|When I heard my friends were planning a trip to the Green River in Utah, I knew immediately I wanted to go. Rick planned and coordinated the whole thing. We were going to fly into Salt Lake with cheap flights from Baltimore on Southwest. We would rent a car there and drive to Moab. Starting at Ruby Ranch, a private ranch on the east shore of the Green River north of Moab, five days on the river would get us 100 miles down river to Spanish Bottom. Just past the confluence of the Green River with the Colorado river, we and our rented boats would be transported back up river to Moab. Joel, who had paddled there before and expounded at length on its beauty, got the two permits, one for the BLM section and one for the Canyonlands National Park section. We selected Canyon Adventures to provide the kayaks and Tag-a Long to deliver us and the boats to Ruby Ranch and pick us up at Spanish Bottom. All the details were worked out at a meeting a month before we left. Rick would fly in from Las Vegas, after managing a work assignment there. Tom would meet us in Moab after driving up from Texas with his own boat.
The morning flight out of Baltimore Washington International was a total mob scene. Fortunately everyone had arrived 2 hours before flight departure and we needed all but 10 minutes of it to get through the horrible lines inside and outside of the terminal. The long line at the security gate moved quickly and we made the flight with some minutes to spare. The long 5 hour flight to Salt Lake went slowly. We arrived around noon and were soon driving south in the Salt Lake valley, past Provo and on to Moab.
We checked into the motel and went up to Canyon Voyages Adventure Company to fill put the remaining paperwork on the kayak rentals, then over to Tag-A Long to check out the boats and equipment. All was in order with the four kayaks, one Mad River Canoe and the necessary equipment, paddles PFDs, throw ropes and all important groover. The large aluminum box for the human waste we would generate during the trip would occupy the center section of the canoe. A kayak only trip would have to make other arrangements, as the large, heavy groover would surely capsize a kayak.
We went to the restaurant that was a part of the Big Horn Motel for an excellent steak dinner. With options for a vegetarian (Joel), the primary fare was steak and I had a very nice T-bone. The prices were quite reasonable. During dinner, Tom decides that his bad back flare up will not allow him to join us on the river. Instead he will spend the week around Moab, visiting Arches and Canyonlands National Parks. He will see us again when we return to Moab. We will miss him on the trip.
The morning was a crisp 60 degrees. The water temperature was in the high sixties, with a high temperature for the day in the mid eighties. There wasn't a single cloud in the sky. What perfect weather for a paddle trip! We slathered on the sun protector, lip balm, zinc oxide and all the other modern conveniences to keep ourselves from burning under the intense sun. Our 14 foot plastic Touryak boats were laid out on the sandy bank, ready to receive our gear.
Map of trip area
By three P.M. we had made our mileage for the day. We stopped on a beautiful sandbar in the middle of the river. We arrived just ahead of a party of 20 canoes of loud, beer guzzling fellows, an illegally large group. They stayed for a while and then, most happily, moved on. I can not say that we were overly friendly to them.
We spent the afternoon under the tarp, swimming in the river and relaxing on the sandbar. I was surprised that despite the appearance of the brown silted water, the water was quite pleasant to swim in. The suspended particles are so fine that you can not feel them on your skin or in your clothes. They leave a film of brownish residue behind, but that is only noticeable on your glasses and camera lens.
By midday we had reached Mineral Bottom, a popular put in and take out for the Green River. Many of the canoe groups that we had passed were taking out here. Others were just starting their Green River trips headed for the same take out as we were at Spanish Bottom. A road ran along the river bringing new river travelers to the launch site. I pulled out on a stone bank and walked up the road overlooking the river. True to its name, I found several mineral laden rocks including a geode and a iron nodule. There was also a campsite between the river and the road under a huge cottonwood. The deeply furrowed bark of the old tree shown golden in the midday sun. I was soon joined by Harding who rested comfortably in a seat carved by a previous visitor into the soft bank. Joel and Kathy soon found our retreat.
We reached Fort Bottom shortly after leaving Mineral Bottom. We pulled over onto the muddy gooey bank and scrambled up the trail to the long abandoned cabin. The porch roof still provided shade, but the main roof had long collapsed into the interior of the building. The "front lawn" sloped down to the bend in the river. It was filled with a riot of orange mallow, yellow and purple flowers and many delicate blooming cactus. Stupidly I had stepped off the hard packed trail to take a picture of this beautiful cactus. When I looked back I saw that my feet had made deep impressions in the rocks and stoned making up the surface of the desert. My moment of thoughtlessness would now remain for years, absent the rare strong downpour. That realization sadden me and put a damper on my visit to this site.
We headed back down the trail and Rick became enthused about walking a trail back over the mesa to the north. After changing into his hiking boots, he set out on the trail. The rest of us continued on to the camp less than a quarter mile from the outlaw cabin, on the other side of the river. It was very early in the day to be putting into the camp, but we had made our mileage and it was a great spot to stop. I needed to dry all my camp equipment which I had packed away soaking wet that morning because of the very heavy dew the prior night that had not had any time to dry on the sandbar shadowed by the cliff.
We followed the single track trail up to the mesa in the middle of the loop of the Green River. The river wound around at least 300 degrees, nearly making the site into an island. Up on top the 500 foot high mesa was a two cylinder tower. Constructed of laid stones with little or no mortar, this structure's architecture is of the earliest king known in the area. Wood used in its construction was still visible poking out from the rough stones. It has been carbon dated at more than 900 years old. The purpose of the structure is unknown.
Continue to part two.....................
Our new camp was a meadow of rye grass under a small collection of cottonwoods. I spread all my gear out to dry overtop the rye grass. In less than 10 minutes everything was dry. I folded it up and repacked my bags. The sun continued on its arc and the camp was soon in shadow. The amphitheater of the high canyon walls was lit with the golden rays of the late afternoon sun. The scene across the flowered wash in front on my site was magnificent.