Honaker-Slickhorn loop with our 8 month old
Apr 16, 2016 at 5:00 pm #3396381
My wife, 8 month old son, and I recently completed a ~40 mile loop in southeast Utah. The Honaker trail is a steep, 2.5 mile descent to the San Juan river, and originally built by miners. ~20 miles of packrafting on the San Juan river, which is mostly class 1, leads to the mouth of Slickhorn Canyon, which we then hiked to the head of its northernmost branch (“Slickhorn 1”). A 27 mile bike ride closes the loop and allows for the trip to be done with one car.
We heard about this route from a few friends, and in my book they undersold both the difficulty and the scenic value. Granted, the rougher sections in Slickhorn would have been easier without my 40+ pound load of gear and kid, but it’s still full-on canyon hiking with plenty of boulder hopping. Slickhorn, especially the lower part, was very Grand Canyonesque.
We took two half days and two full days, camping on the river a few miles below the Honaker on night one, 2-3 miles up Slickhorn on night two, and just above Slickhorn 2 on night three. The San Juan was running at 1100 cfs the day we hiked in, and rose what I’d guess was another 300 cfs the first night. At this flow it was easy to make 4 mph the second day floating. Slickhorn had water everywhere; we were never further than 300 yards from it until the final mile to the trailhead. Flat camps were never common, either in Slickhorn or on the river, but when found they were excellent. The bike shuttle took me 2 hours and 15 minutes on tired legs and with a headwind most of the way south. Both trailheads were accessible via 2wd and moderate clearance.
This is a great trip for fairly new packrafters who have a decent background in canyon hiking.Apr 16, 2016 at 5:16 pm #3396382
Carrying gear and kid (22 lbs) was the major logistical challenge. Unfortunately a slight build has always made it practical for Meredith to carry a very light pack, and over the last decade there have probably been less than 5 occasions when she’s carried more than 20 pounds. This made carrying the kid, who in the Osprey Poco AG is 29 pounds, not practical.
The solution was to sandwich gear between the Seek Outside Revolution frame and the Poco, which as shown above was stable and effective, if deep and silly looking. At the heaviest this was probably 45 pounds, though due to weight distribution it felt about 15 pounds heavier, which thanks to the last few years of hunting packouts (and the superlative Seek Outside suspension) was totally doable for me. I was tired at the end of each day, and we hiked slower than pre-kid, but it still felt like proper, fun, backpacking.
We used an Alpacka Double Duck, which did very well. It takes a bit of rigging, and an extra pair of tiedowns on the stern, but we could get everything and one on board comfortably (and M and I are 5’8″ and 5’11”). We portaged the two class 3 rapids, and M carried the kid around the one class 2 while I ran the boat down.
This was the first trip for our Sierra Designs Tensegrity 2 Elite, which was quite impressive. If Big Agnes made it, they’d call it a four person ;) Enough width for two adults and a kid, and loads of length. It’s not the fastest thing to pitch the first time, and takes 7 stakes, but does take up little room on the ground, and can thus be fit into smaller spaces than you’d think, given how massive the front tarp is. Tons of ventilation makes it an ideal desert tent, outside the coldest months. I would like a bit more peak height. I can only site upright in the very front, and the generosity of room in every other respect makes the slight lack of it here obvious.
We used disposable diapers, and our trash bag was big and heavy by the end. Drying them during breaks helps a bit.Apr 16, 2016 at 5:41 pm #3396388Alex HBPL Member
@abhittLocale: southern appalachians or desert SW
Dave, you continue to amaze me with ingenuity and toughness.Apr 16, 2016 at 8:01 pm #3396406Pete MBPL Member
Wow, respect for that carry, you look like a marine. Wouldn’t it be easier to carry the kid on your front (either facing you or facing out), so as to balance the weight? I have friends who do this and both they and their kids seem comfortable. Maybe you could rig something to your pack harness?Apr 17, 2016 at 8:58 am #3396457
A front carry would have been a non-starter on this trip because seeing my feet was mandatory in many sections. We have a soft front carrier and it works fine for town and short hikes, but it’s sweaty and I find the backpack carries the weight so much better.Apr 17, 2016 at 1:12 pm #3396475Richard NisleyBPL Member
@richard295Locale: San Francisco Bay Area
Thank for sharing you and your beautiful family’s adventure with us! Your family’s adventuresome spirit reminds me very much of Erin & Hig’s; have your read about them and/or corresponded with them?Apr 18, 2016 at 10:38 am #3396623
Richard, I met Erin and Hig (and infant Katmai) on their 07 or 08 book tour. I’d been a fan since the AKtrekking days, and have been an even bigger one since meeting them and then watching their parenting exploits. They’re big inspirations for sure.
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