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Author: Randy Langstraat

River of Sorrows: The Dolores River

Slick Rock Canyon | Big Gypsum Valley to Bedrock
Friday – Saturday, June 14-15, 2019

Early Spanish explorers called it El Rio de Nuestra Señora de Dolores, or the River of Our Lady of Sorrows translated into English. Today it’s known as the Dolores River, which begins as snowmelt high up in the San Juan Mountains near Bolam Pass and empties into the Colorado River in Utah after traveling through the canyon country of western Colorado. For a long time I have wanted to float the Dolores River through Slick Rock Canyon, which begins at Big Gypsum Valley and ends at Paradox Valley, but since the water of the river is usually siphoned off at the McPhee Reservoir upstream there is typically only a very short window of time to actually do it, if there is any opportunity at all! So far I had never been able to make the timing work for a trip, however, with the high snowpack in the San Juan Mountains this year it looked like I was finally going to be able to get my chance!

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The Chute of Muddy Creek

Tomsich Butte to Hidden Splendor
Friday – Saturday, June 7-8, 2019

With the big snowpack we’ve had this year and the cooler spring temperatures that delayed the snowmelt, now that it’s finally started to warm up I decided that I would try to take advantage of the higher flows this month and get out on some sections of rivers and creeks around me that have been on my to-do list for far too long. High up on that list is The Chute of Muddy Creek in the San Rafael Swell, so for the past couple of weeks I’ve been keeping an eye on the water level hoping for an opportunity to run it on a weekend. Since it looked like it might peak this weekend, which would be perfect timing for me, I decided to give it a try on Saturday. I asked my friend Chris if he wanted to go with me and he said he was in, so we decided to leave after work on Friday so we could get on the water early on Saturday morning. Last year I was able to hike through the Grand Gorge of the Muddy Creek just downstream from Hidden Splendor, so I was looking forward to exploring more of this beautiful area- this time by boat!

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Navajo National Monument: Keet Seel & Betatakin

Thursday – Sunday, May 30 – June 2, 2019

After a quick visit to Navajo National Monument back in 2011, which was when I was on my way to visit The Wave for the very first time, I knew that I needed to come back another time so I could actually hike to the Keet Seel and Betatakin ruins. Every year since then I have thought about going back but I never got around to making the advance reservations for the Keet Seel hike which typically fills up early in the year. When I made the decision that I was going to try to obtain some hard-to-get permits earlier this year (i.e. Havasupai), the hike to Keet Seel was up near the top of my list! On the first day that reservations were being taken for Keet Seel in February I called and reserved an overnight permit for Diane and myself for the first weekend in June because it was the first Saturday of the season that you could do an overnight hike this year. Since this particular hike is only available from Memorial Day to Labor Day, which is typically the hottest part of the year on the Colorado Plateau, I hoped that the weather would cooperate with us this year and not be too warm…

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Cedar Mesa Memorial Weekend

Friday – Sunday, May 24-26, 2019

Years ago I used to spend my Memorial Day weekends exploring the canyons of Cedar Mesa in southeastern Utah, which was before I started going to The Maze, but then I stopped doing that when it seemed like the cedar gnats (no-see-ums) were starting to get worse during that time of the year. This year my friend Alan was going to be in the area over the holiday weekend and asked if I’d be able to join him for a couple of hikes, so I thought it would be nice to return to that old annual tradition and said yes! Our original plan was to explore some of the canyons up from Elk Ridge, but thanks to a late season snowstorm we decided to skip the muddy roads and changed our plans to stay lower in the canyons of Cedar Mesa instead.

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Big Dominguez Canyon: Cactus Park to Bridgeport

Saturday & Sunday, May 18-19, 2019

This weekend we had some stuff to get done around the house but we still wanted to try and squeeze in a backpacking trip this month, so we decided to head over to the Dominguez – Escalante National Conservation Area for a quick overnighter into Big Dominguez Canyon. While I have hiked into lower Big Dominguez Canyon many times over the years, Diane had never been in this canyon before and wanted to finally check it out. We planned to do a repeat of my very first backpacking trip by starting out in Cactus Park and hiking down the canyon to Bridgeport so it wouldn’t be just another out and back hiking trip, plus I’ve wanted to redo this trip again now that I am much more experienced. After we had returned home from this trip I learned that Saturday was Colorado Public Lands Day, which I had never heard of before, so I guess it was pretty fitting that we actually stayed on public lands in Colorado this weekend instead of heading over into Utah like we usually do at this time of the year!

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