August 20-25, 2021
I’m still savoring the memory of the rafting trip I took a couple months ago with seven friends, and friends of friends. It was my first post-covid plane ride and my first multi-day rafting trip. We were all fully vaccinated and I wore an N95 mask in the airport and on the plane. We traveled with 14 others, plus six guides, down the Green River in Dinosaur National Monument, which straddles Colorado and Utah. We traveled through five canyons, each with its unique red rock formations. It was an awesome trip; I loved almost every minute of it. When I got home, I became consumed with packing and preparing to sell my home of 40 years, hence the delay in this post.
August 20 – Getting There
Beth gave Ginny and me a ride to the airport, and we flew to Salt Lake City where we were picked up by Lynn and Sue who were already there, having spent a couple days visiting friends. The five us crammed into a Jeep Cherokee; our gear barely fit and it was crowded in the back seat. It took about three hours to reach the Microtel Inn in Naples, right next to Vernal in the northeast quadrant of Utah. There we connected with our East Bay contingency: Amy, Brenda, Sheila, and Glenne. They took two days to drive out in Glenne’s spacious van. We collected dry bags from our guide, Miles, then headed out to dinner. The only place in town with outside dining was booked, so we got take-out food and ate in a park, Mexican food for some of us, pizza for the rest. We also made a stop at a liquor store after learning that there would be an ice chest for our use on the river.
Aug 21 (Day 1) – Canyon of Lodore
When we went to bed, Beth was worried because her pet sitter had not been able to get Bella, one of her cats inside. By morning, Bella was still missing, so Beth cancelled her trip and found a ride back to the Salt Lake airport. The rest of us boarded a van and road about two and a half hours to the put in, above the Gates of Lodore. They put the eight of us onto two rafts; I road with Sheila, Amy, and Brenda. It was uncomfortable sitting four abreast in a raft filled with gear.
The Green River was brown and cooler than anticipated, but I was comfortable in my lightweight sunblock attire. We floated through several Class II rapids, Whinny, Unnamed, Upper and Lower Disaster Falls, named by Powell when one of his long wooden boat crashed at this spot in 1869. I got splashed and was ready for more. Along the way we stopped for lunch – Caesar salad warp with hummus. “Special” meals served first (gluten and nightshade-free for me, vegetarian for Ginny and a couple others). We reached Pot Camp around 4:00 and set up tents – mine was the tallest and hard to put up, especially with no stakes. Miles gave us an intro to the “groovers”, the portable toilets we used in camp, named for an earlier version the left grooves in rearends.
We took a walk up to a ridge with a view of the river, then had our own happy hour circle. Lynn and I had vodka tonics. Ginny, Sue, and I all sketched a bit while enjoying avocado toast with mango salsa. Dinner finally ready around 8:00 – yummy salmon, my favorite meal of the trip. I was one of first to bed. There was a storm during the night with waves of rain, wind, thunder, and lightening. The crickets quieted before each rainfall, then returneds in full force afterwards. Some people had leaks, but my floppy tent kept me dry.
Aug 22 (Day 2)
We came on this trip expecting to actually be paddling, but instead the rafts were all equipped with large oars that enabled them to be controlled by one guide. (I’ve since learned that there are paddle, oar, and hybrid trips, so confirm ahead of time which type you are getting). When we complained to Miles that we were too crowed on the first day, and expressed an interest in paddling, he moved all the gear out of his raft, gave us paddles, and let all eight of us ride in his boat. We didn’t paddle all that much but is was much more fun. I rode up front with Amy and got splashed regularly. I tried to take a video during our biggest rapid, officially a class IV, but more like 3.5. The video didn’t work, so you won’t get to hear Amy’s screams.
We had another late lunch at 1:30. I skipped the bread and rolled up pieces of deli meat and cheese. After lunch, we took a hike to Rippling Brook, where many took turns standing under a trickling tall waterfall. After another hour or so on the river, we reached Limestone Camp around 4:00 pm, set up tents, then went on another hike. It was quite steep with loose gravel, so I turned back about half way up.
Glenne was not feeling well; she slept through happy hour and missed the best appetizer: caprese on tasty gluten-free crackers; I skipped the tomatoes. I enjoyed watching the light changing on the cliffs and did another sketch. We carried our chairs back and rejoined the main group for dinner (pasta w/chicken, salad, strawberries for dessert). I asked Miles if we could go around the circle and hear everyone’s name, so he promptly asked me to start. It was interesting to learn a bit about everyone, from experienced rafters to newbies. It’s a good thing we were on an adults only trip because one camper told some pretty risqué stories.
Aug 23 (Day 3)
I was one of the first up as usual, around 5:45 a.m. We road in the paddle boat again and had an awesome day, exiting Lodore Canyon, passing through appropriately named Echo Canyon, into Whirlpool Canyon. There were jaw dropping red stone vistas at every bend. Clouds threatened rain a few times, but the drops only fell at our lunch stop when we sheltered under an overhang on a tall cliff. Amy and I took a turn in one of the duckies, rubber kayaks that flex and bend over rapids. We floated past bighorn sheep and eagles.
Our hike of the day, after reaching Jones Hole camp, took us to two waterfalls and pictograms. A few people had fun sitting in the stream and blocking the flow to Elk Creek Falls, then releasing it in a burst onto whoever stood below. Once again, we formed our own happy hour circle near our tents. Another camper stopped by to let us know we could use their solar shower; Amy and I both jumped at the chance. It felt great; I’ll have to bring one on my next rafting trip. We finished just in time for dinner, undercooked steak (I took mine back for extra grilling). I enjoyed a bit of after dinner chat, took a final trip to the groover, and retired to my tent. The moon was close to full and I considered getting out my tripod and heading down to the river, but I was too tired to venture back out. The crickets seemed louder and more hurried than previous nights. I slept through the night, missing the skunks that wandered through camp.
Aug 24 (Day 4)
We covered 19 miles today, our longest day on the river. It was gorgeous at every turn. Once again, we road in the paddle boat, occasionally using our paddles. When I asked Miles if the others minded our using this boat again, he assured me they were happy because it gave them more room in the other rafts. The first several miles were quite calm and our guides got a good workout with their oars. Lynn and Sue got tired of paddling in their kayak during this section and hitched a ride on another raft, rejoining us at lunch. After that there were quite a few class II rapids.
We ate lunch on a tiny beach in direct sun. The surprise receipt of a cold Le Croix was most welcome. We continued down river, getting out near the end of Split Mountain Canyon. From there it was a short van ride to the Dinosaur National Monument. We arrived just in time to catch the last shuttle to Quarry Exhibit Hall where more a thousand dinosaur bones are embedded in the rock wall. A few more minutes in the van and we were back at the Microtel, and relived to receive notice that Beth’s cat came home shortly after she returned. We took quick showers and went to dinner at Vernal Tavern, the only place in town that serves outdoors. (I made reservations before we got on the river).
Aug 25 – Getting home
Lynn, Sue, Ginny, and I headed to Salt Lake City for our flight back to SFO, while the other four headed south for a couple days in Moab before beginning their long drive home. With only two in the back seat, it was a more comfortable ride than when we arrived. Not wanting to eat indoors at an airport restaurant, Ginny and I picked up Vietnamese veggie spring rolls; I ate mine in the car. We found a sparsely populated section of the airport to wait in, and were rewarded with wonderful piano music, provided by an airline employee on a layover. We clapped and a woman near us asked “Am I at an airport or a concert hall?”. Our flight home was uneventful. Since Ginny and I were neighbors, before I moved, we shared a cab ride back to city.
I’m now beginning to research other rafting trips, since all of us want to go again. When we asked Miles what he would recommend next, he said it was a challenge to come up with one since we started with the best.