Thursday, July 31, 2008

Down The River With Bryce

So last June my oldest brother, Bryce, called me up to say he was going on a river trip and thought that I should come along...oh yeah and it's next week. I'd resolved that from now on if it was ever at all possible to go out on an adventure I wouldn't say no. I'd just received my tax rebate check for the same exact amount the trip would cost and I had plenty of vacation time so I debated about it for a day or two and then said yes. The debate was really about whether I'd feel safe or not. I went repelling with Bryce once and found the experience a little reckless. Plust the last time I went rafting with Bryce he was the guide and it seems like he fell off the boat a dozen times at least. That was a long time ago though and I think we've both gained a little more experience since then.
The trip was amazing! No words really to describe how fun it was. It consisted of 4 days rafting down the Colorado River from Moab to Lake Powell through Cataract Canyon at peak high water. In fact it was higher than it'd been in years. We got a deal since one of Bryce's friends had a son working as a guide. Bryce flew in and we picked up a few last minute things for our trip like head lamps, hats, etc. Then we drove down early the next day with Doug and his sister. When we got there we saw how high the river really was since it had come over the banks and flooded the playground in the back of our hotel. We'd watched a few youtube videos of cataract canyon at high water and I was getting a little nervous...and excited too.
The first couple days were spent floating down the river. It was pretty relaxing. For the most part all the people in our group were pretty cool. Bryce and I enjoyed making up funny nicknames for the ones that annoyed us...well the one that annoyed us. We had 3 guides, Bryce and I, his friend Doug and his sister, a rich but super fun family of four from Sacramento, 3 old guys who'd been college buddies, an older couple from Taylorsville, and a friend of one of the guides who had a crush on the other guide. Camping at night was as much fun as the time on the river. The first day Bryce and I explored a little side canyon for quite a ways before it rained all night. It rained all the next day too and we had to build a make shift shelter on the raft out of tarps. It was still fun. Later that day we hiked "The loop" where you get off the raft and hike up and over a horseshoe bend and the raft picks you up on the other side. We saw a few granaries which were cool at first but all started to look the same real quick. We hiked up to see some petroglyphs and pictographs...and granaries...which pretty much look the same up close as they did from the raft.
The next night it didn't rain and we saw the most amazing stars. It was dark enough that you could even see the whole moon due the moonshine even though it wasn't full. We hiked up to "The Dollhouse" in Canyonlands and climbed around some little slots and saw some amazing views. It was a pretty good hike going up from the river and when we got back they had a big bowl of shrimp cocktail waiting for us. They seriously fed us so good. Cesar salad wraps for lunch, steaks, banana pancakes, lasagna, it was great! We even had crackers and hummus for appetizers and dessert every night.
The rapids on the third day were incredible. Bryce went in the small boat with the one guide on the oars. I stayed in the big boat where you didn't need a helmet. I think if I start talking about the rapids I may never stop. There were walls of water 30+ feet we'd go over and would smack us in the face. Not waves, walls. Huge deep pits we'd go into almost totally vertical. Usually cataract is a series of large rapids with cool names like Satan's Gut, Hell To Pay, etc, but at high water it all turns into one big boiling mess that looks like the sea during a hurricane. Bryce and I made it through safe but about 50% of the boats flipped that day. We helped flip a couple back over and saw one that went all the way to Lake Powell upside down. The people on it had to hitchhike rides on other rafts. Google "Cataract Canyon Highwater" for some good videos of what it's like.
Our last night we camped in the Tamarisk and it was kind of boring. Bryce and I passed the time playing scrabble and wishing we had a deck of cards but I stayed late on the raft that night and we slept without our tents which was pretty cool. We ate some good steaks and used the "groover" for the last time. That's the "toilet". Bryce and I renamed it the McGrubber after the SNL sketch and surprisingly a number of people were calling it that by the end.
The last day of rapids were pretty fun. I got to ride on the very front of the raft and even though the rapids weren't as big that day I got a much closer look at them. We had a nice float down through what used to be the mouth of Glen Canyon but what is now the tip of Lake Powell. Bryce and a few others took a cold flip into the water. It was my first time ever seeing any part of that lake and it wasn't much. We got out at Hite, took a quick group picture, got on a van and headed up to the huge airport they have there... not to be confused with just an ordinary picnic table. Soon three little planes arrived and we got on them for an amazing ride back to Moab. They flew us up over the river and the confluence where we'd gone the previous 4 days and then all over Canyonlands. It was incredible and I couldn't take my eyes off the view... even though I puked at least 6 times. After a nice dinner in town it was back home and back to real life.

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