- May 19, 2012
Previous trip reports on Labyrinth in 2012 and 2013:
There is nothing better in this world than floating down a great river, with good friends and plenty of beer within reach (an important distinction when you are in canoe). My wife Nancy and I have meandered down many miles of flat water in the southwest, mainly accompanied by 2 good friends from...
We all met up a couple of Friday mornings ago, getting together to float through one of the most beautiful places on the planet, through Labyrinth Canyon from Ruby Ranch to Mineral Bottom on the Green River. Nick I had met once, but I had never met Charlie or Nate. So off we went, Charlie in...
I had really been looking forward to this trip. It has been more than a year since I was on a river, and it was time to get back. Our world has obviously changed quite a bit since my last river trip, gotten more complicated and a hell of a lot more scary. Virus, fires and unemployment. And I had not left our valley since March, except for a quick trip to Denver.
As the trip date came closer, I found myself not really wanting to go, actually making up excuses to back out! Lunacy!
The thing is, I feel safe here in our small neighborhood.
Well, it was time to venture out.
The Green River. Spending 5 days alone with myself is fraught with danger, but with potential rewards. I can stop when I want. No group dynamic.
Not speaking for 5 days is therapeutic. OK, I said a few words, but not many, and they were of no consequence.
Floating on a river is a good place to think. And there is a lot to think about these days.
One bummer was all of the smoke, it cleared out a little but was still a little hazy.
So I left Carbondale early Thursday morning bound for Moab and Tex's Riverways and the Ruby Ranch put in. It had been 7 years since I was at this spot, pretty much as I had remembered it except that it was crowded. Really crowded, 7 groups getting ready to go, probably 20 boats. This meant I needed a plan, a strategy if you will. Do I start off strong, get ahead of everyone? Too many sea kayaks for that, pretty fast boats. Do I hang back? Not in my nature. So I resigned myself to the fact that, for at least a day, it would be crowded. I knew the big groups, with the outfitter's raft with a motor, would go ahead and secure camp sites for their respective clients. Luckily the water was really low, with numerous small private sand bars, lot's of great spots to camp.
One problem was that I forgot my 50 lb sand bag for the bow. So I knew that I would be OK until Saturday, when wind was forecast. Having more weight in the back with a solo paddler with wind is not good, as we shall see.
I wasn't here to worry, about anything, let alone where I should camp. It turned out I did not need to worry. I made it about 10 miles the 1st day, on a hot, spectacular day with no wind, until later in the day. I did not hurry, or go slow. It was crowded, people passing me by, and that was OK. But eventually I was alone on my private sand bar.
I really was in heaven. Exactly what I wanted. Everyone who ventures out in this neck of the woods has experienced silence. Utter complete silence. Just the occasional sounds: the stove, breathing, the wings of a blue heron, the occasional beaver sliding into the water.
Unfortunately the privacy did not last long. A large group stopped at the other end of the sand bar, intent on making as much noise as they could. Loud music, electric thumping bass that shook the sand and my brain. Oh well. They were having fun, and it quieted down around 10.
Friday was a slow day, I slept in. A few large rafts motored by. One group came by that I took a few pictures of, I gave the woman in the front my email address, she could contact me and I would send her the pics.
After this group I noticed 2 sea kayaks approaching, so I had the brilliant idea of pulling over and getting a shot of them. I have a technique (not my own I am sure) of getting into an eddy: I am heading downstream, and just before the eddy I direct the tip of the bow into it, and the stern spins around so I am pointing up river in the eddy, out of the current. At least that is the way it usually works. This time, what I thought was an eddy really wasn't, and things did not go according to plan. I had to quickly spin the boat downstream, but unfortunately I was headed to a barely submerged rock which I went over, scraping the bottom of my boat. No harm was incurred luckily, but it was embarrassing.
The sea kayak guys passed me, and he asked me if I was ok (code for, do I know what I am doing?). I said yes. I did not feel like explaining to him my eddy technique, so I thanked him for his concern.
I had planned on visiting some inscription sites, but the 1st one I had planned on visiting was a bust. My battery was dead and I could not find my spares! This was not good. I did find them later when I stopped for lunch. Whew.
My next stop was a sandbar, if it was there, about 100 yards upriver from Registry Rock. An incredible spot that I have camped at two previous trips.
2012 (Registry Rock on the vertical wall beyond):
So I was elated to find the bar there, bigger than in 2013, with no vegetation which was nice.
The wind started to pick up, so I dispensed with the 2nd pole of my tarp/shelter, giving me excellent protection from the wind.
The only people I saw that afternoon was one group checking out Registry Rock:
I decided to rearrange my canoe, I placed the cooler in the bow behind my 5 gallon water container, it did not fit really well as it was too wide, but the boat sat in the water better, and would handle the wind more efficiently.
I wanted to visit the Registry to get some detail shots of the inscriptions for a project I am working on, so I don't have any general shots of the place. Just details.
A view back towards my camp spot from the previous night:
It was Saturday, and it was already a little windy when I left Registry Rock. Within 20 minutes it was a sustained 15-25 mph headwind. This wasn't good. I could see the wind approaching in the water, and it was brutal when it hit. I had to hug the shore, I was not going to get caught in the middle of the river in this, small waves splashing over the bow, with the wind incessantly trying to turn me sideways, a recipe for disaster. When the wind did turn me sideways, which was often, it blew me into the shore just a few feet away. I really missed my sand bag, and a second paddler.
I only made it a few miles that day, giving up at camp 71.4 around 2pm, as I could not continue. All I did was 6 miles and I was spent. I missed some inscriptions I really wanted to see, Denis Julien and Launch Marguerite. For another trip.
This is a high water camp that could accommodate at least 6 tents probably more. It was not where I wanted to be, but it was beautiful all the same, and it had some protection from the wind.
It was Sunday and I had 18 miles to go to Mineral Bottom, my take out the next day. I wanted to get within 3 miles of it today, so I would have a short paddle to be ready to be picked up by 11am. I knew that wind was forecast but not as bad, 18 miles with a head wind was not something I wanted to contemplate, as I was pretty tired from the previous day. So I was on the water @ 6:30am, it was the most beautiful morning in recent memory. Absolute silence, the water was like a mirror.
I passed many of the people who had passed me the previous few days, which was very satisfying.
I even caught up to the 2 sea kayaker's.
I did want to stop at Horseshoe Canyon, I am glad I did. Fun short hike and some cool rock art and inscriptions.
View from the site:
I just wanted to shoot a few details. I ended up staying here for some time, enjoying the view.
Back to the boat!
I wanted to get going, camp before the Denis Julien inscription, check it out and then paddle to Mineral Bottom first thing in the morning. Problem was I ran out of sand bars. None. Nada. It was getting late, and the very last thing I wanted was to spend my last night at Mineral Bottom. So, with a heavy heart I passed M. Julien, hoping to find a camp site before Mineral. With 1 mile to go I found a perfect spot.
It was a great, healing trip. Spending time thinking about the past and considering the future, a river is the perfect place to do it.
Thanks for looking.