The Clouds Have It

I returned to the eastern portion of Island in the Sky district for another packraft-assisted loop that seemed like it would go in one day. I left town early and was witness to a wonderful sunrise with great clouds. I found myself focusing my attention (and camera) on the sky as much as the ground the whole trip through.

I stopped at an overlook to get the bird's eye view of my route. Lots of road walking down there! But I knew that, and was apparently OK with it. My headphones were packed, which helps me bust out the road miles when I need to. 

I made my way down one of the steeper maintained/advertised routes in the Island. I love this route, but even this early on in the trip, I was not 100% psyched about coming up this thing later in the day. The route is clever in how it makes its way through the cliff bands. Once you've descended the steep stuff and look back at what you've traveled through, it's kind of tricky to pick out the route. It's not one that would be obvious if you didn't know with certainty that it's up there somewhere and that it absolutely Goes. 

Lots of good cloud action as the road miles tick by. I left the road here and there to enjoy some slickrock walking, finding a few small, isolated waterpockets that I don't need to dip into quite yet.

The desert floor had a few dashes of color with some early budders. I encountered a few mountain bikers and sag wagons. The folks seemed confused/concerned about me walking on the road down there. I've gotten this response before. I just do my best to convince the concerned person that I know what I'm doing and that it makes some sort of sense. 

I made it (I was 93% sure) to the junction of the road and the canyon that would take me to the river. I had turned my brain off while road walking, so I hadn't been fully noting the other arms of the canyon that I had crossed.  

The canyon was nice and narrow and corkscrewy at its upper end. I had to scratch my head a few times to find the best way down. Then, it opened up considerably. All told, not a lot of water sources, and I was starting to get a little thirsty. 

But then some trusty cottonwood trees were visible in the distance. And then I saw a glint that meant water. There was a wonderful little spring that was dripping off a sandstone lip. I hung out there for a while and tanked up.

I focused on the presence/absence of water as I made my way downstream the broad canyon bottom. 

I made it to the river and inflated my tiny boat. The transition from canyon to river was smooth -- no Tamarisk Jungle or Death Mud to contend with. I ate my lunch at the transition point and reflected on the already long journey that led me here. I love moving through the landscape this way -- connecting it in a pace that makes sense but still holds great surprises and realizations.

I got a bit confused two miles downriver trying to pick out my exit canyon. The mouth of this one is very broad, and the drainage itself is mostly obscured by vegetation. I had a mild panic attack as I pictured myself missing the correct canyon. It hadn't occurred to me until that moment that this canyon was the lowest possible canyon to exit the corridor before the confluence with the Green River, some twenty miles below. In other words, I'd be screwed if I blew past my canyon. Even though it didn't feel totally right, I played it safe and paddled furiously to what seemed like might be the right spot. I found a very mucky drainage, started walking, and was 93% sure that the canyon I was now walking up was the right one. 

I saw my first cairn at a fork. The direction they were taking me seemed to mostly make sense, so I trusted the stacked rocks completely. It got very brushy here and there, but I found a sweet little water source and steadily climbed out.

This is the exit move (at least the one I used). I scrambled up the big boulder on the right and lifted my way onto the White Rim, my ticket back to the truck. It was steady as she goes with hardly and navigating from this point. Just had to keep myself entertained, and popped in the earbuds a few times for an energy boost. 

Here I am on the steep trail out. It's a huff and a puff, but really good stuff.