Archive for the ‘Outdoor Adventures’ Category

Stillwater and Cataract Canyons

Thursday, April 10th, 2008

Joe and enjoyed our trip down Cataract Canyon last October so much that we decided to do it again this April. We just got back from a weeklong trip. We launched March 31 and took out on April 6. Instead of just the two of us, this time we invited a couple of friends to come along, Rick Gate (read his account of the trip and see his photos @ http://buenavista.livejournal.com/121864.html) and Bob Armstrong.

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 Bob, Rick, and Lee

 We put in at Mineral Bottom on the Green River instead of Potash on the Colorado.  It is a stretch of water that we had never floated before, Stillwater Canyon.  Lots of beautiful canyon, Indian ruins, wonderful hikes and quiet water. There was good current. The river flowed along at about 3 mph up in Stillwater. After the confluence on day 4 of the trip, we were in familiar territory, Cataract Canyon.

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River bend on the Green 

 The weather was cool, but pleasant. I wore long sleeves and fleece everyday. I never put on my sandals once. The only tan I got was on the backs of my hands. The day we ran the rapids I was wearing neoprene gloves, and the rubber long johns under my jacket and paddle pants that I bought for our winter Grand Canyon trip of 02-03.

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Bob on the rim top 

We gathered Pinion pine and Cedar driftwood for fires in the fire pan each night. I really love sitting by a fire, staring at it, occasionally turning my eyes upward to gaze at the stars and visiting with friends. We ate well around the fire too. Joe planned the menus. My favorite was the Thai food at Bowdie canyon camp. The fish tacos were right up there along with the green chili casserole (Mexican lasagna I call it). It was Bob’s first river trip with us. He was used to backpacking fare and marveled at the food. He also liked sleeping on one of our “Paco” pads, they weigh ten x more than a backpacking pad, but they are also ten x more comfortable to sleep on.

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Joe on his boat 

The hiking was lovely in the cool temperatures. We set up the tent each night except once. We never had more than a few drops of rain, but if we hadn’t set up the tent, we surely would have. I have to confess that for me, the week went by way too fast and was over far too quickly.

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Lee and Joe 

It was a shock to wake up Monday morning in Spring City and see 3 inches of new snow on the ground! I spent the day getting gear and clothes washed and put away. Tuesday I went up to Provo to spend the day with my Mom. It was a good reunion.  Zina joined us for lunch as well.

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Mom and Zina 

Yesterday, Wednesday I made it back over to my studio for some painting. I started several new pieces, including painting on a door for a friends’ child’s room. So far it is a full sized standing portrait of our sweet old dog Kane. I can’t think of a more loyal and soft-spoken guard for your child’s room than old Kane.

Now it is Thursday morning. We awoke to another 2 inches of fresh snow. I am making inquiries about flood insurance for our home. 

Cataract Canyon Trip Oct. 8-13 2007

Monday, November 12th, 2007

Please click on these photos if you wish to see them enlarged.

It has been a week since Joe and I got home from a river trip we took down the Colorado River through Cataract Canyon. I have put off writing about it because we have been very busy getting caught up on fall chores around our place and also because I am still trying to get up to speed on how to build a blog entry on the new program we are using. If I were only 10 years old it would be a lot easier for me!

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Back to the wonderful river trip…. Yes, it was wonderful. I think it was one of the best river trips I have ever been on The glorious fall weather was a big factor. Utah blue skies during the day, temps in the upper 70’s or low 80’s. No rain to speak of (just about a dozen drops fell one night). The night sky was amazing. We saw the last of a rising, waning moon the night we slept at the put in at Potash and then for the rest of the week there was no moon as it was in the dark phase and then we were in a deep canyon and missed the

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crescent new moon its first few nights. The stars at night were fantastic, and since it wasn’t too cold in the evenings, I would stay up looking for constellations I used to know. I found quite a few by the end of the trip: The Summer Triangle, Delphinius the Dolphin, Cassiopeia, the Big Dipper, The Great Square of Pegasus, Orion, Lyre, Aquila the Eagle, Deneb the Swan, Andromeda, The Twins Castor and Pollux. To name a few. The best book for learning the Stars is by the Curious George Books author, H.A. Rey. It is called The Stars A New Way to See Them. It has lots of good science and technical stuff, but is written for the layman and very accessible and the charts/maps are great! I highly recommend it.

The best thing about the trip though was that it was just Joe and I. We took our first river trip in 1992 and it has taken us this long to ever do a trip with just the two of us! The closest we got to that was the Lodore trip we did in late October in 2004 with just Christa Sadler. Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for joeandlee.jpgI was very sick then with Cushing’s and was waiting for surgery in December, but going on that trip was good medicine for me. Going on a river trip with a group of friends and family is a wonderful thing, but it requires a lot more effort and work to organize. Every time a plan is made or changed it requires more effort the larger the group is. Not so with just two people. We kept it very simple. We cooked and slept on the boat. We took our 18′ boat so we had plenty of room.

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Wind River Range, Rocky Trails and Horses

Monday, November 12th, 2007

This is a post from August 21, 2007 that was lost to my archive. I am still learning how to place the photos in the blog etc… so lets hope I can make this work!This was a trip of a lifetime for me. I have always wanted to go horse packing, but knew enough to realize that I didn’t have the tack or the knowledge to strike out on my own. Eric and I have talked about horses on the river trips we have been on and I knew he did horse packing. His favorite place to go is the Wind River Mountain range in WY, which happen to be the headwaters of the Colorado River.We met Eric through boating and have done many a river trip with he and his family. There are some cross over skills for both boating the canyons and packing with horses and Eric is good at all of it. While in the Grand Canyon on a trip in 2006, we finally hatched a plan for me and another mutual river friend, Christa Sadler to go on a packing trip with he and his wife Janilee in the Winds in the summer of 2007.ericleads.jpgI decided early on to ride Eric’s horses rather than to try to take my own. He warned me that the trails are too rocky and rugged for barefoot horses like mine and he is right. Mine would probably handle it for a day or two, but with doing 10 to 20 miles each day on granite based trails, I think my horses would have needed protection like shoes or boots. I didn’t want to shoe them and I haven’t bought boots yet. Also, I know how a new horse or two into a herd or string of horses can cause undo energy or excitement. I didn’t want to deal with my horses going packing for their first time along with me doing it for my first time too. It was a wise call.I thoroughly enjoyed riding Eric’s horses. I rode into our base camp on Max, a giant red dun quarter horse gelding who was sure footed and pleasant until he got tired (the last 3 miles out about 17). Then he kind of lumbered like an ox and tossed his head frequently to express his sentiment about the length of the ride.
We rode into the Winds via the Scab Creek drainage. This put us in the middle part of the range. Our base camp was just below the Bonneville lakes, beneath Mt Raid and the Bonneville peaks at about 10,000 feet in elevation. An absolutely a gorgeous camp. There was a large meadow with water running lazily through it for the horses to be picketed out in, a granite rock rise that we set up our kitchen on and soft dirt covered in lush grass for our tents to be struck on. Best of all was the water went through lovely granite pools near our tents that were perfect for bathing in. Christa and I shared a tent. My Australian shepherd Dixon came along and he slept near us.Janilee and Eric had their own tent, as did Austin, a 17-year-old neighbor of Eric and Janilee. Eric’s job in the church right now is being the leader for the boys in the ward that are Austin’s age. Eric took all of “his” boys into the Winds just a few weeks before with his Dad and brother Matt along too. Austin was happy to come along again on his horse Frosty, even though he was hanging out with geezers the whole week. A love of horses and the mountains quickly dissolved the generation gap. I was the oldest person on the trip at 51. Eric, Janilee and Christa are all in their early to mid forties.Eric and Janilee had along their dog Whitney, a wonderful black lab and who knows what else cross. So smart and well behaved, just a great dog. Austin had his handsome Spring Spaniel named Utah along too. Dixon was kind of shy the first day and stuck pretty close to my horse on the ride in, but by the second day he was running up in front of the horses with the other dogs, making raids on the numerous marmot hotels we would pass. They were all good dogs and such a pleasure to be around.We spent our days riding, seeing spectacular scenery. Eric estimates that we logged close to 100 miles those 6 days we were there. I can’t even come close to describing the feeling of being in that mountain range and traveling over it on the back of a horse. I love to hike, but for me, there is something more intimate about traversing the land in communion with this beautiful animal. I feel the earth via their gait. I am in tune with their thoughts by watching their ears and feeling their body’s response to stimulus. I send messages back to the horse via a touch of my hand on the crest of their neck, the squeeze of a leg, the shifting of a seat bone in the saddle and my voice. We are traveling together as a pair and also in a group, keenly aware of each other in this magnificent landscape.I haven’t felt as moved by a place since my first Grand Canyon trip. Vast space, rugged granite saw toothed peaks that form the spine of our continent. Quite the opposite of the Grand Canyon, but they both evoke a similar feeling in my soul. I think the fact that both of those trips were longer than just a couple of days made a difference too. Seeing a place like this for a few hours is very different than for a week or two.The rest of the week I got to ride Spit, short for “Spirit Rider”, Eric’s personal horse. Spit had gotten a sore spot in the top of his loin from Eric’s saddle on the ride in and Eric realized that I could ride well enough and noticed that my little Brazilian saddle was shorter backed than his, and asked if I would mind riding Spit the rest of the week so his back wouldn’t get further irritated.Spit is a 16 hand, lovely, black-bay Arab/Quarter Horse cross, 7 years old. Eric bought him as a yearling. He bucked Eric off so many times as a youngster that other than a few rides this summer by Eric’s daughter Cassity, no one else had ridden him. He was a delight to ride. Light and responsive to my cues, he never balked once. He had a floating ground-covering walk (we mostly walked on the trip as the terrain is so rugged). He enjoyed the rides. By the third day I was in tears as we rode ahead of the group the last few miles to camp. I was so blissfully happy riding that horse and in that place. I told Eric later that had been one of the best days of my life.The next day was traumatic near the end of our ride. We were taking a shortcut over a ridge that would save us many miles in getting back to our camp. It was doable; we had crossed terrain just as rugged that week. Spit and I were in the lead and I asked him to hop over a granite boulder with a split in it, just like many others we had negotiated. I wasn’t worried about it at all. Spit caught his front left foot and stumbled. He went down hard on his front end to his knees. I rolled off to the left onto another granite boulder. Spit struggled to get up but now had his left hind foot caught in the base of the crack in the boulder. His head was twisted around under his shoulder and his muzzle was pinned under a boulder. He looked like a pretzel. He didn’t move and his eyes were dull with pain. My first thought was that he had a broken neck and then I saw how that left hind was twisted and wedged. I was sure it was broken. Eric carries a pistol (he has a license to carry a concealed weapon) and I was sure I was going to have to witness him putting down his beloved horse. I felt so terrible. It was one of the worst moments of my life.But Spit wasn’t done yet. While Eric and I were trying to undo the girth, he suddenly twisted up from what looked like certain death and was suddenly back on all four feet, a little bit of blood dripping from his upper lip that had smacked the granite on his way down. Within a second, he was reaching to eat some nearby grass. All was well. I was a little shaken and walked the rest of the way down the ridge, but got back on and rode the last mile into our camp.His hind foot that had been pinned and so twisted and wedged was fine other than some minor scrapes, which I applied Mom’s Stuff to. He hardly had any swelling the next day in that leg. The left front was more swollen, but still he didn’t favor it and Eric wanted me to ride him the next day as he felt it would be better to keep it moving that stand around. We gave him two doses of “Bute” or horse aspirin to help with the inflammation during the day. He was wonderful, but I could tell that whenever he had steep downhill work to do he was protecting himself. I decided that on the ride out the next day I would get off and walk down the steepest granite switchbacks, which I did.Friday night, our last night there, was also memorable. I had noticed Whitney stopping to rest under a bush and whining on the trail home to camp. This was unusual for her. When she got up I immediately noticed that her belly was distended and pointed it out to Eric who agreed. She had a bowl obstruction of some kind. We encouraged her back to camp, but she was miserable and wouldn’t eat. Janilee couldn’t hear any gut sounds in her belly, not a good sign. She bedded down in the vestibule of Eric and Janilee’s tent.About 9:30 PM a wild thunderstorm hit us. It poured rain and we had deafening thunder & lightning for about an hour. Two strikes seemed to hit right over out camp. It was the night on Bald Mountain! Christa spoke my name about 11 pm . I was asleep. She had heard horse hooves running and could hear a horse whinnying. I sat up and listened and heard it too. She was worried one of them was hurt from the storm, but I could tell from the voice that it was a horse that was panicking about being left behind. I threw on my rain gear and went out with my flashlight. As I passed Eric’s tent, he was stumbling out with his flashlight too. We headed out to the meadow to check on the horses.It turned out that two had been too closely staked to one another that evening and had gotten their lines twisted. They had with their combined efforts pulled both their stakes up and had wandered over to the other end of the meadow, leaving one other horse in their quadrant who was feeling very distressed and all alone. It is a great alarm system. The horses were easy to catch and we soon had everyone safely staked out and happily munching grass.I asked how Whiteny was doing and Eric said that she had crawled off when the storm had hit us. We started walking around the perimeter of camp with our flashlights looking under every tree and boulder, calling for her. Soon everyone was up and we all looked for about an hour before going back to our tents.I knew she had crawled off to die. It is just what dogs are hard wired to do when they are ill or hurt. We looked for about another hour the next morning before we started to break camp. We never did find her. I am going to paste in what Christa wrote about this experience next. I think she expressed it so well.

    “What exactly happened to Whitney we will never know. Obstructed, twisted or perforated intestine probably. But what struck me is how quickly it all happened, and how strangely right her death was. It was the first time in my life I witnessed a creature dying the way she was supposed to: with grace.I realize my naiveté. People who grow up on farms or ranches have seen this, but I never have. In more than 20 years of wilderness travel and guiding I’ve seen dead animals and skeletons, fur and piles of feathers left over from a kill. But I’ve never seen an animal do what it was supposed to do–crawl away and die alone. I’ve never seen the millennia of evolutionary planning coming together in this one final act. I’ve grown up in a world of animals hit by cars, put down in vet offices, shot by people, or perhaps dying on a comfortable rug in the living room. Never this wild, primordial event, so full of strange beauty. Undoubtedly there was pain, perhaps fear. But Whitney knew what she needed to do, and instinct showed her the way.Witnessing the final moments of Whitney’s life, I believe that I was seeing grace. Whitney did what she was supposed to do, alone and without complaint. Eric and Janilee lived the day with equal grace. They never asked each other what if?, blamed or tried to figure out how to change an unchangeable past. They searched, they cried and then they accepted the death of their friend. And in the morning, they called out to her in love and friendship, and we rode away.I think I have come to understand that grace for me is as simple a thing as allowing life to happen as it will, accepting it for all its sorrows and fears, joys and loves, facing the unknown with as much consent as the known. I have sought grace for years without understanding that its presence was all around me, and that all I needed to do was surrender.Whitney may have been “just” a dog, but for me, she and her family were teachers of the art of living with grace”. - Christa Sadler

The ride out last Saturday was uneventful. The horses were incredibly well behaved, even though we were heading home. They were calm and relaxed and a joy to ride. We got to Eric and Janilee’s home in Nibley, UT about 9 pm Saturday night. They had to tell their 4 daughters about Whitney. We all cried. We laughed a lot that night too. We stayed up talking with them about our week and theirs with their grandparents. The girls are beautiful, each one unique and lovely.Right before Christa and I left Sunday morning, Eric and I wandered over to the fence line of his pasture and looked at Spit, grazing contentedly. He was putting his weight on his left front. He was not limping. He was going to be OK. I was so grateful.On Monday afternoon I called Eric from my home is Spring City about something and he told me that he has just put Spit down. I couldn’t believe my ears. I started to weep. He said that Sunday evening when he looked at him out in the pasture he observed Spit limping on that front left. He went to bring him in and noticed a deep gash around the fetlock joint (ankle) of that front left foot. He thinks that he cut it on some old farm machinery that has been in the pasture for years. He called his local vet who came out and cleaned it and wrapped it, but told him that it was out of his league to repair it and that he would have to take him to the equine veterinary specialist clinic in Salt Lake Valley the next morning.On the initial examination they told him that they thought they could repair Spit with surgery. They thought he had an 80% chance for a good recovery. Eric agreed to the cost of the surgery. Spit was definitely worth it. A few hours later they called him on his phone with bad news. The injury was worse than it appeared once they got inside. Too many severed tendons. He now only had a 20% chance of ever being sound and then he would probably be prone to early arthritis. Eric did the right thing and told them not to bring him out of the anesthesia.I have shed more than a few tears this week when I think of that horse and how Eric must feel about loosing him. I bonded with him so much in just the few days I rode him. I have ridden a number of horses in my years and he was definitely one of the most memorable and finest.Thank-you Eric and Janilee for taking me to the Wind Rivers and trusting me with your lovely horses. It was a privilege to go with you. Thank you Spit for letting me grace your strong back and connect with your spirit those days on the trail.