Saturday, September 12, 2015


Vicky had always wanted to complete the Appalachian Trail to ensure a triple-crown; Jay and I did not share such ambitions.  But we did share an ambition to float and try out the art of packrafting, whereby one takes a light, inflatable raft or kayak, paddles, dry bags, and then places such items onto a backpack, treks to the destination, and then allows the river to dictate your course.  Come what might.

Mattson-family-style, we went whole hog, as the saying goes.  During the summer, we rafted the following in the heart of Utah river-floating territory: the Muddy Creek, the Escalante, the San Juan, the San Rafael, and the Dirty Devil.  All of these rivers, as Jay learned, form a sort of network that ties into the mighty Colorado (now part of which is sunken below the silted waters of Lake Powell).  Though it was a tough year for snowmelt (very little of it), it was a rainy summer, which kept the rivers high.  In the case of the San Juan, very high, reportedly around 8,000 cfs, and in the case of the Dirty Devil enough to do it later than we thought we could (running a meager 100 cfs, and I was told that you needed at least 50).  It also meant, though, that we had current even when getting close to Lake Powell -- so on the Dirty Devil, we were on the lake but not really on the lake but on ye old Dirty Devil river running its course (we also had a fortunate take out where twenty five miles of bike riding back to our put in shrank to fourteen due to a kindly gentleman who gave us and our bikes and our rafts a ride to our dirt road).

The Muddy Creek trip required a sixty five mile mountain bike ride on ATV trails, which caused us to run out of water and food.  We wound up camping for an evening at a slimy water hole, disrupting a band of wild horses, but seeing a moon-rise that blew our hungry minds.

After Utah, Jay and I headed north to Montana and floated the South Fork of the Flathead -- perhaps one of the best trips possible.  We witnessed a grizzly bear crossing the river, and I wound up catching at least a dozen cutthroat trout on a cheap rod that I purchased (having forgotten my good one).  We also floated the Blackfoot River -- which gave us some rather thrilling whitewater experiences.  

On the way to Montana, we stopped off in North Dakota (a state witnessing an oil boom that's astounding) and floated for six days the Little Missouri River, through both the north and south sections of the Theodore Roosevelt National Park.  

To sum up: A blast was had.  For those who want more information and some fun footage of people doing the trips we did, check out here: Southwest packrafting

And now for some of our own pictoires:

Mattson mapping the Dirty Devil trip, after a four mile hike from our car that drove down a road that was, oy, rather difficult (pictures to follow):

 Our put-in at the San Rafael.  Check out that sky.  It dropped rain on us, and we wound up rafting a flash flood.  It took us three hours to do what we expected to do in three days.  Driving to the put in included hauling through two feet pools of water resultant from a flash flood.
 Above, camping on the Dirty Devil.  Below, the lovely road we had to take to get there, first picture below looking back, the next looking up road.
 The Little Missouri River, which also rose due to rain.  One evening, we set our tent forty feet from the water; the next morning the water was a foot from the tent.
 The glorious South Fork of the Flathead.  When we got there, Jay said, "Now this is my kind of water," meaning crystal clear... and full of trout.
 The sort of whitewater we did in stretches.  This is at the take out of the trip.

 Ah, the San Juan.  Where we heard the slogan of our trip, "Run it down the Middle!"  That forever stuck in our craniums, and you can decide what it meant.
 That's it for now -- there's ton of other photos.  After completing all of this, Jay went off to do more trail work.  I went off to do research on punk rock.  And then later I joined Vicky for the last portion of the AT, hiking the Hundred Mile Wilderness in Maine.