450 miles is a long way to travel through the desert in a boat, but 45 days is also a very long time to cover this distance. Anyone who has done much river running knows that a 10 mile day is a short day, even on flat water like much of our trip would be.
So relaxing did our pace become that rarely did we have a day when we actually had to row. Steering was of course needed here and there but the days of using the force of our oar blades against the water to move us forward were highly outnumbered by the days in which the current of the water was the only thing that moved us closer to the stagnancy of Lake Powell. I can fondly remember one day somewhere between Vernal and Ouray in which only three times the entire day was I diverted from my peaceful and completely oblivious daydream of floating silently downstream: once for lunch; once when I felt my boat press hard into a small cliff on the edge of the river; and of course one last time in the late afternoon as we moved ashore to set up our home for the night.
When we decided in March to do this trip our biggest priority was to not rush things. When we sat down and planned each section of our journey we went with the longer amount of time whenever in doubt. We debated: should we pay the extra money to spend 5 days in The Canyon of Ladore? Quickly we decided on yes as our answer. Desolation Canyon: would the maximum allowable time of 9 days in the canyon be too long? We thought about up river wind and we thought about how fun it is to get to camp at midday rather than at sunset and instantly decided that 9 days would be perfect. At every possible chance we added days to our trip until we decided on 45.
Forty five days. Would this be enough? Would this be too much? It seemed like the right amount but only when we rowed up to the boat ramp at Hite Marina on the 45th day did I realize that 45 days had been perfect. It would have felt a bit short to end even one day earlier and yet when we got to the shore for the last time and let the air out of our boats I was ready to go back to civilization. Day 42, tearing through the rapids of Cataract Canyon I felt so far from and so scared of Salt Lake City. Life on the river had become the only life we knew and thoughts of this all coming to an end just seemed so depressing.
I didn’t think about it much though. I easily let the constant rapids and excitement of the canyon keep my mind in the present. When my thoughts did wander forward though I would just pretend I wasn’t concerned until my thoughts came back to the present. Truth was though that I was really uncomfortable with the reality of this trip coming to an end in just 3 more days. Then somehow three days later it just felt right to pack up the boats, load them in the van and head for Salt Lake. Even now, several months later, I’m not really sure why it happened this way. I guess sometimes things like this just work out, or at least this is what people say when they either can’t explain something or when they feel the need to be over optimistic.
When I moved to Utah 3 years ago I remember my new friends talking about wanting to do a river trip from Flaming Gorge to Lake Powell. And now we’ve done this trip and it’s interesting how different the image of the actual trip is in my mind as compared to the image 3 years ago of what I thought this trip would be.
It seemed so hard three years ago. Everything about the trip seemed hard. Logistical planning seemed impossible at best and spending a month or more out in the desert with only the things we could pack onto a 14 foot long rubber boat seemed not just impossible but really scary. The whole idea of the trip seemed so novel and exciting, but also so intimidating. Having done the trip though made all these things a lot less predominant in my image of what this trip is. Extreme relaxation, ease, and comfort replace in my mind what had been fear, excitement, and intimidation.
Three years ago I thought a rafting trip from Flaming Gorge to Lake Powell would be one of the most uncomfortable things I could ever do and the reality turned out to be the exact opposite. I’ve tried to explain this idea to a few people since we finished the trip but they usually walk away still thinking more like I did three years ago then the way I think now.
Most people I’ve talked to about our experiences on this trip have an inflated sense of the fear and excitement we faced and therefore never seem to really understand the comfort we found in our 45 day home on the river. Excitement was there for sure. Novelty? Of course. And I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t scared at times. By far though the most dominant memory that I take with me from this trip is that of extreme comfort. Comfort in the flow of the river; comfort in the rising and setting of the sun; comfort in the occasional quick passing cool summer rain shower but also comfort in the long days of intense heat and searing sun. 45 days from Flaming Gorge to Lake Powell turned out to be the most comfortable with all aspects of my life that I have ever been.
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