Sunday, April 26, 2015

Adventures on the Green River

For six days in the middle of April, Madelyn and I joined two other couples for a canoe trip down the Green River in Southern Utah.  The route ran from Green River, Utah to Mineral Bottom just outside Canyonlands National Park.  What a great experience.  After the complexity of planning and logistic from long distance -- the others were in Salt Lake City and we were in Seward, Alaska-- we launched from Green River State Park.  During the six days and five nights we saw one other boat on the river and that was on our first day, so we not only had companionship and natural wonders but also desert solitude.  This is not to say that the were floating through a wilderness; the opposite is true for roads and trails connect to the Green in many places and the northern stretches of the trip are through ranch country, but he balance of the was a wonderful adventure in desert southwest.  

Madelyn and I though we would be roughing it, so we packed sparingly, but our friends had us set up with a luxury river kitchen including two burner stove and a dutch oven.  The long distance planning led to some good laughs.  We ended up with four different ways to make coffee and more more beer varieties than some Utah liquor stores.  On a given morning you could dark roast from a french press, expresso, traditional perked or drip coffee and in the in the evening an IPA, lager, Belgium white, or amber.  We worried about keeping things cold so we brought so much block ice and dry ice that beers and lunch meats were freezing.

The Green River from the State Park to Mineral Bottom, where we ended our trip is Class one water and the only real boating challenge was cold water, wind and making the, most of which were in mud that caked our feet, canoes and paddles.  The weather proved sunny and hot the first three days and then on the wind hit us with a vengeance, going from breezy to scary in minutes.  When we rounded one bend in the river we meet twenty mph plus winds coming up river and waves of one foot and building.   Our dash for the nearest shore put us on a steep talus slope where we perched like sealions waiting for the weather to improve.  
Our grotto bivouac-- happy campers

We spent the day napping, chatting, and exploring our options.  Luckily, we were all cheerful, and no one wanted to be foolish and challenge this nasty water.  We ended up spending the night in that spot, bivouacking in any flat spot we could find without room for tents.  As the evening closed, the river waves built to 3-4 feet and raging winds tore through the canyon and tried to swamp the canoes tied along the river, forcing us to drag them up on the shore.  We toughed out the night with cold beer, cheerful camaraderie and Nancy’s dutch oven meatloaf.  Madelyn said this was her favorite night on river, sleeping under the stars.   
The river runs left to right; the wind right to left.
A placid river and red rock

The next day we were ready at first light because we were behind schedule for our pickup at Mineral Bottoms.   Paddling in the cold dawn gave a richness to the experience and though we started the day with coffee, we were rich in imagery for this section of the river was the glorious Labyrinth Canyon.  By mid morning we had not warmed for yesterday’s wind had brought a cold front and sudden the up-canyon gale returned and we were blown of the river again.  This time we stood shivering on a sand bar looking up at a dense, inpenetrable hedge of tamarisk.  The only option was to scrabble up the bank, bushwhack a trail, and hunker down under a oak tree.  Quickly revived by coffee, trail mix, and more layers of clothes, we felt better prepared for the cold and ready to strike out once more when the wind subsided, which it did and we found a spot to camp that was flat and comfortable, so that we could celebrate the end of a fine trip in royal fashion.   

And as for the water, we started with at least fourteen gallons and ended with three left over.  That was just for Madelyn and I.  The river water is a tough go because of the silt.  It has to be settled overnight before the water can be filtered or used for cooking.  Is was therefore nice to have fresh clean water hand, for it was dirty trip with the mud below, the silt in the water and dust blowing into our eyes, ears, and mouth.  By the last day we could squander fresh water for washing--- ah!

A canoe trip on the Green is a great way to experience the southwest, especially when you travel with people like Nancy and Monty Fisher and Lois and Skip Gaynard.  Successful expeditions depend on the right equipment, good weather, tasty food, and fine companions, but most of all fine companions.  

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