Sep. 10th, 2016 05:25 pm
ilanarama: me in my raft (rafting)
Over Labor Day weekend we rafted the Rio Chama, a wild and scenic river a couple of hours away in New Mexico. We did this trip five years ago (also on Labor Day weekend!), with a completely different group of people, and once in between then and now. The river is dam controlled with releases on weekends; though sometimes enough water flows during the week to float it, weekend launches are restricted by permit. Fortunately, our friend Jenny got a permit, and (maybe to pay us back for including her on several backpack trips this summer!) invited us along.

Not a lot to say about the trip this time, other than it was delightfully non-eventful (where event = raft capsize or camp injury or other thing you really don't want to happen). The only minor disaster happened in our second night's camp, where Ryan misplaced her iPhone and despite ransacking the camp, none of us could find it. We were preparing to leave when she jumped into the water next to her raft and started squelching around with her feet, in case she'd dropped it into the water the previous night without realizing it...and yep, there it was! AND due to its protective case, it still worked!

But have some photos, anyway: )

Above pictures and selected others (16 total), no words, at Flickr
All the photos (34) at Google Photos
ilanarama: me in my raft (rafting)
Many of the place names here in the southwest US come from the Jesuit explorers, who tended to the religious in their name choices. For example: the river they named the Dolores, which means Sorrows, as in Our Lady Of. The most sorrowful thing about the modern-day Dolores River is that it's been dammed to create McPhee Reservoir, the water of which goes to irrigate the alfalfa and bean fields of local farmers, and most of the year only a trickle of water flows through the beautiful and remote downstream canyons. So when the Dolores Water Conservancy District announced that the reservoir was full enough - and the inflow from snowmelt high enough - to do a recreational release for the first time since 2011, local boaters rejoiced.

We'd run two sections of the Dolores before: miles 47-97 (Slickrock to Bedrock) twice, most recently in 2008, and mile 141 to the confluence with the Colorado River, the Gateway run, in 2011. When we heard that the river would be boatable beginning the weekend of June 4th, we thought of doing Slickrock to Bedrock again, but we couldn't find anyone willing to join us other than right on the weekend, and we knew it would be crazy crowded then. (You need to have at least two vehicles to shuttle between put-in and take-out, and anyway, it's more fun to boat with friends.) But then on Monday, our friend Joe asked if we'd be interested in a day trip on Tuesday, in the Ponderosa Gorge section (miles 1-19), which we had never done. And so we got to see another part of the Dolores!

At the Bradfield Bridge put-in on the Dolores

Ponderosa Gorge is a beautiful canyon, walls of red sandstone contrasting with the dark green of pine and juniper. The grass grows lushly along the banks. No bugs, and few birds, but we did get dive-bombed by a succession of butterflies who must have thought our brightly-colored rafts some new gigantic species of flower before realizing their mistake and flying away, disappointed.

We hadn't brought our real camera, and the river was busy enough that I was reluctant to take out my phone-camera while underway, so I only have a few mediocre photos from some places where we stopped on the shore for breaks. The rapids were frequent but not very difficult, and so it was a great deal of fun and not too traumatic - at least, not for us. We did pass a group obviously drying out their gear on shore after one of their number, in an inflatable kayak, bumped a rock and tipped out. We passed a few other groups taking breaks on shore, or camping, as many of them were doing multi-day trips, taking out at Slickrock. But mostly we saw only each other -- and, of course, the butterflies.

In Ponderosa Canyon, Dolores River In Ponderosa Canyon, Dolores River

The sun beat down on us from a hot blue sky, but the river, fresh from the bottom of McPhee, was icy cold, so it was really very pleasant. Toward the end of the day the walls shaded us; they'd grown impressively tall and sheer as we had continued down the canyon, and of course this was where the hardest rapids were! But they turned out to be only a very little bit more challenging than the previous ones, and none of us had any difficulties. (Which was partly due to Britt, the most experienced among us, taking the lead. So much easier to navigate rapids when you have someone else to show you the best line!)

We pulled out at the ramp, disassembled our gear and loaded it onto our truck, shared our last beers, and headed home after a delightful day on the River That Flows Too Infrequently. No sorrows here, just a great day!
ilanarama: me in my raft (rafting)
(Even though this came at the end of our Canadian trip, it's neither in Canada nor was it the mountain hiking vacation the rest of the trip was, so it really deserves to stand alone as a completely separate post.)

This river trip had been planned since late winter, when our friend Steve lucked out and got a permit - the Green River through the Gates of Lodore section is lottery-controlled, and a lot of people try for years and never get picked. We'd done it once long ago, when we'd lived in Boulder, but this would be my first time rowing my own boat.


"The Gates of Lodore", strictly speaking, refers to the dramatic entrance to the Lodore Canyon of the Green River (looming behind me in the above photo), which ends at the confluence of the Yampa River with the Green, but people often use it to mean the usual river trip through Lodore, Whirlpool, and Split Mountain canyons, a distance of 43 miles through the Dinosaur National Monument in far northwest Colorado and northeast Utah. We'd do it in four days, which is typical. The name was given by the 1869 Powell expedition and is a reference to a poem by Robert Southey called The Cataract of Lodore. (If you thought Poe was into onomatopoeia with his clanging bells, he ain't got nothing on Southey.)

Our trip, in words and pictures )

The Flickr album, with 36 photos
ilanarama: me in my raft (rafting)
Prime season for boating in the southwest is already over, but our rainy May and June did not inspire us to get our boats out until just recently. All that rain has kept the rivers relatively high, though, and our little "kitten rafts" don't need a lot of water to float, especially when we are just doing day trips and aren't loaded down with camping gear. As long as the rocks are smooth rather than pointy, we don't need much clearance to make it over - just a bit more than a "happy enchilada."

If you're furrowing your brow at that reference... )

(Spoiler alert: we didn't drown.)

We started out on the Friday holiday with a run down the section of our own Animas River south of town, putting in at Santa Rita Park just past Smelter Rapid (which still had enough water to be scary high, flipping boats with regularity), and running the three miles to Dallabetta Park. This is a rocky stretch that can only be run with a decent water level, but it was a good re-introduction to my boat, which I had only been in once so far this year, on the stretch through the center of town. It was still high enough for the commercial trips to run, and we waved to a lot of tourists who looked happy to be on the water on a sunny day.

It was so much fun that I impulsively suggested to Britt: "I know we had talked about going backpacking this weekend, but what about going to Pagosa Springs instead and running the upper San Juan?" (We have run several sections of the San Juan in Utah, but our only experience with this part of the river far upstream from there was just looking out of our car windows as we crossed it on the Hwy 160 bridge.) I should know better than to open my mouth. A few hours after we got home, Britt had our river guidebooks spread out in front of him and browser windows open to the USGS river gauge website and Google Earth, and not long after, we had a plan to float not just the San Juan, but the nearby Piedra river as well.

Narrative with photos )

For those of you who are thinking of doing this yourself, here's the basic beta:  )

Just these photos plus a few more - 12 in all - at Flickr
ilanarama: me in my raft (rafting)
To my delight, we were invited to join a raft trip on the Grand Canyon! (They want another proficient oarsman, and Britt is that.) To my dismay, it conflicts with the New York Marathon on November 4th, which I have already shelled out quite a lot of money for. After dithering about whether I should try heroic measures to make it back in time to fly to Flagstaff, hire an expensive shuttle service to take me to the Havasu Falls trailhead and backpack down over two days to join the trip for the last week, I decided that three weeks of rafting beats three and a half hours of running, ditched the marathon, and signed up for the raft trip.

So, no fall marathon for me. Instead I will run the 25K trail race/half marathon road race option of the Durango Double as planned - that's next weekend, yikes - and then run The Other Half in Moab (for the fourth time) two weeks later and try to PR. (I thought about trying to run a full that weekend - the only option, since the river trip starts the following weekend - but that would involve heroic measures, and I really love The Other Half, and the half distance is the only one I haven't PRed in the past 12 months. I also thought about switching to the full marathon instead of the double half, but - I really want to run the double!)

Anyway, the Grand Canyon, yay! I have rafted it twice with Britt in the 1990s, so it's sort-of-familiar, but it's been a while. I've never run it in the fall season, which is non-motorized rafts only - it will be wonderfully quiet. Also, the trip is longer, because the lower levels of Lake Mead mean that the river below the traditional Diamond Creek take-out has recovered, and we'll be going through stuff neither of us have seen before. Should be fun!
ilanarama: me in my raft (rafting)
Ah, Labor Day. The day on which we celebrate not laboring, by doing stuff like this:

a cold one

We wangled an invite on a Rio Chama trip for Labor Day weekend; the plan was to meet on Saturday, rig our boats, and do the car shuttle, then put in early Sunday which was the first day that no permit is required for the 31-mile section below El Vado dam. As this is a scenic and not too difficult stretch, it's quite popular, and we anticipated a lot of river traffic. Our group comprised eight people on six mostly small boats: Britt and I on our cataraftlets, three duckies (inflatable kayaks), and one large cataraft. We set up all but the big raft on the bank the afternoon before, so in the morning we were more or less ready to go.

Read more (and see more pictures)... )
ilanarama: me in my raft (rafting)
Ilana on the Dolores

The Dolores is a lovely desert river in western CO and eastern UT which unfortunately has a very short season due to dam control. Most years, releases are limited to a couple of weeks or less, and of course the river gets very crowded then, particularly on the scenic and moderate Slickrock to Bedrock run (which I've done twice). The lower section from Gateway CO to the confluence with the Colorado River in Utah has a somewhat longer season, as the free-flowing San Miguel river joins the Dolores above Gateway, but usually by mid-June the flows have dropped below what's needed for rafting. This year, however, heavy snow in the mountains near Telluride kept the San Miguel flowing into summer, and conditions looked reasonable -- around 1200 cfs (cubic feet per second), on the low side but fine for smaller rafts -- for a July 4th weekend on the lower Dolores.

I would not have chosen this particular section of the Dolores on my own, because among its rapids is an infamously long and difficult one right at the state line between Colorado and Utah which is, oddly enough, called Stateline Rapid. (According to one of our guidebooks it is also called Chicken Raper, although that name seems to be mostly applied by kayakers to the crazy-boaters-with-deathwish line on the left of the big island that splits the rapid, about which our more sedate guidebook says DO NOT GO LEFT WHATEVER YOU DO.) But our previous plans had fallen apart, and I got email from a friend who really wanted to do this section, and Britt thought it sounded good, and so the lower Dolores it was.

Ridiculously long trip report, with photos and video. )

Or just go straight to the photos (these plus lots more) on Flickr.

boaty boats

Jun. 5th, 2011 07:48 pm
ilanarama: me in my raft (rafting)
On Saturday we de-cobwebbed our raft frames, unrolled the tubes and inflated them, and put our little raftlets together for the first time this season. Then we went rafting!


We took a short run down the Animas (the river that Runs Through It here in Durango) from 32nd St. to 9th St. late afternoon Saturday, and a longer run from Santa Rita park to Dallabetta park on Sunday. After our Sunday run we walked up to Smelter Rapid (in between the two sections we ran; I'm not yet feeling confident enough to tackle it in the current high water) and watched some commercial rafts go through. Just as we got there we saw one raft upside-down as it washed out below, two passengers on the upturned bottom and two bobbing along in the water, which definitely did not inspire confidence!

Let's see if this embed works - it's a teeny movielet Britt took of me going alongside a little bitty rapid - I tried to get into it but never quite managed to get into the waves, so it's not particularly interesting. But, it's me! I'm on a BOAT!

(If it doesn't work, it's at Flickr.)

The one icky thing is that the air has off and on been quite thick with smoke from the Wallow fire in northern Arizona, 200 miles from here. On Saturday it was really hazy, and I had a hard time sleeping - woke up coughing in the middle of the night once, and several times with a dry throat. I always keep a water bottle by my bed, and I drained it last night.
ilanarama: me in my raft (rafting)
under a wall

We spent the weekend floating a Class II stretch of the Gunnison between Delta to Whitewater, also called the Dominguez run because the big attraction is Dominguez Canyon about halfway through, where there are historical sites and petroglyphs. We hadn't been on it before, but it's known as a good run for an open canoe, so we invited our canoeist buddies Dave and Julie, as well as our friends Andy and Betsy, who also decided to bring a canoe from their large stable of river craft.

The good: Saturday was my birthday, and Julie baked me a cake! Nobody flipped or fell out or even got sunburned. The weather was beautiful. We did not run out of beer, and it was nice and cold. We had a nice camp spot at Dominguez Canyon. We saw desert bighorn, and petroglyphs, and a couple of really nifty windows in the rock.

The bad: Loud group at the put-in that partied all night, and we could hear them from our camp. Loud train that went by twice a night, waking us all. Dogs belonging to loud group peed on our gear (!!) Britt came down with a cold. We got off the river kind of late on Sunday and drove all over the country between Montrose and Ridgway before finding a decent place to camp for the night.

The ugly: Nope, not ugly at all. Photographic proof (20 photos at Flickr).
ilanarama: me in my raft (rafting)
We had so much fun on the San Juan trip from Montezuma Creek to Mexican Hat we did in June that we had to do it again. Britt got on the BLM's website to check cancellations, and found a date on which we could get a permit from Sand Island all the way to Clay Hills Crossing, another ~55 miles past Mexican Hat.

on the river

Hot weather, low water, rapids, wildlife, flash floods, and (most importantly) photos. )

These are only a few (I know!) of the 55 photos I uploaded to my Flickr set for this trip.
ilanarama: me in my raft (rafting)
(But if you're on LJ you'll have to go to Dreamwidth to see it, because I don't have the icon slots on LJ, and am probably going to eventually delete all my icons but one there anyway. Except not right now, because I'm at the CESM workshop in Breckenridge on an incredibly slow and creaky internet connection, and I'm trying to get work done, and neither my brain nor my computer can cope with too much multitasking at the moment.)

On Saturday afternoon Britt and I put together the bits of the Animas River we have rafted individually in the past couple of weeks, starting at the 32nd St. put-in (actually a bit upstream of it) and taking out at the new bridge by Home Depot - about 7 miles. This is a little far to do a bicycle shuttle, but we talked our friends Doug and Anne into coming with us in their tandem duckie (inflatable kayak) so we had an actual car shuttle.

It was utterly awesome. The thing about the river through town is that for the first part it doesn't actually go along a road, just along the rec path and through parks, and for the second part it's way below the highway, so it's like - well, not exactly a wilderness experience, but definitely a recreational rather than an urban feel. On our previous trips we'd gone on weekday afternoons and had been surrounded by outfitters' rafts full of tourists, and locals out for a short ride, but maybe the outfitters were having a slow weekend and the locals were all doing other things because we only saw a few other boaters. Mostly people were playing on the banks with their dogs - as Britt said, "Half the people out on the river today are dogs."

We tied up about two miles down the river at Rotary Park where our first ever Pridefest was going full swing and had a beer with some friends (we'd promised one friend, who is the mainstay of the local PFLAG, that we'd show up) and then floated downriver, sobering up in time to go through the biggest set of rapids on this run. The first time I did this section was last Wednesday, and Smelter Rapid knocked me sideways and turned me around so I went through Corner Pocket Rapid backwards. Oops? (At least I didn't fall out or flip!) But this time I made it through in the approved forwards manner, although I slid over rather than next to one of the rocks. I'll get it eventually.

I bumped a few more rocks going through the next bit, right in front of the only other boaters we saw. Sigh. But then we pulled out at a large island for cocktail hour, and all embarrassment was soon forgotten; we put out camp chairs and poured gin and tonics and nibbled on cheese and crackers and grapes and other goodies. The island sits behind the shopping mall on one side of the river and the old road to town on the other, but from where we were it was almost like being in the wilderness.

Then we navigated our way through the rocky shallows for another couple of miles to the takeout - the river's unusually low for this time of year, and it's tricky at this water level - pulled the boats out and piled them on our truck. Another beautiful day on the river!

These photos are actually from Wednesday's run, but they'll give you an idea of what it's like. )
ilanarama: me in Escalante (yatta!)
So far this week (which I count as beginning on Monday) I have mountain biked on three different trail systems, hiked, gone for a run, and rowed my raft down the river through town - and only the last activity required use of a vehicle. (In addition to my bicycle - I dropped off Britt and the boats at the put-in, drove to the take-out with my bike, left the truck and hopped on the bike and rode back up the rec path to the put-in, locked my bike, and got on my boat! Pedal powered shuttle FTW!)

And it's only Thursday. :-)

(This is also why I love having a job where I telecommute and set my own hours.)
ilanarama: my footies in my finnies (snorkeling)
The San Juan, in SE Utah, is the river I did my first river trip on, in 1990 when Britt and I had just started living together. It was also the last river trip that we did in 1998, just before selling our raft along with everything else we owned in order to buy a sailboat and goof off for a couple of years. The San Juan funnels all the water from SW Colorado and NW New Mexico through classic Utah sandstone canyons and into the Colorado River at Lake Powell, and was home to both pre-Puebloan native cultures and Mormon settlers. A few years ago, I bought a small paddle cataraft, but I only used it once since Britt didn't have a boat. But when Britt's niece's husband Dublin invited us to come with him and some friends on a San Juan trip, Britt immediately decided he'd better buy one as well.

medium walls

big walls

More about our boats. )

Dublin's friends had only time for a weekend trip, and so they had registered for a permit (the San Juan is lottery-controlled) for only the 28 miles from Sand Island to Mexican Hat. The next stretch of the river, to Clay Hills, goes through the fabled Goosenecks of the San Juan, where the river folds back on itself in big lazy loops, and we would have loved to do that too, but unfortunately there were no available permit slots. Instead we extended our trip by putting in a day and a half early at Montezuma Creek, 19 miles upstream from Sand Island. This rarely-floated stretch (we hadn't done it before) has no rapids and runs mostly through private land, but permits are free from the BLM and easily available.

Montezuma Creek to Sand Island - cliffs and inscriptions )

Sand Island to Mexican Hat - petroglyphs and rapids )

All 18 photos are here in a set on Flickr.
ilanarama: profile of me backpacking.  Woo. (hiking)
Biking: in addition to the Log Chutes ride last Saturday, Britt and I drove out to near Pagosa Springs, about 45 minutes from here, and rode up Devil Mountain, which has a rough and rocky road leading to a cleared summit that used to have a fire lookout tower. Not quite 12 miles up and 3500 vertical feet, woohoo! A few photos are here.

Running: I can run again! Sort of! My PT has given me clearance to alternate 5 minutes of slow running with 5 minutes of walking, after a walking warm-up. I did this 3x on Thursday and 4x this morning, and it's not causing the tendinitis to flare up, hooray! It's still going to be a long road to where I was as a runner, though.

Argh: I am annoyed more than I should be by people who email me - at an address that includes my name - and then misspell my name in the body of the email. ARGH. Also I am annoyed by people who are told that the deadline for the political newsletter I send out is Thursday noon, who then email me on Thursday at 2:30 pm with their news release prefaced by, "Thank you for holding the newsletter for this information." (It should not surprise anyone that someone has committed both these annoyances simultaneously. Also that I did not, in fact, hold the newsletter for that information.)

Fun: The newsletter deadline was Thursday noon because Thursday afternoon we drove out to Montezuma Creek, Utah to start a river trip on the San Juan. An exciting and scenic weekend that was not ruined by the roughly fifty bazillion gnats that each took a bite of my tender flesh. More details when I get the photos off the camera.

Administrivia: If you have a Dreamwidth journal and a LJ, I preferentially will read you at DW and will subtly filter you out at LJ. I also filter out those I read through another journal. If I read you at DW and you read me at DW you are welcome to defriend me at LJ. I don't do the subscribe-and-filter thing at Dreamwidth since there are separate access and subscription filters, but if the asymmetry bothers you, let me know, and I will cheerfully subscribe to you and then ignore you. Okay, not really, but you know what I mean.

And now I am off to a political thingy that didn't get into the newsletter. I will try to be polite to the campaign manager who annoyed me, see above.
ilanarama: me, The Other Half, Moab UT 2009 (Default)
It is looking like I only post when I have photos or want to ramble about running. But actually, I do other things, really! (Although running is my passion these days. I am not sure why. I suspect it's because Britt is waist-deep in his own passion, which involves solar panels and windmills and federal funding requests and tax benefits, so we are not going hiking or backpacking much these days.)

But Britt was lured away from his work by our friend Jim, who tempted him with fly-fishing from his dory on the Rio Grande near South Fork, so we drove out in our Sportsmobile on Friday night and on Saturday Britt and Jim floated and fished, while I paddled my Fat Cat (which I bought last year after borrowing one to float the Dolores) behind them. Nice and relaxing, and now I really want to get out on the rivers some more.

Then on Sunday we drove back as far as Vallecito where we went to a friend's wedding up on his family ranch at the edge of the wilderness, and we drank a lot of very good beer and ate more food than we really should have and took some home with us. Leftover wedding cake = breakfast of champions!
ilanarama: my footies in my finnies (snorkeling)
The problem with having nice friends who invite you on river trips and loan you nifty inflatable kayak thingies is that then you get all covetous and want to spend money and get your own.

That's me on the Dolores river, paddling the Fat Cat, which is kind of like a cross between a kayak and a cataraft. Steve and his girlfriend Sue are on the cataraft in the background, and Britt, who took the picture, is in an inflatable kayak (duckie). Britt and I traded crafts on and off, but I felt a lot more confident in the Fat Cat and used it in all the named (class II and III) rapids. Part of it was because the cat is more stable and the seat's higher, so I could see better, but part of it was because during my first stint in the duckie, the wind was blowing really hard (well, it was blowing most of the trip!) and one astonishingly strong gust overturned the duckie and knocked me into the water. Yep, I took a spill in flatwater - and had no problem with any of the rapids. Clearly, I have a very special talent. Sigh.

The Dolores is a nifty river. The section from Slickrock to Bedrock (yabba-dabba-dooo!) starts out in a fairly open valley which the river paradoxically travels through crosswise; the valley subsided after the river was entrenched. Then it enters a classic desert sandstone canyon which was occupied by pre-Puebloan cultures who left plenty of artwork behind:

More pictures and more river rambling. )

I should add that we drove our NEW SPORTSMOBILE YAY out to do this trip (well, it's just a couple hours west of here) and we camped in it the night before we put in - everything seemed to work beautifully. I'm pretty excited about the prospect of more desert trips this spring, and mountain trips this summer.

Except now I want a Fat Cat. (Britt wants just a regular inflatable kayak, like the Aire he was using, which costs maybe a couple hundred $ less - not much difference, really.) Steve got his at the Outdoor Retailer show in Salt Lake, which we went to last year and came back from with all sorts of schwag and pro-deal stuff. So the question is, do we shell out the money for the boats now, so we can play all spring and summer, or do we wait until OR in August and maybe save a thousand bucks between the two of us? Thing is, this is a wet year, and there are a lot of tiny rivers which are not normally runnable that we could do. Like the Escalante, which is very tempting - remember this picture from our hike last year? It's runnable maybe one year in five. And this is it. Steve offered to loan us his boats again - but then reconsidered, because he wants to come with us, and he'd need one of them! Then again, we could just rent inflatable kayaks, which I'd be fine with as long as we did flatwater rivers. Decisions, decisions.

But I think we will go to OR again. I guess I should work on our website so it looks a little more legitimate... :-)


ilanarama: me, The Other Half, Moab UT 2009 (Default)

April 2019

14 151617181920

My running PRs:

5K: 21:03 (downhill) 21:43 (loop)
10K: 43:06 (downhill)
10M: 1:12:59
13.1M: 1:35:55
26.2M: 3:23:31

You can reach me by email at heyheyilana @



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