It’s damn hard to catch Utah’s desert rivers in prime boating condition. It just doesn’t happen every year - and in those years where everything sets up perfectly, I’ve always found a way to fuck it up. In 2011, I got sick with a brain tumor, and missed maybe the biggest water year we’ve ever had. (My wife ran Desolation at a peak of almost 50,000 that year!) In late February 2017 I took a nasty tumble in the backcountry and shattered my left arm - and once again watched most of the amazing snowpack melt away before I could get back in the boat. In 2019, conditions set up perfectly, and by March I knew it was going to be one of those years. I kept reminding myself “Don’t fuck this up, do whatever you have to do to stay healthy.” I didn’t even pull my bike out once, thinking it was the riskiest way to mess something up. Fortunately, I managed to not only stay healthy, but I got incredibly lucky too. I struck out on a few trips when winter showed up again for the 4th time this May, and when my schedule booked up for most of early June, I figured the season would end after seeing Cataract at 65,000 cfs in Mid-June. I mean, Utah rivers NEVER run after Mid-June. But this was no ordinary year. The snowpack just kept hanging in there, and the window never seemed to close. I even headed to Escalante on summer solstice for a second lap. Summer. Freaking. Solstice. And this time we had 5 or 10 times the flow we had the two times previously. I decided I should put together a random little edit of some of my favorite scenes from what is without a doubt, the best Utah boating season I’ve ever experienced. The full edit is on my youtube - hit the link in my bio to see more.
The “breakfast in bed” shot. AKA the “I’m too lazy to get my ass out of bed and shoot something better” shot. One of those mornings where I convinced myself the sunrise would suck when I first woke up, so I went back to bed. I knew I done screwed up as soon as my tent lit up pink.
60 seconds of High Uinta timelapses from our 8 day trip in in 2016. I finally decided to write a trip report about our route, hit the link in bio to see more.
Did a quick hitter last night into the Wasatch, but for once this year the clouds decided not to show up. Surprisingly ok with that.
I’ve always been fascinated by the story of the Mormon pioneers who settled San Juan County, particularly because of the incredibly difficult terrain they had to traverse to actually make it there in the first place. The epic story of the Hole In The Rock expedition is definitely worth reading. It also just so happens that the areas cut out of Grand Staircase and Bears Ears more or less parallel the trail. There is a big argument nowadays about the future of these landscapes, and how best to preserve their history. My friends and I decided the best way to experience it ourselves was on a 100 percent self supported bikepacking trip where we would ride from Escalante to Bluff, pedaling, paddling, and hiking along the way. It was an incredible trip across a mesmerizing landscape. If we truly want to honor the sacrifices of those pioneers and the native tribes who called it home long before we did, we should keep that land as wild as possible. If you truly want to understand how hard that original expedition was, driving a paved road isn’t going to do it. For a much more eloquent write up and some amazing photos, hit the link in my bio from MikeSee.
Driving back home from Southern Utah and the Sevier is ripping... It’s only a 30 minute paddle at these flows but damn if it isn’t wicked fun.
Skoochin’ and scrapin’ down this little river is always amazing, but finally catching it in the midst of a big snowmelt is something else. Three months ago I would have bet my life this would never run over summer solstice. Cheers to the biggest Utah spring I’ve ever seen.
Bugs in the desert in Mid June are no joke. My dumb ass forgot a headnet, and on the hike in we passed a group coming out. I offered the dude 40 bucks for his headnet. He laughed at me, and I paid the price with welts all over, including my eyelid. But to see this place with legit water, totally worth it.
Forecast is iffy, but there’s still water out there. Rallying for one more desert paddle and hoping to see this place with a bit more water.
Usually by summer solstice, my mind is fixated squarely on some alpine backpacking. But there is still one last Utah desert river cranking away, and I’m struggling to motivate. Is it worth a weekend speed run? That lawn ain’t gonna mow itself.
95 degrees outside, but 1200 feet below the rim and we are in drysuits. Summer solstice is in 4 days, and these desert rivers still have plenty of life left. Insane.
Starting to sound like a broken record, but water in the desert blows my mind. This spring has been one for the books for sure.
This past summer, I spent two weeks traversing the Arctic Refuge on foot and by packraft, including western section of the 1002, between the Sadlerochit Mountains and Kaktovik. In the GOP plan to open the refuge to oil drilling, this is the zone with the most energy development potential, and also the zone that politicians would lead you to believe is a barren wasteland. I can tell you nothing is farther from the truth. As we walked from the Sadlerochit east to the Hula Hula, we caught our first glimpses of the famous porcupine caribou herd. I literally spent an entire night awake on the banks of the Hula Hula watching hundreds and thousands of caribou move across the coastal plain. It was one of the most amazing wilderness experiences I've ever had. A large group of animals eventually swam across the Hula Hula 100 yards away, and there were so many animals that the current would strip their hair and deposit it in foot-wide piles along the banks of the river that literally stretched as far as I could see. But it's not just all caribou - the following days we encountered dozens of varieties of waterfowl, nests full of hatchlings, snowy owls, and a Grizzly sow with her two cubs just a half mile from the Arctic Ocean. Where else in America do we have opportunities to see an entire ecosystem - from the continental divide all the way to the ocean - completely intact and free of almost all human development? It's a scale of wilderness experience that simply does not exist anywhere else. This is as close to understanding the awe of the frontier that existed all across the American West just 200 years ago, and to needlessly fragment these ecosystems would steal that experience permanently from the coming generations. This week my friends from @keepalaskawild @americanpackraftingassociation and @protectourwinters will be in DC to support a bill that will permanently protect these lands from development, give them a follow, watch for progress and see how you can get involved. #arcticrefugestories #protectthearctic
Not a bad sunset for a travel day and setting car shuttles. This was night one of a week paddling in the desert. Gonna try and get some shit done for the next 10 days and hope there is one more final wave of snowmelt end of the month when I come back for air.
Another 60 second episode in the Dirty Little Ditches project - where we chase the fickle snowmelt down Utah’s desert rivers.
How many trips do you start at a coffee shop and take out at a Walmart, and end up with scenery like this? Crazy what a big snow year reveals. Thanks to @mandersao for the shuttle and piquing my curiosity about this zone.
Water in the Desert.