Day Forty-Three: Floating the Colorado

Map Miles: Today: 8.6 by boat 12 by foot- 20.6 total/ Total: 714

GPS Miles: Today: 23.5/ Total: 753.5

Today’s Miles Sponsored By: Dave, Mary Anne, Meghan

The kitchen crew was up early, getting things started at 4:45. The amazing meals just don’t stop here- breakfast burritos- eggs, hash browns, turkey sausage. 

I helped pack and clean up the camp as much as I was able. It’s a pretty big production. Every person has assigned tasks and responsibilities, and it’s very regimented which boats take which items from the food to the tables to the poop box. Everything came together pretty quickly though and we were pushing off at about 8:30.

Packing up

I was very excited. Aside from a 1 day rafting trip down the Lehigh River when I was in elementary school, I’d never been on a rafting trip before. I was riding in Scott’s boat. 

On the river with Scott on the oars.

Scott is both a PA and  a very skilled boater and educator, teaching a lot of water safety and rescue skills courses. Almost immediately he began teaching me about the different terminology and a little bit about what to look for in the water, and suddenly the oars were in my hands!

Trying my best to smile and hold a straight line at the same time.

It took me a while to get the hang of it, I beached us pretty quickly, but I couldn’t have asked for a more patient teacher. Scott was wonderful- helping adjust my grip, size of pulls, and find the right angles for the current. By the end of the 9 mile trek I could almost keep us going in a straight line- even with the awful up-canyon wind we were fighting.

 
There were a couple of small rapids on the trip which Scott steered up through. The thrill of anticipating the white water as it comes, and then the rush of adrenaline as you drop in, waves splashing over the bow, whooping with some mixture of surprise and shock and joy as you’re soaked through (somehow it didn’t register in my mind that I might get wet). Holding on to whatever strap you can to make sure you don’t end up completely in the river. As we rounded the point I would have been hitching from had I not stayed I thought about the nine miles of slow boulder hoping and bushwhacking I cut off. This was easily far and away more enjoyable. 
We turned into the confluence at the Little Colorado and I was sad for the river part of the trip to end. But not my time with the group! We discovered this morning that we were shooting for the same camp location! I said some see ya soons, and headed towards the unreal bright white-blue waters of the Little Colorado.

I’ve never seen a river the color of the Little Colorado. It was unreal.

They were going for a little day hike before lunch, so I followed folks upcanyon for a few minutes before splitting off to ford the thigh deep warm water of the LC with an audience. 🙂

The confluence of the Colorado and the Little Colorado.


From here I had trail the rest of the way (mostly), following the ancient Beemer Trail holding the contour a few hundred feet above the river and weaving in and out of every small side canyon on a series of narrow ledges.

Following the Beemer Trail


A few hundred feet above the river I found a great spot to take my lunch break with views both up and down canyon. I ate and kept an eye out for the rafts coming downstream, and when I finally saw them I whooped and hollered, and they did the same when they spotted me way up high before taking off down canyon.

Five of the six rafts fighting against the wind and heading down river.

Up and down along the cliffs I went. Sometimes a few hundred feet up, other times right down on the sandy beaches. I had some creative route finding at one point when I missed the current trail up, but found one that had been decommissioned many years ago. Lots of bushwhacking ensued, and a little bit of scrambling. When the trail was up high it continued to get narrower as the cliffs got steeper. 

Hugging the cliffs.


I surprisingly ran into a bunch of hikers too! Eleven folks all spaced out at different campsites. One of the groups was returning from a dayhike to Cardenas Creek, where I planned to camp. They said, “Hey, are you Jacob? There’s a group of boaters down there looking for you!” Fortunately it wasn’t too much further. I just had to get around one of the biggest rattlesnakes I’ve ever seen (and the second one today!) first.

Second rattlesnake of the day, right on trail.

I rolled into camp around 6:15 and was immediately greeted with the same loving generosity of the previous day. They’d apparently been placing guesses on when I’d arrive (and I was way earlier than most of them thought). I almostly instantly had a drink in my hand, was pointed towards the cot for the second night in a row and soon dinner was served- jambalaya and a large fresh green salad.

Time for jambalaya!

Fresh veggies on trail?! Where am I?!??!


I spent the rest of the evening playing cards with the teenagers and talking with as many of the folks as I could, getting to bed long after “hiker midnight” (aka- dark) I’m going to be very sad to leave these folks behind tomorrow. My time with them has done so much to boost my wellbeing and refresh my soul. 

So thank you Kurt and Michelle for your initial conversation and joyful interest right after we met on trail.

And thank you Star for the apple and invitation to join your group. I’m glad your elbow was feeling better!

And thank you Chris, Claudia, Silva, Emma, Aaron, and Erica for the beer, cot, cards, nail polish, and awesome kitchen crew meals.

And thank you Scott and Stacia for teaching my how to row and the margaritas.

And thank you Travis and Lexi for the wonderful conversations and invitations for future adventures (and congratulations!)

And thank you Kathy and Doug and Lindsey for your openness and inquisitiveness and hospitality.

I could not have asked for a better group of trail angels. These last two days will go down as a highlight of the trip.

Sunset on the cot.

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