Cataract Canyon River Retreat - July 7-11
Rachelle was hosting a Yoga retreat in July and it happened to be right after the Wilson reunion, so I was excited that it was possible for me to join. On Monday night Matt drove Melissa and I to Moab. Rachelle and Marcus were going to sleep on the floor in our hotel room, but there happened to be a trundle couch. They were thrilled. Easily pleased, I tell you. ;)
We didn't get to Moab until about 1 am, and Melissa and I were still a little apprehensive about the whole trip, so we didn't get much sleep. We had NO idea what to expect.
Tuesday morning we met at the boat house in Moab to get ready. We actually didn't leave until 9:30, so we could have slept in, but we obeyed and went early. We all loaded in a van and headed to the river. The picture above is right before leaving.
The boats are tied together and we slowly float down the river. Everyone can walk around between the boats. The big blue boat is called the S-rig. The S-rig has the motor and all the food and camping gear on it. It's a big boat. The rafting company was World Wide River Company. This trip was the owner, Niki's, 'vacation' trip. Everyone there had a relative on the trip.
The scenery was breathtaking!! It changes all the time as your go further down the river. I thought the brown water would detract from view, but it didn't bother me at all.
I was a little nervous about the rapids, but I was most concerned about being in the HOT sun for 5 days straight. We had PERFECT weather. After being on the boat for a little while it started to rain on us. Rain was not in the forecast at all the day before leaving.
We actually got cold more than we were hot. Panda, yes that's her name, Niki's sister, has been on 25+ of these river trips and kept telling us this is the BEST weather they've ever had on a trip. She said it's much better to have rain than to be in 100+ degrees all week.
Since we weren't prepared for rain, we used whatever we could find to stay dry.
A lot of the ladies had been on river trips before, so they came prepared with lots of fun things to entertain everyone. Sarah did hemp tattoos for those that wanted one. After floating for a few hours we stopped at a little beach and had lunch. The great thing about this trip is that the river guides (Andrew, Marcus and Libby) do all the work for you. They cook all the food too. Easiest camping experience ever. While they were preparing lunch (sandwiches and chips) for us Rachelle gave us a little yoga session on the beach. This beach was swarming with bugs, so we kept it short so we could get further down the river to escape the bugs.
We floated for a couple more hours and then the guides dropped us off at one end of The Loop (right side of this picture), and while they continue floating around the big loop, we hike up to the top and meet them on the other side (past Rachelle on the left). My stupid shoes broke on this hike and didn't work after that. Luckily Rachelle had an extra pair to use the rest of the trip.
Cool hexagonal plant at the top of The Loop.
We did a little yoga at the top of the mountain. Not a bad view!! I was a little nervous about having to do a lot of yoga (I like yoga, but don't like it THAT much), but it wasn't as much as I thought it would be. Rachelle did a good job of keeping it simple, fun and balanced.
After floating down the river a little longer, we stopped to go cliff jumping. I forgot how scary it is. It looks so small from the ground, but when you're up there it's down-right frightening. Now that I'm an old lady it's even scarier. Melissa and I sucked it up and jumped twice (so did Shelby).
We made it to our camp site for the night at The Ledge. It's exactly what it sounds like, a rocky ledge just off the river.
Panda buried a box quite a few year ago with random notes and trinkets in it that she digs up every year that they camp there and read about past trips or see what else is in the box. Melissa and I added little notes. I wrote to my kids and husband about how I hope they are reading this with me because they're on the next river trip.
Each night Rachelle did a yoga and meditation session. It was really relaxing. For dinner we had soba noodles in rice paper rolls, and some soup. That's another thing I was unsure of......the food. I told Rachelle she better not just feed us apples and seaweed. She reassured me that we would eat well. All the food was really good. The sky was filling with dark clouds, so we all set up tents in case it rained. It did!
Yet another things I wasn't certain how it worked would be the bathroom situation. Can you tell I had a lot of questions before leaving?!!! So, every time we stopped for the night, they pulled out the "The Groover" and put it off somewhere away from everyone. It's called the groover, because they are old army cans and when the soldiers would sit on them it caused grooves in their tooshies. These guys are nice and screw on a toilet seat. I'm sure this is more information than most of you care to know, but here you go anyway. So the white bucket is for business #1 and the groover is supposed to be only for business #2. They dump number #1 in the river and then seal up the groover and take it along. Surprisingly it doesn't smell when it's on the boats. Notice the snake next to the groover? Panda has all sorts of tricks she brings along. You can tell she's been a few times and also a girls camp director. She was like our camp mom. Another surprising thing was that everyone on this trip was Mormon, or at least raised Mormon. Made it nice because there was not drinking, and some spiritual moments. Those that had been before said that when there is a lot of drinking on the trip it ruins it for everyone.
The hand washing station. You step on that little black bulb and water comes out the spout. Doesn't really clean your hands since it's just the water from the dirty river.
This is the view from the bathroom/groover. Rachelle said her and Marcus like to see who can have the best bathroom view on their river trips. Not a bad view, I'd say.
Wednesday morning we did a little yoga, had breakfast (can't remember what it was), packed up camp and started down the river again.
We went down river for about an hour and then got to where the actual 'Cataract Canyon' started, so life jackets had to be worn from here on out. Our guides were very knowledgeable about history and events that took place with the river and Lake Powell. Andrew would stop the boats and tell us interesting points all along the way. At the spot where we had to put on life jackets is where the green river and the Colorado river converge.
Above is the picture of Dolls House (all the jagged point at the top of the mountain), a hike we did on Thursday.
Because there are quite a few rafting companies that run this river there is a box right before the rapids start where each company signs up for camping spots further down the river. We left early that morning so we could get to the box and get good camp grounds for the remainder of the trip.
Niki getting serious about the camera timer.
Rachelle told me to pack 'grandma Scholzen shirts (long sleeved light flannels)' so the sun doesn't kill you. I hit up Goodwill and found some real beauties.
We untied the boats and got situated for one class 2 rapid. Marcus our fearless leader, me, Melissa and Panda ready to brave it. One thing that surprised me, was that there is really only one day that you have rapids. They call it rapids day. I thought it would be rapids on and off the whole trip. Really, the first few days is just floating down the river.
Marcus let me row thru one of the rapids and man IT'S HARD!! He is amazing at it.
First rapid - Brown Betty. Of course, Melissa and I were super nervous since we didn't know what to expect, but once we were on the other side we realized it's not as bad as we thought. The S-rig just plows thru the rapids because it's so big, and then waits at the bottom. It is the safety boat (also the only boat with a motor) and watches all the other boats come down, so if they need to rescue anyone they can help.
We set up camp right after the Brown Betty rapid (Brown Betty campsite). Normally, they float (don't use the motor hardly at all) down the river slowly, and camp at a different spot every night; however, there were really bad bugs up river and Niki wanted to get down the river faster. We ended up motoring a lot the first 2 days and made down much further. We were able to camp here for 2 nights. I liked it because it meant we could relax and go on hikes without having to rush each morning.
Marcus found a shady spot away from all the women to take a little siesta.
Groover view from Brown Betty campsite.
We all sat around, ate lunch (river burritos - tortillas filled with veggies, beans, cheese - really yummy), talked (the mom of one of the missionaries from the Saratov Approach was on the trip, so she told us her side of the story), read (someone brought the book The Emerald Mile and was reading from it. Crazy, scary, sad book about people dying on the rapids. Probably not a good thing to read right before rapid day), napped....... so relaxing and fun.
Rachelle did such an amazing job on the menu. We ran into another company and the lady heard what we had been eating and was so jealous. She said all their food was teenage boy food (hot dogs, mac and cheese, etc.).
Libby, one of the river guides, brings her guitar. Amazing it still works with the abuse it takes on these trips.
After relaxing and getting settled into camp for a few hours, we noticed the sky getting darker and darker. We knew a storm was brewing, but we had not idea how big of a storm.
It was absolutely crazy watching the storm roll over the mountains. Slowly the big cliffs would disappear from the torrential rains coming down.
Right before this storm we were doing partner yoga and the thunder was SO LOUD. Rachelle was screaming over the thunder and we were all laughing hysterically trying to do the moves and not be distracted by the oncoming storm. Finally once the rain started coming everyone ran for shelter.
Same view as the 2 picture above. The mountains completely disappeared it was raining so hard, and the wind was so strong. Tents were flying and we were all screaming whenever the thunder sounded. It was crazy!! I've never heard rolling thunder before. It was one right after another, and the lightning lit up the entire canyon. Super scary, but amazing. They kept reassuring me that the lightning would hit the tops of the mountains first, and we were completely safe because we were so far down. Also, no worries of flash flooding because the canyon we were in was so wide it doesn't really hit like that there.
After a few minutes we all decided to dance in the rain instead of trying to all stand under a tiny canopy. There was another group camping down from us (they had to get off the river when the rains came), and while we were out dancing in the rain, they were 15 ft. apart and curled up in a ball on the ground (what you're supposed to do in the thunder storm). We were livin' on the edge. Ha. :)
About 20 minutes later is was over and the sun was shining, and then the waterfalls started (right in the middle of this picture is a muddy waterfall). The guides told us to watch the river, because slowly it would turn to dark brown water. Sure enough, it looked like dark chocolate milk.
It went on like this (sunny to downpour) a few times throughout the day. At one point it was hailing quite painfully on us. In between storms, some of the ladies pulled out some beads and we all made necklaces.
Kind of getting comical at this point with all the storms.
We were able to have dinner before another storm came (Mongolian BBQ and peach cobbler). The guides do all the cooking and cleaning for you - awesome, right?! Melissa and I stayed up late and talked with some of the women.
Marcus said he would take the red boat and let us practice going thru the rapids if we wanted. We had to paddle to the side of it, upstream, and once the rapids were to strong you just have to go with it. We practiced flipping the boat and how to get back in. It was so fun.....and super hard getting back in the boat. We had the full day to spend here, so we relaxed at the beach, got rained on some more. At one point during a particularly heavy rainstorm and boat had just gone thru Brown Betty and was starting towards our beach. They needed to take cover until the storm passed. As they were getting off the boat all of a sudden a little girl popped up from the floor. All of us went "awwwwwww" and quickly got her under the canopy. Everyone's motherly instincts kicked in and smothered the poor girl with hot chocolate, tarps, warm clothes...... They were from NY, and by the end of our interaction, they were inviting us all to come to NY and they would show us a good time. The poor little girl was so scared of the thunder.
Getting our zen on. For dinner we had dutch oven veggie lasagna and garlic cheese bread with graham crackers, bananas and Nutella for dessert. Thursday night we went to bed thinking the biggest storms had passed, but man were we wrong. The lightning was hitting on the banks right by us, the thunder was so loud if shook the tents and to top it off there were rock slides happening all around us. I would hear this loud pop, like a gun going off, and then rocks falling down the cliffs. I jumped out of my tent and one of the guides came over to see if we were OK. I told him, those are rock slides, and he seemed a bit nervous as well. This happened for a few hours. I was a panicky mess, my heart was racing and all I could think of was my family and thinking how we were going to die in this canyon. I know, irrational, but every time I heard the rocks falling, all I could imagine was that house in Springdale where the giant rock landed on a house and killed 2 people. Needless to say, I didn't get much sleep, and that was the craziest storm I have ever seen.
At one point, I was so worried about Rachelle and Marcus, because they were sleeping on the ground, with a tarp over them. Marcus had dug a trench around their tent to keep the water out, but the rain was coming down so hard, I thought for sure they were swimming in water. I went over to check on them, but they said they were dry and would be fine.
Friday - rapid day
Woke up and had pancakes, eggs and bacon for breakfast. Before packing up, most of us hiked to the Doll House. It was amazing up there. An entirely different setting. You would have no idea that even existed up there.
Some granaries we found at the top.
Crazy, right?! Big fields, giant rock formations. You can see the river to the left, and it helps you to see why no one would even know this was here if you didn't hike to the top. You pass right by the side of it on the river.
All packed up and ready to hit the rapids. Rapid day was sunny and no rain!! Perfect, since we would be wet most of the day. I picked the red boat for the first little while. It's the smallest, so the most thrilling on the rapids. Once we got to a few of the class 5's we switched it up and the more experienced rafters went on the red boat. Now that I've done it, I realize it's not as scary as I thought and would ride the red one the whole time. The last half, I rode with Marcus on the yellow (medium size) boat. It was still super fun. A few of the rapids are pretty technical, and he rowed thru them like nothin'.
Once Melissa and I got a little braver, we rode in the very front (where Rachelle is in this picture) thru a few of the rapids. They call it 'riding the bull'. It is the best spot to see the big waves coming right at you. I was busy holding on so I didn't get any pictures during the rapids. It was such a thrill!! I'll try to post a couple videos that our friend took. A few people did fall out of the red boat, but they did great getting them back in the boat. You can watch youtube videos of people doing cataract canyon rapids if you want to see some of them. Marcus explained some of the dangers on these rapids (like a button-hole - scary), and showed us what he has to do to avoid them. He really was amazing thru those rapids. No wonder he's exhausted after rapid day.
Ali had a Gopro filming most of the trip. We called her the 'night crawler' because she always had her camera in everyone's faces. :) She put this little clip together of the red boat losing some passengers. We learned that if someone goes over, it's nearly impossible for them to get back in the boat without help from someone inside the boat. This rafting company just finished filming a segment for the church. Remember the talk "Stay in the Boat", by M. Russell Ballard? They did a little film to go along with the talk. I think it's supposed to be out soon.
Rachelle 'riding the bull'. I promise that wasn't me screaming.
After an awesome rapids day we set up camp on a little beach. It didn't look like rain, so we all set up our cots under the stars. Some were still nervous we might get rain in the night, so they set up tents as a precautionary measure.
We had really yummy veggie quesadillas for dinner and Nutella Rice Krispie treat for dessert.
Taking a bath in the river. Surprising how you can feel clean after washing in the brown river. Maryann (in the pink shirt) was running with the rest of them, and totally biffed it in the sand. This was right as she was going down. It was so hilarious. Ali and Melissa getting a little crazy with the camera settings.
Ali and Willi - Hm, no words!!!
Saturday morning we loaded the boats and started floating down river again. We stopped at this canyon to hike for a couple hours. We took the little boats as far as we could and then had to walk in the muddy/clay river bottom.
It was a cool hike. Little pools and waterfalls all the way. A few spots where you have to swim to get across. Crazy brown water.
Starting the hike we had clear blue skies and the forecast didn't show any rain. Well about an hour into hiking, a storm rolled in, surprise surprise, so Rachelle told everyone to turn around. Growing up in southern Utah we know about rock slides and flash floods, and how quickly they can come. Since we were in one of the small canyons we knew we needed to get out. We made it out, soaked and cold.
Blue skies again. Crazy weather!!
The further down river we got, the taller the mountains got. It was amazing how huge these mountains were.
Nature is incredible, isn't it?
Just past this bridge is where we ended. Matt was there to pick Melissa and I up and drive us back to Hurricane. We were stinky and grungy, but so happy. This trip was absolutely incredible!!! We met some amazing women (and a couple men) and had the best time. I hope I get to do it again.