Starting the Paddling Trip - Page 1 of 2

[Loading our boats and gear at Tag-A-Long.]   [Mineral Canyon scenic overlook.]
Loading the bus and trailer early Sunday morning at Tag-A-Long in Moab, before driving to the put-in at Mineral Bottom.   As we neared the river, the driver stopped at the top of Mineral Canyon to let everybody take in the scenery.

Day 1, Sunday, March 14, 1999

We got up early and had breakfast at the Chinese restaurant next to the motel (the food was surprisingly good and quite conventional). We headed over to Tag-A-Long and started transferring the gear from our vehicles to their mid-size bus. The bus had a storage room in the back that was easily accessed via the back door of the bus. Everybody had a ton of gear and the space filled up quickly. Hitched to the rear of the bus was a rack-style canoe trailer, and we strapped the two wooden kayaks on the trailer (the raft and my unassembled Klepper went inside the bus). By the way, you can leave your car in Tag-A-Long's back lot in Moab while you're running the river.

Altogether, there were twelve people using the shuttle service this morning: the four of us and eight more people who had four canoes. After everybody loaded up, the bus headed off to the put-in at Mineral Bottom. The trip took about two hours, mostly on a dusty dirt road. We stopped for a scenic view at the top of Mineral Canyon, where we could look down into the canyon and see the Green River in the distance. The final leg of the trip was on a one-lane dirt road, going down steep cliffside switchbacks to descend to river level. I have to say, this was a white-knuckle descent for me. Driving into the canyon, the road was incredibly steep, with tight hairpin turns, and there were no guardrails or even shoulders. At many places, I could look out the bus window, even peering downward, and not see the road, just the plunge into the canyon – that's how narrow the road was. I heard people say it was the scariest road they had ever been on.

When we got to the bottom, the driver accepted a round of applause and drove the final stretch to the put-in. The put-in was surprisingly busy, with several vehicles and numerous boats and people including a guided group of a dozen or so people using sit-on-top kayaks. We unpacked the bus and trailer then prepared the boats. Since we had trial-packed the boats yesterday, things went reasonably well, though our raft wound up with a really huge pile of gear. It looked more like a "gear barge" than a maneuverable raft. One reason we had so much gear is that we wanted to have the comforts and conveniences of a car-camping trip rather than being like a very spartan backpacking trip.

After preparing our boats, we slipped them into the river and began paddling downstream. I estimated that the current was about 2 mph, which was a convenient speed for just drifting down the river. A kayaker could paddle upriver without any real difficulty, but we would later discover that the "gear barge" was much less nimble – it was nearly impossible to row the raft upriver. Although the river was named the Green River, the water was the color of coffee with cream due to fine silt suspended in the water. Due to the silt, you couldn't see into the water at all, so you couldn't tell how deep the water was just by looking. It was also hard to see sandbars or other obstructions, which would cause us some problems later. The water temperature was cool to cold, so nobody would be going swimming on this trip.

[Looking into Mineral Canyon at dirt road.]   [Mineral Bottom put-in ramp.]
This is what it looked like peering over the edge of the cliff into the canyon. The road to the bottom would have made a suitably scary amusement park ride. Believe it or not, we navigated those hairpin turns in a bus towing a trailer! At the top of the picture, you can see the river in the distance.   Here's a view of the put-in ramp at Mineral Bottom. You can see our two wooden kayaks on shore, with the "gear barge" floating at the right side of the picture. The ramp was hard-surfaced, but the surrounding shoreline was quite muddy.

The river trip continues on the next page, as we paddle to our first campsite.

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