Trip Report
6-day San Juan River Workout, rafting, & Lost Tribe of Prehistoric Women Search Epic!
Sunday May 15, 2011 9:05pm
I saw the way!

I could ignore the facts!

This nearly impossible rapid at 325 C.F.S. was------No real problem for me!
photo not found
Missing photo ID#202483

The four other boaters who had pin-balled their rafts through Government Rapid, or had hung-up: simply did not have a competent rower that “knew how to row” tight low-water rapids.

Then my raft pinned on huge rocks in fast water.
photo not found
Missing photo ID#202484

Until then: everything had been---------merely-------challenging.



My Utah rafting buddy Jerry had been hearing stories about "strange-looking hippie women" in side canyons off the San Juan River. One fellow claimed he saw some dressed in fur: who climbed like mountain goats.

Could it be one of the Lost Tribes of Prehistoric Women??

Investigation was needed.

Heidi & Jerry's wife Angie tagged along to show any Prehistoric Women that we were already claimed.


Normal San Juan river flows in early May are 1,000 to 3,000 C.F.S. We launched on May 6 at about 407 C.F.S., then river flow went down to about 325 C.F.S. for the next two days.

We had to row 83.5 miles from the Sand Island Launch Area to Clay Hills takeout.

photo not found
Missing photo ID#202497


  Trip Report Views: 5,792
Fritz
About the Author
Fritz is a trad climber from Choss Creek, ID.

Comments
Ezra Ellis

Trad climber
North wet, and Da souf
  May 15, 2011 - 09:09pm PT
nice fritz, Glad to see you at it again!
I was down at the COR on Friday/Saturday, great days, thought 'bout calling ya!
-e
atchafalaya

Boulder climber
  May 15, 2011 - 09:48pm PT
I have done that trip over forty times. loVE the San Juan. More please!!!!
Fritz

Social climber
Choss Creek, ID
Author's Reply  May 15, 2011 - 10:04pm PT
Day one was the Anasazi rock art and ruins day.

We had already rigged our rafts and passed River Ranger inspection the previous day. We were up at 6:00 and launched by about 8:30.

In warm lovely weather, we did several short hikes, found numerous wonderful petroglyphs, and some great pictographs, as well as some “way cool” ruins.




In late afternoon, we rowed hard against the upstream wind. We finally found a nice little campsite about 6:30 in the evening.
Steve Grossman

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
  May 15, 2011 - 10:08pm PT
Sweet TR!

Thanks for posting up...More photos!
survival

Big Wall climber
Terrapin Station
  May 15, 2011 - 11:08pm PT
Dude, I think I can find an old map about the prehistoric women tribes of the area.
I think there is even a guide to basic sign language and how to approach them about breeding on the back of the map.........
Fritz

Social climber
Choss Creek, ID
Author's Reply  May 16, 2011 - 11:59am PT
Survival: That map would certainly help my search.

Day two, we rose at dawn and decided to make some miles, before the afternoon upstream wind hit us.

The realization started sinking in that the river was so low we were going to have to row, rather than float, down it. Otherwise, we simply couldn’t get the trip done within our 6 day time-frame. The rest of the trip, non-rowing float time likely totaled less than an hour.

The good news was: the river was running clear enough to filter with our Katadyn Base Camp filter. We were able to dump most of the water we were carrying: to achieve lighter and more maneuverable boats.

Day three: we rowed through “The Goosenecks” where the river loops around many old meanders.

Several small herds of desert bighorn sheep and many species of birds made for other interesting views. However no prehistoric women showed themselves.

The river gradient increased and we ended up rowing 19 miles to a great little camp, with a nice sandy beach. It got very windy that night and it became obvious that the weather was changing.

We made a major sacrifice in our Donini-inspired organic-vegan diet, and grilled steaks for dinner. Hopes that the cooking odors would draw in Prehistoric women were not fulfilled. We had to eat the steaks ourselves. Darn!


A BLM River Ranger floated by in the evening, and informed us that the river was only flowing at 325 C.F.S.
survival

Big Wall climber
Terrapin Station
  May 16, 2011 - 11:26am PT
Keep the great pix coming Fritz!



how to approach them about breeding on the back of the map.........


Although I'm unsure of why they'd be interested in breeding on the back of a map.....
Fritz

Social climber
Choss Creek, ID
Author's Reply  May 16, 2011 - 11:23pm PT
Day four started windy & cold, and it rained for our morning float.

By early afternoon, we arrived at Government Rapid, our “big” rapid for the trip.

The San Juan is not noted as a thrilling white-water river, but we had been thrilled by some of the Class II rapids that we had bumped through in the very low water.

Government Rapid is a Class III rapid, and when we arrived: there were three rafts tied up above it, with the occupants scouting the now very challenging rapid.

The BLM River Ranger ran it first. It was not a clean run, but he pin-balled through the tight passages without getting stuck.

Next through was an old fellow of 67, who had been down the San Juan numerous times. Of course he mentioned: he had never seen the river this low and challenging. The old guy’s raft bumped slowly over some rocks covered by shallow water at the start, but he made it without any major problems.

The old guy’s younger rafting pal pinned his raft against some boulders midway through the rapid and spent about 10 minutes pushing and bouncing it free.


Then came Jerry & Angie’s turn and they stuck in the exact same spot as the previous raft. Working as a team, they were able to free their raft in about 5 minutes of pushing and bouncing.

At this point the BLM River Ranger counseled me to try a different entry into the rapid.

As Heidi & I approached the rapid: I saw the way!

I could ignore the facts!

This nearly impossible rapid was------no real problem for me!

The four other boaters who had pin-balled their rafts through Government Rapid, or had hung-up: simply did not have a competent rower that “knew how to row” tight low-water rapids.

Then my raft pinned on the same huge rocks in fast water.

Until then: everything had been---------merely-------challenging.


We were able to free our raft in just a few minutes of stress-induced, adrenaline-charged, power-lifting.

Jerry took a short amusing video of most of the "Friz & Heidi get pinned adventure". Luckily he has not posted it on Utube.

From the foot of the rapid, it was only a few miles down to our designated camp at Slickhorn Canyon. We arrived, unloaded boats, and just had time to set up camp before a thunderstorm hit us.

During the cold, windy, and wet evening we had one break in the weather, just long enough to cook and eat dinner, break out the "nerve tonic" and do an unusually sincere toast to: “cheating death on the San Juan.”
BooDawg

Social climber
Butterfly Town
  May 16, 2011 - 11:40pm PT
Did you hike up Slickhorn canyon? As I remember there's a ruin up high in the canyon with an intact, covered kiva, ladder and all.
Fritz

Social climber
Choss Creek, ID
Author's Reply  May 16, 2011 - 11:54pm PT
Boodawg. We only went up Slickhorn a mile or so. The ruins I'm aware of: are in the upper part of Slickhorn.

I have hiked down-canyon to that Kiva you mention.

There's some pretty cool stuff in the various forks of upper Slickhorn.
guido

Trad climber
Santa Cruz/New Zealand/South Pacific
  May 17, 2011 - 12:23am PT
Nice Fritz-last time down the San Juan in April we started in tank tops and shorts and ended in what Bardini would happily call "full conditions." One of their "100 years storms" was the comment. Had to walk the boats down the canyon because of the radical up canyon winds. Seems like a lot of " 100 year storms" in the past decade?

Beautiful and enchanting place except for the proximity to Mex Hat.

Great TR-thanks for all the effort to put it together.
Fritz

Social climber
Choss Creek, ID
Author's Reply  May 17, 2011 - 07:30pm PT
Guido: Did you have the 100 year storm this April? This was my first San Juan. I had always believed it was an idyllic float, with a nasty flatw#ter row on the last day.

Now I think it is a lot of fighting the dreaded upstream winds.

When we floated through the town of Mexican Hat, we were greeted by a couple friendly fellows with open beers in their hands. Fully clothed, they jumped in the river as we rowed by, and floated along behind us for a quarter mile drinking beer.
Spider Savage

Mountain climber
The shaggy fringe of Los Angeles
  May 17, 2011 - 10:41am PT
Fritz - Dude! You are livin' the life!
Ezra Ellis

Trad climber
North wet, and Da souf
  May 17, 2011 - 11:43am PT
Awesome fritz, Love the pre-historic art,
Sorry you didn't find the amazonian women!

The petroglyphs in Vallery of fire state park in nevada, specifically the mouses tank canyon is amazing if you get the chance!
Fritz

Social climber
Choss Creek, ID
Author's Reply  May 17, 2011 - 12:03pm PT
Day five, dawned mostly clear and windy.

We actually slept in, for the only time on the trip, since our next designated camp was only 5 ½ miles downriver.

After a leisurly breakfast, and a second pot of coffee, it was decided that we needed to go look for Lost Prehistoric Women.

We hiked up scenic Slickhorn Canyon, and admired the great scenery and interesting small marine fossils in the rocks, then packed up camp and launched on the San Juan.



From Slickhorn down, we were in rafter’s hell.

Lake Powell, at high pool once extended nearly all the way to Slickhorn Canyon. Lake Powell (foul) is much lower now, and doesn’t quite extend to the Clay Hills takeout: 16 miles down-canyon. Those 16 miles now have almost no current and have numerous mud-bars, due to build-up of river sediments. The river channel is very indistinct. That and the mud bars combine with strong upstream winds, to make for slow and miserable boating.


We camped just above river level, on a goose-crap covered mud flat, and hoped the river would not rise and flood us out during the night.


Oh yes! It was cold and windy, and the mud flat smelled like drying crap-covered mud flats smell.

Up at dawn. We quickly discovered the river was rising fast and our mud flat was starting to flood. We “made haste” in eating breakfast and loading our rafts, then we were safely away before we lost our mud flat to the rising river.

Of course we had upstream wind, even in the early morning: but we rowed the final 11 ½ miles non-stop, in about three and one-half hours. The rising river seemed to give us some downstream current in most spots, and I only stuck our raft briefly on one mud-bar.

Would I do the trip again? Not in only 6 days, at those low water levels. However it was a great exercise and weight-loss program. I shed five pounds in 6 days.
cleo

Social climber
wherever you go, there you are
  May 17, 2011 - 07:06pm PT
That looks like I lot of fun, I'd love to do it! Thanks!
Toker Villain

Big Wall climber
Toquerville, Utah
  May 17, 2011 - 08:11pm PT
That particular cave-woman attends a yoga class run by a friend in the caves of Bel Air.


Once I motored my canoe up from Clay Hills about 12 miles, but when I tried to return the upcanyon winds kicked up.
Finally I loaded the canoe with about 400 lbs of rocks to catch the current and keep my bow down.
Fritz

Social climber
Choss Creek, ID
Author's Reply  May 17, 2011 - 10:13pm PT
Piton Ron.

That sounds like an adventure.

You got a project??? going up there??

Donini was very interested in doing a San Juan trip with us, but had prior climbing commitment elsewhere.

Is this the "next Indian Creek?"


Dirka

Trad climber
Hustle City
  May 17, 2011 - 11:11pm PT
That looks like some cold fun!
Ezra Ellis

Trad climber
North wet, and Da souf
  May 22, 2011 - 05:05pm PT
bump for a great TR!
Fritz

Social climber
Choss Creek, ID
Author's Reply  May 22, 2011 - 11:34pm PT
Thanks for posting your comments!

Dirka: It was warm fun for the first three days.

Now that the over-used muscles have healed:

I like the trip better!
Fritz

Social climber
Choss Creek, ID
Author's Reply  May 23, 2011 - 01:18pm PT
Woohoo!

Jerry posted the video of Heidi and me "pinned" on the rocks in Government Rapid to Youtube.

After we got off the big rocks we were pinned on, I jumped back into my seat and started rowing.

We lurched a couple of feet and stuck on another rock that was just underwater.

In the video, I get behind my seat, stand on the rock, and lift our cataraft off it (one of the advantages of a cataraft).

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gPUkbGSZ_PA

Heidi & I both do some pretty quick jumping, (for old farts) into position, as the raft finally breaks free
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