Friday, January 15, 2016

Colorado River: Road to Moab

October 26, 2015
Day 8

Packing up in the morning.
At 4 AM it was pouring yet again! My sleeping bag and all 3 layers of shirts were soaked. But I was so tired that I slept off and on all morning until Freebird cooked breakfast. That day we hiked up Cyclone Canyon to the Confluence Trail to Big Springs Trail.

Cyclone Canyon, with the Needles in the distance.
Big Springs Trail.

The Needles.

While on the last trail, all of a sudden we were meeting more people than we had seen in a day for the past week. This is a sure sign that a road is nearby. 

Hitching near Big Springs trailhead.
At the trailhead a Canadian elderly couple, Jim and Melody, picked us up and drove us to Needles Outpost, just outside of the park. We were hungry and lacking food, and this was the closest place to eat and the furthest that they could take us. Many had told us that this convenience store was expensive, but we decided to try it out.

Once we were there we discovered that, contrary to the stories told, much of the prices were fairly reasonable. It turns out that as of Labor Day, there were new owners, Marty and Debra, who changed the way the business was run. Besides selling gas, food, and other items, they are also a resupply location for Hayduke hikers. In the past the store wasn't very welcoming to these hikers and so they were advised to steer clear. Freebird told Marty and Debra he would put in a good word with Li Brannfors, one of the mapmakers for the Hayduke, for future hikers. The store owners were very amicable and chatting with us at the outside seating all afternoon.

Julie, aka "Globe Trotter" or "GT," stopped in to shower and pick up a package which hadn't arrived on time. Debra located the package for her and arranged to get it sent as soon as possible. GT was 2 days into the hike, going solo, and as far as we know, the first hiker for the fall. Spring is the more popular time to walk this route. We had never met before, but it turns out that GT was on the PCT the same year that we were (2014) and knows a lot of the same people. It was fun to reminisce about those times.

GT has also hiked the Lost Coast and the Israel National Trail. There were many other trails that she is interested in, and she got tips from Freebird about them. She had nearly resolved to explore the Needles while she was stranded that day, but she chose to stay and chat until the sun was about to set. She walked with us to the road where we were about to try to catch a ride. At 6, as the sun was going down, we started to hitch and GT went off to attend a ranger talk.

Glowing rocks as our hitch drives us out of the park.
Soon Amy and Justin of Carbondale, CO stopped for us. They were in the park much later today because they got "lost" and hiked 6 extra miles. Looking at our packs with the oars sticking out, they knew that we had a story and wanted to hear all about it. Justin was into Ray Jardine and hiking gear and so he enjoyed hearing of how Freebird keeps his pack so light. Amy is an ornithologist who passionately told us stories of her research and travels around the world.

Justin and Amy brought us right to Pete's door. He and Dinga greeted us outside, trying to give them pizza. They refused, so we gladly accepted! Kelly and Aaron, who were rooming with Pete since just before we had left for the river, were happy to see us back. They expressed the concern they felt for us when all the storms had been passing through. Dan came by later to visit. It was wonderful seeing the whole gang again! Since we were still hungry, Pete cooked hash browns and eggs for us, and then we took much-needed showers and went to bed.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Colorado River: Spanish Bottom

October 25, 2015
Day 7

It was quite a beautiful experience to actually legitimately cowboy camp for once. The stars have been my blanket several times, but never before had I slept beside hot coals. Outside of the confines of a tent, upon awakening, I could see Venus looming over the cliffs as the sun began to rise and set the cliffs ablaze. The Slide was roaring from just upriver. Moonflowers and all sorts of wildflowers blossomed on the island. After breakfast we put in once again. This would be our last day on the river. Soon we made it to the Confluence, where the Green River merges into the Colorado, and two different colors of water can be seen. This time the Green River was red and the Colorado brownish-green. We rowed into the Confluence to touch the waters of the Green. Tex's Riverways' daily shuttle was picking up people who had just floated down the Green, mainly with canoes. We passed through Spanish Bottom and took out at river left just before Cataract Canyon. The ominous roaring of its first set of rapids echoed upriver, warning us not to come near. We were wary of attempting that canyon, with its Class 4 and 5 rapids, in these dinky pool rafts. As we pulled into the beach, a mud flat, a beaver playfully swam nearby and watched us as if it were sending us off. Views of the Dollhouse were opposite the river from us. We ate lunch and deflated and packed away our rafts. And then, leaving the river behind which had been our home for the past week, we followed Red Lake Canyon trail into the backcountry of Canyonlands National Park.

Cowboy camping.

Paddling into the Green River Confluence.

A small set of rapids.

The Dollhouse.
Tex's Riverways at Spanish Bottom.

Looking down Red Lake Canyon trail at the Dollhouse and the river.
Eventually we were led to Cyclone Canyon, with views of the Needles. It was growing darker by the minute and we needed to find a place to camp soon. All of a sudden we heard the first canyon wren since the Colorado River canyon, and it sounded more distinct and beautiful than any I had ever heard before. It guided us straight to a campsite behind a boulder.

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Colorado River: The Slide

October 24, 2015
Day 6

During the night the water level rose tremendously from all the rain the past few days. We had camped nearly 300 feet away from the river and this morning it was about 150 feet closer to us! As we floated along, we observed the river in the act of changing its course and dragging tamarisk into the water. We approached the large group that we had seen the day before. They were having breakfast and taking awhile to get going as it had been a long night for them. At 2 AM they had awoken and realized that the river was flooding dangerously close to their camp and had to move their tents further back. Shortly after passing the group, we approached a small pull-off and trail and parked the rafts there. Up the trail a short distance were more Indian ruins - cliff dwellings. Much of the rest of the day was spent riding through the Loop, which took several hours. As we were eating lunch on a beach in the Loop, our friends passed by and waved, never to be seen again for the entire trip. Then at sunset, it came time for our first rapids of the entire journey - The Slide. We pulled over beforehand and scoped them out. They were running lower than when Freebird had gone through here over a year ago (Instead of class 3, today they were more like class 1 or 2). The rafts bobbed through them easily. At an island just past the Slide we set up camp. The rapids could be heard from there all night. We ate dinner beside the fire and I fell asleep on the ground. Freebird brought my sleeping bag and made me a pillow and set me up to cowboy camp through the night.

Tamarisk falling into the river as it changes its course.

Rafts are parked as we hike to the ruins.

Tex's shuttle heading to the Green River confluence to pick up canoers and rafters and bring them back to Moab.

A flock of geese.