2019 ~ Adventures with The LovedOne

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. 😦

On the Fire Canyon Loop, Valley of Fire State Park, Nevada
On the Fire Canyon Loop, Valley of Fire State Park, Nevada

FEBRUARY: With my back still recovering, we contented ourselves with some short, local hikes. Things got more interesting when the weather brought gobs of snow to the hills near us.

After a snow storm on Roxy Ann Peak, Medford, Oregon
After a snow storm on Roxy Ann Peak

MARCH: Still coddling my back, we stayed with local hikes, seeking out ones that were longer but not overly rugged, like the Blue Grotto and the Sterling Mine Ditch Trail.

On the North Shore Trail to the Blue Grotto, Lost Creek Lake, Oregon
On the North Shore Trail to the Blue Grotto

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.

Morning coffee below Pruitt's Castle on the Lower Owyhee River
Morning coffee below Pruitt’s Castle on the Lower Owyhee River

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. 🙂

On the Oregon Coast at Fivemile Point
On the Oregon Coast at Fivemile Point

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!

On the Green River below Flaming Gorge Dam
On the Green River below Flaming Gorge Dam

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.

Standing in front of WEBS, Northampton, Massachusetts
There was NO WAY we were going hiking unless we stopped here first.

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).

The brave hiker smile at Boccard Point, with Pilot Rock in the distance - Southern Oregon
The brave hiker smile at Boccard Point, with Pilot Rock in the distance

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.  

Hiking in Theodore Roosevelt National Park, North Dakota
Hiking in Theodore Roosevelt National Park, North Dakota

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.

On the trail to Sugar Lake in California's Russian Wilderness
On the trail to Sugar Lake in California’s Russian Wilderness

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! 🐻 🐻

At the mouth of Santa Elena Canyon in Big Bend National Park, Texas
At the mouth of Santa Elena Canyon in Big Bend National Park

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. 🙂

Strolling into winter at Prescott Park, Medford, Oregon
Strolling into winter at Prescott Park

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. 😀

A heart drawn in the snow, Medford, Oregon
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In John Wesley Powell’s Wake: Cataract Canyon and Home (June 2019)

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.

Morning at River Mile 7
Nearing the end of the Green River
At the confluence of the Green and Colorado Rivers (note color difference)
Registering at the start of Cataract Canyon
On to Lower Brown Betty with the spires of the Doll House on the horizon
The broad sandy beach at Lower Brown Betty

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.

Starting on the hike to the Doll House
Climbing to the Doll House on a Park Service trail
Reaching the top
View of the Green River from the Doll House
Hiking to see the granary
The LovedOne at the granary (L)
Emily takes us to see “The Refrigerator”
A small slot canyon
Leaving “The Refrigerator” after lunch
More of the Doll House
Evening at Lower Brown Betty

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. 😀

Morning at Brown Betty
“Don’t fall out of the raft until I remember where I hid your life insurance policy…”
Wayne takes one for the team somewhere in Rapids 2-20
The start of the Big Drops
Wayne takes another one for the team somewhere in the Big Drops
With tanned, smelly, sandy, and toe-nail painted life-long friends at Lower Ten Cent Camp

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.

Leaving Cataract Canyon
One last pull on the dory oars
Motoring to the take-out
This is technically Lake Powell
Passing under the Highway 95 bridge just upstream of Hite
The low reservoir take-out (arrow) across from the now defunct marina
At the low reservoir take-out
One of the Redtail Aviation planes
No in-flight drinks on this plane
Passing over the take-out (arrow) soon after take-off
The Doll House
Spanish Bottom
The confluence of the Green and Colorado
The Green River in Desolation Canyon
One last fireline at the OARS boat house in Vernal

And thus what has to be the rafting trip of a lifetime came to a successful and happy (OK, a little bittersweet too) end. 🙂

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In John Wesley Powell’s Wake: Labyrinth & Stillwater Canyons (June 2019)

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.

Lars announces our departure from Green River
On the river below Green River
The mineral bench laid down by the geyser
The geyser itself – it no longer spurts as high as it did in the 1940s
Geyser mineral deposits
Still rowing south
Camp at Anvil Bottom
Self-portrait at the Inkwell

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.

Saying good-bye to the Inkwell
In Labyrinth Canyon
In Labyrinth Canyon
In Labyrinth Canyon
View from camp at the mouth of “F” Canyon
Sunset at camp

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.

On the river again; I just can’t wait to get on the river again; The life I love is floating along with my friends; And I can’t wait to get on the river again
Towering sandstone cliffs
The river register
The Marguerite inscription
Hiking to the saddle at Bowknot Bend
From the hike up to the saddle (our camp is in the green on river right at bottom of photo)
The view south from the saddle
The view of the saddle from the inscriptions
Kolb Brothers, 1911
Georgie White, 1947
Sunset at Bowknot Bend Camp

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.

Leaving Bowknot Bend
Passing Horseshoe Canyon, one of the Green’s abandoned meanders
Hiking to see the Denis Julien inscription
The Julien inscription (with vandal damage)
Continuing on downriver
Hiking to the ruins at Fort Bottom
The Fort
View from the Fort
The old cabin
View of the fort from one of the cabin’s windows
Sunset from our Fort Bottom camp

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.

Sunrise at Fort Bottom
Morning at Fort Bottom: “I love camping soooo much…”
Floating past The Butte of the Cross
A butte with clouds
Petroglyphs at Anderson 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.

The old Friendship Cruise storage cave at Anderson Bottom
Cliff dwelling (arrow) across from Valentine Bottom
Motoring through Stillwater Canyon
The ruins in Jasper Canyon
On the way to camp
We were real glad to see the sun set on our nearly shadeless camp
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In John Wesley Powell’s Wake: Desolation & Gray Canyons (June 2019)

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.

Morning at Hydes Bottom
Towards Sand Wash
Russell drives the barge
Passenger exchange at Sand Wash
Into Desolation Canyon
Camping across from Peters Point
Fossil turtle impression
Fossil turtle

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.

In Desolation Canyon
Lighthouse Rock (R)
Stopping for lunch at Cedar Creek Rapid
Searching for a campsite
Our camp below Steer Ridge Rapid

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.

Approaching Rock Creek Ranch
Hiking to see the petroglyphs
The petroglyph panel in Rock Creek Canyon
Petroglyphs
Bighorn sheep
On the Green below Rock Creek
Lars giving hair styling tips at Chicken Rock 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). 🙄

Chicken Rock (arrow)
Up the creek toward Chicken Rock
Hiking through the evil cheatgrass
Precariously balanced Chicken Rock
Scrambling to the Chicken
A Fremont Culture granary
A Fremont Culture granary
Looking toward the river and camp from the slopes of the Chicken
The view from atop Chicken Rock (arrow points to camp)
Solar lizard

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. 😦

Rain at Chicken Rock Camp
On down the river
The weather improves
Hiking the Golden Stairs
The high point on the Golden Stairs
The Green River and Range Creek from the Three Golden Stairs
Sunset at Range Creek

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. 🙂

Morning at Range Creek
A garter snake has a Woodhouse’s toad for breakfast
Leaving Range Creek
Heading south
Nefertiti Rock
Nearing the end of Gray Canyon
Gunnison Butte across from Swaseys boat ramp
Riding the flume down the Tusher Diversion Dam
Arriving at Green River State Park
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In John Wesley Powell’s Wake: Uinta Basin North & South (June 2019)

Day 8: To Horseshoe Bend

As noted, the Green River in Uinta Basin is flat water, with few opportunities to go ashore. We pushed-off from Placer Point and rowed down to where the Highway 40 bridge crosses the Green. The only place we could find to pull in for lunch was under that bridge! At that, the river was high enough to make it a bit of a tight fit. After lunch, we continued rowing and rowing and rowing along looking for a place to camp. Finally, late in the day, we found a marginal, mosquito-infested site on the north side of Horseshoe Bend. Not one of the great campsites but at least we were off the river for the night.

The Green River in the Uinta Basin
Lunch under the Highway 40 bridge
Hills along the Green
A wide river under a big sky
Under the Highway 45 bridge south of Naples, UT
Lars views the sunset from camp at Horseshoe Bend

Day 9: To Baeser Bend

We started the day with a short hike to the views from atop Horseshoe Bend. After dodging an abandoned oil well (not uncommon out here) we had a great view of the snowy Uinta Mountains to the west. Then it was back in the boats for more floating and rowing. The day had started clear but clouds soon began to build and, by late afternoon, a light rain was falling. It stopped just long enough to allow us to set up our tents and eat dinner. Then it returned with a vengeance, propelled horizontally with strong wind gusts much like those we’d experienced at Crook Campground. More tent pole holding ensued. Fortunately, the storm, which lashed us on and off throughout the night, dissipated at sunrise.

The Uinta Mountains from Horseshoe Bend
Along the Green River
A cloud with an arch
A storm builds above us
In camp near Baeser Bend

Day 10: The Bridge at Ouray

We spent a little time in the morning finding gear that had been blown hither and yon by the wind and then got back on the water. We started out rowing but soon Lars determined that we weren’t making sufficient progress manually. So out with the motor! Lash the boats into a barge! We motored on through the Ouray National Wildlife Refuge. Lars had scouted this section of the trip in October at low water and none of our guidebooks mentioned river level issues with the Highway 88 bridge at Ouray. So when we came around the bend above the bridge there was shock and awe when it looked like the river was too high for us go under it. o_O But with no support for a portage, we just went river right and ducked. Cleared it by 6 inches! Let me tell ya, we scared the poop out of a few swallows as we passed. 🙄 After adjusting our pace makers, we motored on down to a campsite some 30 feet above the river at Wild Horse Bench.

Continuing along below Baeser Bend
Rafting under a flock of cliff swallows
Lars captains the barge
More flat water
The bridge at Ouray
Cleared it by 6 inches! ^^’
Moonrise at Wild Horse Bench Camp

Days 11 & 12: Hydes Bottom

From Wild Horse Bench, we put the motor aside and rowed down to a make-shift campsite at the south end of Hydes Bottom. We had a layover day here. We had to clear the undergrowth from beneath a nice stand of cottonwood trees for our kitchen and dining area. We soon discovered that the trees were infested with cucumber beetles. They’re cute and harmless and don’t bite or sting but they fly badly and crash into stuff – like you and your food. They also poop a lot. We quickly learned to move them off ourselves on to a nearby leaf (and keep our food covered).

Sunrise at Wild Horse Camp
Toward Hydes Bottom (the white blobs are naturally occurring foam)
Toward Hydes Bottom
Emily commands her raft
Camp at Hydes Bottom
Moonrise at Hydes Bottom

On our layover day, we found a well-defined wild horse trail which we followed to a point overlooking Hydes and Kings Canyon Bottoms. This trail had obviously been created by the passage of generations of wild horses. In terms of grade and tread clarity, it was superior to many human-built trails.

Starting our hike on the wild horse trail
Russell and Garth survey Kings Canyon Bottom
Our camp (arrow) at Hydes Bottom
Group shot (it’s hard not to feel small out here)
Looking southwest from atop the plateau
End of our last day at Hydes Bottom

The next day, we’d make the short run to Sand Wash which marks the end of the Uinta Basin and the start of Desolation Canyon. Six of our group would be leaving us 😥 there and we’d pick-up six new rafters (in addition to the full 28 days, the trip had also been offered in two parts). A small end-of-trip celebration ensued for those who would soon be experiencing hot showers, cold beverages, and clean sheets. Those of us staying each removed a cucumber beetle from our food in their honor!

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In John Wesley Powell’s Wake: Lodore, Whirlpool, and Split Mountain Canyons (June 2019)

Day 5: Canyon of Lodore

From Pot Creek, we made a short run – through Hells Half Mile Rapid (yet another moment of truth for Powell) – to a delightful, tree- and shade-rich camp at Rippling Brook (we would all learn to really appreciate shade later in the trip). The afternoon was consumed with a short, but steep, hike up to Rippling Brook Falls concealed in a grotto above the camp.

The Green River at Pot Creek
Scouting Hells Half Mile Rapid
At the bottom of Hells Half Mile
The Green River from below Rippling Brook Falls
Rippling Brook Falls
Sunset at Rippling Brook

Day 6: Whirlpool Canyon

After a quiet night, we hit the river again for a run past the spectacularly bent Mitten Park Fault to the Green’s confluence with the much more turbid Yampa River in Echo Park beneath Steamboat Rock. Lodore Canyon ends at Echo Park and we stopped here for a short hike to view some petroglyphs near Pats Draw (named for Pat Lynch, a hermit who lived in this area for some 30 years at the turn of the last century). We then continued on into Whirlpool Canyon to a camp at Jones Hole. From there we made a five-mile out-and-back hike up spring-fed Jones Hole Creek to view the Deluge Shelter pictographs. We had time when we got back to camp for sponge bath (no soap!) in the clear waters of Jones Hole Creek. 🙂

Nearing the end of Lodore Canyon
The sweeping Mitten Park Fault comes into view
The Mitten Park Fault is at the north end of Steamboat Rock
Passing the east side of Steamboat Rock
Entering Echo Park
Steamboat Rock
Petroglyphs in Pats Draw
Below the Mitten Park Fault
In Whirlpool Canyon
Hiking to the pictographs
Deluge Shelter pictographs
Deluge Shelter pictograph
Sunset at Jones Creek

Day 7: Split Mountain Canyon

Today we passed out of Whirlpool Canyon, through Island Park, and into Split Mountain Canyon at Rainbow Park. This canyon offers almost seven miles of easy but exciting rapids and is a popular day trip for local rafters. In little more than an hour, we were through the rapids and pulling out at the Split Mountain boat ramp for our first re-supply. Then it was a couple of miles downriver to Placer Point, where OARS had secured permission for us to camp on private land. We were now at the north end of the Unita Basin. From here to the head of Desolation Canyon, the Green River is nothing but flat water. Fortunately we’d brought an outboard motor. In the basin, the river passes through a mixture of private, state, and federal lands and organized campsites are almost non-existent. Finding suitable campsites for our large group was always a dicey proposition but Lars always managed to find a spot for us (although some were much better than others).

Near the end of Whirlpool Canyon
Large bison petroglyph etched in the canyon wall
The Island Park Fault at Rainbow Park
In Split Mountain Canyon
Leaving Split Mountain Canyon
Our first re-supply at the Split Mountain boat ramp
Entering the Uinta Basin
Camping at Placer Point
Sunset at Placer Point
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In John Wesley Powell’s Wake: Flaming Gorge to Lodore Canyon (June 2019)

Day 1: Flaming Gorge Dam to Red Canyon

After gathering at the OARS boat house in Vernal, Utah, we were shuttled to our put-in at the Spillway Boat Ramp below Flaming Gorge Dam. We arrived to find the dam’s bypass tubes going full tilt, causing the Green River to run high, swift, and cold. Such high water would be with us throughout our journey, moving us along briskly but also limiting our campsite options in some stretches due to flooding. On the far upside, this high water drowned a lot of mosquitoes. 😀 The four rafts and two dories that formed our little flotilla were loaded and ready to go when we arrived at the ramp. So we got right on them and shot into Red Canyon on the swift waters. We stopped near Dripping Springs Rapid for lunch and a series of safety talks before continuing on to our first camp at Big Pine. A short day on the river but it felt good to be finally getting on with a trip that we’d all been anticipating for almost a year. Much to Lars chagrin, none of us wanted to stay up late and were abed shortly after dark. This is a pattern that would continue for the whole trip. Of course Lars woke us up for COFFEE before 6AM every day, so what did he expect? 🙄

High water (note submerged steps) below Flaming Gorge Dam
The LovedOne cues the “brave rafter smile”
Russell’s dory – the “Ootsa Lake” – pushes into the current
The fractured cliffs of Red Canyon
In Red Canyon
Camping at Big Pine

Day 2: Red Canyon to Browns Park

We had two big things to accomplish today: run Red Creek Rapid and portage around the ridiculously low bridge at Taylor Flats. The rapid was a quick, but fun, run and we were soon floating through the open lands that form Browns Park. At high water, there is barely two feet of clearance between the water and the bottom of the bridge at Taylor Flats – no room for raft or dory. This bridge was a known obstacle so when we pulled in above it OARS had trailers waiting to help with the portage. It took all of us helping to get four rafts and two dories (all fully loaded) around the bridge. All was going well until we popped one of the rafts on a piece of metal on the raft trailer. Field repairs (which held for the rest of the trip!) were made and, while the glue cured, we visited the near-by Jarvie Ranch Historic Site – the ranger there seemed happy to have some visitors. After the glue dried, we continued on to Little Swallow Camp in Little Canyon.

Through Red Creek Rapid
Coming in to Browns Park
The Taylor Flat Bridge at high water
Dragging a fully loaded raft on to the trailer
Sliding a fully loaded raft back into the water below the bridge
The reconstructed general store at the Jarvie Ranch
Continuing on into Browns Park
Camping at Little Swallow

Day 3: Browns Park National Wildlife Refuge

From Little Swallow, we continued easily down the wide and placid (but high) Green River through the Browns Park National Wildlife Refuge. We were now in Colorado and would remain there until crossing back into Utah near Island Park. After a leisurely day under artistically cloudy skies, we pulled in to the Bureau of Land Management campground at Crook Creek. Apparently 26 now smelly, oddly-dressed people clambering off of rafts was too much for one RV camper in that they felt the need to move their rig to the far side of the campground. Arrrah! River pirates! Give us your soap! Arrrah! After a tiny threat of rain, a great dinner, and a wonderful sunset, we turned in for what was supposed to be a restful night’s sleep.

Morning at Little Swallow Camp
Through Browns Park
Clouds over Browns Park
Continuing through Browns Park
Sunset at Crook Campground

Day 4: Into Lodore Canyon

Around midnight, the air temperature dropped some 20 degrees and the wind started roaring. We could hear the gusts coming toward us before they smacked our tent nearly flat, again and again. Legs and arms had to be deployed to keep the poles from bending or snapping. In the midst of this mayhem, a large branch broke off from the cottonwood tree above us and crashed down next to our tent! So, no, it was not a restful night. The next morning was darn cold and everyone was scrambling to put on what extra clothes they had. And then the sun rose and all was forgiven (ha!). After a little more floating, we reached the mouth of the Canyon of Lodore, which Powell named after a Robert Southey poem (and a real long one at that). After lunch near the ranger station, we entered both the canyon and Dinosaur National Monument. We had fun bouncing through Upper and Lower Disaster Falls, but Powell did not, as this is where he lost a boat and a third of the rations (hence “disaster”). Ghiglieri has called this event the end of “…the 1869 crew’s whitewater innocence…” Our own day ended far less eventfully at a campsite on Pot Creek.

A very cold morning at Crook Campground
Continuing on through the wildlife refuge
Arriving at the Gates of Lodore (arrow)
Through the Gates of Lodore
In the Canyon of Lodore
In the Canyon of Lodore
Through Upper Disaster Falls
Through Lower Disaster Falls
Camp at Pot Creek
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In John Wesley Powell’s Wake: The 150th Anniversary Trip (June 2019)

On May 24, 1869, nine men, lead by John Wesley Powell, left Green River, Wyoming for the purpose of exploring the Green and Colorado Rivers.  On August 30, 1869, ninety-nine days later, Powell and five of his remaining men reached the confluence of the Colorado and Virgin Rivers in southern Utah.  Thus ended arguably one of the most epic explorations of the American West, perhaps second only to that of Lewis and Clark some six decades earlier.

John Wesley Powell, 1872 (USGS photo)

Writings about Powell and this expedition are extensive and I don’t propose to add to them here.  Recognizing that Powell couldn’t have, and didn’t, accomplish this feat alone, I would recommend a read of Michael P. Ghiglieri’s “First Through the Grand Canyon” (Puma Press, Flagstaff, Arizona; Third Edition, 2015).  This work, based on journals and letters written by the men themselves, sheds new light on their critical contributions to the expedition, how they felt about it, and what they thought of Powell as a leader.  After reading various Powell biographies, and experiencing these rivers for myself, it seems to me that Powell and his men were a very lucky bunch of guys who repeatedly escaped potentially fatal situations as they grappled with the then unknown art of whitewater boating.  Although heroic and epic, this expedition often seems to have succeeded in spite of itself.

Still, Powell’s expedition marked the first descent of the Green and Colorado Rivers.  To celebrate the 150th anniversary of this historic event, OARS (Angels Camp, California) organized a 28-day (June 5th to July 2nd) rafting trip to retrace more than 450 miles of Powell’s route between Flaming Gorge Dam and Lake Powell.

Overview map of our journey from Flaming Gorge to Lake Powell

Having rafted the Grand Canyon before, this trip seemed like our best opportunity to finally trace almost all of Powell’s original route that has not now been lost to reservoirs.  So, along with our long-time friends Wayne and Diane and 16 other guests, plus six guides, we embarked on a journey with more rafting than we’d ever done before.  Starting in the very cold, clear waters of the Green River at the base of Flaming Gorge Dam, we made our way through ever changing and always impressive scenery, to an end in the warm, turbid waters of Lake Powell.  Along the way we experienced chilly days and nights, rain, scorching heat, lightning, cheatgrass, pesky mosquitoes, gnats, and black flies, high water, fierce winds, low bridges, big rapids, and uncertainty. Unlike Powell, whose expedition was near starvation for much of the time, our rations were both ample and excellent. However, like Powell, we always had plenty of coffee available for those who wanted it.

Accomplishing this trip had long been a goal for our AMAZING trip leader, Lars Haarr, who has taken people on rafting trips for over 20 years.  The depth of experience, positive attitude, professionalism, and extremely hard work of Lars and our other guides (Michael, Emily, Elyse, Russell, and Garth) are what made this journey a success.  Credit also has to be given to the logistical support provided by OARS staffers from the Vernal, Moab, and Flagstaff operations and to the pilots of Redtail Aviation (Moab, Utah).  It takes a village to float a raft.

Our guides (L-R): Garth, Emily, Lars (“The Major”), Elyse, Michael, Russell

And that, along with a very congenial group of fellow rafters, all of whom pitched in as needed without compliant, made this a wonderful, unforgettable, and truly once-in-a-lifetime experience.

Our group at the start of the trip (14 would stay for the entire 28 days)

For easier access to the details of this excellent adventure, we spaced it out from put-in to take-out over six posts keyed to sections of the two rivers:

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Floating the Green River ~ Canyonlands National Park (June 1992)

Green River Colorado River Utah

Up until 2008, our adventures were retained only as memories and on Kodachromes. While our memories may have faded (just a bit), the Kodachromes haven’t – and we have a lot of them. So we’re digitizing a select few to bring some of our past adventures into the 21st Century. This is one of those.

Continue reading “Floating the Green River ~ Canyonlands National Park (June 1992)”