Thursday, June 12, 2014

Dave's delight.

Last weekend Jeny and I joined David Nix and Stan Pitcher for a packrafting adventure that Dave referred to in pre-trip emails as 'Cracking the Tavaputs'.

The general idea was to find a walkable route from the Tavaputs Plateau down to the Green River, then to float the river back out.

Italicized text below belongs to Dave, our route architect, the man with the plan.

Our Jack Creek to Swasey’s packraft through the Desolation and Gray Canyons of the Green river in Utah was a product of much labor.  Powell had it wrong, way wrong in naming these canyons. They are beautiful beyond compare, part of multiple wilderness study areas, and contain some of the last largely untouched Fremont Indian ruins.  

They are also targeted for development by the oil and gas industry. Obama’s “all of the above” energy policy has been a siren’s call to come drill. There’s not much to hold them back.  Lots of private land to purchase and few to no recreationists to protest due to major access issues with gated county roads. 

Many folks do raft “Deso” each year, yet none visit the massive Tavaputs Plateau through which the Green cuts and few hike the canyons that descend from the plateau to the river.  Jack, Rock, Firewater, Steer, Flat, Chandler, Range, Price, etc, each is a wilderness in itself, some even deeper than the Grand Canyon. 

The purpose of our trip was primarily exploratory, to see if we could convince the BLM to allow us to use an alternate check-in, to find a way in from the top of the Tavaputs and a way out via the river.  It was also to open a door for further recreationist trips and their voices to offset the “drill baby drill” crowd. 

So how to crack the Tavaputs? The standard Sand Wash “Deso” put in wouldn’t work, it starts on the river and off the plateau.  Moreover, its initial 1-2 days of mosquito-infested flat water paddling didn’t appeal.  

Map gazing and many calls revealed several possibilities. The Van Deusen trail does go if one is willing to spend a night (and a small fortune) at the private Tavaputs Ranch.  Access via Range Creek and an upriver hike will eventually be possible but currently this sort of through-hike isn’t allowed until NHMU completes their archeological excavations. 

Hike up from the top of the Green River Daily? Too hot in June. Risk a sojourn onto the Ute reservation? Hmm. The last option, Sage Brush Flat/Peter’s Point, looks horrible on Google Earth with a spiderweb of drill pads and roads yet it has an airstrip on public BLM land.  So with packrafts in hand and much trepidation, we booked a one-way flight into the heart of darkness…

                                    ~David Nix

Dave's plan was as creative as he was persistent: His patience in convincing the BLM to allow a non-standard river check-in is a bona fide gift to the rest of the packrafting community.  The door is open, please proceed respectfully and responsibly.

Salient details:

-We had 20,000 cfs on the Green @ Green gauge.  Big, boily water with lots of weird swirlies and 'seam monsters' that alternately entertained and spooked us.  The rapids are not difficult--very straightforward and easily scouted--but that volume of water does demand focus, and respect.

-Days were hot and nights were very warm.  We brought warm weather sleep gear but it was still too warm, prompting us to kick our bags off when roasting became imminent.  Which brought another problem to light: Bugs.  Once out of our bags, they feasted.  Not sure I got more than a few minutes of actual sleep the first night.  Somewhere in the wee hours Jeny mumbled something about 'getting us a bug tent' and I wondered why we hadn't thought of that sooner.

-Clear water was scarce in early June--no surprise.  Dave and Stan had beta on several springs and we filled from these at least once a day.  Settling river water would work fine--had I remembered to bring some alum.

-The ~20 minute flight into Peter's Point saved us ~9 aggregate hours of driving.  We followed that with a ~5 hour hike down (mostly) Jack Creek to the river, then spent 2.5 days on the water down to Swasey's beach near Green River.

Really neat trip, punctuated by the fact that we didn't have to spend $$$$ and take a week+ off work to go to Alaska.  This one truly was in the backyard.

First two still pics up top are courtesy of Jeny.  Thank you Jeny.

Thanks for checkin' in.