I want to get back into my travel series and I am picking a place at Random…
I was missing my grandpa the other day and it got me thinking back to when he passed away. My mom and my brother called to tell me Grandpa had died while I was in a van on my way to a random place in Utah near the Colorado border. It was over an 8 hour drive and we were supposed to park, load up in another van and camp the first night way up river. It was going to be 5 days on the river. This trip was sort of spontaneous and random.
Ok, back to my grandpa. He was in an awful car accident and he wasn’t really himself anymore. I had visited him multiple times in the hospital but he never really recognized me. the had so slice into his skull to reduce swelling. It wasn’t a shock when they told me but it still made me extremely sad. I was in San Francisco for a half marathon and I had dinner over the phone with him on the pier and he had promised me a proper Birthday Lunch. When I got back to New Mexico from my race, I heard about the accident and rushed to the hospital. I guess he had hit someone head on driving up to Farmington. He did photography tours and took people to all the great photo spots in our beautiful state. He loved telling stories and meeting new people. I tried to visit him every day in the hospital. I thought if he could see and hear me if would help him recover. They moved him to a part of the hospital that was harder to get to and the opportunity or this trip came up. After 2 weeks of little changes, my grandma reassured me he’d be fine while I was gone and that he would love for me to go on this kind of outdoor adventure.
So I hung up the phone on this car ride, the roads were starting to turn to dirt roads and it was a little bumpy. The sun was setting. I felt hot wet tears pouring down my face. The sun looked orange and majestic across the red sand.
I am not exactly sure where we were going. You can see on the map below we were taking the Green River to the Colorado River and ending right before lake Powell. So we parked and got in a giant van with all our camping gear. and headed North. We had been driving all day and by the time we were all loaded in the van, it was pitch black.
I actually took no photos on this trip. All the pictures here are from the internet. I just spent an hour looking back thru photos to see if I could find something. I found 2 videos. I will see if I can post them here.
The place we were is called Cataract Canyon . You can find the following info on the National Forest Website. But to give you an idea: Cataract Canyon contains 14 miles of rapids ranging in difficulty up to Class V. It is a particularly hazardous and isolated section of the Colorado River and is subject to extreme water level fluctuations. You must have a river permit for all trips through Cataract Canyon. People interested in boating through Cataract Canyon should also read about the flatwater as these sections cannot be bypassed. Most Cataract Canyon trips put in at Potash, Moab, Green River, or Mineral Bottom. The usual take-out for Cataract trips is Hite Marina on Lake Powell. Boaters should be aware of lake conditions as they will affect the final day(s) of your trip. While hiking trails lead to the rivers from each of the districts, these trails are too long and rugged to be seriously considered for shuttles, even for inflatables and other lightweight boats.
This place was truly beautiful. And there is no cell service, there is no electricity. And before this trip I honestly hadn’t really been camping. It was all super new for me. And we were really roughing it. We were pooping in a bucket!
I actually really like camping. I was a little nervous I would hate it. But I love trying new things. and it was really exciting, a little scary at times and I was really sore from paddling.
There were a bunch of people (maybe 12?), three rafts, and one kayak. We all worked as a group. The water level was super low so we had to paddle a lot because the motor wasn’t really working. Most of the people on the trip worked together on base. So a bunch of nerdy outdoorsy people. It was such a great group. We were all so silly, and we drank a TON of beer.
I love water sports. I had never been rafting before but since this trip I have gone kayaking and paddle boarding and there isn’t a water sports that I haven’t enjoyed so far. I really like to be on a boat.
On the last night we set up right by the river with our tents and we were at a narrow crook in the canyon, you looked up and just saw two towers of red stone, like we were at the bottom of the grand canyon or something. We had a big camp fire and made Frito Pie and all these may flies hatched.
Thousands of these bug descended upon the fire and just melted into nothing, they looked almost like snow melting in the night. It was such a crazy course of nature to witness. All these mayflies hatching, looking for mates and then dying. We all drank whiskey on the water and some people went skinny dipping. I sat with my toes in the cold water staring up at the sky. The milky way bent perfectly to fit directly in the crack of the red rock, the fire dances on the red walls surrounding us and all you could see was darkness and the sky. It was so breath taking and beautiful. I wept so hard looking at the stars, I wept thinking of my grandpa. The tears on my face washed away some of the heavy sadness I was carrying. Remembering him and feeling so much love. Almost like he was there with me.
My grandpa was the first person to show me to love and respect nature. He bought me my first Wendell Berry book. I am so thankful for everything I have learned from my grandfather. I am grateful to have the memories he gave me. I am grateful for his lessons.
Greif is something you always carry with you. But I feel that I healed a little that day. With my toes in the wet dirt in Utah, between gorgeous orange rocks and a dancing beautiful milky way. I have never seen that many stars. I will always be grieving the loss of my grandpa, but I can heal and learn to better carry my grief. I will forever remember this trip and be thankful for Utah.
If you get a chance to go over night rafting in Utah, I hope you go.
To see my grandfathers photos visit his site here.
Oh also Happy St. Patrick’s day! Check out my little St Patty Day Workout on YouTube:
Check out my new Course on Teachable: