5-23-02: Day 14 Day 14 on the river. Floating slowly and peacefully now through the Uinta Basin. After 3 days of strong wind, strong upriver wind, we now find ourselves in the middle of a perfectly calm peaceful day with light cloud cover to drown out the ever persistent sun. A perfect day on the water.
It’s been such a strange trip so far. In many ways and at many times I’ve wanted nothing more than to be done – to go home, to go back to work, or to just be somewhere other than here. Then though there are days like today and evenings like last evening where I just find myself really happy to be here and not wanting it to ever end. We joked some yesterday about how we should write a book about this trip and call it “Nothing Happened” – A play on words with the novel “Something Happened” that I’m reading right now. Entirely true though – this is the best way to sum up our trip so far: nothing has happened and for this reason alone I have absolutely loved the trip at the same time that I have hated it at times.
I’ve found that it’s much easier to be content with nothing when the weather is pleasant. When the wind dies down at night and the stars and moon come out and we sit around the warm fire and talk about nothing it’s very easy to be content – almost impossible to be discontent. When though, the following day, the winds begin to howl and thick ominous clouds set in it becomes so hard to be content and so automatic to be discontent. Now and again in these moments something sparks some brief happiness but more often than not the weather prevails and discontentment wins. Sometimes it’s just a break in the wind or a flock of pelicans overhead or the gratification of out muscling the wind with our oars but these things are all temporary and the weather persists to set our mood back in place. Likewise the opposite today though. Now and again a small gust of wind or distraction from a nearby oil rig interferes with my relaxed content state but each time the weather wins and I’m back where I was: floating the miles onward content and relaxed as could be. I think some of Bryan, Nykole, and Monika joining us in a week but for now I find myself completely content with the company of just Jen and Chris. We’ve been together for so long now that we don’t even need to speak to communicate. We float for hours at a time just as happy as can be.
Here on the Uinta Basin I have been amazed over and over with the beauty that surrounds us. We have at times felt very surrounded by civilization, an aspect much different from river trips I’ve done in the past but at the same time there has been so many unique features about this stretch. The bird life has become incredibly abundant. Pelicans, herons, ducks, geese and lots of all of them. At any given moment one only needs to lay back, look up, and there they are: some interesting, usually quite rare birds flying overhead. Camping has been a pleasant surprise too: beautiful, wooded, large, comfortable sites every night. Outside Ladore and Middle Fork of the Salmon the best sites I’ve ever enjoyed on the river! Mosquito and gnat free sites too. Maybe the weather has kept them away but clearly something has – haven’t seen an annoying bug of any type in 3 days.
Despite any of this though the best way to sum up the first third of our journey is with the 2 simple words, “Nothing Happened.” Is this a good thing or a bad thing? Seems to be both, seems to depend mostly on the weather at the time which happens to be really incredible right now.
Mostly this wind has been the nemesis. It began today and did not stop until just after we got to camp. We spent a good part of our day on shore lying under tarps, trying to sleep. Not tired but just trying to get out of the wind and cold and remove ourselves mentally from where we were. When we returned to the river things got even worse. In the first hour back on the water I don’t think we covered ¼ mile. We’d hit some random breaks in the wind but as soon as it kicked back up we wouldn’t move for several minutes. Pulling and pulling against the oars and no movement. We kept talking of just pulling over and making camp for the day but then we just kept going. It became a challenge I guess. I don’t feel like we won though. We only covered about 6 miles all day. I’m pretty sure the wind beat us.
I go to bed now though thinking about how this day may end up helping to create a larger sense of accomplishment and comfort in the days to come. I feel as though every day from here on out will be better than today until eventually we just look at today as a day to compare days to come with. Two weeks from now we may say, “Wow, today was windy but nothing compared to that first day out of Jensen.” Even the heat I think I will take over the winds of today. We’ll have to wait to see about that one though.
5-20-02: Day 11 I got back on the river today after a two day break to re-stock and spend some time back in Salt Lake. It’s weird how just two days off has given me the feel of starting all over again. When I took off from Split Mountain a few days ago I felt as though I had really gotten into the groove of this trip but now back here in the wind and vastness of the Uinta Basin I feel so much starting over that needs to be done.
5-24-02: Day 15 It’s now one of those really beautiful nights after a really beautiful day. A breeze has gusted up a bit but maybe that’s just to remind us that we will once again – likely quite soon – have weather matters to deal with. Camp is at a great spot tonight. Another great spot. Third great spot in a row. An easy tasty dinner was had and now a nice fire keeps us warm. Tonight I shall go to bed quite comfortable and excited for the days to come. Desolation Canyon in 6 days. Nykole, Bryan, Monika, and April but for now I’m just really content with Chris, Jen, and I on the Uinta Basin. The wind kicks up even more now but I can just add some fuel to the fire to combat the cold from the breeze. Time now to gaze into the fire for some time and lose myself in peaceful thoughts of days gone by and of days to come. It’s always nice when we can be excited of the days to come.
5-25-02: Day 16 155 miles from our original launch. We floated through Ouray today. Walked a bit in to town. Just a few small houses and some old shacks showing the indication of a slightly larger town at one point. We saw a few people and 2 of the ones we did asked if we needed help. It was a bit weird but nice to interact with some other people. Very comforting to be walking through the reservation and be so much out of place and nonetheless treated so fairly and respectfully.
I doubted at first whether we should even walk up through town or not, knowing that this was a fairly isolated Native American settlement that after decades of mistreatment probably wanted nothing more than to just be left alone. I’ve always had a respect for this preference amongst isolated groups of people but I’ve also always felt that isolation leads to fear on both sides and fear leads to most all of the things that are wrong in our society: racism, hatred, jealousy, etc. So this viewpoint won out and we walked up through town and back. Our curiosity showed through I’m sure but I think our lack of fear of being surrounded by people who were “different” than us also showed through so that when we did meet people they were not scared of us either and thus no hatred or suspicion or anything of the sort. Rather a respect that I think a lot more people would have for each other if they weren’t too busy being scared of people who are “different.”
5-26-02: Day 17 Further down the river toward Sand Wash – only 15 miles now from familiar territory and familiar people – I think of how these trips on the river will come to define this phase of my life. How years from now I will think back to this summer and last summer and first in my mind will be thoughts of making camp on the river; of making grand and at the same time simple dinners: always pasta w/veggies, rice w/veggies, burritos w/veggies, veggie burgers, or taco soup. And the veggies always zucchini, yellow squash, carrots, green peppers, mushrooms, onions, and garlic (all the hard vegetables that hold up well), but somehow always tasty and a little bit different than the meal before. Also marking these trips in my mind will be the sun, the wind, the clear cool nights, and the random never often enough moments of clouds and rain. And there will be memories of time on the boats. Flat water and rapids. Reading or sleeping as we float along at the speed of the current minus the force of the almost constant upstream wind or rowing through rapids clutched to the oars, eyes looking for everything I should need to see to make a decision about what to do next. Push, pull, how hard? Mistakes and triumphs. I will remember Rapid #5 and Skull which have both flipped me, but I will also perfectly clearly remember Hell’s Half Mile and Big Drop #3. Mile Long and Three Fords, and countless other rapids which I’ve rowed with great success. I will also remember these trips for the people I’ve done them with and the moments we’ve shared: Drunken and naked on Lake Powell with Chris, Jen, Shane, and Melissa; Learning to whitewater canoe from Bradley and Kristen on a trip that also included Micah, Julie, Mary, and several others; Amy and her amusing but understanding fear of the river and Craig and his amusing lock of fear; Driving cross country in a day and a half to introduce Bryan to the joys of Cataract Canyon and the comfort of being lost in the wilderness for a week with Chris, Jen, Craig, Amity, Curt, and Jared; Then later introducing Aaron and Erin to the lifestyle, and eventually my Dad and sister – perhaps the most memorable joy I’ve found yet from this whole experience.
The real joy of these experiences is hard to fully realize right now in the midst of them, but today I thought a lot about defining experiences of my past and how I’ve come to adore those memories more and more over time.
I began daydreaming of baseball – my love for the game as a youth and my experiences within. Summers as a kid were defined by baseball. Did we win the championship was the important thing. More often than not my team did but for me, at that age, it seemed like the occasional loss here and there was almost too much to deal with. The losses would almost always come as a shock to me but they should have been more expected. They’d always be to the same superstar players and their team but yet I wanted to be able to win them all. I guess what really happened was we always lost just enough to keep me hooked for several years.
My memories of baseball start out with learning to bunt. After that for some time I had a great advantage in that everyone played me to bunt all the time but I had actually learned to swing away quite effectively. We slowly then developed a little league dynasty. It was always me and my brothers and another set of brothers playing as though we’d played together for our entire lives (we actually had in fact).
I moved up from Little League to Babe Ruth League and then on to school ball, with memories of my experiences becoming less and less clear as baseball became less and less a part of my life. I still have some fond memories of baseball as an adolescent but at some point during high school my predominant memories became of running rather than of baseball.
I found myself hooked on distance running as soon as I started and in this I found much greater success than I ever did in baseball. I became addicted to the thrill of success and hooked on the feeling of pre-race anxiety turning to post-race elation and complete relief. The failures were easy to deal with because I just became hungrier for success. Eventually though in college my hunger for this faded and I felt myself very unclear as to what I wanted to be doing at the time. Summer after freshman year when I hit the road for a few months I realized then that I wanted to travel. I wanted to see as many new places as I could as soon as possible.
With these thoughts I lunged into a life always on the road. I wanted to go everywhere and stay nowhere. I ate up the mileage and put more and more of the past further behind me. Random highways in random places like Oklahoma and Arkansas and Maryland and Arizona became familiar to me. I remember the joys of driving across the plains at twilight on a summer evening or of winding through a mountain road in West Virginia on a cool, sunny, October afternoon. I slowly came to love everywhere and could only find the good of where I was because no matter what it was a lot better than where I had just been – not because it was actually any better but because it was where I was and not where I had been. I just kept moving forward and forward until slowly my life here in Utah began to mix in.
At first this was just a small part of my life and river trips were just a small part of this but slowly I got more and more rooted in to Utah and slowly river trips began to define my life here.
And so to now. So many memories have brought me to here. It’s hard to grasp at the present just how these experiences that I’m having now will effect me and my memories in the future, but on days like today when I have time to think about all this and use my past memories to put things into perspective it becomes more and more clear to me that this trip and these times spent out on the river are defining what will become the strongest and fondest memories of this stage of my life.