Well, 2021 started out bleak, then got happier, then got sad again. This was thanks to the two V’s – variants and vaccinations. Too much of one, not enough of the other. But we survived (yet again), with The LovedOne remaining as elusively photogenic as ever. But, thanks to being vaccinated, we were able to have a few big adventures without expiring.Continue reading “2021 ~ Adventures with The LovedOne”
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.Continue reading “Rafting the San Juan River VI 21-Jun-2021”
DAY 5: Slickhorn C Camp to Oljeto Camp
River Flow: 1,120 cfs (31.7 m3/s)
Air Temperature: 104°F (40°C) high / 68°F (20°C) low
At first light, the bats started zooming over my head catching the insects that were on their way to feed on me – but became bat food instead. Win-win! 😉 I find bats fascinating and could have lain on my sleeping pad just watching them flit about. But I wanted to see Slickrock Canyon before the solar blowtorch got going, so I arose and shuffled the short distance over to the canyon’s mouth. The LovedOne slept on…Continue reading “Rafting the San Juan River V 20-Jun-2021”
DAY 4: Twin Canyon Camp to Slickhorn C Camp
River Flow: 1,290 cfs (36.5 m3/s)
Air Temperature: 102°F (39°C) high / 68°F (20°C) low
Time and the river flowing… In addition to being Juneteenth, today was also my birthday. Almost 30 years ago I celebrated one during a DIY canoe trip on the Green River with The LovedOne, Diane, Wayne and two other friends. A lot of water, some turbulent, has flowed under the proverbial bridge since then. And yet here we are, once again on a river, still good friends, and still having adventures together. What amazing and wonderful people. All the rivers run into the sea; yet the sea is not full…
Aside from further expansive geology, today would offer-up the one moderately challenging rapid we’d run on the lower San Juan – Government Rapid (Class III- to III) at RM 63.7. When we reached camp, we’d start getting some insights into how Lake Powell had affected the river and what the future might hold for the hydrology of southeast Utah.Continue reading “Rafting the San Juan River IV 19-Jun-2021”
DAY 3: Mendenhall Camp to Twin Canyon Camp
River Flow: 1,290 cfs (36.5 m3/s)
Air Temperature: 103°F (39°C) high / 73°F (23°C) low
We would spend the better part of this day wending our way through the canyons of the Goosenecks to straighter sections beyond. Aside from the soaring and varied geology – and some big horn sheep – the principal human feature along this stretch is the Honecker Trail.Continue reading “Rafting the San Juan River III 18-Jun-2021”
DAY 2: Lower Eight Foot Camp to Mendenhall Camp
River Flow: 1,340 cfs (37.9 m3/s)
Air Temperature: 105°F (40°C) high / 72°F (22°C) low
Despite being fully exposed (figuratively) to Nature, we slept soundly – only having to brush-off some multi-legged creature once during the night. We soon found that activities like a little exploring, packing-up, and having a light breakfast were way easier to accomplish in the cool and shade of the early morning than when the sun arrived. So turning in around 2100 and getting up around 0500 became the norm for us for the rest of the trip.Continue reading “Rafting the San Juan River II 17-Jun-2021”
Sixteen months. Sixteen months since either of us had set foot in an airport or flown in a plane. But with vaccinations in hand (or arm) and things opening-up in general, it was time. Our initial plan – with our long-time friends Wayne and Diane – was to do a raft trip down the Yampa River. But that one had already been booked by the multitudes now yearning to get out of the house and GO SOMEWHERE! So we switched to a six-day raft trip on the San Juan River in Utah run by O.A.R.S.
The San Juan originates in the San Juan Mountains of Colorado, then flows 383 miles (616 km) through the deserts of northern New Mexico and southeastern Utah to join the Colorado River at Lake Powell. The stretch we rafted was the 83 mile (133 km) section from Sand Island (near Bluff, Utah) to Clay Hills Crossing, just short of Lake Powell. This segment turned-out to be light on rapids (but we knew that going in) but absolutely huge on scenery and canyons and wildlife (all of which came as a welcome surprise). 😃
We got this adventure going by flying (uneventfully) to Salt Lake City and then driving down to Bluff, where we met up with Wayne and Diane and the rest of our group and Adam, our trip leader.Continue reading “Rafting the San Juan River I 16-Jun-2021”
Another year passes and The LovedOne remains unconvinced as to her photogenicity. Her attempts to out-hike the camera were working…until…I bought a telephoto lens! Ha! Another (probably temporary) victory for technology!
JANUARY: We took advantage of direct flights to go hiking in the Las Vegas area. We got in several good hikes before a foothold broke off beneath me while canyoneering. The resulting back injury (since healed) limited our hiking for awhile. 😦
APRIL: We had waited three years for sufficient runoff to allow us to run the Owyhee River in Eastern Oregon and a bad back wasn’t going to interfere with that. So, equipped with a generous supply of ibuprofen, we went with Momentum River Expeditions for a wonderful float down the Lower Owyhee.
MAY: I had been invited to give a talk about Oregon Wilderness Areas at the Siuslaw Public Library, so we combined that with some hikes at and near the beach. Excellent weather and we were ahead of the summer crowds. 🙂
JUNE: The entire month was given over to a rafting trip (with OARS and our friends Wayne & Diane) celebrating the 150th anniversary of John Wesley Powell’s first descent of the Green and Colorado Rivers. In 28 days, we went from the cold, clear waters near Flaming Gorge Dam to the considerably warmer and murkier waters of Lake Powell. Truly a trip of a lifetime!
JULY: We had barely returned from our J. W. Powell rafting adventure when it was time to head East for our nephew’s wedding. After those festivities, The LovedOne spent some time at WEBS in Northampton, Massachusetts. Then, reeking with lanolin, we continued north for hikes in Acadia National Park and New Hampshire’s White Mountains.
AUGUST: After two months of travel, we opted to hike locally. Classic Boccard Point in the Soda Mountain Wilderness and the Little & Big Duck Lakes in the Russian Wilderness were good choices. The decision to stay local was made easier by the lack of wildfire smoke this year (unlike the choking miasma that plagued the last two summers).
SEPTEMBER: We have long admired Theodore Roosevelt for his contributions to our National Parks and Monuments. So we did a hiking roadtrip that took us to Mount Rushmore, Wind and Jewel Caves, Devils Tower National Monument, Badlands National Park, Theodore Roosevelt National Park, and the Black Elk Wilderness.
OCTOBER: We spent this month doing a little local hiking and then I addressed a medical issue that had come as a surprise. This put a dent in hiking but opened-up an opportunity to visit some previously overlooked local attractions.
NOVEMBER: We took a chance and went ahead with a long-planned trip to Big Bend National Park in Texas. Our timing was excellent as the weather was perfect for hiking and sightseeing. 😎 We did several short canyon hikes and then a longer one into the Chisos Mountains to see its unique forests and some of its wildlife – including two bears! 🐻 🐻
DECEMBER: Winter weather finally arrived, so we shelved plans for sneaking in some hikes at the coast (as we’d been able to do in December 2017). But the snow that dropped at higher elevations wasn’t quite ready for snowshoes. 😦 So we contented ourselves with reprising some of the classic lower altitude hikes near home. 🙂
We didn’t hike as much in 2019 as in prior years – only 102 unique (based on either location or season) hikes, covering 576 trail miles, with 94,800 feet of elevation gain. But six weeks of raft trips, plus other adventures and a wedding, more than compensated for this ambulatory shortfall. For 2020 all we’ll promise are more adventures, some of which are sure to involve hiking. 😀RETURN TO FRONT PAGE
Day 25: At the Confluence
We were able to leave camp at River Mile 7 while it was still in shade and make the short float to the confluence in the relative cool of the morning. We’d reached the Colorado! We stopped at the register to check river conditions and campsite availability. Here Lars was able to determine that we could have Lower Brown Betty and Lower Ten Cent as our camps, which were his preferences. We bounced around Rapid 1 and pulled in to the beach at Betty. Although sandy beaches are common at lower water, Brown Betty was the first (and only) time on this trip that we were able to camp on such a beach. It was a joy not to have to hack our way through tamarisk or scramble up a slope to reach camp. We were laying over here so those who wanted to could hike up to The Doll House – a unique collection of rock spires on the plateau above – the next day.
Day 26: In the Doll House
We were fortunate to have some cloud cover as we made the steep, 1,200-foot climb up to the Doll House. Once there, we took in the views, visited a granary, and had lunch in “The Refrigerator” – a cave under a huge sandstone block. Afterwards, some of the group continued on to the Beehive Arch while we descended back to camp for a cool-off in the river. That afternoon OARS sent a large motorboat down from Moab to serve as a safety boat for our plunge through the rapids in Cataract Canyon the next day.
Day 28: Cataract Canyon
Today we ran the biggest rapids on this trip (and some of the biggest rapids on any river in the western U.S.). In anticipation of a possible raft flip or passenger swim due to the high water conditions (about 45,000 ft3/s on this day), we got another safety talk and a PFD check, Then with anxiety a little higher than usual, we shot off into Rapid 2. Rapids 2 through 20 went by in a blur but they were FUN! Then we pulled over so our guides could scout the Big Drops (Rapids 21-23). And then we were off again – plunging up, over, around, and down huge waves that were coming at our raft from all directions. And then, almost before it began, we were in flat water across from Lower Ten Cent camp. We made it through Cataract’s rapids with no flips and no swimmers and it was just plain FUN the whole way. That this ride was just FUN and not an adventure with upside down boats and thrashing swimmers is simply a testament to the consummate skill and experience of our OARS guides. Some celebrations ensued in camp this night. 😀
Day 28: Lake Powell
When Lake Powell is at full pool (something that hasn’t happened in years), its slack water starts right at Lower Tent Cent Camp. But the reservoir is down, so we got a few more fun rapids in before we had to barge-up and start motoring to the take-out at Hite. At the take-out we said good-bye 😥 to all our wonderful guides (except for Lars) and then got shuttled over to the airstrip near Highway 95. There we were met by three planes operated by Redtail Aviation. They gave us a very scenic flight back to Vernal – covering in just over an hour what it had taken us 28 days to float. Once back in Vernal, we recovered Wayne’s car from the OARS boat house, said a round of good-byes to our fellow floaters, and gave Lars a BIG thanks for an AMAZING trip. Then it was good-bye 😥 to him too as he headed back to Moab and we went to our hotel for a sand-free wash-up.
And thus what has to be the rafting trip of a lifetime came to a successful and happy (OK, a little bittersweet too) end. 🙂RETURN TO FRONT PAGE
Day 19: Past the Crystal Geyser
The pleasures of Green River were delightful, but we had a river to run, so first thing in the morning it was back to the boats. Our first stop below Green River was at Crystal Geyser where a failed 1930s attempt at an oil well resulted in an on-going eruption of mineral and carbon dioxide rich water. After an day on flat water, we pulled into a campsite at Anvil Bottom. The site itself was good but we had to cut a path through the tamarisk (an invasive shrub) to reach it. We were camped below a feature known locally as The Anvil (or Inkwell). Despite these existing local appellations, Powell went ahead and named it Dellenbaugh’s Butte in 1871.
Day 20: In to the Labyrinth
From our camp at Anvil Bottom, we passed the mouth of the San Rafael River and formally entered Labyrinth Canyon at Trin-Alcove Bend. A planned hike in Three Canyon was cancelled when we found the high water had flooded the start of the trail. So we continued on to a partially shaded campsite at the mouth of “F” Canyon (a local name) and called it a day.
Day 21: Hot at the Bowknot
On the river again, we passed the river register, a 70+ year-old inscription now defaced in places by vandals, and the Launch Marguerite inscription, left by the crew of a stern-wheeler river boat which traveled on the Green and Colorado Rivers between the towns of Green River and Moab during the early 1900’s. We found a shadeless campsite on the north side of Bowknot Bend which put us in place for a hike to the views and inscriptions on the bend’s saddle. By now we’d noticed that our interlude in Green River had marked a change in the weather – it was getting increasingly hot and the sun now seemed to press down on us like a hot iron. Bowknot Bend is where we all began to appreciate shade – a lot.
Day 22: To Fort Bottom
Our goal for the day was a nice campsite (with trees!) that Lars knew about at Fort Bottom. We stopped for a short hike to see the inscription left by fur trapper Denis Julien in 1836. Sadly, contemporary douchebags felt the need to immortalize their stupidity by scratching 👿 their initials in this historic feature. Continuing on, we passed Mineral Bottom and entered Canyonlands National Park and Stillwater Canyon. We stopped at Fort Bottom for a hike up to the stone “fort” on the butte. Constructed roughly 1,000 years ago, Fort Bottom Ruin remains one of the more dramatic reminders of Ancestral Puebloan culture along the Green River. After a swing by the old (c1880s) log cabin at the base of the butte, we made the short float over to our campsite across from Fort Bottom. The shade under the cottonwoods there was most welcome.
Day 23: A Return to Anderson Bottom
At Mineral Bottom, we had entered a section of the Green that The LovedOne, Wayne, Diane, and I had floated during a private trip back in 1992. Our recollections varied but one thing that seemed to stand out was how much the riverside vegetation (namely invasive tamarisk and Russian olive) had expanded in 27 years. When we’d camped at Anderson Bottom back then, we’d just walked ashore. Today we had to hack our way through tamarisk to reach a shaded camp. Once camp was set, we did a short, hot hike to view some petroglyphs on a rock outcropping (actually the remains of a meander) in the bottom.
Day 24: Stillwater Canyon
In the morning, David and I wandered across the bottom to visit a storage cave that the National Park Service had blasted (ah, those were the days) in the cliff to store gear for the Friendship Cruises. These are (when river levels permit) a several-day trip in which motorized boats descend the Green River from Green River, Utah, to the confluence with the Colorado, and then ascend the Colorado to Moab, Utah. We’d visited the cave in 1992 when it still had stuff in it but it’s no longer in use. Then we motored on down the river, seeing a cliff dwelling at Valentine Bottom and stopping to see a ruin at Jasper Canyon. We finally made camp at a nearly shadeless bend at river mile 7 in anticipation of reaching the Green’s confluence with the Colorado River the next day.RETURN TO FRONT PAGE
Day 13: Into Desolation Canyon
We left the cucumber beetles at Hydes Bottom (except for those that had stowed away on the rafts) and motored down to Sand Wash. Once there, we exchanged passengers (six off / six on) and continued on (now rowing) into Desolation Canyon. The east side of the canyon is Ute tribal land. A recent decision by the tribe to close all access to their land cut the campsites available in the canyon in half. As Desolation is a popular rafting destination, this meant increased competition for campsites suitable for our large group. This is something that concerned Lars the whole way through the canyon. Today we were able to find a nice tree-rich campsite across from Peters Point. A short walk from there took us to a clear impression of a fossilized turtle shell in a large rock. It wouldn’t have been a sharper impression if it had been intentionally cast.
Day 14: Desolation Canyon
Today we pushed deeper into the canyon, passing Lighthouse Rock which E. O. Beaman had photographed during the second Powell Expedition in 1871. We began to encounter other rafting parties on the river and found that one of our preferred campsites was already occupied. With rain threatening, we were able to find a suitable campsite just below Steer Ridge Rapid. Getting to camp involved skirting the rapid on river right and then pulling super hard into the eddy in front of the camp. We were hardly ashore when a tentative rain started; it gave up and went away by dinnertime.
Days 15: Rock Creek Ranch
From our camp at Steer Ridge Rapid, we went a short ways downriver to Rock Creek Canyon where we hiked up-canyon to see a large panel of petroglyphs. After lunch at Rock Creek, we made a dash for another large campsite below Three Canyon Rapid – arriving just 30 minutes ahead of another large party (they took a smaller site above us). Since we were going to layover the next day, it was nice to have a large, sandy site for our camp.
Day 16: Chicken Rock
Our camp was located where the river had pinched-off a meander, leaving a semi-circular ring of cliffs, the high point of which is the improbably balanced Chicken Rock (an actual USGS named point). To me, it looked more like a chicken McNugget. Just saying. Anyway, Lars abhors any activity vacuum, so he organized a hike up the creek – either looping around the meander or up to the Chicken. The hike around the meander was abandoned when it became too painful to keep plowing through the endless swaths of sticky, sharp-pointed cheatgrass – the latest scourge of the West. Getting its tenacious seeds out of our socks and shoes would consume much of the afternoon. After our defeat by the cheatgrass, some folks headed back to camp while a few of us climbed up to Chicken Rock. Along the way we stumbled on a beautifully preserved Fremont Culture granary hidden under an alcove. After taking in the big views from near the Chicken, we returned to camp for a pleasant afternoon of cheatgrass plucking. 😈 I had been trying to charge some camera batteries with a solar panel only to discover that it had become a hang-out for lizards. For the record, having lizards sunning themselves on a solar panel serious degrades its performance (i.e., the batteries didn’t get charged). 🙄
Day 17: Gray Canyon
After a delightfully sunny day on Chicken Rock, it came as a surprise to wake-up in a rainstorm (fortunately, the only one that would hit us at such an inopportune time of the day during this trip). Despite having to pack wet tents and other gear, we got away from camp early and made a non-stop run to a camp at Range Creek in Gray Canyon. Despite repeated attempts over the years, this was the first time Lars had found this site available. Judging from the dry spots where the tents had been, it had only been unoccupied for a short time. And we arrived only minutes ahead of other rafting parties looking for a campsite. Score! After setting-up camp and getting our tents dried-out, we did a short hike to the summit of Three Golden Stairs, a long ridge behind the camp. 🙂 Then the cheatgrass plucking continued. 😦
Day 18: Green River, Utah
Our morning was enlivened (so to speak) when a Wandering Garter snake decided to have a Woodhouse’s toad for breakfast just outside our tent. Big toad, small snake, so the swallowing took awhile. Then the now slightly lumpy racer slithered off to continue digesting in private. Just like a nature show on PBS. I had cereal for breakfast. Today we’d be going into Green River, Utah for re-supply, a night in a hotel, and dinner at the iconic Ray’s Tavern. Much anticipation among the group. But first we had to leave Gray Canyon and get over the Tusher Diversion Dam. The dam had been recently modified to include a flume for rafts but no one had any idea what that would be like at high water (27,000 ft3/s the day we went over it). Turned out to be a quick, steep plunge to quieter water. Soon we were pulling in to the boat ramp at Green River State Park and heading over to the River Terrace Hotel for our first sand-free wash in over two weeks. 🙂RETURN TO FRONT PAGE