I decided to splurge over the holidays and added a new tiny boat to my family's quiver of river craft. This one is made in Arizona, weighs 1.5 pounds, and makes a large man like myself look way less serious whilst sitting in it. It's teeny. This boat is strictly for flatwater, which seemed great for me, as most of the packraft-assisted trips I do are on shortish sections of class I big rivers. It rolls down to the size of a liter water bottle, which is a game changer for multi-day trips with lots of walking. The lightweight fabric is understandably quite fragile, so you have to be deliberate about where you launch and land, what kind of narrow channels you might take it through, where you set it for a sec while you're having lunch on land, etc. I felt like I had a handle on all of this when I decided to take it on its maiden voyage in late January on a relatively warm day. What I didn't factor in pre-trip was that windy conditions, as in windy-enough-to-generate-wind-waves, changes the river into something other than Flat Water. Whoops.
I rode my townie bike from my house and trust-stored my ride (see bottom photo) near the lower end of a creek that confluences with the Mighty Colorado just downstream. I walked/slogged/slipped down the creek before finding a spot deep enough to launch. Launching was not pretty and it was for the best that I had no spectators.
I didn't take many photos on the ten mile paddle. Ten Miles was too much for a maiden voyage in a tiny boat when the air temperature was maybe forty and the water temperature was maybe forty. I started off with cold feet (the literal kind) due to my sloppy start. There was other trouble. I failed to bring some sort of pad or seat to sit on, so the only thing separating my ass from the previously mentioned forty degree water was 1/16" of material. And, because I only had a small daypack with not much in it, my butt was the lowest part of the ride; lower, most problematically, than my feet. They started to tingle and fall asleep. A whole lot of discomfort. Then the waves came.
The wind gradually picked up, transitioning from a slight barrier to efficient travel to constant rolling and breaking wind waves. The height of the bow is maybe four inches, which isn't a whole lot of protection from incoming water. Waves were regularly crashing and spilling into my little world, no matter how frantically I tried to change the angle of my dangle to minimize the problem. I stopped quite a bit to dump the water along the way. It was Not Great. For better or worse, I slipped into a mental groove where I just mindlessly paddled and tried not to focus on my lack of feeling in various end parts. In hindsight (hell, I knew what was going on at the time) I was definitely entering the early stages of mild hypothermia.
I started hugging the shore as soon as I neared my planned exit point. It felt quite important to get the hell off the water as soon as possible. So I picked probably not the greatest spot to transition from paddling to walking and just kind of collapsed and laughed and became marginally concerned about the decisions I found myself making (there was a little of the third person observer thing happening at this point). I picked up my little boat and paddle and started tromping through Tamarisk Hell (one of my least favorite locales on the Colorado Plateau), somehow not puncturing my boat (well, maybe I did... but that's for a future write-up). I couldn't feel my feet as I navigated the poky and unstable understory, which I've learned from past experiences can be dangerous (you can cut the shit out of yourself and only feel it much later). I made it through the jungle, sat down on a rock, and ate a sandwich and drank water. That was smart.
After regrouping, I started walking (the sensation in my feet was returning) toward the exit point. The route followed an old pipeline that would be part of most of the route to come. I found myself stopping a lot to take pictures of the cool textures of the steel line. I had to remind myself that movement was my friend as I attempted to re-heat (not artsy photographing).
I had been to the start of the exit route once before (albeit years ago), which made it relatively easy to find my way. This is a very cool constructed route all the way to the top. Good stuff.
It is sometimes more powerful to find small, isolated signs of previous travelers than it is to find Big Evidence. There was a very small handful of petroglyphs along the constructed route that boosted my morale for sure.
I fairly easily connected with the final route of the loop, a trail I hadn't been on before but had looked at quite a bit from the other side of the river. The trail traverses the river back to the creekbed where this whole shit show began.
My time-tested Trust Leave. The strap is intended to evoke sympathy and perhaps a chuckle from a prospective thief.
I know, I know.