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Green River Chapter 3

Potato Bottom to Stillwater Canyon

Bait and switch

If the previous day was the "loveliest" day of the whole trip, then this was the... least loveliest day of the whole trip. And I'm going to apologize ahead of time because I don't have many pictures. It's not that I'm trying to gloss over the less glamorous parts of the trip; it more that I literally didn't have many moments to retrieve my phone from the dry bag to actually take pictures.

I did however, for some reason, end up taking quite a few videos of myself talking (again... my sincerest apologies). I think it's because I didn't have a journal handy and it just seemed the easiest way to provide a recap, when I did have the rare moment of being able to handle my phone.

Anyway, the morning started out fine enough. I made oats + coffee, packed up without incident and launched from Potato Bottom. The plan, I thought, was going to be paddle up, book out, and maybe even some tunes on my bluetooth speaker. A leisurely float to my next camp.

However, somewhere near Beaver Bottom/Millard Canyon I started to hear something akin to highway traffic. I thought maybe it was the wind whipping through the buttes (I was within sight of The Butte of the Cross).

I realized, too late, that the river widened out, and the sound was the shallow river water running through, essentially, a field of rocks. I first heard my skeg hit bottom. I frantically started paddling trying to find deeper water, but then the bow of my boat hit a large rock, the current spinning my boat perpendicular in the river and pushing it over sideways.

I jumped out of the boat, feet sinking into the soft quicksand-like mud. I grabbed the bow handle and my paddle, and began assessing and passing judgement on the mess in front of me. I was in an area called Queen Ann Bottom and it was loud. The current was pushing my boat South, the wind was pushing North, and I was trying to drag my loaded-down boat in the path of least resistance, while not falling or cutting my feet on rocks.

From there, the wind only picked up more, and the riverbanks grew steeper and lined with incredibly dense vegetation. The wind was pushing against the current, creating 1 ft tall swells with whitecaps that flooded over the bow of my boat. The waves made it hard to read the water, to see where the eddies were, and see where debris was lurking just under the surface.

For the better part of two or three hours, I was in an aggressive paddling stance; leaning forward with my feet and knees locked against the boat. Every now and then the river would bend and offer temporary relief. I would take that time to rest my heart rate and my arms, and if I was lucky, there was a canyon wall I could float along for some shade.

By mid afternoon, I still hadn't found a good campsite. The conditions caused me to miss out on exploring some cliffside dwellings and ruins I had noted on my map. I was tired. And bummed. And hungry. Not realizing how difficult it was going to be to take breaks, I had not put extra snacks in my cockpit, and I couldn't reach my hatches while sitting in my boat.

So I kept paddling. And paddling. Finally, I saw a sandbar. I got out to explore. It was basically at river height, and quite wet. But it was good enough. I whipped the boat up onto shore and tore open its hatches like an animal. I was in search of a meal. Or two. That's right, I ate a whole bag of parboiled rice and two dinner meals. I also ate five snack bars, which combined, meant I would need to ration my food for the remaining days.

No rest for the weary

I can't even remember if I brushed my teeth that night... I was breaking all the rules. But dammit... another storm was rolling in. The wind was beginning to pick up just as I was trying to set my tent up. I crawled inside, absolutely abhorred that instead of a refreshing, cool breeze, it felt more like getting blasted by a hair dryer.

I was laying on the tent floor, sans my sleeping pad or bag. I was sweating. I just wanted—needed—to sleep, but refused to put my rainfly on because I knew that would only make the proverbial mercury inside my tent rise.

With thunder and lightning all around, I decided to sleep with the rainfly next to me and my headlamp on my head in case I needed to run out in the middle of the night to put it on. I did.

But here are some pics from the day:

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