I’ve owned an Alpaca packraft for about two years now, but am ashamed to admit that I have hardly used it to anywhere near its potential. Packrafts roll up to about the size of a small two person tent, yet when inflated they can easily carry heavy loads, bikes, packs, etc.. To maximize their fun potential, you need to find, or since it is still a young sport, create, a route that involves some logical mixture of biking, hiking, canyoneering, paragliding, etc, and rafting. There seems to be an unlimited supply of these types of adventures in Alaska, but you have to work a bit harder to figure them out in Utah.
I recently saw a video by the God Father of packrafting, Roman Dial, who also happens to be an early adaptor of Hell Biking. They had done a route dubbed “The Candyland-8” which involved hiking through Indian Creek, The Maze and the Needles District down in Canyonlands National Park which sounded pretty cool. We didn’t have the time to do that one, but it got me thinking about the area and looking for routes which we could bike instead of hike as a) it is faster and b) I generally hate hiking for the sake of hiking.
The end result was a loop dubbed “The Candy-Hearted Rustler” as it goes through the Canyonlands (Candy), passes through Lockhart Basin (Hearted), floats down ten miles of the Colorado River and then exits back up Rustler Canyon. It was a fun adventure as there were quite a few question-marks for us on it, but in the end, it all worked out great.
The loop involves about 20 miles of biking on dirt roads, 6 miles of off-piste biking, a mile of hike-a-biking and ten miles of leisurely floating on the Green River. We did it in two days which seemed just about right, especially for a first time packrafting trip where we were spending a lot of time figuring out our “systems.” The river section is completely non-technical and we ended up doing the first bike leg and the river leg in one day, camping at the bottom of Indian Creek (great campsite) and then spent a day biking back up Rustler Canyon. This leg could probably be done in about 2/3rds of a day, but we ended up stopping a lot due to the insane heat. We knew Canyonlands in August was going to be hot, but decided to do the trip anyway as we had three days of kid reprieve courtesy of Grandma Judy.
The trip was a blast and highly recommended as a starter outing as the terrain is fairly easy to navigate (assuming you can read a map and can use a GPS). Plus, it involves a minimum amount of hiking. For harder trip inspiration, check out The Republic of Doom and Lace Mine 29.
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