Saturday, October 2, 2010

Westwater Canyon 1/10/10

We relaxed the next day doing the mundane things of travel like washing,organising and writing up and downloading the blog. Moab has everything to offer for the thrill seeker like ourselves so we thought we would try one of the experiences it had. Should we hire a Jeep or ATV and go on the miles of 4 wheel drive tracks? We had just done one on the bike so that didn't seem worth doing. How about horse riding? Not my favourite form of travel and maybe we would try and get a mule ride to the bottom of the grand canyon when we get there, although it gets very booked up. So white water rafting on the Colorado river it was going to have to be. There were 3 on offer , half and full day trips in the Fisher Tower area or a full day down Westwater Canyon. We went into Adrift Adventures and looked at the options. Fisher Tower was a quite day drifting down the river with rapid rated at 1 and 2. Westwater Canyon on the other hand was described as one of the best one day rides on the Colorado with rapids rated at 3 and 4, and the cost dropped by $31 in October, so I persuaded Jill that if we were going to experience rafting we might as well go for the big one. Jill spent an anxious night and we got up at 0550 to have breakfast before being picked up from the camp site at 0640. At the main office we met up with John and Shona, a honeymoon couple from London, and John our guide. Raft in tow we headed along the 128 into the sunrise to pick up Roger and Karen, a film maker and Lawyer from New York, from the Sorel River Ranch. The ride took about 90 minutes and once the raft was lunched , everything stowed and all checked by a Ranger we were ready for the off. For those of you in the know the river was running at 3370 cfs. This part of the river is administered by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and we all had to pay a $7 fee for a licence to travel the Westwater Canyon. John told us that the morning was going to be quite sedate, with only little rapids and after lunch we would then get into the bigger stuff. He had a quiet confidence about him, telling us of all the things that could and have gone wrong but without inducing complete panic. Drifting down the river through small rapids, cliffs
and wild life, past the guardian parrot where we stopped for lunch at Little Hole canyon just before the big ones. John having stowed and lashed down everything, including my camera, he proceeded to give us another safely talk while we took off all the clothes we could without becoming indecent to stash in a dry bag. 3 things could go wrong. You could fall out of the raft and hopefully get pulled back in by your life jacket. You could fall out of the raft and get separated to be picked up later. Just face down stream with your legs out in front. If everything is OK then a fist on the top of your head, if things aren't going well then wave the fist about. Cold, scared and missing your mum didn't count as things not going well. I have no photographic evidence of what came next as our trusted camera isn't waterproof so was safely stashed away, but we set off into quiet water towards Little Dolores just round the bend. It felt rather like one of those movies where our hero is drifting down stream thinking 'this ain't so bad, but what's that noise' when around the corner he comes to a waterfall. John made it look easy by his expert navigation and we were soon through back into quiet water drifting past an outlaws cave. Two brother had held up a bank and hidden out by the river with their loot for 2 years. Not a lot of shops around which seems a bit of a waste really. One of the brothers later died and we pasted his grave further down the river. The next 10 rapids come in quick succession being only 2.3 miles that separate them. For most of the Colorado it drops 1 foot every mile, but at this point it is dropping 20 feet. We were now entering the part of the canyon made up of Vishnu Schist a black very old 'centre of the earth' rock that only comes to the surface at a very few places. Marble Canyon was quickly followed by Staircase and the Big Hummer which had a huge rock in the middle with water rushing over it. (Not the place to be as there was a big hole the other side). Funnel Falls gave us a good soaking and lots of cries of delight (I think they were cries of delight!). Before being surprised by Surprise 1 and 2. Then came the Skull, which if getting through it wasn't bad enough you then had to miss the 'rock of shock' that could put you in the 'room of doom'. If you got stuck in the 'room of doom' you couldn't get out and would have to deflate your raft and portage it down stream. As the cliffs were nearly vertical this would be no mean feat. Bowling Alley was followed by Sock-it-to-me, a huge wave, with magnetic rock that tries to get you stuck to it, with only a short rest before Last Chance another biggie. I think it was meant to be called 'Last chance to fall out' but got shortened. Soaked, cold and relieved we drifted into stiller water, where Jill took over before we take off our life jackets and started the motor. The last 6 miles to the take out point was uneventful but with some great views
Past the snotty Indian (you need to click on the close up to see the cliff swallows nests), and the stand off between the snake and the frog, before the land flattened out and we reached the take out at Cisco.
We arrived back a the KOA at about 1700 tired but invigorated. Thank you John for your expert guiding.

1 comment:

  1. Hi guys, I saw you at the Natural Bridges National Monument... I took a picture of your bike and just checked out your website! I'm definitely getting my bike license done this year. Hope your travels go well - and if you have time, have a look at my blog take care :)