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Moab - an Outdoor Paradise

Colorado, on the way.

In November, my diving season was wrapping up and I was ready for a vacation. I love kayak camping trips, and a friend told me about the Green River in Utah. There is a nice long stretch in Canyonlands National Park, maybe 150 miles, that is wonderful flatwater paddling. You can drive to a few different launch points, but there is no road access near the end, which is the confluence of the Green and Colorado Rivers (meaning lots of rapids!).


Of course I wanted to paddle the whole section, so I made plans and a few weeks later called to arrange a boat pickup at the end… and found they were closed for the season! Apparently, November isn’t a popular kayaking time in Utah. Instead, I was able to arrange for someone to move my car to the furthest downstream launch and planned on a shorter trip of about seventy miles. I drove there with my kayak for company and spent the first day at Arches National Park stretching my legs on a beautiful seven-mile hike, Devil’s Garden. It was busy near the trailhead, but not bad further on. What a great trail! Very exposed and rocky, and just beautiful.



I launched early the next day at Green River State Park, and it was quite cold. It was probably a little warmer than Michigan, but not much. The predicted temperatures of 70+ in the daytime never happened, and I was always paddling with a splash jacket and sometimes a sweater too. It must be generally colder in the canyon than wherever the weather forecast station is located. The Green River is freshwater, but there is so much sediment that it is recommended to bring all drinking water if possible, which was no problem with my sea kayak.


Early on the first day, I did see some large mammal splashing, likely a beaver. I saw some cows, and plenty of deer, several of which were swimming across the river. I saw one bighorn sheep far off in the distance but couldn’t get a good picture. I also saw a water snake, which was so cool. It was really fast on the surface of the water! And I did encounter a single large swarm of something like gnats which lasted about a half mile. That was my least favorite wildlife encounter of the trip.


The first day, I passed Crystal Geyser, which is a man-made geyser that erupts a couple of times a day. I didn’t see an eruption, but the mineral coloration was interesting. The rock formations on the river are so beautiful, especially further on, near Canyonlands. Some areas were covered in swallow nests. The river was slow, adding maybe 1 mph to my speed, and muddy. There are some sandy areas for camping but not very many. I paddled a little over thirty miles each of the first two days and just four miles the last morning.


Of course, the sun sets very early in November, so I had a lot of time at camp to catch up on my reading. I have a waterproof Kindle that I like to bring while kayaking because it’s so small and has great battery life. I also brought a small camp chair for luxurious relaxing. Because it was potentially very cold at night, I had quite a bit of warm stuff with me as well, so I didn’t really pack light. But with the sea kayak, that’s okay.


Some pictures from the Green River:



I’d have loved to keep going and paddle the other seventy miles, but the shorter off-season experience was nice and tranquil. I wanted to paddle more, so I had the shuttle service move my car a couple of days later on the Colorado River so I could paddle a section of that. It was really pretty as well, although not as impressive as the canyon area of the Green River.


Colorado River:



While I was in the area, I did a few incredible hikes at Canyonlands National Park. It’s very different from hiking in forested areas. The scenery was amazing, and it was fun to be in the tiny slot canyons and climb up and down steep bare rocks. Navigation is definitely more challenging: there isn’t much in the way of trails, and some of the cairns may have been knocked over. I would have been okay with trial and error, but using GPS maps was really helpful in some places.


My favorite hike at Canyonlands, Chesler Park Loop.



One of the hikes I did, Murphy Trail, was about ten miles and very pretty. I started it right before sunrise because I had to pick up a friend from the airport. It was about 25 degrees when I started, so I had a lot of warm clothes on. It was great, but after about a half mile, the trailed dropped over 1,200’ extremely steeply down a rocky scramble. Then the rest of the trail was flat at the bottom of the canyon. I struggled to enjoy it knowing that rough climb up was waiting for me, and even worse, I had to carry all my extra clothes because it had warmed up so much!


Some pictures from the Murphy Trail:



I was able to meet up with a friend and drive to Monument Valley and Valley of the Gods to see the sights, go see different petroglyphs, visit Arches National Park with my dad, and then drive back to Michigan with him. We did a really fun Jeep tour and took a scenic detour through Colorado.



I’m glad I got to spend so much time in the Moab region and see so many different areas. It was a great recharge after a nice busy season. I’m really looking forward to the upcoming diving season though! I’ll also be teaching sea kayaking again this season.

 

 

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