DAY 6: Oljeto Camp to Clay Hills Crossing
River Flow: 954 cfs (27.0 m3/s)
Air Temperature: 102°F (39°C) high
We had a nice alcove to sleep in at this camp, one I abandoned early for a look inside the mouth of the wash. As would be expected, this wash is subject to flash floods and those have kept its floor a smooth ribbon of dirt between towering walls of sandstone. Flowering Datura (Jimson Weed, Devil’s Snare) plants dotted the floor, along with an aspen seedling washed down from who knows where. Datura contains an interesting mix of hallucinogens and cyanide – ingesting it could be a trip or your last one. After about 300 feet (90 m) of walking, I turned back and headed for a Datura-free breakfast.
The river’s flow had dropped over night so, after breakfast and packing-up, it was time to push the rafts out into a place in the river where they’d actually float. A bad remake of Fitzcarraldo came to mind.
We took-out at Clay Hills Crossing and were driven from there back to Bluff. After another night in the Recapture Lodge, we headed home. O.A.R.S. had done its usual excellent job and our guides had been exceptional. And the San Juan delivered way more in terms of scenery, wildlife, and amazement than we could have hoped for. Thus another awesome adventure came to an end. Or at least the part of it on a river. The part involving airports and airplanes became a 24+ hour saga of an aborted landing, a night on an airport floor, stalled paperwork, and little sleep. But we didn’t lose our luggage! Yeah! 🙄
It was a great trip, but, frankly, conditions were just too oppressively hot, day and night. This both wore on us in general and squelched any thoughts of hiking. We think that the “heat dome” inspired temperatures we experienced caught more than a few folks by surprise, as these were significantly higher than what’s usual for June. But this could be a “new normal” – new, but not necessarily good. So we’ll think twice in the future about adventures where temperatures have the potential to rocket north of 90°F (32°C) and stay there for days at a time.
We felt lucky to have had the chance to raft the San Juan, high temperatures or not. Future rafters may not be so fortunate. Rafting the San Juan is a flow-dependent activity and there are times even now – within the usual rafting season – when the flow is too low to support rafts. A changing climate – bringing with it continued drought, a diminished snow pack, and erratic rainfall – combined with greater diversions for agricultural and domestic uses (also in response to a changing climate) could put a serious crimp in recreational use of the San Juan in the years ahead.RETURN TO FRONT PAGE