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Category: Exploring

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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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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River Flowing from the Sunrise: The San Juan

Friday – Monday, May 10-13, 2019

Over the years I have floated the San Juan River between Sand Island and Mexican Hat a couple of times with a small group of friends and we almost always have had a great time on this stretch of the river. I say ‘almost always‘ because the temperature was way too hot out during our last trip in 2017 and the water was moving very fast which turned out to be a bad combination for us. We ended up cutting that trip a day short and heading home early. After taking last year off for a Labyrinth Canyon trip, we decided to get a permit for the San Juan again this year to make up for that last trip. This year I was hoping for much better weather since we were going in May again, but I was still a little worried when we drove down to Bluff on Friday afternoon through rain storms and cold temperatures even though the forecast for the rest of the weekend was looking good. I certainly had my fingers crossed and hoped that the rainbow I saw as we drove over White Mesa was a good sign! And for anyone wondering, River Flowing from the Sunrise is a translation of the Ute name for the San Juan River, and I think it’s a pretty fitting one.

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Return to Dinosaurland

Friday – Sunday, May 3-5, 2019

Since we spent the end of last week at the very southern end of the Colorado Plateau on our way to Phoenix for a concert, we decided to head north this weekend to the very northern end so we could revisit Dinosaur National Monument and the surrounding area since we had a great time there over Memorial Day weekend last year. And even though Harpers Corner Road in Colorado had just finally opened up a few days before our trip, we decided to minimize our driving and just stick to exploring the Utah side of Dinosaur this time. We left after work on Friday afternoon, stopped for a quick dinner in Fruita, and then drove north through the Book Cliffs and Cañon Pintado towards the eastern end of the Monument in Utah to find a place to camp just outside the park. We found a nice spot just after sunset, quickly setup our tent and then got into our sleeping bags so we could get an early start on Saturday morning.

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