a mini rapid - and forcing us to carefully choose a line through. left-right maneuvering with one's paddles became more important.
courtesy JInnes
courtesy JInnes
Tower at East Moody
Preparing for a slide
A Shady Wait
Our mental workload was definitely higher now, what with all of the maneuvering through these river obstacles. We were starting to become more comfortable with the sound of an oncoming rapid. A bit of frothy water didn't bother us nearly so much anymore, as we now had gone through several such sections and realized that the packrafts would mostly just glide right over them. What was key, though, was paddle-work. Knowing when and how to apply force through the paddles was clearly important, as evidence by the many hang-ups (getting caught up on a river boulder or other obstruction) from the lesser experienced in our group. Our overall pace dropped as the afternoon drew on. It was turning out to be quite tiring stuff!
courtesy JInnes
courtesy BConnell
courtesy JInnes
Impressive Wall
Sequencing through
More negotiation now
courtesy JInnes
The Connell-ster
At about 3pm, we stopped for our afternoon break, glad for the respite from the surprisingly challenging paddling. We all knew this was peanuts stuff compared to real whitewater, but nevertheless the continual attention to line and the extra care required to avoid grounding in the low flow environment of the river took effort - more than we had expected.

I recall that Gino had hoped to reach something called Gunsight Canyon (I think, not really familiar with that name), but that was still a ways off and at our current pace and given the current time, the likelihood of achieving that had more or less slipped away. We weren't too far from Scorpion Gulch, which we knew had some good campsite locations, and not much farther along was George's Camp Canyon, which we had also heard sported some good spots, so we focused on reaching one of those areas. That was probably the best we could hope for for today.
courtesy JInnes
Afternoon Break
Back in the rafts for the final push of the day, we continued downstream. Despite us becoming rather worn out as the late afternoon progressed, one couldn't help but notice the increasingly amazing scenery flowing backwards on either side. In the clear, late day light, amazing, tall, desert-varnished ochre walls of every shape and configuration were presented to us at every turn. If only we could look up a bit more often than we were - the river, however, kept our glances upward to a minimum.

The boulder jams and resulting maze-like paths through them became more challenging the further we went. There was nothing truly crazy, but it was clearly more than before and a far cry from the easy, placid, trouble-free glide from back up near Fence Canyon, where we had started the morning before.

Shortly after 4pm we passed the notable side canyon of Scorpion Gulch, and about a half-mile after that, we encountered an oft-described spring on the right-hand riverbank. It was quite prominent and flowing quite vigorously. Worth a stop if you want some nice clean naturally filtered water.

By about 6pm we finally reached the environs of George's Camp Canyon, and the mood among the group started to turn towards camping. The riverside brush was fairly thick in this area, and initially it wasn't obvious where there were campsites. We noticed one fairly obvious spot but unfortunately a paddling couple we had encountered earlier in the day had already snagged it. A bit more exploring along the southern bank immediately opposite George's Camp Canyon yielded some marginal open sandy areas - sufficient enough for our tents. On the opposite side of the river, a small trickle of water came out of a dark and dank little opening, which must have been the creek outlet of the flow down George's Camp Canyon itself. I explored up this side creek briefly and noticed a little waterfall pouroff a few tens of feet away. A good place to get our drinking / cooking water for the night and morning. There was little appetite for any further paddling today, so this potential campsite quickly became our actual campsite.
courtesy BConnell
courtesy JInnes
Brilliant Rock
Beyond Scorpion
Boulder Jams
George's Camp Canyon
We could have left the packrafts on a sandbar in the middle of the Escalante itself, but that is generally not good practice, so we hauled them up onto the bank and into the brushes near our tentsites and stacked them. we then set about setting up camp and having dinner. Our once-again relatively early camp arrival time meant we had several hours of daylight left for setup, dinner, and for the inevitable Gino council meeting session.
George's Camp Canyon
Creek of George's Camp Cyn
Raft Storage
courtesy AWilcox
Second night, at camp
The evening's general counsel meeting was a bit sombre. Everyone was feeling a little more bushed than they had expected to. Gino had been looking at his river maps and had estimated that we had achieved about 15 river miles today, which was by itself more than his daily goal of 12 miles, but combined with yesterday's lackluster 6.5 miles, that meant we had covered 18.5 miles in total. He concluded (rightfully) that we were still behind the required average pace in our goal to reach Hole-in-the-Rock in six days, but not too far off. But with a bit of real experience now under our belts -- experience of what the days would be like -- he asked, "could you do this for four more days?"
Much discussion ensued... about possibly bail-out opportunities, say at Coyote Gulch or perhaps at Davis Gulch, what the effort would be to exit at those locations, and how we would then get to our rental cars, which were waaaaay at the end of the Hole-in-the-Rock road. Could we somehow hitch-hike... if so, how long would we have to reasonably wait before someone could offer a ride. And on and on. In my mind's eye, I envisioned the long tiring climb up the endless sand, with a mostly full pack of gear plus packraft, only to arrive at Crack-in-the-wall and have to hoist everything up the cliff there. Then another couple of miles across open hot desert to... a trailhead with no rental cars. Then to be at the mercy of some kind-hearted fellow driver, and maybe, maybe just maybe, that they'd be willing to drive in the opposite direction after a long day of their own down a remote and rough road for hours - a road that they may not even be comfortable driving. For me, those options were all too arduous and tenuous to contemplate. I was of the opinion that we should just keep at it - keep going down the river, all the way.

Still, in the end, Gino stressed that he (and we) had not made a decision on an early bail yet. Just that we needed to consider it. We did, after all, have an entire spare day ready to use if needed, although we considered that a last resort. One thing was becoming clear, however: this easy little paddle was definitely not turning out to be as easy as we had thought!
Second night, at camp
Skyline at twilight
Interactive trackmap with photo points - Escalante Packraft Day 2 - click map to view
River Day 2: 25-mile Wash to George's Camp Canyon
Start Time: 7:58a.m.
End Time: 6:16p.m.
Duration: 10h17m
Distance: 25.57 km (15.89 mi)
Average Speed: 2.5 km/hr (1.5 mph)
Start Elevation: 4375ft (1333m) *
Max Elevation: 4447ft (1355m) *
Min Elevation: 4176ft (1273m) *
End Elevation: 4180ft (1274m) *
* : +/- 75 feet
Total Elevation Gain: 130ft (40m) *
Total Elevation Loss: 333ft (101m) *
* : +/- 75 feet
Elevation Graph
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