Epic Trails

Trip Report – Packrafting Lake Powell, Utah

By April 1, 2022No Comments

Filming for episode 2 of Epic Trails, Season 5 is underway, and recently host Eric Hanson and crew returned from a packrafting trip in Lake Powell, Utah.

Below is an excerpt from Eric’s blog post about his experience:

The Grand Staircase Escalante region is one of the most beautiful areas in the country. It’s so rugged and remote that was the last area in the lower 48 to be mapped. It also happens to be a stone’s throw from my home.

Lake Powell, a man-made lake, is a strange place. It is undeniably beautiful and is amazing for recreation. But it also submerged one of the nation’s most beautiful canyon networks, not to mention a vast amount of cultural history (cliff dwellings, petroglyphs, kivas, and more). Many people in the Southwest have a strained relationship with the place.

Newsworthy for more than just conservationists, Lake Powell is now at its lowest point since the dam that flooded the cherished Glen Canyon was constructed in the 60’s. Severe drought, along with some poor planning in the first place, has left Lake Powell’s future in limbo, as water seeps into the sandstone bed, and its massive surface area combined with the hot environment make it a poor water retention area.

With lake levels dropping massively over the last year, it has meant there is a new opportunity for exploring the canyons as they emerge out of the muddy bottom of the lake. In January, I organized an expedition with three of my friends to explore two canyons that lead in and out of Lake Powell. What we experienced was truly incredible! I was so enthralled, I decided to return a month later with Epic Trails in order to film an episode.

Joined by my friend Jesse Weber and Max Stussi, the Director of Photography for this episode of Epic Trails, we set off for the Escalante area of Utah to film these canyons that, up until a year ago, were under water.

We planned our trip with packrafts in mind, in order to fully explore these canyons. Packrafts are small boats that pack down into a backpack and weigh just a few pounds. They’re incredible tools for adventurers to explore some of the most challenging and inaccessible areas.

The three of us loaded up with four days’ worth of gear, food, and packrafting kit. It doesn’t make for a small pack, and our entry point was a notoriously narrow canyon. These two factors do not play well together.

On day one, we slogged and scraped and crawled our way through a long slot canyon. It was painfully slow, and a delightful adventure. At many points the canyon was far too narrow to walk through with our packs on our backs. Sometimes we’d hoist them over our heads, or carry them sideways. Once, we even had to break down our packs entirely to get them to fit through the narrowest of spaces.

It was slow and arduous work. But we were happy. It was a proper adventure.

After a full day in the canyon, we had managed to hike only two miles! As night was descending, we finally emerged from the narrowness of the canyon and into the wider box canyon that allowed us to hike, more naturally, through the deep sand.

Quickly into day two, we learned the canyon would throw another challenge our way; a network of overgrown tamarisk and willow that were nearly impossible to hike through. The canyon was choked out and, yet again, we made impossibly slow progress. We hiked all day, encountering massive canyon walls with the biggest alcoves I’ve ever seen. At no point did the canyon allow for easy passage.

That night we camped under the roof of one of these alcoves, where a bend in the canyon gave us a stunning view. – Eric Hanson

Click here to read the full article!

About Epic Trails: Epic Trails is an exciting and inspiring adventure travel media series that follows host, Eric Hanson, as he explores the people, places, and adventures surrounding the world’s top hiking destinations. Each 30-minute TV episode airs on Outside TV, 27 regional networks, and internationally through National Geographic Channel—Asia and Extreme Sports Channel across Europe. Episodes of Epic Trails aired over 2,200 times in 2020. Learn more about the series at www.heliconia.ca. Networks interested in carrying Epic Trails are encouraged to reach out to Heliconia’s Vice-President, Brendan Mark, at brendan@helipress.com.