Labyrinth Canyon Utah April 2012

Utah,  Ahhh Utah.  It's been quite some time since I've been to Utah, and when an invitation came along to go I could not refuse.  This time it was going to be a little different though, this time we are going to spend 5 days canoeing on the Green River, on the stretch known as Labyrinth Canyon.  Sixty some river miles that take you into the heart of canyon country.  I'd be going with Jon.  Jon is your avid kayaker, rafter, canoeer, pretty much all things water, type dude.  Jon was the inspiration for the Labyrinth Canyon trip.  Hurray for Jon getting me back to Utah!  

So this is Livingston Photo Society, so lets talk briefly about cameras.  I don't think Jon owns a camera so all the photographing was up to me.  I had a heck of a time deciding which camera/s to bring.  It's not like I was backpacking and had to carry all that weight, so two cameras came with me.  I brought my 4x5 Large format camera because I knew we would be in some amazing canyon country.  The Shen Hao TZ45IIb came on the trip along with 3 lenses, a 90mm f8 Super Angulon, Nikon 200M, and Nikon 300M.  Of course all the little thing you need for large format photography were brought too, light meter, loupe, dark cloth, and cable release.  For film I wanted something compact, less likely to get sand or dust in it, and easy to manage.  For that I brought 18 sheets of some well expired Polaroid type 55 B&W film and a Polaroid 545 film holder.  This is a gamble.  I have tried this box of Type 55 in the past and discovered that the chemical pack are no good.  So I will be tray processing the film, now that I am home, shortly.  Thankfully I have extra film that came home with me and will be able to experiment a little before I try to process the film from the trip.  Along with the 4x5 I also brought my Nikon D2x with the 18-70mm lens, a 50 f1.4 lens, SB600 flash, and extra cards and batteries.  This was going to be the camera used more or less to document the trip.  To support it all I brought a Gitzo Safari tripod with a Foba Mini-Super ball had on top.  In the end I never put the 50mm 1.4 lens on, I used the SB 600 once, the 90mm was the only lens I used for 4x5, and I only took 4 shots with the 4x5 while on the river.  So now that we got that taken care of lets get on with the trip report.

All Packed Up
 After the river trip Jon and I were going our separate ways so we each drove our own vehicles.  This worked out well because we then didn't have to arrange for a shuttle.  And lets face it, after 5 days we could use a break from each other :P  To the right you see my car all packed up ready to go.  We left on April 6th and of course we had to drive through a little mini blizzard for the first couple of hundred miles.  Pretty ridiculous really, especially Gallatin Canyon  in Montana.  Thought for sure I would get stuck or crash somewhere.  Luckily all worked out well and by the time we got to Idaho Falls, Idaho the snow was gone, got dang windy the rest of the way but at least there was no more snow.  The snow did however delay us many hours.  Our put in spot was the town of Green River, Utah.  By the time we arrived it was plenty dark.  We ditched our canoes at the put
Mineral Bottom Road
 in, then drove about 60 miles towards our take out spot to make camp.  The coldest night of the trip was that first night.  Got down to about 18 degrees F.  Thankfully we brought our cold weather bags for the trip. We were in no hurry to get up in the morning after spending many hours behind the wheel the night before.  But sunrise finally came and we awoke, packed up camp, and drove to the take out point to drop off one of the cars.  The road, named Mineral Bottom Road, is about 17 miles of dirt.  Towards the end you get to drive down this wonderful section of the road.  Not too bad when its dry but I wouldn't want to be anywhere near it when its raining or wet.  I should say the the little Honda Civic had no trouble at all on that road.  On the
Green River Put In
road again, we make our way back to Green River, eat some
lunch, and find our way to the Green River State Park where we left our canoes, load up the boats and get on the river.  Its early afternoon.  To the right you see both our canoes at the put in.  Jon's in the foreground and mine in the back.  There are a few different places to put in for this trip.  We chose Green River State Park for its simplicity.  It was $20 to park the car there for 5 days, but you get about 5 more river miles out of your trip.  This whole trip, Labyrinth Canyon, is all flat water.  Jon informed me that the river drops all of about 50 feet in the 63 miles or so that we were on.  The first interesting thing the we came upon on the river was Crystal Geyser.  You can read about that here .  Pretty neat to see in the middle of nowhere.  Crystal Geyser is an alternate place to put in your boats.   

Flat Water
Crystal Geyser

Since we kind of got a late start, we maybe only did about 9 miles the first day.  We did find this nice sandy beach on a little island, which we called home for a night. 
Camp 1
 Room With A View

 Myself being new to multi day river trips, following rules is very important.  One rule is to pack out all your waste.  There are a few different special tools for this task.  Ours was called a Groover.  And if your going to use a Groover, you might as well at least have a nice view !                                                
Lunch Break
 Day two, back on the water.  More of the same.  Pretty nondescript the first day and a half.  Kind of reminded me of floating through eastern Montana.  But by lunch time, we start getting into some really cool cliffs, rock formations and its definitely getting canyonee.  During our lunch break we find a nice place to get out and stretch the legs and go for a little hike.                                                              
Sandstone Cliff
 Again, back  on the water, and the cliff walls are getting higher.  Now we are starting to get into the stuff, canyonland country.  Many spots along the way you can paddle right up to very massive walls of sandstone.  Its only going to get better from here.  Day two was a pretty big mile day, not exactly sure how many, but we were both ready to stop for the night when we found this ideal spot, Trin Alcove.  If you look close, you can see another sandy beach.  These make for really nice sleeping spots.  Trin Alcove is a really cool spot.  Three massive
Trin Alcove
canyons end in this one giant opening offering lots of places to explore.  In fact we spent two nights here so we could check out the entire canyon. The second day here at Trin
Ken and Jon Explore Trin Alcove
Alcove I carried the 4x5 camera.  Because of the bulk and weight I did not bring the D2x with me that day.  I was offered two shots, and when I get those processed I will post those here.
Explore Trin Alcove 2
Explore Trin Alcove 3
Trin Alcove Evening
Trin Alcove Night
So while you are waiting for the 4x5 photos, enjoy these from Trin Alcove.  And for any Strobist out there, the night shot was fun.  Here are some details.  ISO 1600, 30 second exposure, SB 600 on manual, full power.  I think I popped it 5 or 6 times to get this image.

Deep In The Canyon
More Sandstone Cliffs
 On to day 4 in the canyon.  We are full on in it. Massive, colorful cliffs rising 1000 feet or maybe more from the river.  Twisty turny river flow, my neck was getting sore from all the looking up and around.

If a person wanted to they could spend many more days wandering around all the little, or big, side canyons that connect with the main canyon.  That was not really our goal for this trip, maybe next time.  There were a few interesting land based side trips that we did visit.  One was Register Rock.  Here, past river explorers carved there names into the sandstone.  I know one name was from 1940, I'm sure others go back even farther.
Register Rock

Abandoned Uranium Mine

The other side trip we did was search for the old abandoned Uranium mine.  It was a short hike to the area, and we found some old cars and machinery, but didn't give it much effort trying to find the mine.  Maybe it was there and we missed it or maybe it was filled in, I don't know.  Who really wants to hang out with Uranium anyway??

Camp 4

About half way through day 4 the wind was really starting to pick up.  Our effort to make miles was going slow and hard.  Sometime during day 4 we passed another party in a raft, Campy and Christy.  Two very cool people from Frisco Colorado.  When we stopped at the Uranium mine they passed us and made camp down stream.  As we came along they were kind enough to offer us some fresh made fajitas.  Man that really hit the spot.  Thank you Campy and Christy!  Campy and Christy own the Kodi Rafting company in Frisco Colorado.  So if your looking for a place to whitewater raft, look them up and tell them Jon and Ken say Hi.  After eating the awesome fajitas and chatting for a while, Jon and I get back in our boats to look for our own camp for the night.  Not too much further down stream we find a really good spot on Bow Knot Bend.  Bow Knot Bend is a big looping bend in the river that is about 7 miles long, but takes you to with in about 1/4 of a mile of the river on the other side of the ridge from where we camped.  The morning of day 5 me and Jon hike up the ridge to get an incredible view of the river going both directions.  This morning was another morning that I took the 4x5 with me, so you will just have to wait for some more pictures.  But trust me, it was totally worth the 15 or 20 minutes it took us to hike to the top of the ridge. Back in the boats, we are fighting the wind the whole day.  Made for some tough going seeing as we had about 18 miles to the take out.  I did take a few photos early on in the day but after a little while I just put the camera away and paddled.  I didn't want to lose my momentum.  But let me say this,  the last stretch had some killer views. 
Day 5 Canyon 2
Day 5 Canyon

Oh the Mariah..........



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