We were successful in reaching Blue Tank Canyon & Hells Hip Pocket via packraft. Umm, or should I say $20 glorified pool toys from Big 5...
Wow, what an amazing adventure! So Saturday late at night we met up and drove out to that Horse Mesa Dam road and got to the gate around 10pm and quickly walked down the road to the lake and camped at along the wide flat sandy beach down there. Most peps would build a fire to get warm, but we pumped up our packrafts that night and that about the same affect.
My foot pump made it a heck of easier than making out with a big plastic blow up toy. Sleeping on the sandy beach was great but we did wake up a tad cold in our bags that chilly morning. Just all the more reason to get up and get paddling.
It was a little chilly paddling along upper canyon lake but our wetsuits helped out a lot and the views more than made up for it. Having our ours in kayak mode dripped too much on us, so we all quickly switched them to canoe mode and that worked good enough. I of course brought extra oar pieces this time and good thing I did because I ended up breaking 2 sections at the threading in a matter of 5 minutes when we were just a quarter mile from Blue Tank Canyon. From the sandy beach, it's about a mile paddle to the amazingly sweet lower slot of Blue Tank and it seems to go by fairly quickly. Paddling up that slot was SO exhilerating and you quickly see why it's called Blue tank as you hiking thru those first narrows and the tall walls are a bluish grey.
Some light scrambling, pools to negotiate, and of course loads of rock hopping as we slowly made our way up this amazing canyon to the confluence with Hells Hip Pocket were the canyon slowly got more bushy.
From sat photos, we had drawn up a route to get above the narrows of lower HHP and thankfully the traverse went just as planned. It involved hiking up Blue tank past the confluence, scramble up that first small drainage on the right, contour it east past two drainage of HPP, pass by the backbone of a large mammal that's possibly human, and then descend down to the middle section of Hells Hip Pocket. The middle section of HPP is fairly tame with some more rock hopping & light down climbing but we soon hit the first technical drop were we suited & geared up.
The first rappel was a sloped 50ft drop thru a slick chute into a super sweet alcove and chilly knee deep water. This was quickly followed by an even more amazing narrow hallway with a 45ft drop into a super chilly 70ft long swimming hole. Hmm, this must be where the name Hells Hip Pocket came from and probably named by the US Calvary venturing thru these parts back in the day chasing down the Apache.
After that 2nd rappel, the canyon mellows a bit while still staying rather narrow with plenty of scrambling & rock hopping before reaching the confluence again. Hopping back down Blue Tank was as scenic as before but went by fairly quickly as were seeing the hours slip away and needing to push back to the lake. Thankfully our pool toys were still there and full of air and after some great photos of launching thru the narrows, we got to paddling back up the flat & quiet Canyon Lake. Hmm, wasn't there a foozeball game going on today?!? Like the thieves verse the packagers or something like that...
It was sweet to have the place ALL to ourselves and we chillaxed and paddled out way back to the beach. Wouldn't you know I break another oar section, even though I switched to the less forceful kayak mode.
I was so close to the beach and some duct tape did the trick for that last quarter mile... Such an amazing journey, but unfortunately it was now coming to an end.
Slowly deflated our mini rafts, packed up the gear, retrieved our camping gear from its hiding spots in the bushes, and slowly made our way back up the SRP road with the sun setting & dusk descending on the beautiful Fish Creek Canyon.
SRP road walk: About 2.5 miles each way, with 1000ft gain on the way out...
Packrafting upper Canyon Lake: About 2 miles each way to & back from Blue Tank Canyon
Up Blue Tank & traversing into middle HPP and back: About 4.5 miles and another 1000ft of gain