Although my good friend Kyle fell head first and deep in love for canyon country after moving here from Omaha a yearish ago, he hadn’t really done much in the way of multi-day adventures.  He’s always up for anything so I let him borrow some gear and we headed out to a corner I hadn’t been to.  hs2photo Kyle

I’ve somehow managed to not own a shelter since last September.  I’ve been out a lot of nights since then, and not always in good weather (alcoves and ledges have been sufficient so far).  Hopefully I can remedy that before getting punished too badly.

How to not lower packs…



Onto the water.  Pace on water is still a bit mysterious to me.  I had based what I thought was possible mileage-wise on other trips so far, but it was soon apparent that the current was basically non-existant and that we had 32 miles of paddling on the menu for the day.


SDIM0708 beaver tracks…

SDIM0712 Kyle checking out a heron rookery…




SDIM0750We considered climbing over Bowknot Bend, but didn’t.  I’m all for enjoying the journey, but it was a little hard to stomach that it would take us almost three hours to travel a hundred meters or so as the raven flies…

SDIM0768Sunday morning starting the hike out Horseshoe…

hs1 Photo Kyle

I knew that the canyon supposedly had perennial water, but this is the dryest time of year–after the runoff and seasonal streams are gone and before the monsoons of later in July and August.  We had tanked up at the river just in case and ended up finding a small pool after lunch.  After another hour or so, we were stopped in our tracks by one of the craziest things I’ve seen.  Out of seemingly nowhere, water just started flowing down the streambed like a crystal clear little flash flood.  I’m open to explanations, although I’m happy without one.  It was about 95 degrees with no precip anywhere near in weeks.


There was no water when we arrived at the spot the below photo was taken.

SDIM0775 SDIM0780

Travel got a tricker as we made our way up canyon.  The willows got thicker and the boulders to climb around bigger and more frequent.  This poor guy was having a hard time getting out of a pool.  I gave him a little boost out and was thanked with bared teeth and a  hostile screech.

SDIM0795 SDIM0797

Kyle hit a wall with about 4 miles left.  We’d done about 16, most of which were pretty tedious, particularly with 90+ temps and a pack that was a less than ideal fit.


A now-dry canyon didn’t help with morale…


People react differently to facing their physical and mental limits.  For some of us, it’s a reason we go (at least sometimes).  For some it’s needless suffering.  As we arrived back at the truck, I honestly had no idea if this might be Kyle’s last backpacking trip (or at least his last weekend adventure that most folks would spend 4 or 5 days on).  He went home and immediately bought a pack, so I guess he’s in.

7 thoughts on “Three/Labyrinth/Horseshoe

  1. Dude its crazy how you read my mind. I just did a trip on Lab at the end of March and I remember floating by Horseshoe canyon early on in the trip and thinking about a return and walk out that canyon. So good on ya for doing so and great TR. I fondly remember floating by the Heron rookery, when we did so we saw three Herons each perched in their nest. Thanks for posting this and bringing back some great memories. My TR is up at – not as unique of a trip or as quality photography. Always enjoy the posts.

  2. How are you liking the scout after continued use? I’m contenplating as price point is so much more palatable and many of the trips that are running around in my head involve calm water. I’m 5’11 and curious. Would love to hear your thoughts.

    • So far it’s been perfect. I’m a couple inches shorter than you and length hasn’t been an issue, but I’m not sure if it might be for someone a bit taller. You might ask Dave ; I think he might be closer to your height. I have my feet in the boat 90% of the time and you might just end up having them up on the sides more. I will say that I thought it’d be plenty of boat for the trips I imagined doing, but after a bit of experience and seeing what’s possible, I sometimes wish I could put a bike on it or do some bigger water. Overall, though, for the price and weight, I’m happy with those compromises (at least for the time being).

  3. lovely pictures. and about the dale’s ale – i’m from sweden and me and my hiking friend always bring dale’s on our hikes, it’s the best!

  4. Some friends and I did this trip last May. I was the Kyle. I also bought a pack at the end of the trip, so I guess I’m in, too.

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