Picture this: You just finished finals, you haven’t spent more than thirty consecutive minutes outside of a library in two weeks, all seven of your roommates are driving you absolutely insane, the thought of studying for the GREs makes you want to pull a Christopher McCandless and disappear for ten years, and to top it all off the code you just wrote for your senior thesis just made your computer crash. (Okay, this might be a little specific to just me, but I bet you can all envision similar scenarios for yourselves).
You need something to revive your soul, but this time a yoga class just isn’t going to cut it. Smashing things in your house might be a good way to vent your frustration, but going on an outdoor adventure for a few days to blow off some steam is probably a better move.
Solution: Disappear for a while and go on a canoe trip down the Green River in Utah.
What We Did:
We did a 3.5-day canoe trip down the Labyrinth Canyon section of the Green River in Utah. This part of the river is ideal because there are multi-day stretches without any white-water rapids.There were five people on the trip, so we got two canoes and a single person kayak. We left the Denver/Boulder area midmorning on Thursday and began the drive to Moab up through the I-70 corridor. Our favorite cafe in Dillon, the Blue Moon Bakery ,was closed for the day so we got sandwiches at Which Wich in Silverthorne. In Moab we camped along the Colorado River on BLM campsites. The first two campsites we hit were full, so we ended up spending the night at Big Bend campground. The next morning we were on the water and spent the next three days canoeing, kayaking, hiking, and swimming in Labyrinth Canyon. At night, we camped in marked campsites, being careful to avoid the fragile biological soil patches that are common in the area. On Monday we loaded up the cars and started the drive back home.
How We Did It:
We rented our canoes and kayak from Tex’s Riverways, a small company based in Moab. They also arranged for a shuttle to drop us off and pick us up on the river. The company rents out gear like dry bags, fire pans, and river toilets. Before you head out someone will give you an orientation about navigation, paddling techniques, and how to be environmentally conscious on your trip. They also sell maps of the Green River for your canoe trip, which are 100% a necessity. It’s hard to tell exactly which bend of the river you’re on, and we spent an inordinate amount of time all huddled over the map, but it’s crucial for finding campsites, points of interest, and figuring out how many miles you’ve drifted down. Without that map we also wouldn’t have known about the shutdown uranium mine that you can hike to, or the bits of graffiti on the canyon walls leftover from the 1800s.
Tex’s also sells vegetation guides to the area’s local plants and flowers. We bought one to try and identify all the blooming cacti and wildflowers that were just starting to sprout on our trip. If you’re really into plants, though, I would recommend buying a more comprehensive guide somewhere else because most of the plants we found were not on the brochure.
The stars on the Green River are phenomenal since you’re so far away from light pollution. If your constellation game isn’t as strong as you’d hope, I would advocate for bringing some way to recognize the stars. I have a comically bad sense of direction, so those little pamphlets that show where the stars are in the sky don’t do it for me. I usually stick with free apps like SkyGazer where you can just point your phone up at the sky and it’ll tell you what you’re looking at. SkyGazer will work on your canoe trip even with no service- just manually enter Salt Lake City as the closest city to where you are.
What We Ate:
The nice thing about a canoe trip is that there is plenty of room onboard for snacks. It’s not like backpacking where you have to weigh your desire for an entire block of cheese against the sadness that an extra pound adds to your shoulders. We had three coolers full of fruits, veggies, chocolate, tortillas, and, most importantly, beer. I honestly think I ate better on the Green River than I do most nights in Boulder.
In Moab, Twisted Sistas is a good cafe for dinner. We went to the Moab Grill for breakfast, which features a breakfast sandwich that has pancakes instead of bread. If you have a chance to stop by the food truck Quesadilla Mobilla I would highly recommend doing so. Their quesadillas are what dreams are made of.
Why You Should Go Too:
If just the words ‘canoe trip in Utah’ don’t already have you running out the store to buy mosquito repellent, you should seriously reconsider your priorities. The canyon walls are glorious shades of browns and reds, blue herons periodically swoop out of the brush and fly over your head, and life on the river is slower and sweeter.
I returned feeling so rejuvenated that I was ready to order my GRE books, change the oil in my car, and finally clean my room. (Although, for the record, I went on this trip a month ago and still have done exactly zero of those things). The point is being down at the bottom of those canyon walls makes you remember how beautiful the world we live in is. There aren’t any distractions down there: no emails to answer, dishwashers to unload, social media accounts to check. The most pressing decisions I had to make all week were how many slices of cheese I wanted at lunch, how many more paddle strokes my shoulders could take before I had to drift for a while, or where I should put my tent so there was the smallest ratio of cacti to sand. The omnipresent cliffs shielded me from vast expanses of everything going on above me and limited my horizons to the immediate: the winding curves of the river, the turkey vultures circling overhead, the rhythmic splashes my paddle made that recorded my journey downstream.
In short, I didn’t need to smash anything once I got back.