On the Green River in the Green River
Thank you for following us on our journey!! Posts like this one during the trip are a quick ‘play by play’ of what has happened so far. We’ll have time post-trip to reflect more on meaning and to post photos, videos and audio interviews, but in the meantime, here are the major events so far with a few photos.
In the “Green River” on the Green River - Post written on Sept 20
Friday August 17th was both a good day and a ‘not so good’ day. We had been packrafting the sections between Green River Lakes and Huston put-in/takeout. The water level made for some ‘class fun’ rapids – especially at Moose Creek and certain parts of the Warren Bridge stretch. However, flip-flopping shuttles and packrafting sections due to low water while living in the van was starting getting old. Both of us were eager to get into the dory and away from front country living. We finally got on the river on Friday, August 17th at the Huston put-in on the Green River below Pinedale, and the water was still incredibly thin.
The day started out well. Our friend, Scott Christy, drove in early that morning to surprise us at our camp near Warren Bridge. And surprised I was!! I jumped out of bed that morning to look out the van window hoping to see the beautiful view of the river. Instead, I saw a white truck parked very close to us and immediately yelled over to Mike, “Some a**hole parked right beside us!!!” Upon calming down and a closer look I noticed, “Oh, that’s Scott Christy!” (To which later Scott said, “I AM that a**hole!”)
It was nice to spend the morning with Scott catching up, as it had been a couple years since all being together. We rolled out of camp after breakfast and got to the Huston boat launch at the crack of noon. Scott recorded sound for us as we were rigging the last bit of gear, and helped to push us off. After saying goodbye to our friend, Mike, Emma and I were finally off on the river in the dory. No sooner had we settled in for the long ride, a moose popped out of the bushes. She didn’t mind us at all, but after the mother moose and calf experience in the Winds, I don’t like being so close to a moose. She posed for some photos and we passed by with no problems at all.
The day started well but quickly turned frustrating. The low water allowed rock bars to be just out of sight in the sun-glared water. We dodged what we could and scraped across what we couldn’t. We found that every bend in the river had it’s own obstacle course of rock dodging and scraping. This is why we opted for the plastic boat as opposed to aluminum or wood. The boat took the scraping with no problems at all.
Wyoming stream access laws allow landowners to own the river bottom. The water is public to travel on, but as soon as you touch the bottom of the river, you are trespassing. We did a lot of “trespassing” due to the low flows, which made both of us uneasy. I was fearful that a landowner would come out with a gun ready to shoot us. Mike assured me it wouldn’t happen, but I wasn’t convinced… It never happened. Emma was anxious as she is every time the environment changes. Once she gets used to it, she’s calm, but on that first day on the river everything is a threat to her precious “mom”. Moose, cows, people, birds – they are all alerted that they are not welcome anywhere near us. She nearly created a cow stampede at one turn in the river. Luckily, they didn’t care much about her or her barking as the rancher was within shouting distance.
The crux of the day came at dusk. We were tired, bodies worn out and searching for a camp. Because we are in the upper Green, most land next to the river is private. We really didn’t want to piss off any ranchers by camping on their land. So we had to paddle until we reached the slivers of public land (mostly BLM) that come next to the river, according to our GPS app. We’d come across a couple slivers of public land throughout the day, but they were all cliffs and impossible to camp on. Dusk was approaching and we were worn out from pushing and pulling the boat free from rock bars. Emma was exhausted from keeping everything away from us. Ahead of us we could hear something that sounded like a rapid. We rounded the corner and found a large, rock, diversion dam across the entire river with no place for a boat to run at this level. We scouted and decided to line the boat ever so carefully with Emma in the boat. The water was pushy and the drop was steep, but we got it over without much trouble and only a little swearing. A few miles downstream we found a decent camp on a high bank and welcomed food followed by sleep. Coyote yips and great horned owl calls lulled us to sleep.
The next day was much of the same. Pushing and scraping over rock bars. Hoping for flowing creeks and streams to increase the flow of the river – only to find dry riverbed and more irrigation ditches taking water OUT of the river. Emma luckily got the hang of dory life and took to “low power mode” (AKA sleeping) on the boat from there on out. We took turns rowing and pushing all day. We found a great camp around 5pm and decided to take call it a day. While eating dinner, a moose appeared across the river. She didn’t have a calf, so we decided all was ok. We ate our food and watched her as she ate her food and watched us. Emma (also staring at us as we ate, for different reasons) had no idea a moose was across the river.
Our days on the Upper Green began to get easier. Some creeks had flow that added to the river. Thanks to the confluence of the New Fork with the Green, our days became easy. It was amazing to feel the Green become a real river after that confluence. We spent a few more days on the Upper Green finding surprisingly nice camps. We passed LaBarge, and made camp for our last day before our first reservoir.
Soon, the river slowed down and began to widen. We hit Fontenelle at the perfect moment for the winds to pick up mid afternoon. At first we had mild breezes and naively said to each other, “No big deal!” We took turns rowing and found that we could get the dory going about 3-4 miles per hour. The breezes began to turn to gusts, and the small ripples soon turned into white caps. Our 3-4 mph quickly became .5 – 1 mph. Our moods shifted from blissful to anger – mostly directed at each other as if the other one were causing the hardship. We rowed across the whitecaps until about 4pm when were luckily able to find a nice camp away from the side of the reservoir with the busy road. Emma blessed out chasing waves all afternoon while Mike and I had a whiskey drink to celebrate our first somewhat successful on Fontenelle. We made dinner that night and went to bed early. The next morning’s alarm jolted us awake at 4am. Mike can’t function without coffee so he stumbled out of the tent to make coffee as I packed away our tent and bags. We pushed off at 5:15am and had calm waters until we were off the reservoir by 10am.
We made camp at Weeping Rock campground, then headed into Kemmerer, WY for a much needed breakfast. The options were limited, but we found a place. Lets just say the food was somewhat satisfying going down, but not as much going out… We decided to not go to Kemmerer for breakfast the next morning. We spent the next day re-rationing our gear and food, cleaning anything that needed cleaning. We went back into town for a few needed pieces of gear and decided to try lunch at a Mexican Restaurant. The experience was much more pleasurable both during and after. The rest of the afternoon was spent working on last minute gear organization followed by an early bedtime in the van.
The next day we were happy to push off below the dam and to be back on the river. Town days are fun, but they get frustrating once you are used to river time. Don’t get me wrong, taking showers and catching up with family and friends is great. But, it is easy to fall into screen time. I’ve really been noticing significant correlation between depressed/lethargic mood and screen time. Less than 10 miles downstream of Fontenelle, we entered Seedskadee National Wildlife Refuge. It home to eagles, owls, white pelicans, moose, mink, deer and so much more. This area is also famous for it’s fishing. Seedskadee National Wildlife Refuge was beautiful and quiet. However, the camping was challenging, as you can’t camp in the refuge. We had to find BLM land that came close to the river and then hike our gear to camp. We traveled about 38 miles Seedskadee NWR with one camp about halfway in. After the refuge, we floated through beautiful ranch land. There were a few sections of State and BLM land that we were able to find good camps on. The wind was in our favor for most of this section, and blew us right into Green River, WY.
Mike and I decided to call the Chamber of Commerce in Green River a few miles before entering into town. They were excited and so helpful. They arranged camping for us, as you can’t camp in the city limits on the river. We were impressed with their knowledge, support and friendliness. Green River is a great town with overwhelmingly friendly folks. That evening, I had a major craving for cheese pizza, so the local Domino’s pizza was happy to deliver a pizza to us directly on the river. (Emma wasn’t so happy about the delivery driver…) We interviewed Mike and Angela that evening at our camp and had a great time taking with them. Before we knew it, it was close to 10pm. They had to work the next morning and we had to set up camp that evening. We reluctantly had to say goodbye.
The following day, we pushed off from camp to make our way into Flaming Gorge Reservoir about 10 miles down from Green River. Flaming Gorge is about 55 miles long. We also were heading into the reservoir over Labor Day Weekend, which turned out to be a slight oversight. At first, the reservoir felt wild and serene. It offered beautiful views, good camps and calm water. We were even pushed with gentle breezes downstream for most of the upper section. As we got closer to the weekend, the boat crowd began to increase. The motorboats created large wakes that left us struggling to move our boat downstream. We got a quite a few funny looks that seemed to read, “What the hell are these crazy people doing rowing a boat across Flaming Gorge?” Some nice parties drove up to us asking if we needed a tow. When we told them, “No thanks, we are doing this for fun” we got looks of confusion. We made it to our take-out on Monday morning around 9:30 AM, happy to leave the boat traffic behind.
Both Mike and I were in desperate need of a shower, and to get out of the sun. We drove the 45 minutes to Vernal, UT for town days. We lived in Vernal for a part of our lives. I was excited to go back to see the town and the NOLS base that was a big part of my life. We rented a hotel room at the Antler Inn for a couple days and binged on showers, TV, inside time and some hot-pool soaking. The rest of our time in Vernal was spent at the NOLS base catching up with old friends, cleaning our gear and interviewing folks in Vernal. NOLS has been a big part of our lives, and also an integral part of this journey. We are both so grateful for what this institution has done for our lives.
After spending about 4 days in Vernal we headed back to Flaming Gorge. My sister Jessica was meeting us that afternoon to camp. It was bittersweet to see her as I hadn’t seen her in over a month, but she was also there to bring Emma back to Bozeman. We had a great evening at our camp. I made steaks over fire for Mike, Jessica and I – Emma enjoyed what we couldn’t eat in her kibble. Folks who were joining us for the A, B, and C section camped with us that evening. We all stayed up late enjoying stories and drinks over a campfire.
The next morning came too early. Saying goodbye to both Emma and Jessica brought up a lot of tears (for me and no one else…) Emma seemed to know she was leaving. When it was time to go, she jumped right into Jessica’s car and layed down. It was crushing to watch them drive away – I cried, a lot. To help the tearful goodbye, I jumped into the reservoir for a swim. Flaming Gorge is deep and cold. It was spooky to swim along the edge of the shoreline to see the dark water abyss and remains of an eco-system that once was. Now it belongs to water and fish.
We drove town to the put-in for sections A, B and C of Flaming Gorge. We met our group there and pushed off (without Emma.) We had an amazing group of folks with us – including people who pulled the Grand Canyon permit for our trip, and also the owner of Hog Island Drift Boats, Johnny St. John. We stayed up late laughing, ate amazing food and enjoyed the Flaming Gorge stretch. We came across the first whitewater of the trip and the Green River (boat) floated through the whitewater with no issues. We may have tagged one rock in the middle of the rapid. Hearing that “thump” sound made me freeze solid, but luckily we ended with no cracks in the hull. We said goodbye to our friends after spending a great 3 days. Mike and I kept going on the river heading towards the Gates of Lodore. We enjoyed a solo night at Crook Camp and Lodore launch site campground.
Friends met us on the second night of camping at Lodore. We all looked at the looming gates entering the magnificent canyon and imagined what the Powell expedition must have been feeling when they saw the gates. We have maps and good gear – the Powell Expedition did not. We all spent 4 amazing days together through the canyon. River trips tend to bring lots of laughter, good food, and fast connection that you don’t get in the front country. After only 4 days, we all feel like life-long friends that share so many memories. Again, saying good-bye at the boat ramp at Split Mountain was hard – but the confidence in continued connection was strong.
Mike and I have spent the last day at the Split Mountain campground cleaning gear, catching up (as we have cell reception) and hanging out with two friends that decided to stay with us on our lay-over day. Mike and I head into the Uinta Basin for the next week and then meet with another group of folks at Sand Wash for the put-in for Desolation Canyon. We then float through Green River, UT and head into Labyrinth Canyon. After Labyrinth, we float into Stillwater to meet the confluence of the Colorado. We won’t be able to post until we get to Flagstaff just before launching on the Grand Canyon. Until then, safe journeys!!