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San Juan River Trip

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!

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Member Comments About This Blog Post
    You are quite the impressive lady! Attitude. Spirit. Adventure. You've got it all! Thank you for sharing your trip with us. Makes me want to add kayaking to my (already way too lengthy) bucket list. Glad you're safe and sound and - hopefully - rested.
    1387 days ago
    I'm a little late catching up on your trip but it sounds like it was wonderful for you. I'm glad you shared the pictures & the blog with all of us who would never have the nerve to try this. It is too bad that you lost your Tommy flag, but it is kind of special that it is there in Utah. So glad that you were able to make this trip & that it turned out as great as it did for you & your family. Also very glad that you're back in NC safe & sound!
    1387 days ago
    What a great experience!! And beautiful pictures as always!! Love your attitude about the Tommy flag and can't wait to hear about it being found:) Stay safe.
    1388 days ago
    Waterproof Tommy flag? Too cool! Outstanding :)
    Love the geese!
    Yikes, you brought a flood of tears to my eyes suddenly, reading about the flag but ... I agree with you 100%. It sounds like your Tommy is an awful lot like my DH. It is definitely what he would have wanted.
    Love the sheep too. Great shots!!!
    Moab for the 4th. Amazing!

    1389 days ago
    Love your attitude about the flag, the rapids, and the trip, what a great sense of adventure you have! Pushing boundaries, trying new things, and making it work are the best reasons for living!
    1390 days ago
    OMG, I am just so impressed! What an amazing time! Thank you for the great pictures! I really think Tommy's flag was meant to stay! Don't feel bad, I think it was the way it was meant to be :-)
    Enjoy the rest of your wonderful trip...looking forward to hearing more!
    Love & Hugs,
    1390 days ago
    The pictures are so amazing! Pictures never do capture though what we see in real life, like the breathtaking beauty and the rapids and things. But they help a lot. Glad you made it through with only being dunked in one set of rapids. You're probably right about Tommy's flag. Even if the flag stayed in a place he loved, his spirit is still with you I believe. Glad there is so much laughter and fun too! Hope you enjoyed watching the fireworks in Moab!
    1391 days ago
  • HOLLYM48
    WOW, what an awesome trip. You must be so proud that you were able to do something like this. That is beyond awesome. The strength that it must have taken to get through all those rapids is amazing. Congrats and thanks for sharing the beauty with us. Way to go!!!!
    1391 days ago
  • ODAT1117
    Absolutely FABULOUS!!!!! I, too, would choose to think about your Tommy flag as the way it was meant to be. He's there now, resting.

    And holy moly that must have gotten your adrenalin going when you guys flipped!! Scary and glad you all made it okay. That would be hard to do the next set of rapids, for sure. WAY TO GO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    I'm SO happy for you that you got to go and that it was so incredibly successful AND that you got to end it with fireworks in Moab!! HOW AWESOME!!

    Thanks for taking the time to share! :-)

    - fellow yakker...... :-)
    1391 days ago
    Sounds glorious and I'm so glad you shared the experience with us! emoticon
    1391 days ago
    Glad you had a great experience!
    1391 days ago
    I love your pics and how you tell the story, you are very good at it!

    That looks like such a fun trip!

    I hope you had a super 4th!
    1391 days ago
    Beautiful pictures.

    But I have to say that I am glad it was you making this trip and not me. emoticon
    1391 days ago
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