Day Fifty-One: “Bouldering” Along the Colorado

Map Miles: Today: 8.1/ Total: 842

GPS Miles: Today: 15.9*/Total: 889.9

*There is no way that GPS track is correct for today. The points frequently bounced back and forth across the river and up and down the cliffs…..I’ve arbitrarily shortened it to 9.5 for the total which is probably closer to what I did.

Today’s Miles Sponsored By: Anonymous

Today was supposed to be a short day. Small mileage and short time. I envisioned being done by 2 or 3 and relaxing in the shade with my feet in the Colorado watching the cliffs slowly change colors and the rafts head down the river. Maybe swimming in a slow moving eddy just off shore. Possibly reading a bit of my book, but the trail always has other plans. The mileage was still low today- only 8 miles according to the map, but it took the full day to get here.

There were a variety of reasons it took so long.

Reason One- The Scenery:

It’s so hard to push miles when everything you’re staring at is so beautiful. Marmot talks about the days when you “thru-hike” this route pushing ahead and the days you “Hayduke” this route, slow-rolling, relaxing, and exploring. That’s part of the reason I was so excited for a half day off in the canyon. The first mile down Deer Creek I definitely “Hayduked”. It was especially stellar. The creek cuts a pretty deep slot through the cliffs cascading down through a series of short falls.

The short slotted Narrows of Deer Creek.

The trail hugs the narrow ledges just above the creek.

The creek wasn’t the only Narrow thing. The trail on the ledge didn’t leave much room for a misstep.

And then suddenly the Canyon opens up before you and the creek pours down a huge waterfall and into the Colorado.

Deer Creek Falls! Behind me is the Colorado River.

And then of course the main Gorge never disappoints.

Oh, Mighty Colorado River how you have impressed me so.

The only time you take your eyes off it is when you’re distracted by the beautiful flora.

I finally found a blooming barrel cactus!

Reason Two- The People:

Just like Dustin, Gary, and Dale said the boat group was only about a half mile down river. I could just make out the blue of Travis’ boat from the The Patio where Deer Creek lets out into the Colorado. Once I got close enough to them I let out a whoop and I hear, “Jacob! Look it’s Jacob!” coming from the far side. Followed by “Jacob! We saved some chili for you!”

 

So excited to see these boats again!!

Chris hopped in a raft and was on his way over to get me, rowing hard against the upstream current. At the far shore I was immediately handed three bowls- one with chili, one with oatmeal, and one with cranberry juice (they couldn’t find a mug right away). It was great to see them all again and catch up on their last week. They actually had thunder and lighting on the rainy day, and hit one of the worst rapids that day too, where they were fighting 50mph winds.

I helped a bit with the tear down, carrying a couple of things and trading help with breaking down the toilet for a third of a roll of TP.

Because of the light rapid day, many of them were choosing to paddle board or kayak this next stretch. Two hours with them went by way too quickly and before I was really ready Travis and Lexi were rowing me back towards the far shore. Thanks again everyone for all you’ve done for me!! Please stop by Seattle so I can return the generosity. 🙂

Heading back to the far shore as the rest of the group heads down river.

They weren’t the only folks I saw though. Towards midday another group floating by asked if I wanted to join them for fajitas tonight a mile past Kanab (where I planned on camping), and then a third group offered me a root beer and an orange, which I gladly accepted. Boat folks are just some of the nicest outdoors people I’ve met.

Reason 3- The Heat:

It was another scorching day today, similar to the one when I first met the boat folks. But I didn’t have the luxury of lounging around with a beer today. I kept my pace steady, drank lots of water and stopped for long breaks on the shady shores whenever I needed to refilter my bottles- two gallons in all today. The Spirit of Scoopy was definitely alive and well as he spoke to me through the roar of the Rapids and the gurgling of the eddys. My water system took another hit today though when I discovered that one of my aquamira droppers somehow sprung a leak and did not have anymore chemical left. 😦 Water sanitation and storage have been my hardest hit gear this trip.

Reason 4- The Terrain:

If the other reasons weren’t enough to keep me slow, the terrain definitely was. There’s no true trail in this section, only game trails that come and go, and even the game seem to struggle with it as I came across the carcasses of a bighorn sheep and something that looked like a small big cat.

Is this one of the ringtail cats? The tail doesn’t look long enough and the footpads look more feline than raccoon. Is it a small cougar? ID help! 

Sometimes the easiest way through was down on the sand near shore, but more often than not it was a tedious boulder hop through talus. Six rough miles of up and down on the uneven surfaces.

One of the easier talus sections.

Between sightseeing and endless boulder hopping and resting in the shade the day just ended up getting away from me. I got to Kanab Creek at 6:15. Perfect timing for a normal hiking day, but not the day I had hoped for.

The campsite wasn’t quite what I had in mind either. The map notes that it’s an “awesome” site, and that may be the case when it’s not windy. But tonight is windy. Super windy. Nearly blew my sleeping bag away windy. So windy I ate PB and dried fruit for dinner because there was no point in even trying to light my stove. It would have never stayed on. Save my limited fuel.

And the sand. Sand blowing everywhere. Sand getting in everything. Drinking it out of my water bottle. Finger brushing it out of my hair. Wiping it off of my sleeping bag. Shielding my eyes every time a new gust kicks it up. Being forced to lie on my back so that I’m faced away from its itchy blasts. Making it hard to enjoy the last night on the Colorado and the dull roar of the nearby Rapids that I had hoped would lull me to sleep.

Now, I’ve made it sound like I had a pretty negative day. But (with the exception of the sand and wind) it’s actually been pretty great! It was nice to not feel rushed or pushed and still get where I wanted. To have the time to sit with new friends and to wait out the heat and rest for a bit. To Hayduke it. I think tomorrow I’m going to try again to shoot for not just short distance, but short time too. Prolong the Canyon experience as long as possible.

Sandy windy camp for my last night on the River.

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