Friday, July 04, 2014
I know this is late, but the last eight days have been non-stop and so much fun. I'll get to it all eventually, but for now I'll start where I left off.
On June 23rd, we arrived at the Recapture Lodge in Bluff, Utah to prepare for our launch the next morning. We rearranged our gear and put everything in dry bags before attempting to get a good night sleep. The next morning, we all met (six of us) at the Sand Island launch site where a ranger inspected our boats and gear to insure we had all the required items and were fully prepared for our trip. When she was satisfied, she signed my permit and we were on our way. I launched my boat with my waterproof Tommy flag flying on the back.
My son, his best friend Mike, and our friend Debbie preparing to launch.
It was a beautiful day and the beginning of the San Juan River was calm and easy paddling (that would not be the case later). The water level had dropped lower than we had hoped for actually making some of the rapids more difficult to maneuver, but we were determined to make the trip no matter what.
Shortly after launching our boats.
My son Cliff and his best friend Mike.
We stopped on a little sandy bank for some lunch.
At one point we were accompanied by a lot of geese.
This was an awesome cave and we could actually see some ruins inside of it.
We took a break and hiked up a short trail. My son Cliff is on the left and his friend Mike is on the right pointing out some bighorn sheep on the other side of the river.
We were originally planning to camp two nights on the river, but even though it was low the water was moving fast and we completed ten miles much faster than we expected. We knew we had three major named rapids to take on and we were all in agreement that we wanted to stop and camp and face the rapids the next morning. We found a beautiful beach in a big bend just past a set of smaller, fun rapids.
Having dinner at our campsite
Our beautiful campsite
The next morning we were up pretty early, packed and ready to get back on the water. Our first challenge just around the next bend would be four foot rapids.
Scouting four foot rapids from the shore. The pictures really don't do them justice. The water was moving so fast and the lower water level meant there were a lot more rocks and boulders to maneuver around. Still, all six of us made it through four foot rapids. They were FUN!
The next set of rapids would prove to be a lot more challenging. These are called eight foot rapids and are the most difficult on this section of the river. We stopped to scout them and I must admit that I had serious doubts because there was a small area you had to get through, between two rocks, and then face a serious wave train on the other side. I considered portaging my boat around, but in the end it was so rocky I decided to go for it. I made it between the rocks and was actually starting to laugh going through the wave train, then I celebrated my victory too early. Hah! That river taught me a lesson and in an instant I was upside down. The water was rushing so fast that it actually ripped my hydration pack loose and that was lost, but I made it safely to shore and Mike caught my boat for me. Those rapids flipped three of our boats and sent us swimming.
When I got to my boat, I realized that the river had also claimed my Tommy flag. At first I was heartbroken that it was gone, but then I started to think about this differently. Maybe this was as it should have been. He loved Utah so, so much and maybe his flag should stay here. My hope is that someone will find that waterproof flag one day and google his name, come across his Facebook page, and realize just how special this person was.
Looking back up at eight foot rapid. I just wish the picture could show what the waves actually looked like.
Next we would face the final named rapid, Ledge Rapid. The trick here was to get to the right of the rock garden and the boulder sitting in the middle of the river and then back quickly to the left to avoid being pushed into a ledge. After the last rapid, there was a lot of nerves going in. Unfortunately, two members of our party was flipped in this rapid, but I'm thankful I made it through without incident. Unfortunately I got no pictures of this rapid.
After getting through this rapid, the rest of the trip was easy paddling with just some minor, fun rapids along the way. We had made it through the canyon so quickly that we ended up finishing the trip that evening.
Picture my BIL took of me nearing the end of our trip.
A bighorn sheep drinking from the river.
Paddling through the Raplee Anticline only a couple miles from the take out.
Another picture of the Raplee Anticline near Mexican Hat, Utah.
At the Mexican Hat take out. We had a few bruises, we were tired and hungry, but what an amazing trip down the river. The scenery along that stretch was incredible. I wouldn't trade any part of it for anything.
We're now in Moab, Utah waiting for dark to watch some fireworks.
Happy Independence Day Everyone!
Monday, June 09, 2014
Two weeks from today I, along with five others, will be driving from New Mexico to Bluff, Utah where we’ll spend the night before beginning our three day kayak trip down the San Juan River. The plans are all complete, reservations are all made, permits are in hand, gear is packed, and new tires are on the car. Yes, everything is going exactly as we had hoped when we began making these plans over a year ago. Except one thing. Tommy will not be with us.
Although Tommy did not kayak, he was always supportive of me and my son. He often shuttled us to local rivers and would wait patiently for us at a take-out point to pick us up and deliver us safely home. He was excited about this vacation and he was excited for us. He planned to go along and shuttle us to the San Juan River in Bluff and then pick us up three days later in Mexican Hat, Utah. He loved that area and wanted to spend those three days sightseeing and relaxing, just doing whatever he wanted, and then spending the remainder of vacation with us in Moab, Utah. Unfortunately, his battle with cancer came to an abrupt end shortly after we began making our plans.
With preparations now complete, I find myself with much more time to think about Tommy and how much he wanted to go with us. It makes me sad that he isn't here, that we won’t be hearing his laughter, or even listening to him complain about the traffic on I-40. However, when I launch my kayak from Sand Island in Bluff, Utah, I will be flying a two-sided flag on the back of it in memory of my best friend and soul mate. My hope is that he and Thor will be standing high on Muley Point, one of his favorite places, looking down over the San Juan River and smiling.
The pictures below are what will be on each side of the flag I’m making. I’ve already printed the pictures on cloth. The only thing left to do is to spray them with a water sealant and then sew everything together and attach it to the dowel.
We’re going to have a great time, but there will also be an empty spot by our campfires at night. I know he will be with us in spirit, but God how I wish he could be with us in body also.
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