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Green River Chapter 5

Water Canyon to Spanish Bottom


The final stretch

It was only about six miles from Water Canyon to where I'd ultimately end the trip. Before launching, over a week earlier, Ken instructed me on the jet boat pickup procedure:

  • I needed to be somewhere between the confluence (of the Green River into the Colorado) and Spanish Bottom (on the Colorado River). This covered about a four-mile stretch of river.

  • Wherever I was, the water needed to be at least waist-deep so that the boat's engines didn't become inundated with sand

  • Big Blue needed to be cleaned of sand/mud and completely out of the water

  • Everything needed to be neatly organized into my dry bags so they could easily be packed into the jet boat

  • I needed to hang onto my drinking water until he arrived, at which point I could dump what I didn't need for the 2-hr journey back to Moab

  • I needed to be ready for pickup at 10:00a. If I wasn't on that section of the Colorado River by the time the boat arrived, they would call Search and Rescue.

Spanish Bottom was the absolute last area to stop—it was less than a mile from Cataract Canyon, an iconic whitewater route with class III and IV rapids. Big Blue has absolutely no business being on whitewater.


The air was calm when I pushed off from camp, so for much of the morning I put my paddle down and just enjoyed the slow-moving scenery. It was truly beautiful.


Before I knew it, the water was picking up speed and I could see the canyon wall opening to the East. And then, there was the mighty Colorado! There was a sandbar to the river right, right at the confluence. I pulled a fancy maneuver to position the kayak exactly parallel to the bank, and got out to inspect the area. It was really exposed, and in order to get up on the sandbar, I'd either need to lift Big Blue a full 3.5 ft out of the water, or leave it around the corner in a muddy area. I prodded around the water's edge with my paddle to see how deep it was, but alas, it was only about a foot deep. This would not be my pickup location.


There was another sandbar across the way, so I paddled hard across the strong river current and pulled the same maneuver there. I got out and inspected, but for a few reasons, it wouldn't work, either.


So I paddled back across the river and down a little ways to a third area. I waded around in the water and found an approach that was at least waist deep, and there was a sandy section near the water that was just big enough for me to put my tent up. This would have to do!


I pulled Big Blue out of the water, set up my tent and crawled inside for lunch and to read in its shade until the sun sank behind the canyon wall.


Leave no trace

Another fresh aspect of this trip, as I mentioned in the first chapter, was that I had to carry all of my solid waste out. All of it. Even poop. I'd heard of WAG-BAGs before, but had never used one. In addition to pooping in a bag and hauling it around with me, I needed an airtight and watertight container to store it in, until I could properly dispose of it in Moab. I ended-up using two large empty protein powder containers with large screw-on lids. I marked them, "human waste" with a sharpie, used a voile strap to strap them together, then used a carabiner to clip them onto the bungee cord on the very back of my boat.




The process is pretty straight forward. There's a large plastic bag with a chemical powder that helps break down the waste. That's the bag you poop in—and throw in related waste, like toilet paper, baby wipe, and hand sanitizer wipe. When you're done, you tie that bag off and put it into a second ziploc-style bag. Then you put that bag into the airtight container.


Despite the poop container literally baking in the hot sun all day, every day, I only smelled it when I had to open it to stuff another bag in. Overall, the process was easy and sanitary. I highly recommend and am honestly going to start using them every time I'm in the backcountry.


A quick soapbox moment about human waste in the backcountry: on the Great Divide Mountain Bike Route, I pooped outside for nine weeks. It was great. Pooping outside is my preferred style of pooping. I adhered to the strict Leave No Trace principals and that route is uncommon enough that I never saw any other signs of human waste.


However, since Covid and the sharp increase of people visiting outdoor areas, I've witnessed a sad, obscene amount of human waste in the backcountry—particularly on 14ers. Including the weekend before launching on the Green River. I had joined a 4-day backpacking/climbing trip near Silverton, CO. Near the camping areas there was so much human waste... toilet paper littered some areas, and in some cases, people didn't even try to dig a hole or otherwise cover it. It was disgusting. With that much traffic, I'm not sure following LNT principals is even enough. I think to be good stewards and protect these places we claim to love, we're going to need to start packing it out.


[P]Ooops!

Okay, so, my tent and I are perched on this little section of the river bank, hunkered in for pickup the next morning when nature calls.


I hadn't seen anyone in something like four or five days now, so I got out a WAG BAG and proceeded to do my business right next to my tent, near the water, looking up at the majestic canyons of the confluence. It was right about that time I remembered seeing on the map that there's a popular hike that takes tourists in Canyonlands National Park to a river confluence overlook area.


It's possible, if not probable, that some poor family watched me poop from above after hoofing it up a steep canyon for the purpose of admiring a natural American treasure. And for that, I am so.... so incredibly sorry.

It has come to my attention...

After returning home and starting to post stories and videos from my trip, I got a call from a friend late one night. When I answered, he said, "Are you okay!?" I said, "Yeah! Why?" He responded, "I just watched the videos from your river trip... are you still out there? Do you need help?"


I was pretty confused. Once he explained that literally all of my accounts of the trip were near horror stories.... tales of mud, wind, mosquitos, nearly running out of food, lightning, sleepless nights, etc, I was like, "Ohhhhhhhh, yeah, okay I can see how it would seem like this was a trip from Hell."


The Green River brought new challenges, sure, and there were some hard days. But there were no "bad" days. And the majority of the time I was locked in childlike wonder for the sheer force and time it took to carve the canyons I had the privilege of kayaking through. Experiencing different natural landscapes has a way of putting things into perspective for me. It reminds me of how insignificant I really am; my life is but a blip in the grand scheme of things. I can only hope to see and understand as much of it as possible, without doing harm, so that others after me may have the same opportunity.


For proof, here's a picture of me admiring the Green River with awe, taken on day two (of nine):



My friend brought up the last video I shared from my trip, which began:

"I wouldn't want anyone to think this whole trip has been glamorous"

To which he joked on the phone, saying:

"Caity, absolutely NO ONE was thinking any part of this trip was glamorous"

Fair enough... but it was amazing and like a real Type 2-loving Aries, I'd do it again.



Time to PARTAY!

Okay, back to the pickup story: while relaxing in the shade of my tent, I sat inside, with my feet buried deep in the cool sand just outside, overlooking the river. I hugged my knees and read my book.


Then I heard something. Voices! I craned my neck to look up river, and sure enough there were several canoes making their way down the Colorado River (not the Green River). I straightened my shirt, ran my fingers through my hair, and did one of those breathe checks where you breathe into your hand. I don't know why. I think it was just because I hadn't seen anyone in so long and I got nervous. I wanted to look civilized.


As they floated by, I tried to play it cool. There were several canoes, each with two people. Everyone waved as they passed by, and with each passing canoe I got a little more information: they were all part of the same group, it was their fourth—and final—day on the river, and they were also scheduled to be picked up tomorrow by Tex's.


I watched them investigate the same sandbars I had, only to come to the same conclusion. So they continued downstream looking for a place to camp.


I decided I'd pack up after breakfast the next morning and paddle down to them, so we'd all be in the same pickup location for the river boat.


They were SO much fun! It was a group of friends and their families, on their annual canoe trip down the Colorado. What a FUN tradition! They did it right... carrying fuel and stoves to make delicious meals every day, and coolers filled with ice and booze. Although it was only 9:30a, they offered me a beer. I accepted. Then a few of them also cracked one open and we cheers'd before continuing to clean our boats and organize our gear.


Because there are no roads near there, the only way out is via one of two jet boat operators. I came down the Green River and was about to enjoy a boat trip up the Colorado, where I would be spoiled with new scenery, fun conversation, copious amounts of snacks, and more beer.


The boat was surprisingly fast. It happened to be drizzling that morning, so we all donned our rain gear, sunglasses, and hats. It actually felt chilly... a feeling I had almost forgot existed.


It was a perfect ending to a perfect adventure.



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