Monday, March 17, 2008

Into the Desert

So I got invited to go along a Cataract Canyon trip about two weeks ago. The run is 112 miles, and goes from Moab, UT, to Hite Marina. This, I thought, was a great time to get away from the lack of stress in Cody, and run away for a little bit. The crew was from Colorado School of Mines. I agreed to go along as raft support, so more of them could kayak. This would be the second trip down the canyon, and while it wasn't the same experience as the last time, it was still a good one. We put on Sunday, and took out Thursday night.

Wall Street, on the way to the put in.

Flatwater, about a five miles into the first day.

Brian enjoying the sun.

Derk, Geordie, and Joe.

Our motorman, shower of lines, and general badass.

Joe, Brian, Derk, Nick, Geordie

We motored roughly thirty miles the first day, camping out along the river left bank. The camp was a little bit muddy, but it wasn't too horrible. Much drinking ensued that evening, and the stars were brilliant. We had about twenty miles left to motor the next day, beyond the Confluence of the Colorado and Green Rivers. The second day we camped at Spanish Bottom. But I am getting ahead of myself.

Flatwater, but gorgeous views. Closing in on the Confluence.

The sign below the Confluence.

ARRRRR! At Spanish Bottom

The bar, with the river in the background.

We wanted to get to Spanish Bottom the second day, so we could do a hike up into the Dollhouse. This is a formation on river right, about three miles below the Confluence. We woke up at about six that morning, myself a little earlier, so we could take in the morning peace and calm. The hike up to Dollhouse gains about 1200 feet in probably less than a mile. It goes straight up some switchbacks out of the canyon. The Dollhouse itself is located in the Maze District of Canyonlands National Park. Of Edward Abbey fame, now with a well defined Jeep road going right into the heart of it. Still, the easiest way to get to the Dollhouse is by floating down the river.

The Dollhouse

The Maze jeep trail comes in by the right shadow.

Hanging out on the rock, overlooking part of the Maze.

Nick ponders climbing.

Nick, Geordie and Derk on a ledge overlooking the river side of the Dollhouse.

The Colorado in the background.

We ran twenty rapids that day. Aside from swimming through Number Five, after hitting a hole I should have never been around, it was a great day of fairly easy rapids. Number Five and Number Ten had some very large holes, and Corkscrew, part of Mile Long Rapid, was a little dicey. We ran everything blind this particular day, which I wasn't really a big fan of, but I had Joe and Ben running their rafts in front of me, so at least if they hit something, I could adjust from there. The flow was around seven thousand, so there were quite a few rocks to avoid, with some pretty big wave trains. We made camp at the bottom of Rapid Twenty, which seemed to be a fairly short day. Now, this camp is right above the Big Drops. Rapids 21, 22, and 23 form Big Drop 1-3 respectively. Our camp groover that night overlooked Big One, which was GREAT on my already shattered nerves. I knew what we had to go through the next day, and I remembered the Big Drops being very nasty, particularly at this level. Especially Big 3. I knew that I wouldn't have too much trouble on Big 1, I knew Big 2 wouldn't be too bad, but 3 scared me.

Bottom of Rapid 20

Shameless Werner shot, looking downstream

Ben, with the reaction to gin being blown on fire.

Geordie, with his reaction.

The morning after, with a couple of wounded soldiers from the long night, we were game on for rapids 21 through 29. Big 1 was a straight down the middle shot, Big 2 had a center to right line, kinda hugging the rock that makes Little Niagra at higher water, nothing to bad. Big 3 was a left side line. Previously I had run it on the right, without much trouble. The left side was crap. A narrow tongue led into a lateral, fed by a pour over that makes Satan's Gut at high water. Joe hit the line perfect, and only took one stroke once he entered. Ben went too far right, and almost hung up on the rocks in the middle. I thought disaster was going to be forthwith, but he pulled it out quite well. I hit my line exactly where I wanted to. Two waves marked the entrance, and you had to be angled right to catch them perfectly, and be pushed back into the line. I went with a little too shallow of an angle, and got spun sideways, heading right for the rock backing up the pour over into the left side. I knew it was going to do that, so with one back stroke, then two, I pulled into the lateral, and it pushed me back into the middle of the current. Two back strokes to the left cleared the next rock, and I was home free, into the eddy on the left side, where the Hammer and Sickle flask of gin was passed around to all the rafters. The rest of the drops were nothing big. All a bunch of wave trains, little holes, random little things. There was, however, another big hole, much like Number 5, that I hit, yet again, head on. I almost was destroyed, but I didn't swim this time, I somehow had my feet lodged deep under the thwart, and just had my world rocked.

The bottom of Satan's Gut, a.k.a. Big 3


Change for a nickel?

Flatwater below Gypsum Canyon.

Derk reading of the J.W. Powell Exploration.

Ben, relaxing with the evil brew of Mr. Coors.

Geordie soaking sun. Kinda.

Guide, Coors, and Abbey. What more do you need on the river?

The bridge to Hite Marina, only a few more miles.

Looking back up, Goodbye Colorado, hello Lake Foul, World's Largest Cesspool and Sewage Lagoon.

After the river, I elected to stay in Moab for a little while longer. The first day was spent at Arches National Parking Lot, the next was cruising the back roads. The photos are out of sequence, but here they are.

LaSal Mountains, on day two, up Jug Handle Road.

A new arch being formed, maybe 20,000 years out?

LaSal's again, looking over Needles.

A drainage I hiked up, that was very, very cool.

Castleton Tower in the Professor Valley

The backroads of Arches National Parkinglot.

A mini arch. Maybe 3 inches tall.

My little slot canyon. Who knows who have been down there, but themselves?

The LaSal's across Arches.

Leaving Jug Handle Road, until next time, Moab!

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