Red rocks and brown mud on the Green River

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Red rocks and brown mud on the Green River

Green River canoe trip
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I can’t say I was excited about this trip in the days before we left. Suzy and I have been on a number of multi-day river trips in the past. While we did enjoy those trips, my memory is a little more pessimistic than hers. She remembers the warm days, the cools nights, the peace, the laughter. I remember the long drives, the heavy gear, the hot days, the flipping of boats in big, powerful rapids, the W-I-N-D blowing so hard we couldn’t make forward progress. I was feeling pretty anxious.

According to Centennial Canoe’s website, the trip was supposed to be pretty easy. We would be on a flat water section of the Green River through Labyrinth Canyon, just south of Green River, UT. All of the driving, cooking, and most of the heavy lifting would be taken care of by our guides. All we had to do was show up, paddle our canoe, and take care of our personal gear. So, after delaying my decision a while and some gentle pressure from Suzy, we signed up.

On the morning of the trip we signed a waiver, got some breakfast, and were given two dry bags to fill with our gear. The process was quick, easy, and before we knew it we had met our guides and fellow companions and were on the road to the put-in. Once there, we loaded the boats, got a quick paddle lesson, and pushed off.

When you step off the bank into the canoe that first time the feeling is a little uneasy. You have to find your balance, your rhythm, your sunglasses. You have to figure out how to go, stop, and steer. It is the polar opposite of driving to work and sitting at a desk for eight hours a day. As we moved forward, down river, I had the sense that we were moving back in time. With each stroke, roads and power lines disappeared. The hum of traffic, sound of cell phones, and the constant assault of mass media on my senses were cut off by the wind, water, mud, and rock. Slowly the dirt of everyday life was replaced with river mud.

Yes there was mud. Lots of mud. There was also sand, sticks, prickly things, sun, shooting stars, W-I-N-D, deer, geese, herons, ducks, toads, mice, mosquitoes, minnows, raptors, turkey vultures, rock art, uranium mines, tamarisk, willows, blisters, sun burns, sore muscles, cowboys, trappers, explorers, Native Americans, poets, cultural icons, food, wine, music, laughter, water fights, tipped boats, and sandbars.

The cowboys, trappers, miners, etc. were given to us courtesy of Dr. Andrew Gulliford, professor of History at Fort Lewis College in Durango, CO. At each lunch, dinner and riverside stop he told us stories of Native American life and the old and new west. The stories were connected to the river and flowed with it, often splitting off, merging back together, but always pushing forward.

The poets and icons made their appearances through our guides Randy Hertzman and Becca Arndt. I’m sure that many guides would be happy to simply take us down the river and show us some sights but Randy and Becca went out of their way to make the trip an experience. Each morning we “barged-up” and floated as they read a poem or excerpt from selected writers. This was followed by a few moments of silence. On the last day light rain fell as we quietly paddled. The silence ended with a group coyote howl.

As we drifted day after day I realized my anxious feelings were somewhat unfounded. Yes, there were some long drives and heavy lifting, mostly by choice. And, we did have one W-I-N-D storm that rolled through and flattened a few tents. But, the trip was never meant to be limited to rest and relaxation. It was an adventure. And, like most adventures, it was a grab bag of relaxation, fun, stress, work, discovery, education, and uncertainty.

As usual, the days passed too quickly. Time lost all meaning. Until, of course, the last day when our guide pulled up to the take-out and we realized the adventure was over. Just like that.

About Author


I'm currently the Interim Director of Web Services at Fort Lewis College in Durango, Colorado. I enjoy traveling, hiking, camping, gardening, reading and more.