Fiftymile's First Float - Ruby Horsethief

Discussion in 'On The Water' started by Nick, Aug 9, 2016.

  1. Nick

    Nick Post 'em if you got 'em!

    Last month, after years of dreaming about it and several months of building it, I took my new raft out on her maiden voyage. Early in the build process I snagged some permits for a couple nights on the Colorado River in Ruby and Horsethief Canyons. It's a pretty popular float in the summer time but we got some great spots. With a date set in stone, I kept plugging away at building the raft. It seems like it should be easy, right? Buy raft, buy stuff to go in raft, put raft on river. Or maybe it is that easy, but I like to make things difficult. I obsessed over tiny details trying to get it perfect. The day before the float I installed the finishing touches. An 8' bimini and a retractable swim ladder. Luxurious! See more details on the build here if you'd like:

    The final shot in the garage the night before the trip. I still hadn't even been able to put the oars in the locks and really see how it feels because I didn't have the room and moving it to the yard was too difficult without more people to help.

    The next day was a blur. @Jen saved me a drive to Idaho to pickup the raft/utility trailer I had custom ordered nearly 8 weeks earlier. She arrived late on Thursday night and we stayed up way too late catching up. After a few hours at work, I was toast so I went home to start loading. The trailer I picked up can swallow a ridiculous amount of gear.

    Before I knew it the rest of the SLC crew were at my house, the trailer was filled and we were hoisting the raft onto the trailer. I've since perfected the winch/strap system on this so a couple of children could load my fully loaded raft on with ease. If we hadn't had the storage underneath, we probably would have had to have taken at least 1 or 2 more vehicles.

    This is an after trip shot, but it's a good angle of the easy access to all the storage. It's made by Sawtooth Welding in Boise and I absolutely love it. It's great that it doubles as a utility trailer when the raft is not in the equation.

    Ready to hit the road for the first time!

    We ended up taking the long way down that night, going through Scipio and Salina and out through the Swell. We passed through the Swell and down through Spotted Wolf Canyon during the most beautiful golden hour. The sun was at our backs and that landscape looked like the most beautiful thing on earth. Totally euphoric. If you could package that scene up as a drug, I'm buying. The last of the sun went down after passing through Spotted Wolf, and then the cherry on top was an epic sunset as we stopped in Green River. No pictures of any of this as I was driving.

    We rendezvoused with @Dave and Jen's friend Alli that night near Westwater at a campsite I'd picked out on sat imagery. It turned out to be an awesome site. The next morning we continued on to Fruita where we met up with @gnwatts and his wife Nancy, and Jodi, another friend of Jen and Alli's that I hadn't met before. We decided to launch from the Colorado River State Park in Fruita. After a big gear dump, we sent some folks to run shuttle while we rigged the boats.

    The first time in the water for Fiftymile. We had a little ceremony complete with champagne, but I was too busy pouring (and drinking) to take any photos. Maybe some of the other guys will post one if they're any good. I named the boat Fiftymile after Fiftymile Creek on the lower Escalante. One of the finest canyons I've ever had the pleasure to step foot in, and one of the greatest treasures lost under the waters of Lake Powell.

    After the shuttlers got back, we hit the river. Rowing a raft was like speaking a foreign language to me. My brain wanted to move it like a kayak paddle. But as the miles went by, it got easier and easier. We stopped at this little beach for lunch. With 10 people on the trip, we opted for group meals spearheaded and planned by @Melissa. Few people have ever eaten so luxuriously on a river trip! And that's just lunch!

    Soon we passed by the usual Loma launch for Ruby Horsethief. The good times kept getting better.


    We rafted up together at times.

    And somehow we went from having 1 person to 4 people on one of my Sea Eagles.

    And then there were 3.

    Sage was not sure what to think of all of this.

    We camped that first night at the Bull Draw campsite. The small beach is pretty far away from the campsite.

    @Smokey drinking a beer on a rock in the river. I've missed this guy on trips due to a heavy school load he's had the last few years. Glad to have him back!

    @Jen, @Melissa, @Dave cooking us some incredible chicken burritos.

    Bull Draw Camp. That sky turned all sorts of amazing colors that evening. Kudos to @Dave and @neiloro for being down by the river to photograph it.

    Big beer or little chair?? With so many kayakers relying on raft support, I said bring compact chairs only. Jen found this kids chair at the thrift store and Melissa did a bad ass job of decorating it while they were running shuttle.

    How not to do a first aid kit.

    The bugs that night were pretty bad at Bull Draw. Some people got eaten alive, but I did okay with some Deet. It did inspire me to setup a tent for the first time this year.

    The next day we had an incredible breakfast before loading up and starting back down the river.
    ruby-horsethief-2016-850-16.jpg ruby-horsethief-2016-850-17.jpg

    @neiloro took my camera and snapped a few shots of us in Fiftymile.
    ruby-horsethief-2016-850-18.jpg ruby-horsethief-2016-850-19.jpg

    Taylor bilging his kayak while wetting his whistle. Turns out his drain valves were open.

    Our first little rapid.

    The conversation got a little heavy over on the SS Estrogen.

    We had to paddle away for a bit and do man stuff. Or something.
    ruby-horsethief-2016-850-23.jpg ruby-horsethief-2016-850-24.jpg ruby-horsethief-2016-850-25.jpg

    After a stop for lunch, we were back on the river with an occasional headwind. We all rafted up and enjoyed the sun and company.

    And then Jen's kitty pants came out. She picked these up in Poland, I believe. Jen is a very small woman so when the idea of Dave wearing them came up, I was skeptical.

    But sure enough, they fit (I think).
    ruby-horsethief-2016-850-28.jpg ruby-horsethief-2016-850-29.jpg ruby-horsethief-2016-850-30.jpg

    The next (and biggest) 'rapid' of the trip at Dog Island. These were so much fun in a kayak last year. In my new raft, it was like they weren't even there. I can't wait to get on some rougher water.

    Coming into Black Rocks was pretty interesting. As we started in, a commercial group with Holiday River Expeditions passed by us. The water gets pretty swirly and interesting and I had kind of gotten swept into an eddy behind a rock. I let the commercial guys pass so I could take my time learning.

    They all went buy and I rowed hard to get out of that hole. As we drifted down, we noticed a young boy in one of the Holiday kayaks still stuck where I was. As we floated further away, we could see he was panicking. He was paddling like crazy and crying his eyes out. We couldn't see any other boats from their party coming so we went into rescue mode. He was able to break out and close enough to us that we could throw a rescue rope to him. Dave and Melissa pulled him in to the raft while I worked on keeping us steady in the river. I was able to find a strange eddy-like current right in the middle where I was able to basically hold still without moving downstream. I was just paddling back and forth in it.

    Dave did a masterful job of talking to the kid in the boat. He was 10 years old from Sweden on a trip with his family. Soon we saw another Holiday raft round the bend and start our way. By the looks on their faces, I'm not sure what they thought we were doing with him there in the middle of the river. It turns out his parents were on their boat. We gave them the quick story and they were ver grateful. They got him on the raft and continued downstream.

    Now it was time to get to camp. We were in Black Rocks 4, just down stream, but there were plenty of rocks and currents to get through to get into it. As we approached we saw that the other raft was upstream of camp waving us to come in there. I turned the boat in backwards and rowed my ass off to try and break through the eddy line into that beach. It was incredibly difficult and I barely made it in. In retrospect, I could have had my ferry angle better, but damn. After that we had an epic mud/water fight on the beach. No pictures as I was pretty much getting clobbered by the ladies. Afterward we decided to move the boats to the much better beach at our campsite, but that involved rowing into the edge of the current around some rocks. It was a little iffy (especially in my state of mind by then), but we got them all in. Black Rocks 4 is a great campsite.

    ruby-horsethief-2016-850-32.jpg ruby-horsethief-2016-850-33.jpg

    @gnwatts sacked out on the beach.

    Cooking dinner in Black Rocks 4.
    ruby-horsethief-2016-850-35.jpg ruby-horsethief-2016-850-36.jpg

    It seemed like my big camera was never around when I wanted it, so a lot of these are cell phone pics.

    We had an awesome night sitting around the candle lantern. The next morning was overcast as I wandered up to our most excellent groover spot.

    After another fine breakfast, we were back on the river under cloudy skies.

    It rained a bit which made the bimini even more awesome. The sun came out for the last section so we rafted up a bit more. There was much singing, and thanks to something Dave said the night before, our band now had a name: Nick Woolley and The Canyon Country Groovers. How my name got in there, I have no idea, because I didn't do much of the singing. I do like the rest of the name though. The Canyon Country Groovers will be on tour on a river near you in 2017. Yeehaw!
    HomerJ, Joey, Jackson and 11 others like this.
  2. Dave

    Dave Broadcaster, formerly "ashergrey"

    Such a great weekend riding shotgun on the new member of the fleet. Here's the christening.


    Spotted what sure looked like river otters not far upstream from camp on night one. This is the view downstream.


    Relaxing by the boats.


    Sunset on night one was absolutely unbelievable.


    @neiloro and I both got chewed alive by mosquitoes staying down by the water to shoot the sunset, but it was worth it.


    Back on the water on day two.






    @Nick resting up after the hard pull into Black Rocks.


    Desolate desert scenery just up from the banks at Black Rocks.


    After dark, waiting for a train.


    Sunrise on day three from Black Rocks.


    Good times with new friends. Thanks Nick for the invite.

    HomerJ, Joey, Tres Westbrook and 11 others like this.
  3. powderglut

    powderglut In search of Fresh

    Steamboat Spgs Co
    Looks like way too much fun!
    That trailer is beyond awesome. Lot of thought in that design.
    Beautiful pics guys!
    Nick likes this.
  4. IntrepidXJ

    IntrepidXJ ADVENTR

    Grand Junction, CO
    Looks like a great trip. Black Rocks 4 is my favorite site to stay at, and I'll be back there again next weekend :)
    Nick and Dave like this.
  5. slc_dan

    slc_dan Desert Rat-Weekend Warrior

    Salt Lake City
    God damn, that looks like a good time. That was a blast last year, and with a huge party like that? Awesome.

    Seeing @gnwatts in an inflatable just looks wrong! Where's the canoe? :)
    gnwatts and Nick like this.
  6. Mike K

    Mike K Member

    Fantastic trip guys! I'm jealous! Thoughts and reactions:

    -SWEET trailer
    -Food is always delicious on river trips especially when you get the right person planning meals. I've eaten better on river trips than at home!
    -Did you find that you lacked any gear for the trip? Like, you went home and bought something to use for next time?
    -Awesome chair decorating by Melissa. =)
    -Great groover locations are fun and often scenic! =)
    -Kitty pants - haha...why is it that crazy stuff like that happen on river trips?
    -Funny story about the kid...funny b/c of what the parents must have been thinking...river kidnapping?? =)

    Thanks for the write-up and picture. Great stuff.
    Vegan.Hiker and Nick like this.
  7. Nick

    Nick Post 'em if you got 'em!

    A bigger water gun:

    Aside from that, just minor stuff. I did figure out which river toilet I think I'll get but it was nice using the $600 partner one that I didn't have to bring. Oh, and a chair. The one I bought sucked - it put me up too high. If there's enough gear behind me, that can make a nice backrest, but on my Green trip two weeks later I really could have used a Crazy Creek.
    Mike K likes this.
  8. gnwatts

    gnwatts Member

    A lot of fun! Good to meet new river rats.
    @slc_dan I did miss my canoe, but I would not have survived the whitewater.
    Thanks @Nick for the invite, Nancy and I enjoyed this trip immensely.
    A special shout out to @Melissa for the amazing food.


    Sage and her pet human:




    Water guns



    First camp spot:









    I feel compelled to repost this, a highlight of the trip:




    @neiloro waiting for @Nick @ Black Rocks:



    Nick pulling pretty hard to get to our last camp, it was touch and go for a minute or so:



    HomerJ, Joey, Jackson and 5 others like this.
  9. gnwatts

    gnwatts Member

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  10. Dave

    Dave Broadcaster, formerly "ashergrey"

    Back at you.
    Nick and gnwatts like this.
  11. piper01

    piper01 Member

    Houston, TX
    Dang it, I want to move to Utah so we can be friends.

    I enjoyed the multi-person perspective in this TR!
  12. Vegan.Hiker

    Vegan.Hiker TR or it didn't happen

    Mahwah, NJ
    Wow! Looks like ridiculous amounts of fun was had by all. The level of luxury between backpacking and rafting looks like night and day. Love the sunset on the first night and the scenery at each camp. I can't imagine how great it must have been to be there in person in a comfy camp chair with a home cooked meal surrounded by all that beautiful scenery. Thanks for sharing guys!
    Nick and gnwatts like this.
  13. TannerT

    TannerT Hike Hard, Tread Lightly

    Awesome report!!! We love boating and we should hook up for a trip next year. I gotta know...where did you get that trailer or where are the schematics to build one??

    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
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  14. Nick

    Nick Post 'em if you got 'em!

    That would be sweet! The trailer is made by a little shop in Boise called Sawtooth Welding. Randy Miller is the owner and he has a small crew that helps build them. He was so awesome to work with. You can customize it anyway you can think of and he can make it happen for a very reasonable price. For perspective, I was considering going with a plain old flat raft trailer. Nothing but deck with a roller bar, and that was going to be in the $1700 range most places I looked (new). For his base model like the one I got, he sells it for $2200. I added on two side doors, radial tires (15's), spare tire, LED lights, and an adjustable winch stand and it came to just shy of $2800. So basically an extra grand or so with all of my wishes and it doubles as an awesome utility trailer since the top decks lock in the up position when needed. I totally love it. The only down side compared to a flat trailer is that it's tougher to rig with the raft up high. I keep a step stool inside for doing that and it's plenty sturdy to hop up in it while it's on the trailer.
    TannerT, gnwatts and Dave like this.
  15. TannerT

    TannerT Hike Hard, Tread Lightly

    That's a great price for the customization. I'll reach out to him when I'm ready. Thanks Nick!

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